Some reading this might think titling a post “Cannabis for Problem Solving” is laughable. The plant has been described as a performance degrader by some investigators and of course has been the subject of endless jokes making fun of it’s dumbing-down, ‘dopey’ effects. Even using the word “dope” for cannabis is enough to cast serious aspersions on its intelligence-enhancing capabilities. You call someone a dope, or dopey, and then you sometimes hear people call cannabis dope—especially people who remember the 60s and 70s—as in “You wanna smoke some dope?”
And how many times have you heard, or made, cracks about the spacing-out, short-term-memory-disrupting effects the herb has on a lot of people? You know, the old “Uh, what were we just talking about?” phenomenon.
So, if you haven’t discovered cannabis’ problem solving capabilities for yourself, it’s understandable that you may balk at the idea. But, as always, it comes down to how you use the plant. With it’s title “Cannabis and Spirituality,” you know this website is about how cannabis can be used for spiritual benefit. Meeting the plant with intention and conscious awareness in a conducive setting can open up possibilities far beyond what people who have not worked with the herb that way realize.
If you’ve read other posts on this site, you have a sense of what I’m talking about. But one remarkable aspect of cannabis’ capabilities I haven’t really gotten into yet here is how she can help with problem solving. Allow me to explain.
Intention and the Amplifier Effect
Cannabis is sometimes described as a “non-specific amplifier.” In her book The Benefits of Marijuana, Joan Bello (also a contributor to the forthcoming book provisionally titled Cannabis and Spirituality) describes the pharmacokinetic action of the plant. To very briefly summarize that description, she writes that very soon after inhalation, heart rate rises slightly, breathing becomes slower and more expansive, with an accompanying increase in the flow of rich, freshly-oxygenated blood into all regions of the organism.
The simplest way to summarize that action in this context is to say that cannabis can energize and deepen your focus. That’s why it comes down to how you use it. Cannabis isn’t an “it” in the sense of a fixed substance like, say, ibuprofen, where you take it and your headache disappears. There’s a relationship. Mindfulness and awareness are necessary to skillfully channel the amplified energy and a lot of people don’t manage that amplification effectively, in fact aren’t even aware of the plant’s potential in that direction. Another contributor to Cannabis and Spirituality, iboga shaman Steve Dyer, said (in our interview for the book) “It’s this idea of being present and doing it in a conscious way. Then the plant knows what it’s going in there to energize for you because you have your intent, you’ve set the space.” When using cannabis in his ceremonial work Steve described its function as “looking through a window.”
You could also take that metaphor further and say that the plant can help you step through the window into the ‘room’ of the object, or subject, of your attention. This is where the intelligence-enhancing capability of cannabis comes into play (or perhaps comes in to play). Depending on the particular object of attention and your particular kind of intelligence, you might say that the herb potentially opens up a clear visualization of the situation.
Problem Solving in Action – Examples
In case that’s too vague, I’ll offer some examples. When I know I’m going to need to have an important conversation with someone, I will sometimes go there ahead of time with the herb’s assistance and rehearse an imagined dialogue. I can run through the things I want to say to the person and the cannabis effect gives me insights and even language that hadn’t previously occurred to me. It’s a more or less effortless procedure, like a play that writes itself. When the time comes to actually have the conversation, I’ve done my homework or research and I’m ready, though of course not fixed to a rehearsed script.
Here’s another example. A friend of mine is a builder. He was in the process of designing and building a somewhat complex back deck for a house. We smoked (vaporized) together and sat in silence for a while. When we came out of silence he told me he had visualized the finished deck and solved the design problems. It came unbidden and happened “just like that.” as if a genie had snapped its fingers and the vision appeared on the spot. He had even been able look at the deck from several perspectives. There’s an old(ish) word I like, “grokking” or “to grok,” that describes a version of this function. I believe it was first coined by the science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein in his novel Stranger in a Strange Land (1961). It means something like getting the whole gestalt all at once, perhaps on several levels.
A valuable, if not essential component of the effectiveness of this kind of work is connecting to your heart. In my experience, the more you care about the person or situation you’re working with, the more likely cannabis will enter you in to that clear and insightful virtual ‘workspace.’ For that reason, I believe, again from experience, that creating an effective container can be very helpful for this work. Meeting the plant with as much non-thought stillness of mind as possible can open the heart and clarify the information channels. Simple mindfulness and awareness, follow-the-breath type meditation practices can have that effect even without the assistance of cannabis. With the inclusion of the herb, the non-specific amplifier effect kicks in to sharpen and deepen the moment. At the least for this kind of work, it helps to be in a calm, quiet environment and state of mind.
Skipping the “Rah-rah” and the Scientific Analysis
I’m not attempting to make a “rah-rah” case for the wonders of cannabis here. There are multiple factors at work that can influence cannabis’s problem solving potential in any particular individual. But this is the people’s plant and it’s safe enough to experiment with. I’m only suggesting that if you haven’t worked with the herb with the kind of disciplined, calm, open-hearted focus and intention I’ve been discussing, you might find some unexpected positive results by doing so.
It’s also not my intention in this post to attempt any kind of science-based explanation for cannabis’ problem solving capability. If you google terms like “cannabis and creativity,” “cannabis and intelligence,” or “cannabis and neurogenesis,” you’ll come across a lot of information and discussion, such as the studies indicating cannabis’s ability to enhance divergent thinking, sometimes called hyper-priming: “the ability to make connections between seemingly unrelated concepts.”1 (You’ll likely also come across dissenting views, such as those claiming it’s just druggies revelling in their stoner illusions.)
Turning on the Inspirational, Intuitional Channel
I’ll leave you with some inspiring words from Brazilian ayahuasca shaman Mariano da Silva on using cannabis for problem solving in the context of an overall spiritual understanding of the plant. This quote is taken from our conversation that will also appear in the Cannabis and Spirituality book, scheduled for publication in January 2017 and available for pre-order in May 2016 from Inner Traditions/Park Street Press.
“When I speak about cannabis I’m talking about a sacramental plant. Most of the people don’t care about that, they use it more recreationally. But there is sacred use, not only sacred use but—how can I say that? For instance, you want to have a serious talk about something, you want to examine or study something that you need to be inspired for. Cannabis facilitates that kind of inspirational channel or intuitional channel. And then you can use some clairvoyance or some translucency to talk about or to investigate some serious thing, or to do something that you need inspiration for. Or you can use cannabis to meditate, to concentrate, to pray, to sing, to do some kind of religious practice. This is not exactly recreational use.”