Quick Guide to Cannabis as a Spiritual Ally

I’ve been prompted to write this “Quick Guide to Cannabis as a Spiritual Ally” because I’m seeing more and more people interested in making use of the sacred herb in that way, some of whom have been “cannabis friendly” for years and others of whom are what some in the field are now calling “cannabis naive.”

With the rapid spread of cannabis legalization and societal recognition, we’re starting to see more and more organized and semi- or loosely-organized opportunities for people to engage with the herb in ceremonial rituals and therapeutic environments. This bodes well.

However, in the meantime perhaps some folks less familiar with the plant could use a little guidance. What follows is a handy quick-reference guide. Please note that cannabis is the people’s plant and many of us are learning to use it effectively for spiritual awakening. I’m sure there are a lot of people who understand effective ways of working with cannabis for spiritual opening who could complement or even improve upon anything I can offer. So I welcome good ideas and may very well incorporate them into this Quick Guide as time goes by.

1. Respect: This plant has at least a multi-thousand year history of spiritual use on several continents. As with other entheogenic sacraments like peyote, psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, and numerous others, people who have used cannabis spiritually throughout history have typically treated it with reverence. Rastafarians, for example, call it “the holy herb.” In India, many smokers pay homage to Shiva, the Lord of Bhang. In the Santo Daime syncretic ayahuasca-using religion, it’s known as Santa Maria, i.e. Saint Mary, and also Mother Mary, Mother Earth, and Pachamama. They say it comes from her sacred garden and will best reveal its gifts when honored and beseeched with humble respect.

In the view of many of us who know something about what this plant is truly capable of, it’s not a plaything. When properly understood and effectively worked with, cannabis is a strong and advanced spiritual medicine with numinous potential.

2. Intention follows naturally from respect. Cannabis is a non-specific amplifier, a generous and gracious energy-generating spiritual medicine. If your intention is to escape, it can amplify that intention. If your intention is to heal, to wake up spiritually, to open your heart, and to relax into peace, she can amplify and lubricate such intentions.

3. Discipline follows from intention. As I’ve written elsewhere and as a number of the contributors to the Cannabis and Spirituality book have pointed out, developing a beneficial spiritual relationship with cannabis isn’t a quick fix or a replacement for ongoing practices like meditation, yoga, and the like. It’s a path of gradually retraining ourselves to trust immediate felt perception and experience, or “Nowness” as it’s often called, rather than constantly falling back on the secondhand guesswork of our habitual patterns and beliefs about reality.

For the plant to do its spiritual healing and awakening work effectively, we need to learn how to pay attention, watch thoughts come and go without judgment, and acquire the “taste” of surrendering to non-thought presence, no matter how hard that seems to be or how long it takes. It’s called “unconditioned reality,” things as they are without the confused overlay of beliefs and concepts.

4. Set and Setting: The first three points above are part of what we call “set” in the term “set and setting.” Work with entheogens is generally much safer and more effective when set and setting are optimal. While cannabis is usually more forgiving than some of the so-called major entheogens, attention to setting can make a big difference. Creating or entering a quiet, safe, uplifting environment can dramatically improve the likelihood of a beneficial encounter with the holy herb.

5. Dosage is important, especially for “cannabis naive” people. The recommendation is to start with very small doses, especially with the high THC cannabis so common now and even more especially if the plant is taken orally, wherein the ceiling of effects is typically much higher (and of longer duration) than with inhalation.

Persistence comes into it here as well. If you’re not very familiar with cannabis, it’s not always obvious what’s going on and it may take repeated encounters to really begin to see how the plant does its energy-medicine healing work. Meeting the herb with no expectations about how this should go is likely to be the most successful attitude. Let the plant show you itself and invite you in with as little distraction as possible.

In some sense it’s not about being high but about being fully present, and as an amplifier, with that disclipined attention, cannabis can make you feel more real, more authentic. A light dose can be subtle and sweet. A strong dose can be transcendent (and really sweet.) A good long term plan is to gradually up the dosage as you learn to stay relaxed, present, and at least to some degree free of compulsive “head traffic.”

6. Overdosing and antidotes: There’s far too much on this subject to do it justice in a quick guide like this. The book goes into much more detail. In this context I’ll just say that you can definitely take more than you can effectively deal with, perhaps especially but by no means solely with orally ingested cannabis.

Note first that there’s no danger of a toxic overdose with cannabis. We’re talking about unwanted psychological and physiological experiences that are usually precipitated by feeling one’s cocoon, or ego, threatened by a strong dose. Cannabis can open us up but we have to let go into that experience. You can become frightened by that opening. You may not even realize that fear is the real driving force of your distress. You may just experience physical symptoms like tightness, dizziness, sudden exhaustion, panic attacks, or nausea. Or you may fall prey to terrifying thoughts that trick you into thinking irrevocable disaster is ruining you.

Although with orally ingested cannabis these effects can take much longer to subside, with inhaled cannabis you can often turn the experience around by working with the energy. The first technique is to keep breathing—to let the breath release and relax. Some loosening movement, even dancing, can help. If necessary, lie down, but keep working with the breath and letting go of fear-based, negative thoughts. It’s possible to transmute a disturbing experience into a beautiful one very quickly.

If further action is required, drinking citrus juices is said to help, coffee too. Rich, fatty food should  put a noticeable damper on the high. One source claims that eating pine nuts or pistachios helps. Some say smoking a CBD-only strain of the herb calms. Others say a cold shower will bring you around quickly. At the extreme end, some pharmaceutical sedatives such as benzodiazepines may bring you back, perhaps especially with those more persistent effects provoked by eating or drinking too much of the plant.

