In these MindfullyHigh & High Together blogs I want to explore as a therapist some deeper implications of our American culture tuning so rapidly into cannabis. Yes, pot is fast becoming the drug of choice for easing our pains, healing our afflictions, and expanding our perspectives. But is pot in fact good for America's future?
Fifty years ago when I took my first toke (of hashish) at Princeton, the act was considered revolutionary - a direct challenge to the culture I'd been born into. Faced with the late 1960's non-choice of being drafted into the army and going off to kill strangers in a foreign land, my small Princeton consortium of secret smokers felt caught in an impossible dilemma.
Back then, most of us couldn't find any spiritual heart-path encouraging us to go do what our culture was demanding of us. And so instead, many of us used pot to phase out - we smoked grass and blew our minds at least temporarily clear of the situation, since we couldn't escape otherwise.
This desperate situation seems to have been a driving pressure of the anti-war/pro-psychedelics movement that rapidly swept the country. Old-time activists were afraid that getting high would make us passive - but instead we took to the streets and did in fact force our politicians to get out of that war.
Back then we didn't yet know of the positive medical and psychological effects of marijuana - all we knew was that when we got high our perspective shifted and, for at least a few hours, we felt free from an impossible dehumanizing and violent future. Now, fifty years hence, we know from research that marijuana does ease emotional pressures. Especially, using pot reduces anxiety about the future, and eases related feelings of depression and no-hope.
That's one of the main reasons we started getting high fifty years ago - when we got high, we felt hope. And with renewed hope in our hearts, we could act. So - getting high with cannabis did the trick back then, at least temporarily - but do we still need it?
The Self-Medication Question
Using cannabis without medical supervision to relieve emotional and cognitive tensions is what we commonly call self-medication. Millions upon millions of Americans self-medicate daily with alcohol. Is it to America's advantage if more and more of us in the 2020s start self-medicating our emotional constrictions with cannabis?
The answer seems to be a resounding but qualified yes, once we let go of old negative knee-jerks about the supposed dangers of getting high. Pot is without question better than alcohol in this regard - especially because it's an insight drug when used properly, which means its use can provoke new insights into a better future ...
We're definitely in a mental-health crisis just now, pushed by future shock and political discord - and of course, the corona panic of 2020. Depression and isolation issues are becoming our primary national mental-health problem, and this condition is extremely dangerous for a culture. As a nation, if we lose hope and fall into depression (pushed by negative media news) we're in serious danger of collapsing into despair and inaction, or even into violence and chaos.
As a culture, if we feel we have no positive future, if we lose all hope for a better world, then our own negativity will pull us rapidly down. It takes hope to sustain a democracy, after all.
Marijuana, approached properly, can help us let go of habitual old-order negativities, and shift into a brighter perspective on life. Cannabis is now medically proven to reduce depression much more effectively than the so-called anti-depressant drugs the pharmas are pushing like soft drinks on TV. It's a hopeful non-dangerous treatment for our universal malaise.
Actively Encouraging Hope
Studies show that when people get high, their spirit and mood can temporarily rise up, their hearts can feel lighter and more open - and their imaginations can come alive with new ideas and visions that might lead us beyond our current historic quagmire. This positive movement is what we're now actively encouraging in our High Together programs.
I'm well aware of the several obvious downsides of using cannabis - but the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. That's my conclusion fifty years of professionally observing pot and its effect on everyday people's lives.
Self-medicating with cannabis is far better than using alcohol or pharma drugs for relief from emotional suffering, not to mention relief from physical aches and pains. Throughout the world, many cultures have included cannabis for treating a whole host of physical and emotional problems, as I've discussed in other recent blogs.
That said - we do need to purposefully deal with negative pot issues such as the problem of overdosing, the need for screening out the 20% of the population that will have problems using pot, the dangers of adolescents using too much weed, the impact of weed on employee performance, and so forth - not to mention the challenge of using cannabis while parenting. I've explored these issues in depth in my Mindfully High book, and related blog posts.
Does Pot Encourage Personal Growth?
I'm going to use several upcoming blogs to delve into this key question of whether we actually grow and learn and heal while high. If not, then self-medicating with grass will make us feel better, but it won't help alleviate the cause of our emotional suffering.
I smoked weed (we called it grass back then) from 20-35 quite often, and that was definitely a deep period of personal healing and awakening for me. Then for 15 years, while immersed in raising a family in Kauai, I didn't use grass much at all (I personally feel that parenting and being high usually don't mix very well).
Then around the age of 50 I started using pot again - but more mindfully than in earlier days. And by getting high more mindfully, I did notice an increase in self-observation, in the healing of old memories and wounds, and in the expansion of my sense of self.
If anything, I became more creative and engaged in the world, not less, through smoking fairly regularly - by which I mean three or four times a week in the evenings. But I also realized the need to integrate my meditation practice in my high times, if I wanted to encourage inner growth.
We're also dealing with the lucky fact that pot is becoming more and more potent as time goes by and pot farmers improve their stock and trade. Because pot is now so strong, I haven't felt the urge to take a psychedelic trip with LSD or mushrooms or peyote for many years - I find potent THC cannabis an optimum regular boost. It encourages my ability to honestly look to see who I am deep-down, and to act according to what I discover.
Mindfulness and cannabis do work very well together!
Cannabis And Democracy
If pot can help us feel more hopeful, positive, insightful, and compassionate (while reducing aggression, and depression) then I say YES, bring it on, America. Let's use the natural herb that God provides to modify our mental, emotional and spiritual perspective in positive directions.
We're already a heavily-drugged nation (for instance, 1 in 4 women over 40 are currently taking a prescription anti-depression drug) so at least let's take a drug that does some good.
In this broader context, I'm deeply committed to the MindfullyHigh theme and movement. More and more of us now have the freedom and opportunity to get high. If we also assume full responsibility for how we focus our attention when high, then I feel there's hope for us as a nation and world culture.
When used mindfully, marijuana is indeed an insight drug - and we're going to need all the heart-centered insights we can muster, in order to survive and even thrive during these dangerous historic times.
So even though I know I'll get shouted at, I want to say loud and clear - getting high can help us preserve our democracy. Using marijuana can help us expand our perspective, and discover realistic new alternatives to the current Trump plague - let's do it. Mindfully!