This essay, Regular Use of Marijuana in Spiritual Practice, arrives here courtesy of Joan Bello. Joan is one of the contributors to the forthcoming—or as I now joke, “eventuallycoming”—book Cannabis and Spirituality: A Guide for the Revival of an Ancient Wisdom Ally. The issue of optimal frequency of cannabis use for spiritual benefit has been on my mind for some time. There are spiritual traditions that can include daily or at least frequent use of cannabis. For a lot of us that is likely too often for effective functioning within these contemporary, “first-world” cultures and when used as an escape as opposed to for healing and awakening, the herb lends itself to abuse. You may want to give a read to my post Is Cannabis Addictive? for more on that issue. (hint: the answer is that it isn’t physically addictive to any great degree but does have powerful psychological addiction potential for some)
In her books The Benefits of Marijuana and The Yoga of Marijuana, Joan occasionally uses the term “regular use” in the context of spiritual practice with cannabis, or marijuana as she usually calls the plant. I’ve been curious about what exactly she meant by that. I wrote Joan an email hoping she would elaborate. I imagined her saying something specific about how frequently she engages with the sacred herb and/or what she would recommend for others.
Joan responded with a generous reply to my enquiry, but as you’ll see when you read the insightful essay below, like a wise and wily Zen master, she didn’t answer me in those terms. Her answer demonstrates her faith in the human capacity to make intelligent decisions when entrusted to do so. No simplistic or patronizing prescriptions are on offer.
Regular Use of Marijuana in Spiritual Practice: The intent of the aspirant determines what regular use means. by Joan Bello
Although it would be best to be mindful all the time of the ultimate reason for employing any aid that serves to raise awareness of the spiritual reality, practically speaking, that is wishful (and paradoxical thinking). While the possibility of evolving to such a conscious state is the primary purpose of life (for those earnestly working toward self growth), nevertheless resolve to attentiveness necessarily ebbs and flows in keeping with human nature. The assumption can be surely made, however, that every person whose general, genuine goal of life is awareness of the truth (that is, disentanglement from the various identifications of human conditioning that cloud perception), most of the time will tend toward activities that are beneficial to their objective.
There are many disciplines for raising consciousness. They can be classified roughly as being either self-directed or dependent on external regimentation. But bear in mind that regardless of the method toward realization of the spiritual underlay of existence, there is no chart that can escort one to the ultimate peak. Instead, all means are preparatory for approaching the stillness of the mind that will allow for the receptivity of Grace.
The Practice of Marijuana falls under the category of independent study of the spiritual quest. Rather than an enlightened person, (guru) who leads the student by his/her own energetic radiance or through a system that has demonstrated its effectiveness as a way to self knowledge, Marijuana Practice has no such human Guide, no system and no rules. Instead, it is the Spirit that resides in the Plant that is the inspiration, companion, comforter and enhancer. Whatever behavior or practice is intuited by the student as appropriate is referred to as inner directed.
The Practice of Marijuana is, however, not to be grouped with modern pharmaceuticals or sacramental inebriants that are directly destabilizing and are also oftentimes employed without instruction. Those powerful altered perceptions granted by aggressive Plant Teachers or other entheogens can (often do) have enduring, life-enhancing benefits. Their mode of action for evolutionary progress, however, is very different from Marijuana Practice.
A Widening Perspective
The inner direction of The Marijuana Consciousness is a cumulative process of gaining a higher and ever widening perspective over a long time, perhaps over many life terms wherein the growth in understanding becomes comfortably familiar. It is a gentle course that allows for essential values to come forth through a subjective soul-felt knowledge of the Wisdom within the Flower that cannot be described or resisted.
There is a compelling, sacramental partaking of Cannabis Sativa, the amount and frequency of which is determined by the earnestness of the student. As noted, the activity may sometimes not be honored with the reverence owed a spiritual search because of a predictable but temporary lapse of focus that fortunately is usually quickly re-ignited by and through the consciousness lent by the compatibility between the student and the beloved Plant Teacher. Just as with prayer that can be mechanical or genuine, depending on the attentiveness of the devotee at any one time, regular use of marijuana can become routine, yet the ultimate aim of a steadfast student will not be lost.
“Once you say ‘I want to find Truth,’ all your life will be deeply affected … All your mental and physical habits, feelings, emotions, desires and fears, plans and decisions will undergo a most radical transformation.”
Once I have made up my mind to find The Reality, what do I do next?
“It depends on your temperament. If you are earnest, whatever way you choose will take you to your goal. It is the earnestness that is the decisive factor. A quiet mind is all you need, All else will happen rightly.”
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj