Why People Smoke Weed.

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on Nov 17, 2010
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What is here is also there; what is there, is also here. Who sees multiplicity but not the one indivisible Self must wander on and on from death to death. –Katha Upanishad II.i.9

I used to smoke weed when I was younger, until I discovered that the world is fascinating already. When I let the dogs out at night and hear the wind soughing in the neighbor’s gigantic sycamore tree, its looming form blotting out the stars over our back yard, it is fascinating; when we open up the Styrofoam cooler in the shed and find that the children have filled it with grass while playing Underground Railroad (apparently the grass represented provisions of some kind) it is fascinating; when I am bawling out my five-year-old, and my six-year-old tells her, “Daddy’s not saying you’re not a good person, Sophie,” it is altogether fascinating.

We all need fascination—what Paul Gauguin called “a sense of the beyond, of a heart that beats.”  One evening while our first daughter Clare was still a baby, my wife and I were having dinner at a friend’s house when Clare began to get fussy. Our hostess picked her up and took her across the room to look at a candle.  “Let’s get fascinated!” she said.  Our baby stared, rapt and slack-jawed, at the flickering flame, and I saw for the hundredth time how numinous and mesmerizing the world was in her infant eyes.  Not presuming to have all the answers about anything she saw, or to be able to control things by naming them, she was happy to let the world be its fascinating self–almost as though she could detect “the dearest freshness deep down things”[i] with some special sixth baby-sense. “We see the world with the five senses,” said Swami Vivekananda, “but if we had another sense, we would see in it something more.”[ii]

Longing for this “something more” is, I believe, the reason people smoke weed; having lost the baby-sense, people turn to THC to open their minds to the bottomless fascination of the world. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”[iii] But changing is hard, and chemicals can seem to bypass the need for it.  It’s not for nothing that the body’s neurotransmitter that the cannabinoids in marijuana mimic is called “anandamide”; ananda is Sanskrit for “bliss.”[iv]

A young monk went to Abba Moses–one of the Desert Fathers of 3rd and 4th century Egypt–for advice on spiritual advancement. “Go and sit in your cell,” the Abba told him, “and your cell will teach you everything.”  Your life as it is, here and now, is gravid with everything you need to know–but it seldom appears that way.  And yet, if we had eyes to see—if we could get our thoughts out of the way of our perceptions–who knows what we could detect in the seemingly undifferentiated landscape of our lives?  If we had no mental category for “green,” the woods would be a riot of color.

The summer after I graduated from college I was with a group of friends, and we had all eaten psilocybin mushrooms.  For some time, I didn’t understand what the fuss was all about; I didn’t seem to be what I thought of as “tripping” at all. “I just feel stoned,” I said to a friend.  “That’s it,” she replied:  “Just relax into it.”

And she was right:  as soon as I let go of my prefabricated mental construct of “tripping” and simply allowed my experience to be what it was, I discovered that I was indeed tripping, and in a big way.  It was all happening already, but my willing-it-to-be had kept it from my awareness. Sober, I had the life I wanted already, and I didn’t know it, because I never “relaxed into it.”

Sri Ramakrishna said that spiritual seekers climb the stairs of renunciation one by one, and when they finally reach the roof, they discover that it is made of the same brick and lime as the stairs.[v] We are not going anywhere, because we are already there—or at very least, “there” is not essentially different from “here,” now matter how much we sacrifice to our belief that is surely must be.

Jesus was apparently trying to get his hearers to “relax into it” when He told them, “The kingdom of God does not come with signs to be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”[vi] There is no place to go;  it is already here–you are already there.

This is how the world regains its fascination: by our looking at it neither through the eyes of deluded desire that compare it to something “better” in our heads, nor through the eyes of calculation and greed for gain, but through the eyes of the Kingdom within, the eyes of a little child who sees “the dearest freshness deep down things.”  Not of drugged sleep, but of alert wakefulness.

