Marijuana and its Meaning for Me by Anonymous
The author of this piece was, when he wrote it in the late 1990’s, a 23-year-old graduate student and artist at a large university in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. He encounters the ocean of mind, first tentatively entering the realm, then embracing its many teachings.
I was twenty years old when I first smoked marijuana. I figured that I had already beaten the statistical odds, that I had jumped over the top of the bell curve, so there would be little harm if I took the plunge. The seed for my long-standing interest in drugs and non-ordinary states was planted early in my life, when I became a fan of Pink Floyd. I read volumes and volumes of literature about this band, particular information related to their enigmatic and tragic founder, Syd Barrett. He was, in the parlance of the day, an “acid casualty.” Reading about Pink Floyd I was exposed to a great deal of writing concerning LSD and other psychedelic substances. As a youngster I was especially intrigued that one could ingest a minuscule amount of some simple chemical and have perception and cognition change so dramatically. Years went by and my interests became deeper and broader. When I encountered the writings of Terence McKenna, I simply knew this was the “path” (well, at least part of it) for me. Although to be frank, the thought of “altering my consciousness” was pretty frightening, there was still something drawing me towards psychedelics.
A very understanding friend of mine promised to help me out, but only with a slight qualification. He would procure some LSD for me, but only if I smoked marijuana first. He was NOT trying to push the drug on me. As he explained it, psychedelic states were almost unimaginable for those lacking the experience, but doubly so if one had never before chemically altered their consciousness via any means. The more I thought about it, the more sense his conditions made. I must qualify this by stating that throughout my youth, ingesting marijuana was not something I ever desired to do. Once, when I was in Tangier, Morocco, a young boy walked up to me and said “hashish?” I shot the boy a dirty look and he quickly scuttled away. For much of my life I probably equated it with snorting coke or shooting heroin. It seemed tacky, dangerous, and I just wasn’t interested. After openly discussing marijuana with my friend, as well as others who actively smoked it, and after reading some non-political literature on the matter (such as that of Dr. Grinspoon) I realized my perception of marijuana was slightly askew, that this was not just another “demon drug,” but a relatively safe plant, if used properly. So, one night I drove over to my friend’s house with a pillow and a change of clothes, and we smoked marijuana.
Nothing happened that night. I was told to expect this, so I grudgingly accepted my friend’s offer to try it again. Well, there was no mistaking it this time around. Needless to say, my second experience with marijuana got me high for the first time in my life, and I experienced it as a beautiful sensation, touching on the magical. I felt as though I was melting into not only whatever object I happened to be touching, but the environment as well. We were listening to the Harmonic Chant of David Hykes & The Harmonic Choir, and as I melted into the seemingly eternal flights of melody, I felt as though I had transcended time. It was amazing. The next morning I felt great, and we spent the day walking around the Mall in Washington, DC (sober), visiting many of the museums of the Smithsonian.
For the next year or so, I used marijuana approximately once a month, perhaps less. I still abstained from alcohol and tobacco, and I had yet to take the plunge with psychedelics. “Turning on” with marijuana made me hyper-aware of the different brain states I could potentially experience with different chemicals, and I realized I was still not ready for psychedelics. Eventually a time came when I felt ready to immerse myself in the ocean of mind, and when my first psychedelic experience was over with I graciously thanked my friend for his wisdom.
Over the years I’ve used marijuana, different patterns have come and gone. At times I would smoke it two or three times a month. At other times maybe once every two or three months. There were periods of three to four months during which I simply didn’t smoke it. Period. I’ve had such a rich variety of experiences with marijuana that I could never fully describe them all.
Marijuana opened me up to the realm of the mind, of deeply experiencing and exploring the dimensions of consciousness available to me. In that regard, it has, with differing degrees of directness, led me into explorations of transpersonal psychology, mysticism, Sufism, shamanism, bodywork, and a host of other experiential/philosophical pursuits. When I got over the novelty of being stoned, I soon explored its effects more fully. I was amazed at what I found. Initially I would explore internal imagery, sharpening my visualization skills. Sometimes I would concentrate on feeling music more deeply. Other times I would simply think about the emotional and intellectual reactions of certain people to certain phenomena, particularly those reactions I found difficult to understand. Whilst stoned, I found it easier to put myself in the place of others. I could understand how people might believe any number of seemingly “irrational” or dense, impenetrable ideas. Marijuana opened me up to the existence of so many different views of the world, views I need not share to fathom and empathize with. I worked with my own feelings of sensuality/sexuality. I explored techniques of focusing my mind. I would meditate (in the Western, pre-Buddhist use of the word) upon religious/spiritual matters, clarifying things that seemed to make little to no sense in “sober” states of mind. How might this work? I don’t know, but I have one idea that I often espouse. Our normal state of awareness is good for certain tasks, not for others. For example, one typically does not produce works of art in the same state of awareness that we use when driving about in our cars; an artist is instead focused inward, and on the outward projection of his/her internal state. In much the same way, such an internally-oriented state would be of little value in a sexual experience, in which humans exchange energy, moving and flowing together in a state of emotional and physical sympathy. What I find marijuana does is to shift the loci of my attention away from the mundane experiences and concerns that I, as an often automaton-like human, find myself dwelling on a moment-to-moment or daily basis. Instead, my mind is centered on matters that touch more on the extraordinary, those topics and experiences that are perhaps better left unexplored while driving along I-95 or working out my finances for the year. Those that view all of this as simply drug-induced illusions are sadly blind.
The greatest thing to come out of all of this is that I found these “stoned” experiences aren’t as state-dependent as I initially believed. In the wake of my introduction and exploration of “stoned-mind awareness” I find that my appreciation for sensuality, aesthetics, and philosophy in “normal waking consciousness” (to quote James) has deepened greatly, almost to the point that I feel that the pre-drugs “me” was noticeably worse-off.
Some may wonder how my skills of empathy could possibly be improved by “smoking dope.” Let me give you one recent example. For a period of a few months I found myself dwelling on religion-oriented topics, both stoned and otherwise. One night, in the midst of a marijuana-induced reverie, I got to thinking about the real person we call Jesus. These days, we think of him as some ethereal figure in some far off land shrouded in the historical mists of time. Just as then, people still believe that he was the Messiah, that he was the savior of mankind, that “in the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, the Word was God,” and that Jesus was, quite literally, the “Word made flesh.” I found myself imagining that at one time in history, this Jesus character was a living, breathing human like myself. Intellectually, I already knew this, but I increasingly felt as though I might be capable of fathoming what his disciples and apostles felt. His followers were in his presence, they looked into his eyes and heard his words and believed that they were looking at God. It was only in this state of consciousness that I could truly imagine what it might have been like to be in the presence of the this man and truly believe, and by extension, possibly experience what so many people on Earth experience during moments of great religious feeling and devotion. While I don’t subscribe to the tenets of Christianity proper, I have come to understand how real it can all seem for people, and just how little such experiences are taken into account by those skeptics and atheists who argue against what they see as irrational beliefs. In this case, being stoned allowed my mind to circumvent its ordinarily non-religious bent, and if only for a few moments, come to know what the truly religious feel. As a consequence, I now offer this story (at least the aspect of Jesus as a man, and people looking into his eyes and believing in him) to people perplexed by religious belief in general, or Christianity in specific.
I hope this hasn’t been too lengthy. I could write for days about marijuana, but I don’t want to seem like a “drug preacher” or a “dope fiend.” I hope it is apparent that marijuana has played a major role in my personal and intellectual development in the last few years, and this role has been nothing but positive (I now vaporize it, rather than smoke it, so I no longer ingest any carcinogens!). I thank God (or whatever force, conscious or not, responsible for existence) for the plant-human interaction known as marijuana intoxication.