Humanity’s relationship with cannabis is thousands of years old. It is one of the most ancient and universal entheogens known to man. People all over the world have continually and consistently been drawn to the sacred states of mind that cannabis can produce. With current developments in research and legalization, cannabis is being recognized once again for its medicinal value. Here in Santa Barbara, CA, where cannabis is legal, recreational and medicinal use are much more widely accepted. However, cannabis’s role as a holy sacrament has been largely lost, and therefore so has its potential as a transformational tool. By changing our relationship to this plant into one that respects its power, we can begin to achieve greater self-awareness, insight, and liberation from painful emotional patterns.
Solitary use and exploration with cannabis can result in visions and breakthroughs; but utilizing the plant’s potential as a facilitator for spiritual and psychological growth in psychotherapy is different. By working within the therapy relationship, the ways of relating to others and sharing emotions become a focal point of the healing and growing process. I am bringing my full presence and intention to witness, validate, understand, deepen and share my client’s journey with cannabis. The medicine is in the relationship to the plant’s energy, the relationship with the therapist, and ultimately, the relationship with oneself.
Cannabis for Healing
As both a depressant and a stimulant, cannabis has a balancing effect on the nervous system. It amplifies, enhances, softens and opens as breathing deepens and the mind and body become relaxed yet alert. Cannabis melds the fight or flight response with the relaxation response and a sense of unity, wholeness, or oneness ensues. The senses become more acute with the oxygenated blood in the organs as the body releases and expands. Intimately connected to the body is the mind, which responds with a loosening of defenses and heightened awareness. There is greater access to repressed fears and unconscious thoughts, memories, and beliefs. The narratives woven into our psyches that typically operate outside of our awareness become available for closer examination and transmutation.
There’s quite a range of possibilities when it comes to cannabis’s effect on the mind and body. This can depend on strain, dose, individual differences, mindset, and setting. Levels of enhancement can vary from mild to shamanic and ego dissolving. For the purposes of cannabis-assisted psychotherapy, finding a strain and a proper dose may take a bit of trial and error prior to the session. The aim is to achieve a state of heightened awareness and presence without having trouble speaking or staying awake. The method of ingestion is also important. Edibles can be tricky to use because it can be challenging to time the onset and monitor the intensity of the experience. Cannabis smoke is pungent and may contain irritants and gases or particles that potentially cause harm to the body. Vaping is the most highly recommended method of ingestion for psychotherapy. It’s less harmful than smoking and easy to start out small and slow until the desired effect is achieved.