This Is What Happens When You Combine Weed and Meditation
I’m a cannabis nurse—a registered nurse who specializes in medical marijuana—and I serve as a patient educator at MarjuanaMommy.com. This makes me intimately familiar with the medical benefits of weed. I also meditate daily. And while I do use cannabis all day every day, I microdose, so I’m not usually high when I meditate. Still, I’m not afraid to partake a little more heavily if, for example, my pain levels (from a cervical spine injury I got years ago) are elevated. As we know, though, weed isn’t just used to alleviate pain—people love how present it makes them feel.
Science’s growing support of meditation as a coping/healing mechanism gives me the feeling that marijuana and mindfulness might just be a natural combination. Research has shown long-term meditators exhibit “changes in the brain, and positive effects on empathy, meta-cognitive skills and health.” Exactly how meditation produces these effects is not completely understood, but these benefits correlate with decreased activity in the brain’s default mode network (DMN). Decreased activity in the DMN is suspected to signify a mind more at rest. While there isn’t any substantial research on weed relaxing your mind, there’s a strong belief that CBD—one of its two main components—can have a calming effect.
So my natural next step was to see if an increased dose of weed might also deepen my meditation.
Unfortunately, I live in New Jersey where prohibition still reigns and there are no ganja yoga classes (yet). So I decided to simply head to my next meditation class amply medicated. About an hour before class, I scarfed down a wickedly potent kief cookie, attempting to time the peak of my high with the beginning of a tibetan singing bowl sound bath meditation. Stacey Mulvey, ganja yogi and founder of Marijuasana (a Las Vegas-based community of weed-positive yogis) tells me, “As cannabis users, we do enlightenment almost a little bit backwards in a way. Instead of getting there through years and years of dedicated practice of strict meditation, we’re kind of amping it up and [getting a] glimpse of that other side first…Then [we] learn how to ground that, and balance it, and center it, so we have a better understanding.”
High meditation may have a new-age vibe, but this practice actually has ancient roots. The Vedas—historical texts written in India around 1500 BC—name cannabis as one of the five sacred plants. Additionally, many legends describe Lord Shiva, a Hindu deity, as a passionate cannabis lover. Modern-day Nepal still holds a yearly spiritual festival with marijuana serving as a central feature of the holy celebration.
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Being able to access calm when you need it can be physically beneficial. “Mindfulness can be helpful for a variety of physical health issues, generally speaking, stress-related conditions such as high blood pressure,” says Diana Winston, director of mindfulness education at UCLA Semel Institute’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. “Conditions that relate to inflammation can be positively affected such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, etc, and it’s also has been shown to boost the immune system and promote the healing response.” Cannabis has also been associated in very small initial studies with a decrease in blood pressure and an improvement in conditions related to inflammation. It’s reported to help as a muscle relaxant, with chronic pain and gastrointestinal issues.
On the other hand, THC can spur anxiety. This is exactly what happened when I walked into the studio and saw class more crowded than expected. Sweat dripped down the back of my neck as I began to wonder if I was the only attendant who was high. Were my eyes red? My tongue felt like the Sahara (tip: bring water). Surely the other meditators could tell? But no one seemed to notice or care. Then I remembered I was conducting important research: Getting high and meditating was my job for the day. After I got a water bottle, I relaxed and reconsidered bliss.
That night, I didn’t just hear those crystal bowls, my full body experienced them.
Mulvey thinks that when we meditate, do yoga, or exercise in general, we’re naturally supplementing our endocannabinoid system (a bunch of receptors in your brain and body that affect how you feel and behave). And this balancing can purportedly result in a feeling of bliss. Research supports this: A 2015 study suggests the euphoria of “runner’s high” is actually caused by the natural endocannabinoid, anandamide, as opposed to endorphins as previously accepted.
