Why cannabis and meditation?
Why do some cannabis users seem to get shifts in awareness, or find themselves growing more 'spiritually-minded' as time goes by? And how can a drug that seems to induce soporific states have any place in meditation? Doesn't Buddhism in particular warn against the use of any intoxicant as being detrimental to meditation?
Well, actually what the Buddha warned against was the use of intoxicants that may result in you losing proper awareness of reality, 'mindfulness'. But, using cannabis, depending on type, dosage and personal circumstances at the time of ingestion, doesn't always result in us becoming vegged-out and half-asleep. On the contrary, the states it can bring on are sometimes anything but vegged out, and it can actually create a far more balanced and lucid state of mind than just about any other recreational drug. Although it does have other useful effects, the ability of cannabis to get you to this state is one of the main reasons why it's of so much use when combined with traditional focussing ('shamatha') meditation styles.
One of the aims of many supporting techniques in all traditional meditation schools is to get you to a point where you can turn on, or remain permanently in, a state where you feel happy, totally relaxed and very mindful (aware) of the here and now. At a basic level, meditation itself is designed to initially take you to that very state, so, if we have a drug that allows us, with practise, to get there, then it can reduce the time that you would normally spend on preparing your mind for deeper meditation methods quite substantially. Being at the just right level of high can provide a good basis for us to meditate effectively within, by adding deep relaxation and a sense of well-being that we would otherwise have to spend time creating in ourselves. A relaxed and happy mind is clearer and more able to sense the subtle changes in awareness that can lead to powerful meditation experiences. If you're relaxed and happy as as you meditate, or even just consider truths about the ultimate nature of reality, then you're far more likely to get a proper glimpse of enlightenment as you do so.
But, even with cannabis, many of us will need help reaching the right depth of physical and mental relaxation that's required, and will also need easy ways of generating a happy mind on cue. The aim of 'Cannabis and Meditation' is to provide simple, jargon free methods of doing all of the above, so that you can reach the base state both with and without cannabis, whenever you want to.
Unfortunately, cannabis enhances the effects of correct meditation and incorrect meditation too. Obviously, if you're tired, or doing too much cannabis, or the wrong type, or you pretty much go about your normal life while being high, rather than being aware of what the drug is doing to you, then it's less valid as a tool - and it can actually become a barrier to progress. But with the breadth of high caused by a good weed, or better still, eating a good hash, the ideal ground of meditation will open up for you to explore much more easily.
Using cannabis regularly and (hopefully) getting into a good, receptive state at the same time, changes our overall responsiveness to shifts in awareness, even when we aren't high. We also become familiar with the pleasant, relaxed feelings it brings on, and we become much more able to find them when we want to, and can even learn to keep ourselves in this happy condition through familiarity with it. But there's more; and the earlier question, 'why do cannabis users tend to become more 'spiritually' sensitive?' is a very important illustration of the processes in play at higher levels of meditation.
At one end of the spectrum there are traditional meditation methods that most of you will be familiar with, and there's no doubt that cannabis can help substantially with them. But at the highest levels of practise, meditation is far less about reaching specific states of mind, and much more about understanding the true nature of reality in an ultimate sense. Understanding reality correctly is the most powerful trigger for experiences of enlightenment that there are, and Zen in particular is is full of stories where this knowledge has triggered realisation, or 'Kensho', in its practitioners.
For this understanding to really work at its best however, we need to be in pretty much the same state as before, luckily the same state that a good high will bring on. This means that when we're high we can be very receptive to correct knowledge, and can have spontaneous blisses, or experience altered states, just by thinking about reality in the right way – even if we don't truly understand what that 'right way' is. With this in mind, 'Cannabis and Meditation' also explains the basics of how to begin looking at reality in its deeper sense to get this kind of experience.