The Laidback Meerkat by "Carla"

Carla is a 53-year-old woman with two grown sons, originally from Texas. She has a degree in Psychology and Computer Science and has worked both as a computer programmer and public school teacher (science and technology). She feels her animal totem is a hyper-alert meerkat that needs to relax. After major lifestyle changes at midlife she’s establishing an education-related business on the Internet and spends her summers in Sweden.

I guess I’ve always been a bit different. When other teenage girls were reading fashion magazines, I was reading Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams or Alan Watt’s In the Way of Zen. I also had a subscription to Psychology Today. So I’ve always been interested in philosophy, psychology, and the nature of consciousness. Another interest is computers to the degree that they record/simulate human intelligence and facilitate communication.

I’ve experimented with marijuana over the years with mixed results, but I no longer have any doubts about the benefits. The first time I smoked pot, as a teenager, was one of the most ecstatic highs of my life. I was outside on a steep bank beside a river with my two brothers and my best friend. The moon illuminated the landscape with a soft silver glow and the sound of the breeze rustling the tall grass was indescribably beautiful, like music.

Over the next year, I experienced several more very enjoyable highs. But after being confronted with problems in my family in addition to problems in other relationships, I found myself experiencing considerable anxiety after getting high. So I moved away from all drugs, including alcohol, and began to study yoga and meditation. I found meditation especially helpful in reducing anxiety.

In my first experiences with marijuana, I identified pot as a source of euphoria. Later I identified it as a source of anxiety and I believe this was a natural assumption for my immature mind. Perhaps when we’re young and dependent, it’s in our best interest to view the source of happiness as external. It comes from our parents, our friends, our possessions, and from substances we may ingest. But now that I’ve reached mid-life I’ve discovered a new way to use marijuana that’s led me to a very different conclusion.

I experienced many things between my marijuana use as a teenager and my renewed usage in middle-age. I got an education, worked, married, made a home, raised a family, entered a profession, and grew relatively wealthy. I played by the rules and did all the things authority figures say will make us happy. During all this time, I continued to identify the source of happiness as outside myself, seeking it especially in relationships. I know some people find happiness this way, but I was consistently dissatisfied and sad. I was never able to establish a truly fulfilling love relationship, although my ex-husband and I stayed together 22 years in order to raise our children. During these years, when meditation seemed ineffective, too time-consuming, or just plain tedious, I used other substances to life my mood including alcohol, antidepressants, and tranquilizers.

Then after almost two decades of low-grade depression, during a visit with the friend who shared my first high, I smoked pot again. She and I always make each other laugh and it was a great experience that lifted my spirits tremendously. Since then I’ve continued to use pot as a mood elevator, but there’s a catch. I still sometimes experience anxiety, especially if it’s been awhile since I’ve smoked.

Right after getting high, I sometimes experience a rush of thoughts and feelings and may even cry. And I think this happens because I’m processing negative emotions that have been repressed. But now, instead of swearing off pot, I surrender to the feelings until they pass. This process only takes a few minutes and it’s like the sun coming out from behind dark clouds. By getting past the anxiety I’m able to put things in perspective and regain my sense of humor. I can laugh and achieve a more positive affect not numbed by repression or denial. Using pot in this way is an educational experience and a way to gain insight. Best of all, I’ve found that the benefits continue into normal waking (or down) consciousness. I tend to be happier and have a more philosophical mindset.

Maybe marijuana is not the source of either euphoria or anxiety. Perhaps the human nervous system is the source and pot is a key that turns the engine on. And saying that pot causes anxiety is like saying that turning a rock over causes creepy things to materialize. The creepy things are under the rock whether we’re aware of them or not.

When I was young I tended to deny painful feelings and become numb. There have been times when I didn’t have a head for ganja, because I was overly fearful. It takes courage to face one’s mortality and choose the risk of living fully rather than clinging to the illusion of safety through denial. Smoking pot has helped me face my fears. And although alcohol can sometimes help me relax and it may even feel euphoric, I’ve never found getting drunk to be an educational experience.

When we actively seek a higher plane of existence, I think marijuana facilitates our search. By actively seeking ecstasy we give ourselves permission to experience it and marijuana seems to be a chemical trigger that alters our perceptions and enhances the quality of our consciousness. Once our chemistry is altered, it’s up to us to choose and create either a positive or a negative experience.

The practical demands of life make it necessary to focus on tasks that ensure our survival and screen out extraneous stimuli. But if, in the name of survival, we adhere to this narrow focus too slavishly, we miss a lot of wonderful experiences and pass through our lives almost without noticing.

When I get stressed I feel like a hyper-alert meerkat scanning the horizon for predators and I hold a lot of tension in my muscles without being aware of it. But smoking pot reminds me that I have a body and it’s ok, even imperative, to relax and enjoy it. Time stretches out, but instead of killing time and feeling bored, I’m making the most of it by choosing pleasurable experiences and being creative. I’m remembering to enjoy life.

Using marijuana seems to make the screen through which we perceive the universe more porous, even though it’s still easy to focus. In addition, it seems to stimulate creative thought processes and awaken appetites. I believe it can be used to enhance the quality of consciousness and teach individuals to experience a more mature, self-sufficient form of happiness. Marijuana may be a catalyst that helps us discover and expand our inner capacity for joy.

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