Hard Lesson

from David Leland

I don’t know which was more important to me, the music or the drugs. I started playing drums when I was seven. Twenty years later I played jazz with Herbie Hancock, Latin with Cal Tjader, and I was on the same bill with Ten Years After. I was totally immersed in the San Francisco music scene. But if there had been no music, I think I still would have done the drugs.

I read Autobiography of a Yogi in 1969. I wanted a spiritual path, but without the hard work; especially when, instead, I could just get high. I used hard narcotics for about twelve years. Then one morning I woke up thinking, “I can’t do this anymore.” I was scrambling for money all the time, and the drugs themselves took such a toll on my body, mind, and spirit. I couldn’t keep going that way.

For the next twelve years I went to AA. I never used drugs again.

In 1992 I went for a routine physical exam. The doctor found something in my blood he didn’t like. Somewhere in those drug years I had picked up the virus Hepatitis C. I wasn’t sick yet, but the doctor said eventually I would be. There was no cure.

Fast-forward another fifteen years. My life was going just fine. I rarely thought of the ticking time bomb inside of me. I had been carrying the virus around for thirty years and I was still exercising, enjoying my family, and carrying on as usual.

Most of the time Hepatitis C attacks your liver; but for some reason that the doctors couldn’t explain, for me it was my kidneys. I did two cycles of interferon, a treatment similar to chemotherapy. The side effects were worse than the disease. My kidney function became so bad that they put me on the list for a transplant and started dialysis. The treatments were twice a week for two hours, but they seemed to last much longer. The average wait for a kidney was eight years. I couldn’t imagine going on in this way.

I started spiraling down; my mood got darker and darker. Hepatitis C had taken away everything—exercise, food, sleep, work—everything. Finally I hit spiritual bottom and called to God in a way I never had before.

At that point the seed planted so many years before by Autobiography of a Yogi began to take root. My wife and I found an Ananda temple right near our home. We started attending regularly, taking classes, and meditating daily. Eventually, we received Kriya initiation.

I live by the ocean, and I started walking on the beach whenever I could. My wife suggested four words to me: “Manifest Thy Healing Presence.” I started saying the words over and over. I was saying them so much that when I didn’t, it was a big event.

Doctors were monitoring my condition. Suddenly, everything seemed to be getting better.

“Let’s try it without dialysis,” the doctor said. He didn’t have to twist my arm. I had stopped before, but it had never lasted more than a few weeks.

It has been six months now without dialysis, and my kidney function has been getting better one day at a time. Six months is not a year, a decade, or a lifetime, but it is a lot longer that I have ever gone before.

The doctors have no explanation, but I can explain it in four words: “Manifest Thy Healing Presence.”