If you were to build a cannabis word tree, “wellness” wouldn’t be more than a few branches away. A mainstay in conversations about wellness is the notion of mindfulness: a focus on present sensations and surroundings, often coaxed through the practice of meditation.
Meditation is more than a little “in.” It’s good for you, and according to some, it works even better with weed.
Mindfulness and sensory experience
“Meditation and cannabis are often used for similar things,” says Vancouver-based meditation instructor Dani Lily. She lists anxiety and stress reduction, decreased inflammation and increased creativity as a few of the overlapping benefits of meditation and cannabis.
Founder of mindfulness-based cannabis education project Moonroot Meditation, Lily says she and her patrons experience increased attunement to their bodies when meditating after consuming the plant.
In her sessions, Lily offers the option of canna-infused tea or passes around joints or a pipe in smoke-friendly outdoor spaces. Since many cannabis users consume it on what she calls “autopilot,” she encourages mindfulness by having her guests interact with the plant for a full sensory experience.
Once the eyes shut and the practice begins, Lily sums up the experience as affecting an increased openness and receptivity to thoughts not usually accessible in daily life, or perhaps even in regular meditation.
“I can give myself permission to feel what I feel without feeling swayed by my own internal narratives and ego,” she says of her experience.
The body has a tendency to relax even further as well.
“Depending on the method of consumption, it can be anywhere from a gentle softening of the muscles and [feelings of] groundedness, to more intense psycho-physiological responses,” Lily says.
Terry Sidhu, a cannabis-friendly meditation leader and founder of VanCity Life Coach, says the right cannabis strain can often slow a student’s thought processes just enough for them to analyze how certain ideas manifest, in addition to relieving pains that might prevent someone from meditating properly.
“Imagine trying to meditate, but being unable to detach from physical pain,” he says. “For my clients who suffer from arthritis, back problems and knee issues for instance, cannabis helps.”
Lily is no stranger to unpleasant sensations either, as her fibromyalgia sometimes bars her from the sort of mindfulness she’s aiming for.
“Some days I simply choose to meditate without the support of cannabis, but on other days cannabis can be the one thing that allows me to actually sit and move past those challenges without having them overcome me.”
Conscious breathing techniques
Conversely, Sidhu sees the interference as a potential test of will to a client’s meditation practice.
“The more distractions, the better,” he says. “It’s like training. Meditation starts with detachment, and if you can’t detach, you can’t effectively meditate.”
He offers practical advice on how consumers can overcome the wandering mind, suggesting “conscious breathing” by acknowledging the rate, tempo and frequency of individual breaths to restore clarity and control.
“If you can breathe, you can meditate,” says Sidhu. “If you control your breath, you can explore with cannabis a lot more safely and reduce the impact of fear, anxiety and paranoia.”
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