But rushing to employ these antidotes may indicate you’ve taken your fearful narrative seriously. (“Help! Stop the train! I want to get off!) So again, the primary recommended approach to working with these situations is to get out of your head and free the movement of energy. That may mean allowing yourself to lose control for awhile.

7. Strains; Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica are two different species. Most commercially produced cannabis is a hybrid of the two. It basically comes down to experimentation. Everyone’s physical and psychological make-up are different. Some prefer sativa-dominant strains for spiritual work for their potentially sharper, more energizing effects. Those folks tend to find indicas more soporific and less awakening. Others prefer the potentially more body-relaxing and less thought-stimulating effects of indica-dominant strains.

Cannabis is a complex plant and many chemicals other than the famed THC play a role. You’ll be hearing a lot about CBD (cannabidiol) in the months and years to come. CBD is the second most prevalent cannabinoid in the plant after THC. Researchers say the significant presence of CBD in a plant limits the high engendered by THC but also extends the duration of the high. CBD is described as having calming effects that some ‘explorers’ may find salutary in meditative work.

8. Source: This is getting into more refined territory. I’m hearing more and more often these days that people are finding greater benefit from cannabis they know has been organically grown with love and reverence—and perhaps prayed over. I know skilled, mature cannabis people who say they can tell from the first toke what the mindset and intention of the grower was.

9. Frequency of use: This is a tough one. I keep meeting intelligent, mentally healthy, actively engaged people who use cannabis daily. They say it puts them in the right zone—more balanced, more relaxed, more present. I wouldn’t argue with that. But there is a significant tolerance effect with heavy use. As discussed by several of the 18 contributors to Cannabis and Spirituality, less frequent use is usually necessary to experience the full opening, transcendent effects of cannabis. One of those contributors, Brazilian ayahuasca shaman Mariano da Silva, said that leaving 5 to 7 days between sessions makes a big difference. As he put it:

“It’s a transcendental effect that really opens your mind, enhances your perception, softens your heart more, calms you down, and facilitates a kind of interaction. I have a lot of respect for cannabis. But if I use it every day, I don’t feel this kind of effect from it anymore.”

Another important consideration on the frequency of use issue is dependence. Some call it addiction, although on a purely physiological level the plant is barely addictive. Heavy users who quit suddenly typically only experience “mild and transitory” withdrawal effects.

But psychological addiction/dependence can be powerful and harmful. Watch out for the seduction of the sweet offerings of the beautiful plant. It can lead you away from healthy, productive relationships with the “daylight world.”

10. Read other essays on this site, read posts on the Facebook group “Cannabis and Spirituality,” and especially read the book Cannabis and Spirituality: An Explorer’s Guide to an Ancient Plant Spirit Ally (Inner Traditions • Park Street Press, Jan. 2017). The whole purpose of the project is to help people of varying levels of experience with the sacred herb make use of it for spiritual benefit.

11. Even quicker: To boil all of this down to one over-simplified bit of guidance, “Sit down, shut up, and pay attention.” Expect nothing, allow all thoughts to rise and fall away without judgment, let the breath heal, and let the kindly plant do its freeing, reality-engendering work as unobstructed as possible by the noise we tend to compulsively generate in our heads.

As Julie Holland M.D. wrote in the Foreword to Cannabis and Spirituality, “Open your heart and your mind and take your time.”

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.



Thoughts are Prayers – for Better or Worse

Thoughts Are Prayers

This topic, “Thoughts are Prayers – for Better or Worse,” is what you might call the “and Spirituality” side of Cannabis and Spirituality—not directly about cannabis except that with skillful intention and attention, the holy herb can be a powerful tool for self-exploration and understanding in meditative contexts.

I’ve been aware of this general principle for a long time. Aphorisms such as “You create your own reality” or, “You are what you think” come readily to mind. In similar words, a Native American spiritual elder once told me, “However you say it is, that’s how it will be for you.”

I was at a Santo Daime ayahuasca ceremony recently and one of the two ceremony leaders gave us a teaching talk in the middle of the ceremony while the ayahuasca was running strong. Perhaps in part because of my heightened state of receptivity at that point, his way of communicating this idea struck me forcefully and I promised myself I’d remember it for later and work more consciously with the teaching in my daily life.

What’s in a Thought?

It’s a powerful idea. Every thought we have has an effect on our state of mind and body, both in the moment and in our ongoing experience. Of course not every little neutral thought running through your head is going to affect your life experience. We’re talking about thoughts with more significant potential repercussions. Examples on the ‘negative’ side would be thoughts that are angry, blaming (self or others), guilty, undermining (self or others), judgmental, despairing, fearful, and many more. I’m sure we could all come up with a long list of negative-pattern thinking, what the Alcoholics Anonymous people have called “stinkin’ thinkin’.”

The word “thoughts” deserves clarification too. Thoughts aren’t always obvious. They don’t always come in the form of language. They also sometimes fly past so fast you don’t even know you’ve had a thought. And sometimes they’re only experienced as feelings or energetic imprints. You might, for example, consider anger a feeling rather than a thought. But if you observe those moments carefully you’ll see that the feeling was triggered by a thought, or at least came bundled with a thought. Thoughts, acknowledged or not, also provide the fuel that keeps the energy of the emotion going.

Energized Presence, Not Self-Absorption

The first implication of this principle is that for anyone whose intention is to wake up, to be happy, it’s essential to practice mindfulness. That is, as a starting point our task is to be aware of our thoughts—watching the quality and nature of those thoughts.

