People meditate for reasons ranging from simple stress relief, to better mental focus, to deepening their spiritual life. In moving beyond the mind’s habitual patterns of thought, many meditators perceive themselves, and reality, in a clearer light. Yogic meditators, in particular, aim to merge with ultimate, or divine, consciousness and achieve liberation, or moksha.
Peaceful. Awake and at ease. In the moment. Aware. These words are often used to describe a meditative state. But if you’ve ever had the pleasure of a blissful and mellow high, you may have dipped your toe into the same waters.
Swami Chaitanya, co-founder of Swami Select cannabis and host of the video and podcast series, Smokin’ with Swami, attests to the richness that cannabis can bring to meditation. In his personal practice drawn from study with his gurus and from a school of yoga called Sri Vidya, Swami tells Civilized that he sits for meditation every morning before eating or beginning his workday. He begins with the invocation: “May this space be safe and pure for meditation and devotion.” As a long-time meditator, he repeats a mantra internally, and uses a visualization technique that involves the Sri Yantra, an image of multicolored circles, lotus petals, and interlocking triangles.
While Swami doesn’t smoke cannabis before morning meditation, he perceives residual effects from the previous day that enhance the practice. He’ll often also meditate at midnight after having smoked on and off for most of the day, he says, while he's “cruising along at a standard flight pattern altitude level.” And those cannabis-influenced meditations are even more concentrated and blissful than the morning sessions, he adds.
"In the beginning, your mind is just jumping here, jumping there, like a wild monkey. How do you get the monkey mind to stop jumping here and everywhere?" Swami asks. "[Cannabis] ca help you focus and get deeper." It’s also a tool that shifts the conscious user from a linear and rational mindset to what Swami calls an “imaginative, spiritual, and inspirational” one.
For the new meditator, Swami Chaitanya recommends beginning simply.
When and where to meditate
Set aside a space for meditation, such as a nook or an uncluttered corner of a bedroom. Come to this space every day, ideally at the same time. Your meditation can last five, or fifteen, or thirty minutes. The duration matters less than the daily habit — but do decide on the length of time before you sit down. Create a ritual by lighting incense or a candle, and then take your seat. You might start with a short prayer or invocation if that aligns with your belief system.
Swami suggests starting with an open-eye meditation, a technique called tratak in the yogic tradition. Choose a candle flame, a rose, an OM symbol, a picture of a god or goddess, or a symbol of your own faith. Set the object at eye level a few feet in front of you and keep your visual focus on it. When the mind wanders, which — if you’re human — it inevitably will, gently bring it back using your visual sense as a means to ground your attention in the present moment. “The only bad meditation,” said Swami, “is the one you don’t do.” In other words, don’t criticize yourself for being an imperfect meditator.
Keep breathing. After a time (and particularly if your eyes start to water), you might close your eyes and hold the image of the candle, rose, or symbol in your mind’s eye.
That’s it. Simple, though not necessarily easy.
"For our brains, it's difficult to go directly to the divine, the abstract, the formless," Swami says of the open-eye, or tratak, meditation. "So we use intermediate forms to focus in on a singularity and avoid the multiplicity. After a while, it gets you to a place where you’re just not having those random thoughts anymore.”
Smoking flower is probably the easiest way to measure your intake, and Swami recommends finding mentally and spiritually uplifting cultivars for this purpose — so, not your heavy indica couch locks, or your intensely-stimulating sativa strains. “You want to make sure your source of cannabis is pure and grown with high intention,” Swami says. Depending on your tolerance, start with one to three puffs. You can always add more.
Swami doesn’t recommend dabbing for this practice, as the elevated concentrations of THC will get you too high, too fast, and a subtler state is more conducive to meditation.
Attitude and intent
Swami Chaitanya acknowledges that it’s possible to feel scattered and disconnected while smoking weed, but this technique asks the practitioner instead to treat cannabis as a kind of sacrament, a reverential tool for meditation and spiritual practice. “Every act has the potential to be a sacred act,” he says. “It has to do with your mental state, and the state of your intention.”
Swami and his partner Nikki Lastreto have dedicated themselves to sharing cannabis as a sacrament by honoring and invoking "Ganja Ma" in all phases of the planting, cultivating, and harvesting process. At the 2018 Emerald Cup, they shared the Cantheist practice centering on cannabis, spirituality, and community. Drawing from the yogic tradition with the greeting Cannamaste, Cantheist participants form a circle and pass a communal joint around with meditative intent.
After years of meditating and using cannabis for sacred means, Swami describes his spiritual experience as simultaneously embracing all and nothing, “an empty fullness.” “That’s the thing with meditation,” he says. “You can only talk about it up to a certain level of intensity and then the words just don’t really express it much anymore. So, you just have to be there and be in it.”