Awakening Principles with Cannabis
Stephen Gray is a teacher and writer on spiritual subjects and sacramental medicines. He has worked extensively with Tibetan Buddhism, the Native American Church, and with entheogenic medicines. The author of Returning to Sacred World: A Spiritual Toolkit for the Emerging Reality, he is also a conference and workshop organizer, leader, and speaker as well as a part-time photographer and music composer under the artist name Keary. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.
BASIC SPIRITUAL WORKING PRINCIPLES
You can use cannabis as a sacrament--not as an end in itself, but as a holy tool to help you to experience reality. Cannabis opens you up and leaves you compassionate.
Cannabis can be tricky to work with. For many, even most of us, there’s a learning curve in finding out how to most skillfully benefit from the plant as a spiritual ally. A number of factors can influence the short and long-term spiritual benefits--dosage, strain, frequency of use, attitude toward the plant, one’s state of mind and body at the time of the encounter, the specific setting, and maybe most important, the ability to quiet the discursive mind and allow periods of inner stillness. A teaching from wisdom traditions may help establish ground for how to work with cannabis in spiritually beneficial ways. It’s how we work with our thoughts and intentions in formal practices and throughout the daily walk.
The simple way of saying it is that we create our own reality. But that principle is slippery. Our operating system configurations were almost fully internalized before we were capable of understanding what was being downloaded. Some of it may even have been carried over from previous incarnations.
The result is that we tend to be driven by narratives operating below the horizon of awareness. The great teachings say that bringing those drives--the unconscious material of what Buddhists term samsara: the confused mind of the unresolved, unhealed ego--into the light of day, ultimately allows us to learn how to function skillfully and gracefully as authentic, awakened beings.
CANNABIS, INTENTION, AND THE CLARIFYING/AMPLIFYING EFFECT
You may be wondering what all this has to do with the sacred herb as an ally for awakening. When we meet cannabis with intention and focus, its ability to clarify and amplify can both shine a light on the illusions we carry and invite us to release into a deeper, more relaxed, open-hearted presence that feels right and real. As with other entheogenic medicines, it provides the means for a condensed and heightened mindfulness and awareness meditation.
Intention is a key starting point for that realization. In effective ceremonial environments, like those of the Native American Church for example, entheogenic medicines can dramatically potentiate the manifestation of an intention, and in its own particular way cannabis can do that too when used skillfully. Along with its truth serum, clarifying capability, when you can maintain a degree of non-thought presence, cannabis can assist in bringing about a softening of the armor and a freeing of the heart in compassion. Intentions fueled by love have that much greater potential for manifestation.
CANNABIS AND THE PHYSICAL ORGANISM
Physical energy must be mastered and grounded for spiritual energy to move, because physical energy transforms the spirit.
--Teilhard de Chardin
As well as its clarifying and amplifying qualities, cannabis also works directly on the physical organism, although as Joan Bello so clearly describes it, it’s all part of the same activity of the plant. The fresh, oxygen-rich blood that flows into the extremities does its work on the mind and on the body.
The expansion and release that cannabis can potentiate are likely a significant component of its increasingly well-known healing abilities. It’s all interwoven. More and more of us are recognizing that physical and spiritual healing are inseparable. The “charged equilibrium”--as Joan Bello calls it--and the loosening of muscular structure activated by cannabis when we’re present with it is a spiritual awakening process.
When the body feels good, as it does when energized and relaxed at the same time, well-being increases, even joy. No doubt that’s why cannabis is sometimes described as a euphoriant. When mind and body are synchronized you feel good. Feeling good, awake, and connected to your heart is spiritual.
GRADUALLY LESSENING THE "ME" HOLD
It’s possible that the cannabis plant’s most significant spiritual benefit, just as it is with other entheogens, is not as much in the immediate experience of the high as it is in what’s learned and incorporated--i.e. embodied--for the daily walk. By becoming familiar with a state of well-being in the broadest sense, we’re training ourselves to recognize it so that we can tune in and be present in the “post-meditation” experience.
In general the more you can let the busy mind dissolve for a while, the more you can directly experience cannabis’s mind-body releasing and healing benefits. The less Me, the more cannabis can do its work effectively.
This is an ongoing practice, an acquired “taste.” Except in rare, extreme life circumstances, the realignment and rebalancing process takes a long time as we gradually release old patterns and wounds and shift our trust and confidence from the self-protective narratives of the struggling ego to the harmonious flow of awakened heart wisdom. As they say in the Santo Daime ayahuasca teachings, it takes firmeza, coragem, e confia--firmness, courage, and trust.