In case anyone reading this interprets the above as an exhortation to go down the rabbit hole of self-absorbed navel-gazing, that would be a misinterpretation of this principle. Buddhist teachings talk about practicing mindfulness and awareness together. Awareness is more about being fully present with the world around you while mindfulness suggests attention to the details of experience within that broader, panoramic awareness. So paying attention to the thoughts that arise doesn’t require a self-absorbed inwardness. It can be done with a light touch within the field of outer-directed attention. It’s about becoming more accessible and connected to life, not more self-absorbed.

Of course it’s easier to watch what arises in a meditative situation where distractions from activity are minimized. But it’s still very possible and just as important—if not more so—to see thoughts arise throughout the daily walk.

Recognition—Then What?

So what does one do with that recognition? For starters you may have to proceed on the tentative faith that your charged thoughts do indeed have a potent influence on your experience. Then the first level of working with them is just to observe, without “praise or blame” as a Buddhist teaching goes. From there it could get a bit tricky and I don’t claim to fully understand all the possibilities and nuances.

Buddhist teachings understand this principle and talk about “mind protection.” One of the slogans is “Change your attitude and relax on the spot.” The Santo Daime ceremony leader talked about purifying our thoughts. For example, since that ceremony I’ve noticed a few incidences where I’ve started to work up a narrative of complaint about a relative. Sometimes I’ve been able to catch the moment and let it go on the spot.

We all have to find our own way to bring this into the daily walk. What seemed to work for me in those moments was to bring down some purifying light or energy, drop that line of thinking, and focus on sending out kind thoughts and/or energy, or even, as the slogan just mentioned says, just letting it go and relaxing, coming back to full mindfulness and awareness in the present moment.

Releasing and Transmuting

To be clear, it’s not necessarily a matter of trading one kind of thought for another, as in telling yourself to replace an angry thought with a loving one—although there is good research now indicating that that kind of practice can create powerful changes in the mind body, especially when the thought/intention is energized and arises from a deeper than Alpha-wave state.1

I see the process also as an energetic one: breathe, come down out of the head, release, and relax. From there, as I implied, the techniques may vary from doing nothing more than being fully present to, for example, working with visualization practices. The Tibetan Buddhist practice of Tonglen is a good example of how to transmute negativity into positivity. Simplified, it can go like this. You might put your attention on a person you’re having judgmental or angry thoughts and feelings about. They call that dark, heavy energy. You breathe that in and then transform it into white, healing, kind, loving light/energy that you breathe out with that person in mind. Tonglen can also be used to transmute counter-productive thought patterns directed at oneself.

Another key to the success of this kind of life-changing practice is acknowledging one’s attachment to the narrative. We often stubbornly cling to our story, for example, saying to ourselves something like, “I have a right to be pissed off.” But self-justification can be your enemy. Letting go of such narratives also implies forgiveness, both to yourself and others. In this context forgiveness is a practice in the moment. Releasing or transmuting the story often has a built-in forgiveness component.

Speaking of mind protection, as much as the fruition of this kind of effort is a benefit for those around us and even beyond, at the foundational level it’s about looking after oneself properly. In layperson’s terms, “negative” thoughts release toxins into the system, both psychologically and bio-chemically. The path quality of this work is learning to recognize ever more clearly that we are what we think and that we have more control over that than most people realize. It’s about stepping into a sense of responsibility for your state of mind and your experience of life.

Change Without Blame

For anyone reading this who is living with a serious debilitating health condition, I want to stress that this kind of taking responsibility for the influence of our thoughts on our organism is absolutely not about blaming oneself for the condition. The electrical signals that may have initially triggered physical responses could have happened in infancy or even in the womb, long before any kind of intellectual processes were in place. The whole point of a discussion like this is to encourage the possibility of change, the understanding that conditions may not be as fixed and permanent as we’ve been conditioned to believe. Self blame is actually another way of sending destabilizing messages to the organism. It’s those kinds of messages we need to catch and release and/or transmute.

I also want to clarify that this “catch and release” or “catch and transmute” program isn’t a passive or detached attitude of non-engagement, like some sort of new-age, it’s-all-love-and-light attitude. Sometimes we need to be direct and tell people how we’re feeling, how we see the matter. That will be obvious to many but not all. There are ways to be skillful, humble, and open about that kind of engagement and at the same time strong and authentic.

To all this you might be thinking things like, “Sure, easy for you to say but I’m different than most people” or “It’s hard” or even, “I don’t deserve to be happy.” (That last one could be one of those slippery little demons that sneaks in the back door unrecognized.) These are all thoughts though, aren’t they? That’s what’s meant by “thoughts are prayers” and according to both ancient wisdom and current research, those negative thoughts are creating spiritual conditions and in fact actual “grooves” in the brain and physical response patterns in the body altogether. A Native American aphorism sums up the impact of negative thinking succinctly: “Worrying is how white men pray for what they don’t want.”

Cannabis: An Energy Medicine

Bringing it back to cannabis as a spiritual ally, with disciplined use cannabis can function as an amplifier. If we can catch and release negative thought patterns and empty into presence, the enhanced energy can heal, and if we can release those thoughts and replace them with life-affirming thoughts, i.e, prayers, cannabis can help strengthen the energetic imprint. As Joe Dispenza describes it in his important book You Are the Placebo, the energy of the new intention has to be stronger than that of the old embedded thought pattern. Energized clear intention creates new brain and body pathways and again, when the energy of cannabis is skillfully directed, that energization is amplified.

May mercy reign.


