Chris was an alcoholic and had been for about 40 years.
This what Chris wrote regarding the CHI Seminar:
I am very much looking forward to the upcoming CHI seminar in April/May 2015 and I hope that the numbers do get up to justify having one. It is a very important therapeutic and, I think, medical tool that can benefit so many people when put into practice. And the CHI ‘revisit’ is something I have planned for a long time because when all is said and done, practising alone to CDs and tapes can go so far but to revamp with instruction from the teacher in company with other like-minded practitioners ... well you can’t reproduce that at home!
I would, if it were in my power, encourage all previous ‘CHI people’ to come and reinforce the ‘practice of a lifetime’, it is so worthwhile.
Below are 3 rather lengthy emails I received from Chris for which he has given me his permission to reproduce here. Together they speak of Chris’s powerful story of recovery.
The first email is about Chris in Rehab in Perth and his discovery regarding meditation.
The second is a very erudite dissertation on meditation discovered in Thailand.
The third is a response to me when I asked Chris could I use his story in my Mind Matters News.
We can learn much from Chris’s experience – particularly about Meditation and his Journey of Rehabilitation – thank you Chris.
First Email Saturday, 31 May 2014
Hi to you both from sunny (cold) Perth. I trust and pray you are both well and happy in semi-retirement.
As I wrote previously, I have been in rehabilitation here in Perth since late January this year. I am now getting towards the end of my program but I have decided to stay on for a while to do some more work on myself before leaving for warmer climes again.
It has been a truly life changing experience brought on by rather negative forces and now changed into wholly positive ones.
One particular thing we learn here is that while under the control of alcohol, whether drunk or not, our thinking and actions are influenced by a form of insanity or instability of the mind. Alcohol and other drugs (whatever they be) have a dramatic impact on the workings of the brain/mind complex as can be seen in brain scans. It takes many months for the brain functions to actually return to a normal state. This is one of the reasons I have extended my stay and treatment here.
I am also going to be studying towards a Bachelor of Social Sciences starting with a Diploma in Counselling for alcohol and other drug addicted people before I leave here. Online courses have gone a long way these days. Maybe give something back from time to time in the quiet times of the off season.
Rehab has been a revelation to me, I reckon everyone should do it ... addicts or not we all have the same problem – LIFE.
It is a funny thing to consider but after being in an addictive state for probably 40 years, it is almost an equal task (in energy terms) to turn those 40 years back around completely to what might be thought of as a “normal” state of mind. (Whatever normal really is.)
When one discovers this fact and then proceeds with personal inventories, with counselling and deep thought; it is like peeling back an onion to the centre parts to recognise, name, and take ownership of the inner workings of one’s life and mind; sorting out what belongs to the self and what belongs to others. Taking responsibility for one’s life with no blame for external factors and learning to love the true person within. That takes “time and effort” with no shortage of the painful opening of old wounds involved. It puts one in a very fragile, no ... rudimentary … state of mind on which one can then build authentic strength through the power of beginning to truly know and have compassion for oneself.
I now (after a lot of resistance) feel comfortable with that and happy most of the time within myself. So, I’m sure you know this is a “work in progress” even after I leave this place it will have to be the central theme of my life. I will not be able then to fall back into the “good old days” or the old ways but live in a new and happy state of being ... of positivity and productivity ... that is at least, the goal for now.
The mind is a truly amazing thing and through meditation I have been discovering states of awareness and tranquillity that have helped immensely in this program/journey.
Maybe one day in the future I will be able to help organise meditative and self discovery holidays in the north Kimberley for people feeling that need to de-stress and quiet their minds. First though I have plenty of “homework” yet to do myself, and believe it or not it is becoming more enthralling, even rewarding and entertaining as it continues and as one feels the benefits accruing.
This brings me to the basic foundations of my meditative practice which I owe wholly to yourself Sandy and those fantastic few days I spent in Sydney at the Chi seminar sooooo long ago it now seems. I owe you a great debt of thanks.
One of the first things I started doing when I arrived here in Perth in Rehab was to start meditating again, something I had let lapse for way too long in my alcoholism. My mind was too full of mind chatter and thoughts gone ballistic while I was drinking so it made it nigh on impossible to get to my peaceful place. But once I detoxed and my mind was not so governed by the grip of alcohol I grabbed some of the DVDs I had bought from you and got back into them – my Peaceful Place came back to me.
And with regular practice it became easy once again to not only de-stress but to start to explore the wonderful opportunities the mind has to offer. I have been able to use the Peaceful Place practice in combination with my counselling and psychotherapy to process hurtful inner emotions and past traumas to the point that I had to start to re-discover the real me. That was a huge revelation and one that has set me on a really healthy path in my recovery.
Your heartfelt advice and support in the past did not go unnoticed – it was always there, even though I tried to ignore it, the friendship and truth you offered has been something I can now say I have tried to live up to.
