Stillness, Nada Yoga, and Cannabis Consciousness

Stillness, Nada Yoga, and Cannabis Consciousness

by Ron Dewhurst

“Sound is the force of creation, the true whole. Music then, becomes the voice of the great cosmic oneness and therefore the optimal way to reach this final state of healing.”1

Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882-1927)

 

Inner Stillness: The New Ancient Wisdom

As we evolve our modern Cannabis Culture to employ different archaic philosophies and ceremony for using cannabis in a sacred and respectful way, we see developing an evolving deeper connection to oneself and understanding of our true nature. With an alchemical blending of these old and current understandings, we see a fusion of insight and agreements that will take us into a new vision for ourselves and our planet through new ways of being. How do we move forward and create this new wisdom for our time? Do we have symbolic or shared understandings throughout the ages that we have agreements for regardless of our culture or age? Do we embrace these as root practices and wisdom?

One of the root spiritual agreements we all share is the role of stillness and the opening of the heart to the primal transcendent space—a timeless and vast undifferentiated space that the very forces of nature are dependent upon in order to exist—embracing all forms and all levels of consciousness. The void, sunyata, ma, nirvana and emptiness are various words we use to explain an understanding that can only be felt by the awakened soul.

In Joan Bello’s classic work The Yoga of Marijuana, she states that the cannabis ally is an aid to achieving “no thought,” or stillness in the mind field. Continuing on, she states that “Specific to altered states of consciousness with marijuana is the increased time span between neuronal messaging in the brain, which translates as increased spaces between thoughts.”2 Along with this decrease in thought activity, as noticed by stillness-thought pioneers such as Ekhart Tolle, there is a resultant boost of energy that manifests in the present moment.

Sound Practice

Even with the above understandings from cannabis consciousness, there is still work to do to attain greater and extended moments of stillness that lead to freedom from the separate self. Meditation, yoga, and other forms of discipline are necessary tools that can be used or combined to stimulate the endogenous inner states, further enriching the exogenous consciousness instilled by the cannabis plant ally. With these ancient practices we find another agreement within the wisdom of Nada Yoga or Sound Yoga. Nada yoga is an ancient eastern belief that the entire universe and all that exists arise from sound vibrations. Based on this old understanding, we have seen awakening in our culture the use of sound practices with ceremonies. A consciousness shift rooted in inner and outer vibrational effects, practitioners use sound as a palliative aid to the awakening and the destruction of self as the final reality.

For centuries, drums, rattles, and other ethnic instruments have been used to produce and shift states of consciousness that open the heart up and silence the mind field from the constant disturbances by lower energetic thought forms which cloud direct intuitive experience. A Stanford University research study entitled “Brainwave Entrainment to External Rhythmic Stimuli” discovered the following:

“This research supports the theories that suggest that the use of the drum by indigenous cultures in ritual and ceremony has specific neurophysiological effects and the ability to elicit temporary changes in brain wave activity, and thereby facilitates imagery and possible entry into an ASC (altered state of consciousness), especially the SSC (shamanic state of consciousness).”

Melinda Maxfield Ph.D., who led the research, shared a presentation abstract that included the following observations:

“Drumming in general, and rhythmic drumming in particular, often induces imagery that is ceremonial and ritualistic in content and is an effective tool for entering into a non-ordinary or altered state of consciousness (ASC) even when it is extracted from cultural ritual, ceremony, and intent. The drumming also elicits subjective experiences and images with common themes. These include: loss of time continuum; movement sensations, including pressure on or expansion of various parts of the body and body image distortion; “energy waves,” and sensations of flying, spiraling, dancing, running, etc.; feelings of being energized, relaxed, sharp and clear, hot, cold, and in physical, mental, and/or emotional discomfort; emotions, ranging from reverie to rage; vivid images of natives, animals, people, and landscapes; and non-ordinary or altered states of consciousness (ASC), whereby one is conscious of the fact that there has been a qualitative shift in mental functioning., including the shamanic state of consciousness (SSC) journeys, out-of body experiences (OBEs), and visitations.”3

She arrived at the conclusion that the beat and time range most conducive for entering these trance states was 4 to 4.5 beats per second, sustained for at least 12 to 15 minutes. This was an understanding shared worldwide by earlier shamanistic cultures with fast repetitive drumming over sustained periods which can begin with a heart rhythm and then end what is known as a call back rhythm after the trance journey is completed.

The Power and Resonance of Setting

Another shared agreement is the concept of setting as an aid to lead participants into a deeper, more profound, expansive experience. In modern psychedelic therapy, the importance of setting is discussed with criteria such as the sense of a safe environment; the inclusion of music and incense; the choice of colors and textures; stimulating art; and the placement of ceremonial objects and other supportive items. Great early explorers like Albert Hofmann had strong recommendations like “Only in nature.” But what other conditions of setting or place can be found to aid in the expansion of consciousness?

In megalithic places such as the Newgrange Passage Tomb, the Hal Salfieni Hypogeum and Gobekli Tepe, there is an emerging study of archeoacoustics that points toward an ancient forgotten knowledge dealing with the design of temples, sound, resonance and the intentional effect on consciousness. It must be noted that many of these cultures mentioned above were rooted in a deep shamanic tradition where plants played a key role in their spiritual development and holistic health.

Studies have shown that in ancient cultures these locations were chosen via an unseen signature by their unique somatic and spiritual qualities. Most of the powerful inherent earth frequencies lie in the range used by modern science to explore the heart. So now, we have rediscovered a science of sound, which the ancients dedicated an entire multi-disciplinary craft to, from instruments to an immersive sound chamber. An example of this exciting new research is found at the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum in Malta where in the Oracle Chamber section of the ruin, the researchers found it was possible to activate the resonance of the structure with frequencies of both 114Hz and 68-70Hz. This resonance structure created bone-chilling effects when driven by a frame drum and human voice that was magnified a hundred times and echoed for up to 12 seconds. Both these ancient instruments are ideally suited for the frequency range needed to activate the ancient soundscape. Another startling discovery was that at 110 Hz, the brain activity patterns abruptly shifted over the subject’s prefrontal cortex, leading to deactivation of the brain’s language center and right-sided dominant emotional processing.

To further the mysteries at these sacred sites, a research team doing sound research found after analysis a strong spiral magnetic field on one of the chamber`s wall. Further at the center of this spiral there is quiet on the image, a stillness at the center of this energy pattern as in the eye of a hurricane. Can it also sympathetically entangle the mind field of the ceremony participants within this chamber? Is this the next step in creating a more powerful setting that uses forgotten natural sciences which included chamber design, an intuitive consideration of natural earth forces and specific acoustical tunings?

Saying “YES”

So in exploring transcendental resonances, the energy from the cannabis ally, the multi-level dance of nada yoga, are we reclaiming the ancient path to a direct sunyata experience—a state called by modern scientific researchers, the AUB (Absolute Unitary Being), a rare state of experience where the complete loss of space/time and a loss of self where everything becomes an infinite undifferentiated oneness? A space that Franklin Merrell-Wolff, a modern day mystic and philosopher named “Consciousness without an object.

I say “YES.” We’re in an exciting age of spiritual transformation as we rediscover and relearn old wisdoms to blend into our new culture of consciousness awakening.

Notes:

  1. The Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan – The Mysticism of Sound, http://www.hazrat-inayat-khan.org/php/views.php?h1=11&h2=7&h3=0
  2. Joan Bello The Yoga of Marijuana: https://www.amazon.com/Yoga-Marijuana-Joan-Bello-M-S/dp/1466357452
  3. Melinda Maxfield, Ph.D.,  Brainwave Entrainment: https://web.stanford.edu/group/brainwaves/2006/Maxfieldabstract.html

Is There a Spirit of Cannabis?

A Wealth of Testimony

“Is there a spirit of cannabis?” It’s an interesting question. First a disclaimer. Although there have been numerous hints, signs, messages and unusual occurrences in my encounters with the herb, I still wouldn’t feel right in making the claim that I’ve personally experienced anything I would definitively describe as a spirit or deity associated with cannabis.

But that’s just me. Many others have indeed said they have had such encounters. For starters, there is a wealth of testimony from traditional communities the world over, past and present, claiming direct experience of spirit beings in altered states of consciousness, both with and without the inclusion of a psychotropic plant.

I’ve come across many such testimonials in my research. Just this morning I read a fascinating enthnographic account by anthropologist Dr. Johannes Wilbert in Cannabis and Culture (Rubin ed. 1975) of the widespread use of tobacco for spiritual and healing purposes in South America. Among many examples in his paper, Dr. Wilbert quotes a description (Elick, 1969, 206-207) of a practice among the Campa for initiating novice shamans into the company of spirits. One apparently not uncommon experience involved an encounter with a jaguar spirit that morphed into the “Mother of Tobacco,” who then taught the novice a shamanic song by repeating it over and over until he had memorized it. There are innumerable accounts of this nature.

The ‘Green’ Lady?

Getting back to cannabis itself, I found in the same book Cannabis and Culture, in an essay titled “The ‘Ganja Vision’ in Jamaica,” a description of novices’ experiences of encountering a “little lady” of congenial nature who invites them in. This is said to typically happen on the novice’s first experience with the herb and is believed to indicate the novice is simpatico with ganja.

Reading that description led me to wonder if I might not be as lug-headed as I thought. I’ve always loved to dance, free-style, and when doing meditative quasi-ceremonies alone at home with cannabis I’ll occasionally get up and dance. On a number of those occasions, with eyes closed, I’ve had a vision—palpable, if perhaps not as highly defined as might occur with high doses of certain plant sacraments—of a Native woman dancing in front of me. In those encounters I’ve fallen effortlessly into sync with her movements.

