Cannabis as an escape
At its worst and its best, cannabis offers an escape for its users. It all rests on whether you’re escaping from fear, or escaping from the truth.
A good mindfulness practice can help one determine the difference, and a properly administered cannabis wellness regimen can sharpen one’s intuition for this
I’ve based much of my own mindfulness practice on 12-step teachings, particularly their breakdown of FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real) which you may remember from my previous post on the subject. People develop patterns of avoidance when faced with unpleasant, boring, arduous, scary, or banal aspects of daily life, and escape is a tactic that can become hardwired into one’s most destructive habits. However, escape can also be applied to one’s mindfulness routine as well, and significantly renew a person’s ability to effectively meet the task of self-improvement. Here’s how one can do it.
The mindset of F.E.A.R.
People in recovery learn a lot about escape’s darker side. Many an addiction is formed in service of obsessively escaping negative emotions and mindsets. Only by taking a fearless inventory of one’s life can one hope to improve it. That is the difference between two forms of the backronym F.E.A.R.: we can either Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Recover. The majority of an addict’s life is spent in developing stories or excuses to do the former, and his or her pride and ego defends the stories that maintain the justification for escape. And while there is no physical threat confronting the addict, there is still shame, regret, sorrow… faced with enough reminders, and addicts will always choose escape, unless a better option presents itself.
Now one doesn’t have to be an addict to fall prey to such behaviors. I personally believe everyone alive is an addict to something, especially since humanity is confronted with so many changes. These changes and our perceived inadequacy or inability to meet them can trigger the need to escape, whether it’s through social media, video games, work or any other avoidance tactic. Those behaviors become habits, and one never makes the adjustments needed to move forward in life.
And yes, cannabis, improperly utilized, can directly become one of these destructive habits. However, when one uses it mindfully, cannabis can strengthen one’s neuroplasticity and aid in developing newer ways of coping with the most insidious form of F.E.A.R.: the False Evidence Appearing Real.
Cannabis does make a difference
Recently, in my last email newsletter, I declared, "It’s not about getting super-high; it’s about communion with the plant spirit and integrating oneself into nature." Much of this centers around set and setting, or in short, what you are bringing to the table. If, for instance, you are facing a disturbance - perhaps a creative blockage or an anger flareup, this often leads to a cascade of mental processes that can alter your cannabis experience, which I call the chain of circumstances.
The chain of circumstance
Disturbance => Thoughts => Emotions => Feelings => Behavior
If you’re misusing cannabis, you’re doing it to anesthetize the disturbance. And that usually has to do with dosing. Using only as much as one needs for one’s well being is enough, and no more.
The gift cannabis gives us is its ability to induce introspection. It opens us up to a realm of possibilities that are creative and from the heart while softening the edges of the ego. From there, we can look more deeply inwards rather than project outwards, and disregard one’s own inner processes. Using cannabis as a tool for introspection can help its users compassionately observe what is going on in our internal and external world instead of judging.
From there, we can also choose what we wish to escape from, and how. There is nothing wrong with escaping from the endless chatter of one’s phone and escaping into the renewing forces of nature. At night, I consider taking Equanimity before I sleep as a necessary sort of escape as well. Developing one’s own creativity and imagination gives us a necessary escape as well — one that gives us freedom and liberation if we do it properly. One of my childhood heroes, J.R.R. Tolkien, spoke of fantasy as a necessary escape from reality in order to master it more effectively: “Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don't we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we're partisans of liberty, then it's our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”
So in short, escapism, cannabis and mindfulness can form a very potent union for self-discovery, but the balance must be there, or else one can get stuck in the Chain of Circumstances.
- Bring awareness to what is happening
- Observe it without judgment
- Identify some mindfulness tools that empower your well-being over the momentary discord you face (i.e. meditation, art, walks in nature).
It’s all rooted in self-awareness, and it of course takes practice. But the tools are all around you, waiting for you to master them.
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