I hope to come out ‘East’ before I head back to ‘home’ in the Kimberley. I have decided not to be in a hurry to throw myself back into work stresses that I don’t need right now. Plenty of time for that next year when I will look forward to coping with anything thrown at me, equipped with new tools, insights and, of course, my Peaceful Place and the shield of White Light protection that will enable me to forge ahead with my life, notwithstanding the ‘onslaughts’ that are inevitable. In giving back as a counsellor I will be able to reinforce my mind’s determination to not only help myself but more importantly others in dire straits.
So, my friends, again my heartfelt thanks. I also hope and pray that life is good for you both and will remain so for long years to come. I hope I will be able to catch up with you when I pass through and catch up on things of the mind.
Take care, love and light, Chris Brown
Second Email Thursday, 20 November 2014
Thanks so much for the Birthday wishes. It was great to hear from you both.
I spent my birthday in the mystical city of Chiang Mai in the northwest of Thailand, not too far from the Burmese and Laos borders.
I have been on a couple of meditation retreats over here, the Buddhist variety.
My impressions are these:
There are basically two different strains of meditation ... firstly the science-based visualisation techniques that have evolved out of a marriage between Eastern traditional visualisation techniques and the new sciences involving studies of the brain and the chemical reactions that dominate brain activity that have led to a vast increase in the understandings of the workings of the mind/body complex.
Secondly there are the ancient Eastern techniques themselves, of which there are an amazing assortment from the Indian Hindu techniques, the Chinese Taoist methods and of course those taught by the Buddha as the ultimate paths to possible enlightenment.
It has been the latter that I have chosen to learn more about on this journey in Thailand over the last 3 and a bit months.
The Buddhist Vipassana techniques taught here around Chiang Mai are now international techniques aimed at “insight” through “mindfulness” which ultimately leads to a natural progression into an increase of self-control, control of the mind, seeing things as they really are, universal compassion and of course an incremental increase in wisdom.
These are real benefits with real outcomes BUT these techniques take time, patience and perseverance in order for the benefits to begin to flow. Those adepts who have spent years working on their practice of meditation have shown great wisdom and power over not only their own minds but over some external influences around them, including tales of astounding psycho-physical powers. I have been blessed, or lucky, to observe some manifestations of these heightened powers of mind on my short travels.
The science based “fusions” between East and West, though, are especially suited to the Western need for time-based efficiency in attaining certain results in a certain time-span. In this aspect they have proved to be very effective and already play an important role in the lives of many Western people.
So are these myriad techniques so diverse as to be unrelated? I think, not at all! They all deal with the same massive subject matter ... that of the uncontrolled mind (in its raw condition) that has challenged human beings since the dawn of erudition.
I did once think that there was some sort of separation between the basic two schools but I now think that they are all simply differing views of the same subject or more precisely, differing techniques for utilising slightly different possibilities within the “science of mind” that is, in effect, any form of meditation.
The Dalai Lama has famously called Buddhism a science of the mind as opposed to a religion and, I think that this is what we are all beginning to understand throughout the world. Simply put, there is no better or worse, no right or wrong ... just different techniques aimed at different outcomes within the same basic scientific arena.
There is no mysterious nature to eastern meditation as once thought in the west!
There are no immediate magical formulae for becoming a “guru” or a “levitating lama” so to speak.
There is only “practice” and more practice where one aims for certain scientific, that is, known and proven, outcomes or goals.
In my personal case I have been able to see and feel changes to the ways I think and react to situations that can only have come from meditation practice. The very conducive conditions for meditative learning and practice here in northern Thailand, for instance, have been a great ‘eye opener’ for me personally. The revelation of a whole society that is intricately bound up with the teachings of the Buddha, for instance, is just one very prominent aspect of life here that is fascinating in the extreme for me. Even though most Thai people do not meditate strictly as the Buddhist precepts suggest, they pay homage to the teachings (Dharma) on a daily basis in dozens of different ways from the giving of alms to the monks every morning to going to ‘make merit’ at the temple on a regular basis. The myriad Buddhist festivals and celebrations pay testimony to the more than fifteen hundred years of the dominance of Buddhism in the country and over two thousand years for the presence of Buddhism here.
Buddhism basically permeates Thai culture and daily life and this has been a great fascination for me personally. It can be seen in the way drivers on the roads react all the time. Amid such chaos all the time I have yet to see any form of road rage or even slight anger on the part of Thai drivers ... it is amazing. But this less than stunning example is but one of hundreds that stick out to a Western mind on a weekly basis. The impact of mindfulness has, in fact, tuned a whole society into being much more peaceful and respectful.
Well that’s it for me (and that’s it for him), See you soon in Sydney, I hope,
Your friend, Love and Light, Chris Brown.
Third Email Wednesday, 26 November 2014
Hi Sandy and thanks for the kind thoughts,
I am honoured, if you would like to use any or all of my scratching please feel free to do so.
All of my friends know about my battles with alcoholism so it won’t hurt me if strangers get to know about it as well, it might even help some people to know how I’ve gotten on top of the illness. It is very complicated but also, for some, very simple!
I know some strong minded individuals have simply stopped drinking ... and that’s great and an enviable achievement. But for the vast majority it is not at all that easy and, in fact, becomes a lifelong challenge requiring constant vigilance and reinforcement. To say that meditation techniques alone can solve the problem would be wrong but in my case and subsequent thinking, meditation has been an invaluable tool in the quest to put the problem to rest “once and for all” as they say. Though it is definitely not “once” but repetition and endurance that wins the day every time with meditation.
There’s a story from the Tibetan histories that tell of their great Saint Milarepa, who when asked how did he achieve enlightenment ... turned around, threw up his robes and bared his behind to the questioner saying something to the effect ... by these calluses on my rear did I achieve enlightenment!
So “practice, practice and more practice” is the real path to gaining benefit from meditation but in the case of alcoholism there are other factors to also consider.
For most people meditation alone cannot be expected to be the only tool to conquer the complex problem of alcoholism. Alongside a personal commitment to a “straight” life, free from all addictions there needs to be external help in the form of counselling from an experienced and totally unconnected professional. I once would not have endorsed this idea but, again in my case, I found it cut a pathway to the core of the problem that I found impossible alone. I had many years of tackling this illness of the mind and I think I have attacked it from just about every conceivable direction. I even went 5 years “straight” only to make the mistake of thinking I had it beat and falling victim to one small glass of wine that opened the floodgates once again.
Every person suffers some damage in life as it unfolds and unearthing memories of incidents that the mind has built a wall around is crucial to finding out how the addictive behaviours began in the first place. Addiction is simply trying to feel good ... something inside is forever feeling very bad and by “medicating” our illness we attempt to put off the bad feelings, for a time. But then every other part of our lives begin to suffer also and a long or even short spiral begins that can only lead downwards into the abyss.
It is very true for me to say that, in my case, without meditation I wonder if I could have gotten on top of this illness at all. And I have to say that my peaceful place was really the start for me to actually believing that meditation was helpful at all. I too was once a bit of a sceptic but I also knew that with so many people extolling its virtues there had to be something there.
Again, ‘practice, practice and more practice’ was to prove the point for me. Before I ever met Sandy I had heard him in an ABC interview and was struck by his open, down to earth approach and so I was determined to get in touch with him. I started with a couple of tapes and, to my total dismay, found when I first went into Theta and couldn’t feel my body at all I was impressed. It has been a long journey since that time in the bush alone with a Sandy MacGregor tape but that was the first seed of the tree that eventually turned things around for me.
To learn the “nuts and bolts” of meditation practice quickly and easily doesn’t happen in the East. It entails a process of emptying the mind over a period of time that is neither easy nor for the faint hearted. The “monkey mind” is a constant for all people and to bring that ‘monkey mind’ under control literally takes years of practice. But benefits can be felt much sooner in very subtle ways.
The use of the visualisation techniques in PP is a kind of short cut to an auxiliary hall where there is access to the enormous power of the mind but in a different way and form of control to that of the “Vipassana” techniques taught from the front door, main hall in the Eastern traditions.
The PP technique doesn’t seek to have complete control over the “monkey mind” but seeks to distract the monkey while influencing the subconscious. Influence rather than control is probably the best way to explain the major difference in PP from Eastern techniques.
The absolutely amazing fact about your PP technique is the speed and efficiency with which one gets to learn the basics and start to explore the possibilities for oneself.
I have found that I can easily combine your PP technique with Vipassana meditation BUT not at the same time. They are different tools for different jobs.
The astounding advances in scientific knowledge of brain functions has subsequently given mankind an insight into the existence and workings of the mind. Therefore there appears to be many areas where the ancient techniques of the control of mind and the modern scientific studies coincide and in fact there are many cooperative programs going on around the world testing and examining these areas.
So for an alcoholic or a person with addictive issues of any sort I can highly recommend your PP technique not of course to be seen as the sole antidote. That comes from a very much more involved journey into the depths of the root cause, in which meditation can and should play an integral, actually pivotal role.
There I go again ... off on tangents all over the place ... anyway now you have my thoughts on alcoholism and meditation. Remember I also put myself through 6 months of rehab as part of my journey. In saying that PP was instrumental for me in the process of getting to know myself – absolutely necessary for getting on top of addiction. It takes WORK ... and practice.
I think I’ll quit while somewhere ahead .. I hope ...
Love to you and Sandra, L & L Chris B
Profound is a very apt word and not one more word is needed from me except once again, thank you Chris.
All the best