"Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars."

Khalil Gibran

Suffering is part of the human condition. No one escapes this life without experiencing pain and hardship. We try to insulate ourselves from these negative experiences but its often in these difficult moments that we discover our higher truth and wisdom.

It was 2001 and I had just graduated from the 7th Grade. To celebrate, our school organized a four day Sailing Trip around Vancouver Island for the entire class. On a sunny Friday morning we all met in the Victoria Inner Harbor and boarded a massive sailboat which would be our home for the next few days. It was my first big sailing trip and I was so excited to be out on the ocean for a few days!

At this point I will interject to say that I have always lived with symptoms that resemble IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). I haven’t been tested for it, but it does run in my family and it can make using the washroom incredibly difficult. I was also a very self-conscious teenager and the boat living quarters were extremely tight with the washroom being right beside the kitchen. As a result, I had a lot of anxiety over using the facilities for fear of making too much noise and taking too long. I didn’t want to embarrass myself, so I decided to try and hold it in for three days.

It was late Sunday night and we had been sailing for three days at this point. That night, as my classmates and I were all getting ready for bed, I was in front of my bunk when suddenly my stomach started rumbling violently. Before I could make it to the washroom the dams burst, and the flood gates opened. With nothing held back, I stood there in front of all my class mates as shit slowly started to roll down my leg. An eruption of laughter followed suit and a few seconds later the girls from neighboring living quarters all filed in to see what all the commotion was about. I just stood their frozen in my own shit realizing for all of eternity I would be known as “Poopy Boy.”

Are you kidding me! I can’t think of a worse place to have this happen. I was stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean with nowhere to run and with all my classmates watching. Not to mention I was 13-years-old and starting my first year of high school in a few months. There’s probably a better way to start to your high school career than this!

As one might imagine, the next few years were a challenge, further compounded by the fact I had terrible social anxiety. I couldn’t build up the courage to talk to anyone about what happened on that sailing trip. Instead, I buried the memory and became very closed-off and shy. Friends would ask me to hang out and we’d make plans but time after time anxiety would creep in and I wouldn’t be able to leave the house. My anxiety followed me to University where I continued to struggle. I lost my ability to connect with people and I had very few close friends.

What I’ve come to understand since then is that anxiety is anticipation of future pain. After that day on the boat all I wanted to do was avoid further humiliation and pain. If I was in a situation that could lead to embarrassment, I would get a rush of anxiety and leave. It now makes sense why I would be sitting at home with an anxiety attack, not able to leave the house. I needed to feel safe, so I structured my entire life around avoiding pain. The more I avoided situations the more imaginative my mind would get, thinking up the worst possible outcomes. This only led to more persistent anxiety. I was caught in a spiral I didn’t know how to get out of.

This frustration stirred up a grave desperation within me that led to some major life changes. Firstly, I quit my secure accounting job and moved to Calgary to open a Float Center. I knew very little about starting a business and I knew even less about floating but I felt like I had nothing to lose. Shortly after opening FloatLife my life took another unexpected turn when a friend introduced me to Psilocybin Mushrooms. I didn’t know much about psychedelics or any drugs for that matter. I had only been drunk a handful of times and smoked pot even less; so, this was all new territory for me, but I figured it could help and it was worth a try!

On New Years Eve, some friends and I got together, and we decided to try mushrooms for the first time. We each consumed 5g each, which I found out later was known as a heroic dose and may not be advisable for your first experience. As the mushrooms started to take effect, the room burst with a mosaic of beautiful, vibrant colors like nothing I had ever seen before. Once we felt like we were peaking we turned off all the lights, laid in the dark and let the plant medicine do its work. An immense energy surged through my body and I felt like I was floating through the infinite universe, beyond space, beyond time. All my worldly problems felt so small and insignificant in the vastness of the experience. I remember giggling over the insanity of it all as waves of love and joy poured over me. I also remember feeling so safe, like an infant wrapped in the arms of a loving mother. I was free of suffering, free of pain and I felt truly alive. When I came down from the trip I still had many things I needed to work through, but it was the spark I needed.

The mushrooms showed me a path out of my own suffering, but the path has little to do with plant medicines, meditation, floating, spiritual teachers or any other method you decide to use. They’re only methods and there’s many ways to find freedom. What’s important is to find your unique path and avoid getting caught in the melodrama of the ego. After all, it is the ego that will perpetuate all sorts of fears, worries and doubts if left to its own accord. It will tell us we’re not good enough and that we’re unworthy. It will tell us we shouldn’t try, and that we should just give up at the first sign of adversity. The ego will also make us fearful of the benign and the more we listen to this voice the more powerful it becomes. But when we connect to our higher self we start to recognize who we truly are. It’s at this point that we can regain control over ourselves and no longer be subjected to the whims of the egoic mind.

Looking back, I chuckle at how perfectly everything aligned for me to have this mortifying experience. The timing couldn’t have been worse being in my early teens, already confused about the immense changes I was going through. At that age I was so absorbed in the ego and I believed every lie I was telling myself about who I am. That was the suffering, not the event itself. Our Reaction to a difficult situation will either perpetuate suffering or be an opportunity for inner work and growth. The choice resides within us.

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I’ve gotten to a place where I wouldn’t change a thing about my past. It was all part of the journey that brought me to this point in my life; it showed me suffering and it made me a more compassionate, selfless human being. Life is so much richer and more beautiful when you stop worrying about your future and start living for the welfare of others. For these lessons, I am eternally grateful.

"Quiet your mind, open your heart, and do what you can to alleviate suffering. It's very simple"

- Ram Dass

I’m now on the path to liberation. I’ve tasted freedom and its available to everyone. Stop worrying about stupid shit. Help yourself then support someone else who’s hurting. If you are in physical or emotion pain my heart breaks for you. I know how it feels. If you want to try floating, mention this post and Receive 50% Off Your Next Float at FloatLife. If you want to float and can’t afford it, please call me 1 (403) 561 3377 and lets chat! If you just want to chat you have my number!

Much Love Everyone,

Dustin