By Wes Annac
Guest Writer for Wake Up World
You hear about psychedelics often in the ‘spiritual’ community. While most people are brought up to believe they’re harmful and should be avoided, some will tell you that they aren’t harmful at all, and that they’re beneficial for the spiritual seeker who wants to glimpse a higher consciousness.
The question of cannabis and spirituality is interesting. Spiritual pursuit draws in people with all kinds of different beliefs on its use, and some people even turn to spirituality to help them stay away from drugs. They embrace meditation and other spiritual practices to raise their vibration instead of getting high, and credit their spirituality for their sobriety. But for others, they say that natural psychedelics enhance their sense of spirituality and bring them closer to what every spiritual seeker seeks. Some are passionate about all of the psychedelics out there, others will tell you all about the power of cannabis/THC, psilocybin (magic) mushrooms, LSD, DMT (commonly used in the Ayahuasca brew), or salvia.
Intoxication or Transformation?
You can read hundreds of drug experiences, some powerful and transformative and some decidedly negative, on the popular drug database. If you decide to check it out, prepare to read some interesting stories…
You could read about someone’s profound spiritual experience on a magic mushroom trip… Or you could read a negative experience from someone who probably won’t be touching psychedelics again any time soon, or you could read about an experience from a kid who just wanted to get messed up on psychedelics and, lo and behold, he did. Sure, the latter experience doesn’t seem spiritually valuable because, for the experiencers, it’s less about transformation and more about intoxication. For some, it can be hard not to want cannabis all the time. But not everyone who’s interested in psychedelics is only interested on a superficial level; some are passionate about using them as a meditative enhancer.
So what potential do these drugs have to initiate spiritual transformation? I’m not an authority on the subject and I don’t have much to say about other psychedelics, because I only have experience with one psychedelic — cannabis — as I can only speak from my own experience. I’ll focus on cannabis for this article, because I consider it partially responsible for my “awakening” and my interest in spirituality.
The Gateway to Awakening
I can remember using cannabis at parties as a teenager, and I feel like my experiences with it invalidated what you’re ‘supposed’ to expect from it. I didn’t get giggly, I had amazing visions. It shifted my perception and showed me things about our reality that I couldn’t otherwise see. Instead of just “getting high”, it was a truly spiritual experience. The funny thing is that, at that time, as a sixteen year old, I still didn’t know or understand anything about what was going on, until later on.
I could be wrong about being the only kid in my group of friends who got something genuine out of it, and the other kids could’ve had similar deep experiences from it, but I felt like my relationship to cannabis was different to most of my friends. I found that I couldn’t (and still can’t) tolerate the ‘stereotypical stoner’ attitude to cannabis, because it didn’t respect the herb, and contradicted my own attitude and experience of using it.
Like most kids, my perception of spirituality was largely formed for me, by my parents, the church and other religious influences. I was brought up to believe that all drugs are bad, without exception. I went through the devious Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program, and I remember watching my brothers use the herb on occasion. So I was pleasantly surprised as a teenager to discover what cannabis can really do for you… and my experience shaped my attitude to it.
It didn’t take me long after my first experience with cannabis to become almost obsessively interested in exploring my own spirituality. Again, I don’t know if my friends were getting the same good vibration from it that I was — I didn’t even know I was getting a good vibration because I didn’t know what that was — but most of them were passionate about cannabis too, so maybe they were feeling the expansive good vibes too. Maybe, like me, they just didn’t have a way to define it.
I can remember the meditative visions cannabis gave me as a teen, and they were unlike anything I had ever experienced. It’s as if my mind was blown wide open to the existence of some awesome higher reality that I explore as much as I can but, to this day, still don’t understand. 🙂
I quickly became interested in ‘new age’/‘mainstream spiritual’ concepts like the chakras, meditation, channeling, spiritually evolved extraterrestrials, etc. I’ve read teachings from a lot of gurus and guides. These concepts were the closest things I could relate to what I was experiencing, and could not define, and while I’m not as heavily involved with some of them now, they helped to focus my journey of exploration and awareness. They helped to take me within — far closer with a higher consciousness than many other beliefs or practices.
I’m not saying you should listen to channelings or new age gurus, but it worked for me at the time. Today I recognize it as a part of my spiritual path. At the time, however, I quickly fell into the trap that most religions use to catch people — I became more interested in their practices and beliefs, and the accompanying movement, than the spirituality that underscores them. I realized, when you prefer to read channeled messages over looking to your own inner guidance, then it might be time to retreat deep within and rekindle your connection with your higher consciousness, which has all of the wisdom you’ll ever need.
Calling or Craving?
Shortly before becoming heavily involved in the ‘new age’, which my cannabis-expanded perspective was somewhat responsible for, I realized that this herb has incredible potential for meditative benefit. I can even remember calling it “the meditation herb”, because one of my deepest and most profound meditations happened shortly after using it. It changed me for the better. But while it can be a savior in many ways, I’ve also learned that relying on it can lead to unhappiness and bitterness. Why? Because it isn’t always around, and the minute it’s not there, the reliant user tends to feel like life has become worse or, if they depend on it as a tool to spiritual expansion or creative expansion, they have become void of the good vibration that was once abundantly there.
Using cannabis for spirituality or creativity isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you consider — that is why it’s here! Give yourself the space and time to experience the sensations, the thoughts, the feelings, and explore the pathways of your consciousness it leads you down. But if you come to rely on it, you might begin to feel spiritually or creatively depleted when you no longer have it. You may feel you lose the spark or the inspiration that keeps you moving, and the will to meditate, if you convince yourself meditation isn’t as easy or as good without ‘the herb’.