As Within So Without

The issue of the existence of a spirit of cannabis or of any other visionary plant medicine also begs the question, at least for some of us, of what is external and what is internal. In Singing to the Plants, author Stephan Beyer writes that the mestizo shamans and others of the Upper Amazon talk about non-embodied beings as “other than human persons.” And then there was Carlos Castaneda’s (perhaps fictional) Don Juan, who just laughed when asked by Carlos if the intensely vivid and all-encompassing visionary experiences he was having with Don Juan’s psychotropic plants were real.

I had a somewhat similar experience the first time I drank ayahuasca. The medicine came on like a hurricane. The shaman sang an ícaro for me and waved his healing shacapa around my head and shoulders. While crawling back to my mattress shakily and still afraid, a large cat of some kind took possession of my body—my whole being really—and delivered me gracefully and safely back to my spot, where I spent the remaining hours in a state of joy and apparently in communication with some great and kindly beings.

In the morning I asked the shaman if there really were beings there or if it was just me and my own mind and he said something like, “Ah, that’s a question you’ll have to answer for yourself.”

An Honored Guest

Regardless of the “reality” of what you might call an independent, non-material spirit entity accessed through cannabis, behaving “as if” there is a spirit of the plant is very likely to produce deeper and more beneficial experiences. In her chapter in Cannabis and Spirituality, Kathleen Harrison writes beautifully and sensitively of the spirit of cannabis. In her words:

“The plant is your honored guest too. You may be pleasing yourself, or your close friends, but you are also pleasing the spirit of cannabis when you slip into a more conscious and attentive frame of mind in order to invite her into your body and your consciousness, into your ceremony of awareness. In this way of thinking, she responds more fully if invited in a respectful way.”

Note to readers: Many people have had powerful spiritual, sometimes visual/visionary experiences with cannabis, including contact with a spirit being or beings. I encourage you to share such experiences with me for the benefit of other readers.

They Call Her Santa Maria

They Call Her Santa Maria.

Who is “They?”

In the context of the story that follows, “they” is a group of people I know who treat cannabis as a sacred plant. They hold great respect for her, and, for the most part as I’ve observed them, meet her in carefully considered “settings”—as in “set and setting.”

Even in the most casual of engagements with her, they at least take a moment to acknowledge her in gratitude and devotion. And even in those situations, they seem mostly to stay present with her, not getting lost in wandering superficial thought and conversation, not clutching at straws of comforting entertainment to escape the heart-filled, ego-dissolving space that can open up when the mind calms down.

Who is “Her?”

I don’t know the answer to that question from personal experience, although she does feel like a feminine energy to me. She can be powerful, uncompromising, and even overwhelming. But, with the possible exception of high dose oral ingestion, when you’re able to stay present, relaxed, and openhearted to her energy, she can also be an incredibly tender and sweet dance partner and lover.

An ‘Origin’ Story

They call her Santa Maria at least in part because of a story that has come down to them from nearly half a century ago. There are elements of this story I’ve been asked not to speak publicly about for reasons I’ve been asked not to speak publicly about. This is the kernel of the story minus a few identifying specifics. In line with the understanding of more than one great artist, I’ll be going beyond the facts to get to the essence. You might think of it as a true fable.

A spiritual leader and plant medicine master—I’ll call him a shaman for this story—of great wisdom and vision was at the time of this seminal event living deep in the forest with his community. This was a man with a reputation for having an open communication channel with the Great Spirit, or Great Spirits. He was well known in his community and beyond for being a master journeyer with powerful “generating-the divine-within” medicine plants, in particular, with a legendary visionary brew of the region.

Word of this remarkable community began to spread and one day a young visitor showed up at the shaman’s forest encampment and offered him some cannabis, a plant he had not previously known. The shaman accepted the offering and told the young man he would like to discover its characteristics privately.

The Keeper of the Garden

After spending some time alone with her, the shaman reported to his people that he had had a vision of a woman tending a garden. She showed him a cannabis plant growing in her garden and said it was her plant. She told him that few people understood the plant and many were misusing it. She asked him to help correct that misunderstanding and let people know that when met with humility, respect, and a clear and simple presence of mind, her plant has remarkable gifts of healing and awakening for us humans wandering confused in the struggle-inducing illusions of our thought-generated virtual realities.

So then, why the name Santa Maria? Since the European people first invaded their ancestral lands and aggressively forced their Christian religious beliefs down the throats of the locals, native people all over the world have attempted to keep the essence of their traditional spiritual practices alive by incorporating elements of Christianity. That often meant using the language and the icons of Christianity.

The shaman of this story and his sylvan spiritual community were among those “syncretic religions.” He interpreted—or as the story suggests, actually experienced—the keeper of the garden as Saint Mary, or Santa Maria in the Portuguese and Spanish of the area. He also understood her as Mother Earth, or Pachamama.

That way of viewing and meeting Santa Maria has since been passed down to people like the group I know. A number of the core members of this group understand how to meet her with a relaxed discipline that opens the doorway to her peaceful and loving medicine. In doing that, they light a lamp of inspiration as we enter a period of renewal in our relationship with this ancient spiritual ally.