A second point of similarity between drug use and meditation is that both lead to states of consciousness that are different from the ordinary. A lot of people like to take vacations in foreign countries. Some like exotic foods. And many others like vacations from their ordinary modes of consciousness into a different 'mind-space' where new insights can occur and even ordinary stimuli (and even without the sensual enhancement above) can be experienced in a whole new way.
Many people deeply fear altered states of consciousness, I think because they are overly afraid of their own non-rational minds. Subscribing to a worldview in which 'rational' rules of decency, propriety, etc., govern every aspect of life means relying on our capacities of rational judgment for every important decision. And so different mind-states are scary. Now, don't get me wrong -- I'm all for rational judgment making most decisions in the world, and certainly all of those which seriously affect other people. But is it a rational judgment to dance? To let go of the self in orgasm? To fall in love? Come on. Some of our most transcendent moments come when the rational mind is quieted and something... else takes its place. In some aspects of life, being in touch with the nonrational is essential to being human.
Meditation, like drugs, leads to a state of mind in which the ordinary rational mind is not dominant in our experience of self. Of course, there are critical differences between (some) drug states and meditation, most importantly what Ken Wilbur calls the "pre/trans" distinction: the rational mind does not become suppressed in meditation as it can in some kinds of drug use. Rather, its incessant train of ideas, thoughts, judgments, decisions - stops. Or, if it continues, it is seen for what it is, rather than as "me" thinking these thoughts. Direct perception of what is, rather than thinking about it; that's what happens.
So, drugs and meditation share two essentially sensual phenomena: enhanced sensual experience of the world, and non-ordinary consciousness. And, of course, meditation has none of the potentially damaging side effects or addictions of drugs. If anything, its side effects are more compassion, less anger, and greater gentleness. What a trip!
The Sacred and the Profane
A Conversation with Douglas Rushkoff
Reinventing the Wheel: A Review of Nothing Sacred
They Gonna Crucify Me: A 'Lapsed Jew' Responds to Nothing Sacred
Plus these other attractions:
Meditation and Sensuality
Anything You Want to Be
Josh Graduates High School
Zeek in Print
Spring 03 issue available here