By Maven Cade Leary
I quit smoking weed once, for about a week.
I was in an ashram, and out of respect for their rules, I arrived stone cold sober without any backup.
I was still young and under the impression that there was going to be some serious mystical exercises going on in there, and that I would have no time to miss the sacred herb, what with masters training left, right and center, and tons of human resources I could tap into.
Turns out that place was as dull as a Sunday afternoon at the local pub. I could bore you all, and myself, by describing the ways in which this place sucked, both socially and spiritually, but we will stick to positive subject matter and return to the part about me not having any weed and needing a good toke after doing the dishes and digging holes for posts to put up fences to keep the deer out of the gardens for nearly a week.
I am, after all, a representative of Lord Shiva, who was credited with having brought Cannabis to humanity.
My friend Josh and I took off on a walk towards the nearest village, some tiny little thing called Riondel, really not expecting much of anything.
Along the way, a hippie dude in a Volkswagen Westfalia stopped and asked us what we were up to and where we were going. We told him we had no idea, really. We were looking for a store to get snacks and smokes, and figured this Riondel would be our best bet. He informed us that there was nothing there worth our time, and that we had better hitch into Crawford Bay, back the other way. He asked us, in passing, if we smoked weed, and if we had any. Responding in the affirmative to the first but negative to the second, he went into the back of his van and came out with a little baggie. He gave me an eighth of decent outdoor BC bud, and simply refused the offered twenty bucks.
“Nah man, that makes it traffic. I grow this stuff, and that’s my gift to you. They can’t stick me with anything serious this way, you see?”
Being in the Kootenays, this was normal behavior. I would remain in the region for many years afterwards, and in my heart, those mountains, that lake, and the people, are still home to me.
We started to go back the other way, but found a small river along the road and decided to go into the woods and have a quick toke before resuming our journey.
We straight up found a little moss paradise, with a small waterfall and everything. It was heaven on earth. The trip was intense, and might have included some pixies and an invitation to some kind of time loop that we both turned down.
We ended up walking to Crawford Bay, finding all but the bar closed, and the snacks there scant. At least we didn’t have to try and score some weed from one of the five patrons of this seedy establishment. They did not seem like very likely targets.
It was well past eleven when we returned to the ashram. As if we were teenagers rather than adults fully capable of finding our own beds, we were received by people waiting for us, and advised that we were not to leave unannounced, nor were we to go into town for consumables. We could make a list and give it to the designated person like everyone else.
I’d hid the weed in some bushes down by the lake a few kilometers away, and despite their warning, a few nights later, after all were gone to bed, I snuck out and went to the lake and had one of the most mystical experiences of my life.
I get down there and it’s just the most serene scene I had ever witnessed. The moon was full, high in the sky to my west, directly in front of me as I was facing the lake and the majestic mountains a few kilometers away on the other side. I sat on a log and had my joint. I have no idea how long I stayed there, immobile, but it must have been a good little while. The thought processes going on inside, about life, purpose, love, loss and growth, were deep, intense, and gratifying, like a cold drink on a hot summer day.
Suddenly, something came into me and cut all thoughts from my mind. I was left strangely alert, very aware of the moment.
Without any premeditation, I got up, walked over to the lake, plunged my hands into the water, took a few steps backwards, put my hands to the wrists in the sand, and raise them to eye level before me, the moon slightly above and between them.
I don’t know why I did that, but I understand why, if that makes any sense. Suddenly, the world was illuminated by thousands of small lights all over my hands. Between my hands, in fact, between every particle of sand on both hands, filaments of light spread out and created a kind of wave pattern, fluctuating lozenges much like arise when you drop a handful of pebbles into the water.
It was intense, and bright. Gradually, the pattern seemed to spread out, and was generated by everything around into an unmanageable fluid 3-D grid that overwhelmed my senses. Trying to retain consciousness, I focused in front of me and tried to see through the grid.
A kind of tunnel formed, and for a moment, I thought it would simply spread and gradually return my normal vision. Instead, I felt the tunnel collapse back into my forehead, with a snap that left me with a headache and slight neck pain for a few days afterwards.
As soon as the tunnel collapsed back into me, or whatever happened, I returned to normal consciousness. Despite the ache in my head and neck, I felt very good, very calm.
I sat there for a few moments, not thinking, just taking it in.
When the need for a cigarette hit me, that’s when I had my moment of illumination.
I was laughing as I took out my smokes and lit one up.
“We’ve been here before.”
I said this looking at the moon, somehow always in my heart as a symbol of our earth’s life-force, Gaia or the Goddess, or whatever.
And I didn’t mean me directly, like I am reincarnated. I don’t believe in direct reincarnation. My theory is that humans are to the planetary consciousness much as cells are to ourselves. When a cell dies, another cell is formed and takes up the function of the previous cell. This does not make it an exact replica, even if it does have similar patterns, access to the same information locked away in the “DNA”.
No, that moment of connection was with my animal self, the one we all share, and our ecosystem as a whole, the cycle of life that gave us birth and sustains us, the planetary organism. Even with the strange experiences that came before, the thing that stuck with me to this day was a very slight and nearly undetectable shift in my perception of consumption. It’s about appreciating the act of consumption, as feeding from ourselves, parts of a greater whole, we gain momentary order that allows for lucidity, joy, and gratitude to be experienced. It’s like in that moment, a part of my mind saw my shame at my “addiction” to nicotine, and completely forgave me. In that moment, I understood how close such a craving was to the feelings of Love we become addicted to from others, and how all of this touched into the very drive that propells life forwards and makes our planet keep on turning. Life consumes, and will do so at any cost. Such is the price of being alive, to be driven by this fire inside, this never ending void within that can only temporarily be sated.
And it’s so damned beautiful. The whole thing is a magnificently orchestrated dance of mating and feasting, from the maggots in the earth, to us crazy, complicated little creatures living our lives as if we were the centre of the universe, when in reality, we are but little specks on a big ball of dirt falling towards a bigger ball of plasma, which is itself but a speck in our galaxy, and so forth…
I think that’s the moment I finally got IT. There was a shift of the order of magnitude that warrants the word epiphany. I was fully aware of my limitations and potential as a biological organism in a world filled with compatible biological organisms from which I could feed, and which I could foster growth in. It’s like…
Goddamnit! Words are failing me. I knew this would happen! It’s one of those things that makes perfect sense to the heart, and in the dark, when you caress it and map out its contours, it seems like the statue of a Greek goddess. But then you turn on the lights, and what you got is a roughly humanoid blob of clay before you…
Appreciate who and what you are. Accept your limitations, but strive to push the limits of your potential. Do not feel shame for being what you are. Such is the worst vanity. Life is attempting to be, right now, through YOU, so let it be an experience of enjoyment. It’s not perfect. We are not perfect. But we are all we have to work with, and, frankly, given the lack of order and structure in the universe as we currently understand it to be, we are pretty damned cool.
The bottom line of what I walked away with is that it’s ok to be me. And it’s ok that you’re you. I am more tolerant since then, and more grateful to others and to Life.
This is just one example of what cannabis can bring you. Take it for what it’s worth. I can’t help but laugh as I ponder who exactly would want such a weird trip to befall them, and how many would think they are losing their minds…