The strain you choose when you meditate steers your experience. Keep in mind that CBD is relaxing, but not intoxicating; the THC in weed is the part that gets you high—and for some, this is ideal. Others are more prepared to add THC: My kief cookie was filled with a high-THC blend of Nigerian Haze, which is marketed for for creative insight, and Death Star, for full-body relaxation. Whichever strain you choose, use cannabis responsibly and in moderation. You don’t want to be so inebriated that feet look funny. You also don’t want to wreck anyone’s bliss with a pre-Savasana panic attack. Cannabis newbies should always start small and work their way up to higher does gradually.
What I Learned from Teaching High Yoga
The Nigerian Haze heightened my senses, as it does for many others. With the lights dimmed, we began by sitting upright on our mats. The instructor coached us through a series of deep breathing, reminding us to fill our lungs and exhale fully. She encouraged us to let go and allow the tension to melt out of our muscles.
Soon we relaxed on our mats, and our guide circled the room anointing the forehead of each participant with a blend of aromatherapy essential oils. She reassured us that falling asleep was common and appropriate, and while I did hear soft snores scattered throughout the room, I didn’t drift off.
With everyone at ease, our meditation leader began playing the Tibetan bowls. Sprawled on my yoga mat, the sound waves seemed to dance across my skin. The sound of singing bowls is hard to describe, I wouldn’t call it “pretty” in a classical sense, but the vibrations are storied to have healing properties and enhance the meditative state. Maybe it was the weed heightening my imagination or perhaps it’s the mystical quality that science still hasn’t explained, but I felt something different during that meditation. Around the area where a metal plate now holds together my spine, I felt a sense of longing. I can only describe it like a massage where the masseuse is hitting the right spot but you’re desperate for the pressure to be deeper.
At the end of the session, the leader gently roused us, instructing us to wiggle our fingers and toes. She refreshed us with a drink of water which had been stored in the bowls while they were being played. While I packed up my mat, I reflected. The vibrations of the bowls had penetrated my psyche, combining with my high. And while I wouldn’t yet be able to identify all the benefits of two lauded practices—smoking weed and meditating—my marrying of the two for under an hour intensified my conviction for both.
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Lifted, in every sense of the word.
Cannabis and meditation: best practices for an elevated mind
As the zen saying goes, “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.”
Easier said than done, right? To clear the mind and prepare for true meditation, you must forget about your list of chores, put away tomorrow’s anxieties, and try not to dwell on that embarrassing thing you did 12 years ago at your best friend’s party.
If you find yourself struggling to let go of your thoughts, consider lighting up before clearing out. Cannabis has a knack for focusing the mind when combined with meditation techniques, and with our guide below, it won’t be long before meditation is a simple part of your daily health regime. With time, patience, and perseverance, you’ll go from meditative newbie to a full-blown relaxation expert.
Why meditation matters
Negative thinking, or even overthinking, is a bad habit like any other. Just as one can get caught up in a cycle of biting nails or procrastination, it is also possible to develop patterns of thinking that are unhealthy. These states of mind can create heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and depression that have very real negative effects on not just mental, but also physical, health.
For the negative thinker, the best way to diminish those perceptions is by stopping undesirable trains of thought the moment you realize you’re having them, and replacing those thoughts with mindfulness and peaceful stillness. But how do we get to that place of stillness? It can be rather difficult to relax the mind, especially in today’s hyper-stimulating world.
Cannabis, however, is a wonderful vehicle to mentally get you where you need to go—our brains are full of cannabinoid receptors in areas of the brain related to behavior, thought, and mood. When cannabinoids in cannabis interact with these receptors, they produce euphoric, relaxing effects.
That said, some may also find they experience an increase of anxiety after consuming certain strains or with certain cannabinoid ratios. It’s best to find the ideal strain for you on a personal basis, before embarking on your meditative journey.
It is equally important to explore differing meditation methods as it is different strains. From gazing meditation to deep breathing to body mindfulness, there are so many paths of meditation that can help clear your head. So put emphasis on your mental health by embracing meditation, cannabis, and the healing power of a clear and focused mind.
