Using Cannabis as an Entheogen
Reframing my mindset around the plant which has given me so much
I didn’t start smoking cannabis until I was in my mid-twenties. Though virtually every immediate family member has been a daily consumer of cannabis for my whole life, I was scared away as a success story for misinformation campaigns. I started smoking during a time when I was using alcohol to try and numb my emotions and fears and believed cannabis would provide a similar function.
Instead, Cannabis gave me a safe mindset to be able to feel the emotions and fears that I was trying to numb. The peace of mind provided was necessary to be able to turn inward and ask those difficult questions. In other words, weed expanded my consciousness.
Early on in my cannabis use, I remember listening to some song by Bon Iver on full blast in my headphones while I laid on the couch and took it all in. I felt euphoric for the first time in years. Maybe the first time ever.
That glimpse of ecstasy acted as a catalyst in my life. It began to guide me towards focusing on happiness — what it means, if it was attainable, and what steps needed to be taken to get there. I noticed myself slowing down, questioning my own happiness instead of silencing those thoughts and trying to speed time up.
Alcohol was a way for me to not experience life, weed forced me to enjoy it more and change my mindset around it.
Much of that involved digging out negativities and insecurities within my psyche. Here again, cannabis came in handy as an “internal pain reliever,” allowing me to explore the depths of my depression instead of running away from it.
Cannabis as an Entheogen
This isn’t a new thought but it’s rarely the first among those I’ve known in the US. Historically speaking, Cannabis has been an entheogenic plant for many cultures. In fact, Cannabis was found at the Judahite shrine at Tel Arad, making it likely that Isrealites used the plant in rituals in the 8th century BCE.
Rastafarianism and Hinduism are among the most popular religions to use cannabis as an entheogenic herb to this day. The plant is believed to help with the understanding of the knowledge of heaven. It is an aid in meditation and contemplation. Cannabis is thought to bring about feelings of peace and unity.
Even outside of a religious context, there is a case to be made for the entheogenic qualities of cannabis. Just a few generations ago, cannabis helped to usher in the free love movement of the 60’s. It was, no doubt, aided by LSD but cannabis being embraced by the counter-cultural movement was a disrupter. The War on Drugs would ensue as cannabis opened the minds of hippies across the nation.
Richard Nixon saw a group of people coming to the realization that war shouldn’t provide a bump in your poll ratings and identified them as a threat. I often lose sight of the large role that cannabis played in shaping our society. I can take for granted the plant, now that it has grown in acceptability, potency, and popularity.
Why that matters
To be honest, I’m still grappling with the implications of this conviction. I want for it to mean that I can keep smoking the way I always have but I don’t think I’m that lucky. The good thing about cannabis as a psychedelic is that it’s the only one you can take all day, every day. The bad thing about cannabis as a psychedelic is the same thing. Still, I don’t buy the solution being as simple as “smoke less weed.”
Entheogenic medicine, by definition, has to be used for spiritual purpose. Many of the drugs referred to as “entheogenic” (mushrooms, LSD, DMT, etc) are nearly impossible to not feel that spiritual pull from, cannabis is different. The spiritual pull from cannabis is less of a given. It’s subtle.
The Vedas (a collection of the oldest of Hindu writings) refer to cannabis as a “source of happiness, joy-giver, liberator that was compassionately given to humans to help us attain delight and lose fear.” That pretty much sums up the work cannabis has played in my life.
But, sources of happiness can be abused. There are times where happiness is not the healthy emotion to be feeling. Times when I may need to have my fear remain a fear. These feelings can help to give the push needed to move forward.
Cannabis, when abused in this way, can mute the messages I need to hear from my fears and insecurities. If I can be happy even without doing anything all day, every day, for weeks on end, that’s not the right thing for me to feel.
Sometimes, I need to feel uncomfortable in order to move.
Using Cannabis as an Entheogen
I guess the conclusion is that cannabis hasn’t been an entheogen in my life. I always smoke before I meditate but I smoke much more without doing much of anything at all. While I do believe that spiritual growth does come from times of being happy to simply sit on the couch and watch TV, I am not currently growing from it.
Meditation, exercise, and finding more joy in my daily activities are all great reasons to keep using cannabis, as far as I can tell. I don’t believe that my issue is with the frequency of my use. The issue is with my mindset behind the use. If I reframe my thinking, my use is likely to decline but that’s not the point.
For a year now, I have been writing about the power that the plant holds. I believe, as many before me have, that it has an amazing power medically, psychologically, and sociologically. Yet I haven’t given it the respect that it has been due.
Once I started smoking, I did so every day without ever really thinking about it. As with all parts of life, intention is the ultimate goal. I’m not living my life on purpose if I’m not intentionally going through it. Cannabis has too often been something I have used unintentionally. I don’t want to do that anymore.
Before each bowl I light, I’ve begun asking myself the question “why am I doing this?” I’ve never asked myself this before. The answers range from “because I want to” to “because I’m quick to anger and would like to slow down.”
Neither of these answers are wrong.
Nothing is wrong with smoking just because I want to. However, if that becomes my dominant reason for smoking, I know that it’s not something that I’m using as a tool to grow, it becomes something that uses me instead.