Meditation can rescue us in dire situations

Joy filled my soul as I read that the 12 boys trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand were thinking of entering a monastery in honor of the former Navy Seal that gave his life in an effort to save them.

They were taught how to meditate while in the cave. They had taken no food with them and scraped at the walls in useless efforts to free themselves over the ten perilous days stuck in such a god-forsaken hole in the earth. They had to subsist on water dripping from stalactites.

Their 25-year-old coach, who was a novice monk for nearly a decade, reportedly taught the boys how to meditate in order to help them keep calm and retain their energy.

The 38-year-old Thai diver and rescue worker was the sole fatality during the hazardous ordeal, which involved more than a thousand people and lasted over two weeks. The boys’ intent to become monks is their way to honor and to create merit for that guileless diver.

boys in cave.jpg

In Buddhism, ordaining as a monk is a holy act. Those who ordain acquire a great deal of merit because they devote themselves to studying the teachings of the Buddha. Merit is understood as the value created by performing a wholesome act, such as meditating. If the boys become novice monks, they will donate their merit to the memory of the man who gave his life in an effort to save them.


This effort on the part of the boys to learn to meditate reminded me of my first successful method of placing mind over matter. I was sitting in a dentist chair with mouth open while fear penetrated my very being. I felt as desperate as Dustin Hoffman did in the movie “Marathon Man” as Sir Laurence Olivier with a drill in hand bent over him and asked: “Is it safe?”

I wanted to scream and do anything to avoid the discomfort. And then all of a sudden I stopped thinking of the pain. I relaxed and slowed down my breathing and let my thoughts simply go.

I don’t know how long I remained in the dentist’s chair. My mind was focused not on the surgical endeavor but on — nothing. Yes, I was able to think of nothing, or what some Buddhists call “emptiness.” Nothing existed in and of itself, including my fear.

That meditation effort stayed with me long after leaving the dentist’s office. I sustained the feeling of placing my mind over matter when I got home and eventually made my way to work.

I went cold turkey right then and there.

I stopped smoking.

It was on April 9th some 25 years ago that I ended what had been a life-long habit that began at age 12 when sneaking cigarettes from my parents. My mother smoked Pall Mall while my pop smoked Chesterfield. I stopped after smoking a pack-and-a-half a day.


I was reminded of that effort to calm myself when reading of the boys in the cave. Meditation can work. And I’d like to dedicate whatever merit I may have created to them. They have inspired me with their good intentions.

8 comments on “Meditation can rescue us in dire situations

  1. Samanthamj says:

    Amazing…. The boys…. the smoking. My father smoked pall malls. I never smoked – well, never enough to have to quit… but have my own demons to kick. I’ve been trying to get into meditating… So far, I’m not very good at it… but, I’m inspired to try harder after reading this. Thanks.


    • contoveros says:

      Meditation can take place while doing the dishes. Simply get into the act and try to think of nothing except the dish, like how it feels, the touch, the design and enjoy its service to you and your loved ones. Don’t let other thoughts invade that intimate time you spend on letting everything go except that precious moment.

      I was taught formal meditation by a psychologist who was helping veterans with PTSD. It took a while to get into it and it was more relaxing with a group with guided instructions.

      It beats smoking Pall Malls any old day!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. contoveros says:

    The following comments were provided on Facebook:

    Tamara Ambros
    Nice thought. Thanks for sharing.

    Living without food in a dark, watery cave with nothing but the fear of death all around them lead the youngsters to place their minds elsewhere while letting the negative thoughts simply drift away!

    That’s courageous. That’s life-saving!


    Terri Kiral
    An inspirational story all the way around. Can’t imagine life without my meditation practice. Nice blog, Michael. 🙏 🧘🏾♂️

    I try to meditate whether I need to or not. In most cases, I need it as much as I need the air that I breathe . . .


  3. contoveros says:

    Below is a comment from a LinkedIn friend:

    Carmen M. Lineberger,
    Experienced Trial Attorney, Litigator, Legal Educator and Career Prosecutor in SDFL

    Hey Mike!! I need to learn to sit still.

    Michael J Contos
    Attorney at Defender Assn of Phila (retired)

    All you need to do is to sit and do nothing. Let thoughts simply drift away and be still with no images running through your pretty little head! Let your heart take over and allow compassion to dwell in it . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bob Palumbo says:

    It was truly amazing the courage of those young men and their coach

    Liked by 1 person

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