How to pair gazing meditation and cannabis
The purpose of “gazing” meditation is to sharpen your focus, promote clarity, and aid concentration by settling your eyes on a fixed object. The focus on the object allows for the dismissal of wandering thoughts and thinking patterns, ultimately clearing a path for a calmer mind.
The object can be anything of your choosing, but we recommend you opt for something soothing to view—common choices are the flame of a candle, a mandala, or ripples in a body of water.
Take your practice to the next level by reaching for a focus promoting strain such as the buzzy hybrid Double Dream. This deeply relaxing strain will invigorate the mind while maintaining mental clarity and full-body tranquility.
Step one: Once you have chosen your object, sit across from it in a comfortable position (consider sitting cross-legged on a pillow).
Step two: With the object in clear sight before you, allow your focus to settle on the details: the way the candle flame flickers and moves as though it breathes; the intricate patterns and colors of the mandala; how the sunlight glints off the rippling waves.
Step three: Do not strain your gaze—simply allow the image to wash over you as you rest your gaze upon it. Allow your attention to be focused entirely on the object. As you gaze gently, allow your breathing to soften, deepen, and gradually move towards viewing the object without contextualizing it in thought at all.
Final step: Gaze until your mind is still and all that stirs is the flame of your candle and the rise and fall of your chest.
How to pair deep breathing and cannabis
Deep breathing is the cornerstone of meditation. By controlling our breath, we can control not only our thoughts, but even the strongest and most volatile of emotions. It is the simplest way to gain control of a runaway mind.
Inhale an uplifting strain to capitalize on those meditative feelings of euphoria—we recommend the bright sativa Chocolope for its elating effects and ability to crush anxiety.
Step one: Sit in a comfortable position of your choosing with your chest upright and back straight. Close your eyes and relax your shoulders. Allow the tension to melt out of your body.
Step two: Observe your breath in this relaxed state. Then, take a long, deep breath in through the nose, filling up your whole abdomen and chest with air.
Step three: Once you have inhaled fully, pause at the top for just a beat or two and then very slowly begin to exhale fully out. Pause here for another couple beats (these pauses should always be comfortable and never strained). Then, inhale again and repeat this pattern.
Final step: As you breathe, allow your thoughts to focus solely on your breath and gradually allow your mind to clear. Simply exist in this space breathing mindfully and relax as all else melts away.
How to pair body mindfulness and cannabis
If you have trouble relaxing or sitting still, this method may be the one for you. The idea here is to focus your attention on your body, scanning each part to observe the areas that are holding tension and mindfully allow it to relax. With this inward focus, the mind is permitted to let go of aggravating thoughts.
Such a calm, meditative routine deserves a heavy indica to really open up a deep sense of alleviation. Before you begin, pick up Master Kush—this knock-out strain provides full-body relaxation without the mind-numbing effects commonly associated with heavy indicas, so it’s the perfect pair for complete meditative comfort.
Step one: Begin by lying flat on your back on a comfortable surface such as a bed or yoga mat. Allow your arms to rest at your sides with your palms turned up and fingers naturally curled. Legs should be relaxed with feet allowed to fall outward. Permit yourself to sink into the earth beneath you; really feel the heaviness of your form as you fully unwind.
Step two: Treat your mind like a scanner ready to inspect each part of your body and banish any tension it may find. Start at your feet, toes and ankles, letting them relax fully. Move up your legs, thighs, hips, lower back, and stomach. Continue on to your arms, hands, fingers, shoulders, neck, jaw, and all the muscles in your face. Move your focus over your body slowly, taking your time, and when you discover tension, allow it to dissipate, leaving fluidity and release in its place.
Final step: As you relax your body, make sure your breathing is relaxed as well. Long deep breaths in, followed by long slow breaths out. When you have completed your scan, you will find your entire body is filled with relaxation. Continue to lie there and breathe, while turning your focus inward, allowing the relaxed state to extend to your mind as you seek those moments of clarity and stillness.
Have your own meditation techniques that are enhanced with cannabis? Tell us about it in the comments.
If you find yourself struggling to let go of your thoughts, consider lighting up before clearing your mind with these meditation techniques.