  1. See, for example, the work of Dr. Joe Dispenza, such as his recent book “You Are the Placebo.” Dr. Dispenza makes a compelling case for the life-changing power of mind over matter, supported by quality real-world studies and extensive recent research in fields such as biochemistry.




Experience and Perseverance

Awakening with Cannabis: Experience & Perseverance

I have no wish to judge anyone for their preferred ways of using cannabis. It’s just that I’ve occasionally seen through the veils and found myself in an exquisite inner landscape that only reveals itself when I’m giving the plant my undivided attention. Breathing becomes deeper and more expansive. Muscles relax, the thinking mind settles and calms and I begin to feel that encompassing presence.

Synchronizing Mind and Body

If you haven’t yet entered similar landscapes when the “small self” is allowed to stand aside for awhile, it’s important to understand that experience is likely necessary, just as it is with so many other skills. Since I recently bought a car with manual transmission, it occurred to me during a cannabinized reverie that that learning process is the same in principle as learning to effectively work with the sacred herb. At first you’re not in sync with the process and aren’t sure what information to pay attention to. You’re heavy-footed and the car lurches forward when you change gears. 

But every time you get behind the wheel you become more familiar with the procedures. You come to recognize the sound of the engine as it approaches the highest revs it should before you need to shift gears. You start to get a feel for when and how quickly to press the clutch in and how to time that with the releasing and re-pressing of the gas pedal. After a while you begin to feel like you’re seamless with the whole process. As Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa used to say, mind and body become synchronized in the present moment.

Two Key Discoveries

Similarly with cannabis, learning to recognize and nurture the ability to allow the obscurations to dissipate is going to take repeated experiences and perseverance for the great majority of us. The thinking mind always wants to fill the space, for good or for ill. If it’s for “good,” like creative or problem-solving work, then great. However, there is a wholly other potential of mind. To find and enter it requires two key discoveries. The first is the recognition that mind’s busyness creates the obscurations and obstacles to entering the exquisite landscape. The second is that to our great surprise, as we gradually learn to tame the wild mind, we begin to see that the space of non-thought presence isn’t worthy of our fear and resistance. It’s actually a far vaster and richer way to be in the world than continually living in our heads and under the tyranny of our limiting narratives.

I know the mechanics of this phenomenon from the inside out. I don’t know how many times opportunity to fly has called and I’ve missed the flight because I got caught in “head traffic.” It may be effortless for a few blessed souls but for most of us mortals perseverance through repeated experience is the order of the day.

The Simplicity of a Swinging Door

So we sit down and pay close attention to the breath—in a relaxed way, not too serious—and notice when thoughts come up, not fighting with them but gently and non-judgmentally letting them go, again and again and again and again. In the ancient traditions it’s very simple. You just sit. As Zen master Shunryu Suzuki said, the breathing process is like a door swinging out then back in, very ordinary, very mundane on some level. But with experience it’s possible that a previously hidden delight begins to make an appearance. Another nugget of Buddhist wisdom says “emptiness becomes luminosity.”

The word “Buddha” means awake. According to the stories, the Buddha was just a person who woke up. He is reputed to have insisted that every one of us has that same nature and capability. I’ve heard a lot of people over the years say they can’t meditate, they can’t sit still, they can’t stop thinking. But the whole point and potential is that it doesn’t matter how hard it is. You just have to persevere. In fact, as a general principle, I suspect that the more compulsively busy your mind is, the more that indicates you’re afraid to look at what’s underneath the obscuring cover. 

The implication is that a compulsively busy mind is obscuring great potential. Does that make sense? It’s the idea that the when the wound is deep, when the fear is great, and when the denial and the battle for control are intense, the freeing of the mind may release that much more potential.

It’s a life-long (at least) journey, not a quick fix. As Rumi put it, it doesn’t matter how many times you break your vow, your commitment. You just keep returning. Persevering through repeated experience. As an aside, Rumi is eminently quotable on this general theme, like this one from Goodreads: “Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure.” Or this one: “Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”

Note on the featured image in this post: It’s a “headshot” of Bob Marley made from roaches by artist Chris Maynard. It’s called Roach Paper Art. Great stuff.

Cannabis for Problem Solving

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.

Heart Connection

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.”


  1. http://www.neboagency.com/blog/the-science-behind-cannabis-and-creativity/



Cannabis: Thinking vs Thinking

Cannabis: Thinking Vs Thinking

For the sake of making a point, I’ll suggest that there are two very different kinds of thinking. Although the principle could apply to the way we use—and are used by—our thinking minds in general, in this post I’m applying it to working with cannabis.

Compulsive Thinking

One kind of thinking is tangled up with the almost universal compulsion to obscure what Buddhist and other teachings have described as the emptiness at the core of our being.1 The constant activity of the thinking mind, or discursive mind as it’s sometimes called, is the ego’s core strategy for attempting to keep the fortress closed and safe.

Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa used the metaphor of a cocoon. It may feel safe in there but it’s also stale and claustrophobic with limited visibility. As such teachings point out, ego—the illusion of a separate self—is synonymous with struggle, a war on emptiness as it were. Though much of the defensive activity runs in the background, the cocoon requires constant maintenance to keep the “beyond” from leaking in. The activity of the compulsive thinking mind is the prime material we use to repair leaks and keep the system closed.

Directed, Higher Thinking

The other kind of thinking comes from a radically different place. You could call it directed thinking, or higher thinking. There’s another descriptive term from the science-fiction novelist Robert A Heinlein, “grokking.” Grok means to understand something so thoroughly that the observer merges and blends with the observed. It’s a kind of ‘thinking’ where in some situations the whole gestalt can be understood at once. In its purest form, this kind of thinking arises from that emptiness rather than functioning to fight against it.

