Most mornings, it hits me before I’ve invited it in — the news. Gut-wrenching stories and alerts buzz and glow on my phone, my watch, my tablet — the many devices that charge nightly in my room. Given the constant, frenetic noise, it's not surprising that I've been engaging in increased amounts of both meditation and marijuana medication in recent years.
And I'm not alone. Recent trends indicate that both cannabis use and mindfulness are on a steady rise worldwide.
Growing numbers of workplaces and schools are recognizing the value of incorporating meditation into the day. Apps like Headspace and Buddhify are enjoying wild popularity while mobile meditation centers are offering a mental break on-the-go in cities across North America. Not since the 1970s has mindfulness been this close to the forefront of Western popular culture, where it counters the onslaught of 280-character tirades and 24-hour news cycles.
Marijuana is taking the forefront in this new age of mindfulness as part of a greater push toward healthfulness and peace. What was once a shameful habit is now a healthier way of dealing with anxiety, whether through a sleek vape pen or an organic edible. I frequently use cannabis before meditating because it helps me settle more quickly into myself. But combining the two still feels novel and a little nerve-wracking when I wake up early on a Saturday to attend a marijuana meditation meet up with a small group of strangers across town.
Upon arriving, I’m greeted with a blunt from the hostess, who asks only that I offer an intention before lighting it. I take a long deep drag to abundance and prosperity for all of us before passing to my left, and am immediately handed a freshly packed bong. We pass and puff and snack on freshly cut watermelon. We’re a small group, but we make easy company. I have always made fast friends with other people who smoke marijuana.
There is a consideration to the ritual of pot smoking that emphasizes respect for others: you let someone else hit greens, you warn them when you think it's cashed. There is scientific basis to support this as well. Studies have found that cannabis use causes people to be more empathetic. (One only needs to recall the first time they got stoned with a parent or with a seemingly uptight co-worker to realize the plant's power of breaking down walls.)
After smoking, we head to our cushions, and sit up tall. Our hostess begins by having us focus on how the cannabis feels in our bodies. I sense an airiness in my joints and lungs. I find my mind’s eye settling its gaze on a spectrum of graded colors lighting up though the column of my spine. “Now,” I tell myself with each inhale. “Now. Now.”
Both meditation and marijuana impact your brain’s pre-frontal cortex, which controls your perception of time. Free from the plane of thought and ordinary action, I come unstuck from hours and minutes and the sense of self.
When we bow our heads at the end of practice, there is a palpable sense of community and connection in the room. We smoke once more, now even lighter in spirit, and connected in our conversation. We laugh and talk about teaching kids peace, and tips for growing cannabis indoors. A few of us discover that we are all currently learning Spanish, and we remark on how it’s helped us notice nooks in our own neighborhoods that we’d been missing before. Nobody tweets or worries about You-Know-Who.
Sunshine streams through the window, and another blunt gets rolled. Music from the Puerto Rican reggae band Cultura Profetica fills the room.
This is something close, I realize, to the idyllic ‘Haight Ashbury’ lifestyle I yearned for as a child, watching “The Wonder Years” and listening to The Beatles. As a kid, I’d been so enchanted by the concepts of flower power and Woodstock, that I hadn’t considered the extent to which they came as a reaction to real tragedy and death during the Vietnam War. As an adult, the opposite has become true. I’m so inundated with the gravity and horror of the world’s news, that I don’t always consider how monumentally positive of a moment we’re living in.
In marches, in mindfulness, in marijuana, a collective force for good is gathering force.
On my way home from practicing, still on a higher plane, I stop off for a jog in the park. Jogging - like cannabis, and meditation, and learning Spanish - pushes me into a state of noticing. There is a fat squirrel somehow clinging to that branch. There is a puddle of mud that looks like a dinosaur paw. There is a woman running beside me wearing a neon pink fishnet bodysuit, and knee high socks with large cannabis socks printed on them. Here we both happen to be, using cannabis to keep us centered and smiling. I ask if I can take a picture of her outfit, and she tells me “Of course.” We both continue running. Something’s happening here.