If this sounds like you, remember: Meditation can be powerful with or without any consciousness-altering substance. Creativity can flow with or without it too. The key is to remember that spirituality and creativity live in us, and we can call on them regardless of whether cannabis (or any other psychedelic) is there to enhance them. Knowing we can love and enjoy our lives whether or not we constantly use these substances is the key to using their gifts without feeling miserable every time we don’t have them.
While cannabis isn’t physically addictive, it can be psychologically habit-forming. For some, it can be hard not to want it all the time. Psychological dependence plays on the aforementioned feeling; that life is worse if you don’t have ‘that thing’ you think you need. ‘Stoned’ soon becomes the new ‘normal’ and ‘sober’ can even become a looming, unimaginable prospect. The relaxation and change in perspective that cannabis once offered diminishes, and the habit takes on an energy all of its own.
Terence McKenna, who was famous for using and speaking about psychedelic drugs, used to say he didn’t understand why everyone says cannabis is “no big deal”. Even though it’s safe, it was a big deal to him because it’s a powerful meditative enhancer if used for the right purpose. While he was a noted and self-proclaimed pothead, he once said he thought the best way to use the herb is once a week in a dark room all alone with a high dosage for the maximum meditative effect, as opposed to all the time.
While cannabis and other drugs are commonly associated with addiction, realistically, you can become dependent on anything that makes your brain release ‘feel-good’ reward chemicals. Sex. Shopping. Cigarettes. Pharmaceuticals. You can become dependent on exercise if it makes you feel good, and plenty of people will tell you they’re hooked on meditation, which isn’t such a bad thing. Food is another common example, and psychological dependence on food is just as common as drug use. There’s a reason big food corporations like Burger King and McDonald’s make so much money selling sub-nutritious ‘food’ (even though McDonald’s is losing money and closing restaurants like crazy as more people turn to natural and healthy foods) — it’s because their food stimulates your brain while satisfying your taste buds. Your health and nutrition becomes a secondary factor when you’re dependent on fast food. For a brain that’s addicted to fried and sugary foods, the less healthy, the better.
It comes down to why you’re hooked on what you’re hooked on. You can really enjoy life and explore the bounds of your consciousness if you practice moderation in your cannabis consumption. Just because something’s good or even great in isolation — even if it helps us to reach new amazing depths of our consciousness — doesn’t mean we should overuse it. When we do, we ultimately find ourselves dwelling in our own shadow; in the unresolved emotions that led us to dependency. Ironically, the spiritual and recreational user that abuses cannabis constantly could, in fact, make life much worse and the spiritual path much harder.
A Question of Freedom
Cannabis has been used spiritually, recreationally and medicinally since ancient times. In Rasta culture today, and others, it is believed cannabis should be used all the time as a sacrament and a way to show pride in the Rasta faith. And plenty of other folks use it constantly, whether spiritually, medicinally or recreationally. It may even be a necessity for you, if you have to use medical marijuana to treat constant pain or symptoms of awful diseases.
If constant cannabis use works for you, then do whatever you feel is best. That’s really the whole point; Life is ours to live how we want. Our freedom to consume and cultivate cannabis (and any other plant) is a fundamental human right — something cannabis policy makers should remember. Personally speaking, I think most spiritual seekers would benefit from using the herb, in moderation and exploration. But we’re all different, and only we can decide for ourselves if it has any spiritual benefit.
For many people like me, cannabis use enhances life and helps us to get in touch with our authentic spirituality. But like religion, ‘new age’ beliefs or anything else, relying on habits, beliefs and movements rather than the spiritual exploration that underscores them can easily distance us from our higher consciousness and our ability or willingness to bring our spiritual awareness up from within.
As I mentioned, too much of a good thing can compromise our experience of it. So, if you constantly feel the urge to light up, and you’d like to explore ways to find more balance in your cannabis intake, maybe replace some of your sessions with a good long nature walk… play some music… write… call a friend… meditate… take your dog to the park… it doesn’t matter. Cannabis is just one of many aspects of life on earth that we can enjoy and appreciate, without letting it consume us in dependency.
The ideal life, in my opinion, is lived free from attachment to anything. As a spiritual guide, cannabis is at its most potent when the user can just as easily put it down and carry on without it. There’s no potential for dependence in this case, and the less frequently it’s used, the more powerful it is.
I can’t speak for the more powerful psychedelics, but I can say that cannabis will either help us transform or help us dig a deep psychological hole that we can’t seem to climb out of. It all depends on why we use what we use. So remember, life is worth living, with or without the weed. Let’s try to make the world better for everyone, regardless of how much or how little you use it.
Previous articles by Wes Annac:
- 5 Obstacles on the Spiritual Path
- 5 Attachments to Release on the Path of Enlightenment
- Addiction and The New Activism
- Relative and Non-Relative Consciousness
- Keeping the Seven Chakras Healthy
- Enlightenment and Making an Effort
- An Introduction to Kundalini
- Cannabis, Consciousness and Common Sense
- Be The Change – What World Do You Want to Live In?
About the author:
I’m a twenty-something writer & blogger with an interest in spirituality, revolution, music and the transformative creative force known as love. I run Openhearted Rebel, a daily news blog dedicated to igniting a revolution of love by raising social and spiritual awareness.
I also have a personal blog, Wes Annac’s Personal Blog, in which I share writings related to spiritual philosophy, creativity, heart consciousness and revolution (among other topics).
I write from the heart and try to share informative and enlightening reading material with the rest of the conscious community. When I’m not writing or exploring nature, I’m usually making music.
You can follow Wes at:
- Blog: OpenheartedRebel.com
- Website: CultureOfAwareness.com
- Facebook: Facebook.com/cultureofawareness
- Twitter: Twitter.com/Aware_Culture