In the forthcoming book Cannabis and Spirituality (Inner Traditions/Park Street Press, 2016) I and the other contributors stress the poorly understood idea that with all its other uses, cannabis can be a powerful spiritual ally, especially when we can allow the thinking mind to fall away for at least some of the time we’re in the herb’s embrace. In his essay “Beyond the Thinking Mind” Eckhart Tolle put it concisely, “Spiritual awakening is awakening from the dream of thought.”2

Along with its ability to invite us beyond the thinking mind however, cannabis also has the uncanny capability of opening us up to sharp insights and fresh perspectives. This is where directed thinking comes into play (or: comes in to play). When you are largely free from the compulsive grip of the thinking mind, you may be able to treat it as a tool that you can pick up when you want to use it and put down when you don’t need it.

Then, cannabis’ amplifying, energizing, clarifying function can be given free rein. That’s why I call it higher thinking (with no pun intended). It’s similar to the idea of the Muse. When we can get ourselves out of the way, clear the clutter and noise of the busy mind, the Muse can come through. That capability of cannabis has remarkable creative implications.

Ego the Trickster

There’s a twist to the situation though. Given the basic fact that almost all of us have been to one degree or another avoiding the emptiness at the core of our being, the distinction between directed thinking and compulsive thinking may not always be clear during the cannabis high. As a friend of mine likes to say, the herb “puts a shine on things.” It’s easy to get seduced by our ‘brilliant’ ideas and not recognize that at the same time we may be avoiding the unconditioned reality beyond the thinking mind.

That’s why having an ongoing, non-thought based, bare-attention type of meditation practice can be really helpful in this work. Coming to the plant with at least some experience and recognition of the insubstantial nature of thoughts and the ability to allow “head traffic” to periodically dissolve can put us in a state where we can let the plant open us up and invite us in to a rich and expansive experience of the present moment. Though the cannabis high is of course temporary, that kind of experience has the potential over time to contribute to an enduring consciousness transformation.



  1. Loy, David R. The Great Awakening: A Buddhist Social Theory – “Instead of being a constant anxiety that haunts me, the nothingness at my core turns out to be my freedom to be this, to do that. This liberation reveals my true nature to be formless.” p. 30
  2. Tolle, Eckhart, “Beyond the Thinking Mind,” http://commonground.ca/OLD/iss//0312149/tolle.shtml





Cannabis Overdose?

Note: This post, “Cannabis Overdose?” is a follow-up from a related post at cannabisandspirituality.com called “The Secret to Optimal Cannabis Dosage.”


Overdose? Or Inability to Handle Amplified Experience?

My family doctor doesn’t like cannabis at all. His only connection to it is through people coming to see him distressed from an “overdose.” He sees only a medical problem demanding a physical remedy to eliminate or at least mitigate the distress, such as a tranquilizing antidote of some sort.

But those quotation marks on “overdose” are there because it ain’t necessarily so. I don’t want to encourage anyone to overdo it* with cannabis, but if you find yourself in such a situation, it may not be that you’ve done too much. It may just be that you don’t yet know how to work with the ‘power surge.’ I’ll explain shortly.

*People with much experience of skillful use of cannabis often say “less is more.” And if you’re young and as reckless as many of us were during our misspent youth, you might not be paying much attention to knowing the particular plant material you’re taking in, but doing so can be very beneficial for producing positive experiences.

The brief anecdote about my doctor actually supports the argument for cannabis’ potential as a spiritual medicine, or ally. What he calls an overdose is often the experience of being frightened and overwhelmed by the power of the plant and as a result physically and psychologically distressed. As author (and contributor to the forthcoming book Cannabis and Spirituality) Joan Bello describes it, “People who try marijuana and reject it do so usually because they feel uncomfortable and confused in the altered, fuller consciousness. Instead of life being safely framed by the rigidity of the societal dogma, the world becomes unfamiliarly bigger, brighter, fuller, yet less manageable, more unpredictable and full of mystery.”1

No doubt there are sometimes exacerbating complications, such as the potentiating, complicating presence of other substances, oral ingestion of way too much cannabis, or a persistent pre-existing condition of spiritual distress, such as what authorities label “mental illness.”

The Energy Amplification is Workable

But otherwise, that energy may very well be workable. It’s like trying to ride an especially effervescent horse. A kind of “passive leadership” (an equestrian term) is required. The simplest way to say it is just “breathe and relax.” If that’s not sufficient guidance to put into practice, there are lots of ways to work with the energy. The foundation principle could be encapsulated with the word “meditation.” Meditation in this context means bare-attention, sometimes called “emptiness,” meditation—returning to full presence in the now, the technique being something as basic and natural as paying attention to the breath and allowing thoughts to dissolve when you notice them.

If it’s too hard to sit still and work at letting freed-up breathing settle things down—such as when dizziness or nausea are present—it can help to stand up, stretch a little, sway gently, and allow the flowing movement of wave energy to loosen the body and release that power, while still putting gentle attention on the breath. Moving to music, maybe especially to something with heart, soul, and sensual grooves, can also loosen up the energy, although you may not want to be dealing with machines in that condition.

If you have the opportunity to lie down on the ground, I’ve seen that physically connecting to the Earth can help ease those difficult-to-handle energies. If Mother Earth isn’t immediately accessible, stretching out on a bed, couch, or floor can substitute. Applying the “breathe and release thoughts” technique is still very beneficial when lying down.

