If I had been born 20 years later, I would have been labeled with some form of hyperactive attention deficit disorder, but as a child of the 70s, I was called a “multi-tasker” instead. I always needed several things going on around me at once to do my, and be my, best. Calmness was difficult. Focusing was difficult.
I spent my entire school career, and parts of my professional career creating stress with procrastination and deadlines, to put myself under the pressure I not only craved but found was essential for my top performances.
Meditation was out of the question. I could not calm my mind and focus for 60 seconds, much less several minutes at a time. I had tried and was unable to find success for a long time.
Oddly, it was quitting my cigarette habit that helped me first learn to meditate. I had tried everything to stop smoking: pills, patches, gums, hypnosis, shots, and a variety of good intentioned advice from everyone I knew only led to me developing new habits to add to my smoking routine. It took me years to realize the one thing I had not yet tried, to stop buying cigarettes.
I simply stopped buying them. Living in a rural area, without having cigarettes on hand to smoke, meant I would have to drive into town if I wanted them. When the cravings would hit, instead of picking up my car keys, I sat myself down and breathed my way through it telling myself cravings only last 15 minutes. My focus on the craving passing was incredibly intense, especially in the beginning when the cravings are the strongest.
It took a while for me to realize I was using a form of meditation to help myself quit smoking, and it worked. It worked because the cravings were so strong, they overpowered my inability to focus.
Once I had successfully meditated to quit smoking, you would think meditation would be much easier for me. Nope. Not at all. Without the craving to work through, I was right back into being a scattered brain mess reminiscent of Ricochet Rabbit. (That last sentence alone should tell you how my brain hops all over the place while trying to focus on something like writing or meditating – they have some major similarities.)
It wasn’t until I was using cannabis to treat my pain from a life-threatening infection, that I was once again able to meditate my way through a highly uncomfortable situation, one stabbing, burning, flare at a time.
Though I began using cannabis regularly for pain, I soon discovered the benefits of how it calmed my nerves and slowed my mind down enough where I could focus on things without my mind feeling like it was going a mile a minute or spinning out of control. I learned how to relax and chill.
I soon learned I could focus; I just needed a bit of assistance in doing so. Some people may want to classify the use of cannabis in this way as a crutch. This is propaganda talking. Cannabis is a tool which can be used to help achieve enlightenment in a variety of ways on a plethora of topics.
Cannabis has an ancient history of being used for entheogenic and meditative purposes in some countries. Being slow to understand the importance of nature in our daily lives, many Americans have also been slow to realize the role of cannabis for spiritual purposes. Our society is finally evolving enough to comprehend the many benefits of nature, cannabis, and a fulfilling spiritual (not necessarily religious) life. Combining these elements together is a main goal of this column.
Find your Zen
Even if you aren’t interested in its entheogenic abilities, cannabis may be beneficial to your meditation practice. Finding what works best for you may take a lot of trial and error. Experimenting will help you find the perfect combination to create your own zen.
If, like me, you have problems with focusing and having your mind going in several directions at once, cannabis is an essential aid. I find that either a hybrid strain or alternating between smoking or vaping an indica with a sativa strain tends to give me the best results. The sativa helps my mind pay attention and focus, while the indica helps me to slip into a calm meditative state. The dosage I use of each depends on the type of meditation I am working with.
Lighter, shorter meditations will require different dosing than when you are working with a longer, deeper, more intense meditation. For these deeper meditations, once in a relaxed state, the indica also helps to lower emotionally built-up walls. As the walls lower, and you elevate in your high, allow your point of view to shift to your higher self. This is often felt or visualized as being above your physical body observing your actions and feelings from an omnipotent point of view. Working with this POV is an ideal environment for shadow work.
When working with longer meditations, maintaining your high may become a challenge, particularly for people with a high tolerance level. Experiment with layering your cannabis by beginning your session with edibles to extend your high and limit interruptions. For those who use them, vapes offer a quick and easy way to bump up your high with little interruption. Once you become used to meditating with cannabis, vape bumping becomes second nature and more automatic than noticeable. Having to use a flame means flicking a lighter and more interruption occurs which may jar your out of your meditative state, with practice you may train yourself to retain the state while bumping your high.
Couchlock effects may help antsy people who have a difficult time sitting still. My Restless Leg Syndrome can be kept at bay with a strong enough dose to ease my symptoms. Even the way cannabis treats my arthritis is a benefit to my meditation as now I can stay sitting or lying in a comfortable position without stiffness and eventual pain setting in.
Experimentation is key
If you are new to meditation, a good place to begin is with guided meditations. Having someone to walk you through the stages can be quite beneficial. I recommended a YouTube search to find guided meditations to start you out. There is such a huge variety to choose from, it may be difficult to know where to begin. “Beginner” and “grounding” are two good keywords to add to your search as a guided meditation to help you ground is an excellent way to ease yourself into a meditation practice. Begin with shorter meditations and work your way up to longer ones.
Guided meditations are an ideal way to experiment with dosing to find out what works best for you. Listen to the meditation through first, before adding your cannabis to the mix. Beginning with short 3 – 5 minute meditations will help you practice creating your desired mindset. Once you find the zen you want, the next step is to learn how to keep yourself there for an extended amount of time. Begin increasing the length of your guided meditations to 10 – 15 minutes. What do you need to do with your cannabis consumption to maintain your high/zen state? Once you find a comfortable pattern, increase the meditation length again. Work your way up to your ideal time frame. Do you want to be able to meditate 30 minutes a day? 60? Experiment until you find what gives you the best results.
Using a journal to document your dosages and results can help you find the perfect combination.
Establish your setting
The “setting” in which you meditate refers to the environment around you. This includes location, lighting, background noises, scents in the air, everything that surrounds you. Creating a specific setting for your meditation practice helps teach the mind “this setting means meditation time”. Pay attention to your seating, temperature, is it too light? Too dark? Create a special experience for yourself, whether you are meditating in your home or outside against a tree. What can you add (incense, diffuser, white noise machine, gentle music, a fan) to make your experience peaceful?
For those starting out a new meditation practice, it may be extremely helpful to have several prompts available to help your brain shift into zen. Scents can be very powerful in this manner, making the use of incense popular. This is another area in which you may want to experiment as different scents may provide different results. This is also true with music. Experiment all you want. That’s what a practice is all about. Nothing has to be set in stone and done with a rigid schedule. Experimentation opens your mind.
Build your practice
Every time you experiment, every time you meditate, you are building onto your own practice. It’s key to remember what a practice is. Don’t expect perfection, don’t expect your mind will never wander, it will. Learning to meditate and to focus involves a whole lot of weird things popping into your mind when you don’t necessarily want them to, but they are popping up for a reason. During your meditation, simply take note of what arises and then push it back aside to deal with it later. If it’s not an emergency, don’t turn it into one.
In the next column, we will delve into different meditations you can guide yourself through to add into your practice, until then – stay lit.
Kerri Connor is the author of Wake, Bake, & Meditate, 420 Meditations, and Conjuring with Cannabis. She runs The Gathering Grove at her home in northern Illinois. You can find her at KerriConnor.com