Years ago I lived a complicated life. I had a Porsche, a beautiful wife, three kids, a Tudor home in a posh Cleveland suburb and all the bills and headaches to go with it. And even though I had it made, something always seemed to be missing no matter how good it got.

Within two years after living this American dream for eighteen years, I found myself in sweltering 1981 Southeast Asia in the middle of the jungle in a 6’ by 6’ unfurnished hut (just a bare floor) surrounded by snakes, scorpions, and all kinds of mean critters that thought I was lunch.

I was offered only one meal a day, and that was very coarse food consisting of sticky rice, bananas - and whatever else the villagers saw moving on the ground that day.

My wardrobe was simple as well, three robes; an outer robe, an inner robe and an upper robe, and a pair of flip flops.

As far as personal items go, I had a razor, half an old tin can to heat some water over a candle to shave with, a begging bowl to go on alms round and eat out of with my hands (no knife and fork), a needle and thread to repair my robes, and a small sieve to strain insects out of the drinking water.

I also had an umbrella, a shoulder bag, and a water kettle.

I drank my urine for medicine when I came down with a fever, and slept on a ¼’ bamboo mat on the bare floor with a mosquito net tucked under.

And I was happy, the happiest I had ever been in my life.

There is a feeling that is quite indescribable when you are willing to sacrifice not only your possessions and relationships, but your very life, for what you know to be is true. And there is also a satisfaction knowing that there is nothing left to lose. I had lost it all, from a normal perspective, but found everything.

I remember lying in my little hut with my first bad fever; I believe it was typhoid, for day and days. A monk would come in with a bowl of food and some water each morning asking how I was. And I was okay. For the first time in my life, I could say that I wasn’t worried about being sick at all.

At this point, nobody depended on me for anything. I had no responsibilities. I was a practicing Buddhist monk, fed by the Thai villagers as a token of their respect for one who had turned his back on a comfortable life in America to risk his life attaining enlightenment.

My meditation had also advanced to the point where the fear of both death and pain were no longer relevant. I had gotten to the point as well of disenchantment with all the trappings of the world, the temptations so to speak.

So what was there to be afraid of? I didn’t fear death, I didn’t fear separating from loved ones or separating from my meager possessions. I didn’t fear the future for I had seen it and it was not fearful at all. I could peacefully lie in my hut and either get well or die. It didn’t make any difference.

These kinds of experiences, life and death experiences, change a person’s mind. The mind becomes so refined that it actually has the power to change DNA. These kinds of consciousness shifts cannot be related to by normal people in the working world - a completely different existence fraught with stress and fear.

A little meditation now and then, even with the busiest of folks will go a long way in neutralizing fear. The mind won’t react so strongly. It will slow things down a little so that you can see clearer.

Also, when the mind slows down, it finds itself not quite so caught up in things external to itself. As a matter of fact, it finds completeness within itself. There is something in the mind, if the mind has half a chance to develop it, which will connect with something much deeper than what seems obvious to normal people.

This is the connection that begins to change the DNA, changes it from the mover and shaker of our being to simply the hardware of the computer, which is what it is. It is not us. What is really us is just beginning to be discovered.

And that discovery opens the 90% of the brain which we never access, a discovery that begins a process of evolution. Once the mind catches on to this tremendous adventure within itself, the world and all its problems melt away.

How can a mind such as this live by itself in a forest and be completely happy? I can testify that it can. How could it not?

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock (anagarika eddie) is a meditation teacher at: and author of “A Year to Enlightenment: His 33 years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk.
He lived at Wat Pah Nanachat under Ajahn Chah, at Wat Pah Baan Taad under Ajahn Maha Boowa, and at Wat Pah Daan Wi Weg under Ajahn Tui. He had been a postulant at Shasta Abbey, a Zen Buddhist monastery in northern California under Roshi Kennett; and a Theravada Buddhist anagarika at both Amaravati Monastery in the UK and Bodhinyanarama Monastery in New Zealand, both under Ajahn Sumedho. The author has meditated with the Korean Master Sueng Sahn Sunim; with Bhante Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia; and with the Tibetan Master Trungpa Rinpoche in Boulder, Colorado. He has also practiced at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the Zen Center in San Francisco.