There are other ways to counteract the effects of a rough ride with cannabis, but this post is about how to work with the energy, not how to get away from it. There is likely a reality component to such difficulties and the premise is that it’s often possible to free and transmute that energy.

Nothing Like a Narcotics Overdose

If it can be said that you can overdose on cannabis, it’s nothing like a narcotics overdose. Okay, some exceptions. If you eat or drink way too much cannabis (not hard to do), it can be extremely disorienting. The effervescent horse may get pushed aside by a truly wild animal. Difficult as it might be to accept and relax into such powerfully strange and discomfitting, distressing experiences, the general principle holds. It still comes down to how much you can ride, how much you can surrender, how much you can step out of “head traffic.”

I doubt the people who come to see my doctor arrive narcotized, in the sense of the literal meaning of the word “narcotic” as a substance that induces stupor or numbness. I imagine the people he sees are showing up full of worried energy, wild minded. The core element of the ‘overdose release’ program is that breathing and the release of thinking work together. When you can put your attention on the breath, you’re simultaneously stepping out of the thinking mind.

Fear Lives in Thought

I can’t say enough about the importance of not buying into the thinking mind’s interpretation of the situation. You can’t think your way out of a cannabis overdose but you can feel your way through. As you let deep breathing calm you, the space opens up. It can even produce a beautiful, sweet, healing. We just have to let the identity dissolve for a while. I’ve experienced and observed the changes when you get a handle on the energy and relax into it. The psychophysical symptoms just disappear. Gone, evidence that they weren’t real in the first place, or at least that they weren’t at root physical symptoms beyond the person’s control but instead were fed by thought. As the old master J. Krishnamurti put it, “Fear lives in thought.”

Those psychophysical symptoms could be the ego’s desperate defense against vulnerable, painful feelings. If you’ve kept a protective wall around yourself, and cannabis, or anything else, steals it from you for a bit, it can be shocking to suddenly realize your persona was just that—an act, not authentic. Depending on the intensity of your attachment to that persona, seeing that it was false and created for self-protection and public consumption can knock you hard.

tender heart opening with cannabis

Learning to Ride

There’s a further challenge for some of us. If you are able to work with the amplified energy of a potent pot experience and do some releasing, you may also be shocked to discover your raw, beating heart. You may realize in that moment of releasing the constricting bands around your heart how tragic it is that this beautiful heart has been walled off and silenced. To handle strong cannabis you may at some point have to stay present for some strong heartache. (Note to men especially: A bout of unrestrained crying is not weakness, it’s healing.)

In these ways cannabis is a truth serum. She can strip away the protective layer of that false persona. If you’re not able to accept that in the moment, if it freaks you out to have your game or your vulnerable heart exposed and you try to resist and look away, the difficult body experiences may kick in. This is probably more likely to occur with stronger doses, hence the “Cannabis Overdose?” question.*

*Note that with the high THC cannabis we have now, for some people a very strong dose can be as little as one toke.

So it’s a journey of learning how to ride the energies. Struggling physically is a common experience for people new to several of these sacramental plant medicines. Peyote and ayahuasca, for two prime examples, can make you dizzy and nauseous until you learn how to relax and surrender to them. I’ve been around both those medicines a lot and I’ve seen how new people have physical difficulties, like purging, far more often than the more experienced participants.

The beautiful news with these challenges that cannabis can run us through is that that’s exactly why she can be so beneficial for spiritual healing and awakening. Our dearly beloved ego absolutely refuses to be submerged into the greater reality. It is unbelievably clever and tricky and will do anything to preserve the status quo. Unfortunately for the ego, it can be overwhelmed by strong sacramental medicine experiences and may be forced to resort to desperate smokescreen measures like these kinds of psychophysical symptoms some call an overdose.

But those very same challenges to the status quo, to ego’s fortress, are where you find the gift and the power of cannabis. She can amplify and empower opening into deeper, truer states of being.

So again, there are some likely exceptions—like extremely high doses (especially of edibles), potentiation due to mixing substances, pre-existing mental conditions, and possibly inexperience. But often, instead of being a problem to be eliminated, what feels like an overdose of cannabis may be a golden opportunity to learn to work with the ways of a powerful sacred medicine plant “kindly bent to ease us.”


  1. Bello, The Benefits of Marijuana (final edition), 71

Riding an Exquisite Creature

I’m riding an exquisite creature, an incredibly complex, intelligent creature. It’s not mine. I had nothing to do with its creation. It was designed for a consciousness to spend some quality time in—on loan you might say.

My responsibility, or at least the invitation and gift offered to me, is to learn how to ride this creature . . . machine . . . vehicle . . . so that together we can make the best use of its brilliant design and fully honor and enjoy the gift. My responsibility is to somehow get through the thicket of received ideas about what works or doesn’t work, what’s allowed or not allowed, and just pay attention and learn for myself through experience.

Horse Sense

Horse riding metaphors come to mind. To ride well you can’t interfere with the free flowing rhythm of the horse’s elegant movement, you can’t be afraid of that energy and power, you can’t squeeze too tight on those reins. (It’s been labeled the “death grip” by riding instructors.) You have to relax into synchronized harmony, become one with the horse. As you ride the horse, the horse rides you. You’re the master but only in that synchronized unity. Tsa-la-gi (Cherokee) horse master GaWaNi Pony Boy counsels students to let the horse teach them instead of trying to teach the horse. Another teacher of horse riding calls it “passive leadership.” Yet another way to say it is that you have to let go of control to control skillfully.

This quote comes from horsewisdom.ca. “Horses are emotionally authentic by nature. They do not lie, pretend, or show false face. They respond instantly, instinctively, and individually to the people with whom they engage. They also lack ego and superiority complexes. This makes them honest, non-judgmental teachers. Their messages are kind, clear, and consistent. Understanding the horse’s response to you, as a person, can teach you about yourself, and show you how you can make positive changes in your life.”

Does that ring any metaphorical bells? The horse is pure and uncompromising in the sense that it can only be horse. The wisdom body is like that too. It has its ways. So much of it functions without any assistance from us—the Autonomic Nervous System for example—and it functions most elegantly when we get out of our own way. In that sense the body is egoless and instinctive like the horse, while the ego is the mind’s confused struggle to figure out how to navigate in this vehicle. Scientist and entheogenic visionary Dr. Bruce Damer tells a story about how the Spirit of ayahuasca once said to him, “You silly monkeys. Stop trying to figure it out. If you want to know something, become it.”

Not Too Tight, Not Too Loose

And then Spirit—or what Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trungpa called “authentic presence”— is like that too – like horse, like body. They can only be what they are, staying in their place. Trungpa taught another useful concept on this theme: “synchronizing mind and body.” He loved horse riding and used riding a horse as a metaphor for riding the mindbody. Another one of his teachings on this theme was “not too tight, not too loose.”

For about a dozen years I often went down to Washington State to participate in Native American Church peyote prayer ceremonies. The roadman (ceremony leader) would occasionally say something like, “Relatives, this medicine wants to meet you. But it can only meet you where it is. You can make that meeting hard or you can make it easy.”

So . . . our dis-eases are the particular elements or components of the organism that aren’t functioning properly and because of that are interfering with the effective functioning of the whole. We have to get to know this organism really well and if necessary find out where, how and why the consciousness has sent and is still sending dysfunctional messages (signals) to the component parts, why the consciousness is actually blocking the movement of waves through the system.

Historically (including present ‘history’) humans have tried to impose our will on the naturally existing patterns of energy flow, based on beliefs, agendas, and projections—without humility, without listening, without feeling our way. That’s what has got us into the planetary pickle we’re in now. Humans have been largely disconnected from the unconditioned recognition of our interwoven interdependence with all.

There’s relevance here for the Cannabis and Spirituality project as well. Although of course not the only way to learn to synchronize mind and body, when used skillfully, with intention and attention, cannabis opens up channels, amplifying the free flow of intelligence-stimulating, health-giving and life-supporting energy. With some level of disciplined attention she can help us slow down the speed of mind and skillfully and gracefully fall into synch with self-existing patterns of energy movement. For many of us—maybe most of us—that requires a learning process where we give the herb our full relaxed attention and through such practice allow it to do its best work of rebalancing and awakening the organism.

She wants to see us healed, happy, relaxed, vigorous, and open hearted.

Reflections on the “Therapeutic” Qualities of Cannabis

Reflections on the “Therapeutic” Qualities of Cannabis started as an email message from an enquiring mind to several of his friends. For this purpose the philosophically inclined investigator is going by the handle “K.L.” As a side note, I have to restrain myself from railing here about the woeful ignorance that keeps a remarkable plant illegal in my country and prevents many good citizens like K.L. from coming out of the cannabis closet. In any case, these are thoughtfully considered ideas and questions and I reprint the piece with K.L.’s permission (and request for anonymity).


With a Little Help . . .

I’ve been reflecting lately about the “therapeutic” qualities of cannabis. And while it’s true that I guess thousands of medical cannabis “patients” in Vancouver are using a convenient diagnosis (in my case it’s psoriasis) to access herb so that they can get high, it’s also true (just my opinion) that being high is itself a therapeutic, or balancing, or harmonizing element. It’s not just the chemical constituents, such as CBD, that are helping people (though that research and future treatments therefrom are important). The being high—courtesy of THC and its many mysteriously coevolved cannabinoid partners—can become healing in itself; can offer not only reduction of pain, but actual expansion of pleasure, of simply feeling good being alive, which is pretty good if you think about it. And do our governments want Canadians feeling good?  Well, maybe… if it’s carefully regulated—and “medical” only, no recreational use allowed!

Yes, we do need public education, so average folks can consider whether and how cannabis might be a useful ally, a stress-releaser, a relaxer, an undepressant, an energizer/enchanter, a specific treatment for health issues, a communication-enhancer, or a creativity catalyst, etc. for them. And along with that (as Stephen is indicating in his ‘cannabis and spirituality’ work), how to be stoned is something one can learn “with a little help from our friends”, and the life healing/harmonizing (shall we say ‘spiritual’) ways can be tuned and refined with profound results.

And this is not to say that it’s only sitting still that is spiritual. One of the gifts of cannabis, for me, is that it can hugely enhance one’s awareness and feeling into anything one is doing or experiencing, and thus offer glimpses into how to do it differently, better or more beautifully. But there are definitely times for just sitting still and surrendering, too—for the learning to percolate deeper than we think. And Santa Maria, as they call it, has quite a bit to show us in this regard.

It was interesting to hear from Vancouver dispensary folks last weekend that a lot of their new clients are seniors seeking relief from symptoms, not wanting to get high. (Or is it maybe old heads just signing up to revisit highness, courtesy of a convenient diagnosis?) So I think cannabis as cheaper/safer/more effective than pharma is getting traction out there, and will only increase. Not that the herb is a panacea (notwithstanding the raves of grateful ‘addicts’), but it has a place as a familiar medicine in our cabinets and that needs to grow to engender wellness in society more broadly.  Pharma, the booze lobby, various pleasure police, etc. will obfuscate and oppose this: “Just feeling good can’t be good for you” and the many caricatures  and innuendos about stoners. Can’t we welcome and normalize a little more diversity in our states of feeling and consciousness?

Educational Talking Points

Similarly, education needs to be real and substantial and above ground about:
1. appropriate use (when, why and how one would use cannabis are not givens and vary widely among people)                                                                                                               2. harms and their reduction:
* is it addictive? what does that mean really? – what is the down side? – what is recovery?
* how does it affect our relationships?  
* does it maker us smarter or dumber?  
* when to be careful NOT to use it  
* best practices for safe & efficient ingestion
* does it really impair drivers?  (cannabis-only drivers are usually much MORE careful than others)
* does it really inherently damage teenage minds?
* can it become a personal, habitual smokescreen helping us avoid dealing with real life issues?
* why do meditative traditions mostly avoid cannabis use? what do they know—and is that up to date?
* what can be its place in a good life? Can its ‘creative inebriation’ expand our human repertoire of useful altered states (beyond just alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, antidepressants, and pizza)?


Coyote Qualities

There’s also something about this very ancient plant intelligence that eludes our pragmatic programs, a sort of Coyote quality, where all the kings horses and all the kings men can’t exactly define it, commodify it, or definitively characterize what the hell it is. Good Drug? Bad Drug? Medicine? Plant ally? Easer of tensions? Healing Essence of Gaia? Corrupter of our youth? Spiritual Ally from the Heart of Nature helping us humans to wake up, settle down, and be wiser elements in the planetary whole?  Communionist-inspired Opium of the masses? Aphrodisiac? Analgesic? Celebrant? Sacrament? Sleep aid? Truth Serum? The Devil’s Diabolical Delusion? Mother’s Little Helper? The World’s Most Useful Plant?

I think it’s this quality of breaking our mindsets—as it has been doing longer than any other plant ally, at least a few thousand years—that makes Cannabis Sativa so useful in resetting our being, our focus, and our purpose for being alive. And that’s healing. It may not always look pretty, or orderly, or easily fit into formulaic social programming. And it’s not for everybody, but it can still be helpful to us as living beings.

And perhaps a higher THC level in human bloodstreams worldwide would be a good thing, a peaceful thing. But that’s another story.



The Secret to Optimal Cannabis Dosage

The secret to optimal cannabis dosage for spiritual work is (cue the drumroll) . . .  there is no secret. Okay, that’s not quite true or I wouldn’t have bothered writing this post. There are some factors worth thinking about and some useable, flexible guidelines.

For starters, the rather obvious truth is that everyone is different. Then there are the variety of uses. If you’re reading this you probably know that the focus of the Cannabis and Spirituality project is the effective use of cannabis as a spiritual ally. With that general intention in mind, the closest thing to a secret when it comes to dosage is this. For seekers of wisdom, for uncovering reality, the appropriate dosage is the amount you can stay present with (more or less) and not lose yourself in the obscuring, obsessive chatter of the monkey mind and/or fear and intense discomfort.

A Shifting Allegiance

The herb enables one to see one’s true self. – Leonard E. Barrett Sr. (1)

Whether it’s with silent bare-attention type meditation or more form-based practices like visualization, chant, or yoga, for the purpose of generating the divine within, the most effective general guideline is to relax into a “thoughts free” state as much as possible. You can’t get ambitious and aggressive with yourself about that though. It’s a process of softening, letting things be what they are, gradually (for most of us) learning to slow down the speed of the mind body and relax the struggle that Buddhist teachings say is the hallmark of the illusionary ego. Wisdom teachings like these tell us that over time we can shift our allegiance from the limiting narratives of that self-protective ego to the unconditioned awakened state.

Less is More, More is More

Cannabis is a “non-specific amplifier”. She can take you farther down whatever road your intention and attention are pointing you toward. As she enhances sensory perception, helps relieve pain, stimulates creative ideation and so on, so can she enter us deeply into the now if we give her our full, non-thought attention.

What does this have to do with dosage you may ask? Well, again, it’s different for each person and at different times in different conditions. Here are some thoughts for food.

A light dosage can gently relax the mind and body and make it a little easier to meditate and do other spiritual practices. Some wisdom elders of spiritual use of cannabis say that sometimes less is more. But some of those same guides have said that at other times more is more. In other words, if you can stay present and relax into the amplified energy, a strong dosage can take you into deep, heart and mind opening presence.

Some people can smoke a boatload of the sacred herb and still remain present. For many of us lesser mortals however, working up to larger doses is the likely way to go. My suggestion is to take your time and make it a long term project. You are the scientist and you are the subject. If possible, find a strain you like and stick with it so you have some reliable point of comparison. With the high potency bud around now, and especially if you’re less experienced or particularly sensitive, it may be best to start with one toke and see how that goes for meditative work. If that’s easy, you might then gradually work your way up to larger doses and keep expanding that frontier.

Drinking the Nectar of Wisdom

Look past your thoughts so you may drink the pure nectar of this moment. – Rumi (2)

For the most powerful and effective experience, the guides say that stillness is essential. The noise of the thinking mind obscures the divine within. By stillness I mean inner stillness. People can find stillness in movement too. But the purest kind of stillness is, I think, to be found when the body is also still. The more you have to call on the thinking mind to do something, the more likely you’ll create some noise interference. That’s a general guideline and as always, each of us is the researcher and we have to find out for ourselves.



1. Leonard E. Barrett Sr., The Rastafarians, Beacon Press, Boston, 1997

2. Jelaluddin Rumi, quoted at http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/875661.Rumi

* Fractal art image by Martin W. Ball