“Could you not stay awake with me for one hour?” Jesus asked His disciples on the last night of His earthly life.[vii] So OK, smartass, I tell myself:  if you’re Jesus—if you abide in Him and He in you like vine and branch[viii]–stay awake with yourself! Don’t be continually falling back into the sleep of life inside your head, don’t be always drawing a veil of expectations and desires between yourself and your life.  Don’t end up like Jacob, who had to physically wrestle with his Creator and sustain a painful injury before he could say,  “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.[ix]

Vedanta philosophy uses the image of coiled rope in a dimly-lit room to explain our cognitive dysfunction. If upon entering the room we mistake the rope for a snake, we will be unable to see the rope, and we cannot see the rope until we stop seeing the snake.  As long as we see our lives as preparatory, stalled, unreal or unfulfilling, we cannot see them as numinous, fascinating, “charged with the grandeur of God.”[x] The earliest Christian texts speak, not of the “return” of the Christ, but of Christ’s “revelation;” when the scales fall from our eyes, we will see that we are already in God.  This is surely what the Psalmist longed for when he prayed,

When I awake, I will be fully satisfied, for I will see You face to face.[xi]


[i] Hopkins, Gerard Manley.  “God’s Grandeur”

[ii] Vivekananda, Jnana Yoga. Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1982.  (28)

[iii] Matthew 18:3

[iv] http://drug-abuse.suite101.com/article.cfm/what-does-marijuana-actually-do

[v] The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Abridged edition.  Translated by Swami Nikhilananda.  Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1988.  (271)

[vi] Luke 17: 20b-21

[vii] Matthew 26:40

[viii] cf. John 15:15

[ix] Genesis 28:16b, ESV

[x] Hopkins, Gerard Manley.  “God’s Grandeur”

[xi] Psalm 17:15b, NLT


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About Scott Robinson

Scott Robinson taught college music at a Christian university for ten years before leaving to pursue creative work and fatherhood.  He has written for Sojourners Magazine, PRISM, Cross Currents, Minnesota Parent, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the St. Paul Pioneer Press.  He currently composes, records and performs original kirtan with his band Mandala mandalaband.net. Scott is a professed member of the Third Order of St. Francis,  and lives in Philadelphia with his wife, two children, and two incessantly shedding dogs. 

Comments

58 Responses to “Why People Smoke Weed.”

  1. MOJO1000 says:

    Maybe smoking weed just feels good.

  2. Emma Blue Erma says:

    I agree that the point of all drugs is to eventually get to a place where you already feel like you are on the drugs. With practice we can access the same feelings sans drugs.

    Marijuana is a drug and is addictive, a lot of people overlook this. There is also something relaxing just about breathing in smoke.

  3. dharma_sing says:

    I have to agree with mojo909, this article covers one very small point of view. Who is is to say why a person chooses to change their consciousness regardless of how they choose to do it.

  4. rootstowings says:

    Awesome article and dead on. Like Chopra says, people who use drugs are misguided seekers. What they fail to see is that the further they seek the further away they get.

  5. sky says:

    Thank you very much for writing this. It is a handy reminder.

  6. Benjamin Riggs BenRiggs says:

    Thank you Scott Robinson…

  7. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    Thanks, Ben! Reminds me of that old Peggy Lee song, "Is That All There Is?"

  8. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    I don't know him personally; can you arrange a meeting?

  9. pheppner says:

    I wonder if the same argument could be made for alcohol. Could you write the same article and just substitute weed for booze?

  10. Benjamin Riggs BenRiggs says:

    I would certainly enjoy reading an article that substituted boos for weed… But it seems to me that marijuana brings with it a sub-culture that has far more enthusiasm- meaning they are hell bent on defending its use!. I do not think an article like this on alcohol would be as provocative (and therefore popular) as this article is! It is almost as if people look at smoking weed like meditation, prayer, or yoga; but few people if any view alcohol that way. Do you agree?

  11. pheppner says:

    I agree, I don't think anyone would consider alcohol as meditation, prayer or yoga. I was more referring to your comments above: (sorry, maybe i should have just responded to that)

    1) prior to smoking weed you somehow felt bad or were in some way dissatisfied with how you felt
    2) You are trying to solve or repair that dissatisfaction with something you know will make you feel better.
    3) Discontentment has an internal origin and therefore an internal resolution

    Honestly, Is it not the same thing when you come home from work and have a beer to relax? Or get up in the morning and have a cup of coffee to wake up? Of course these things are not controversial, and if you were just looking to provoke conversation, thats great. I'm just saying, we avoid being with "what is" in many more ways than smoking weed.

  12. joel gray says:

    Sorry. i realize i didnt say much about weed.
    i think the article isnt really about drugs per se.
    its about rediscovering fascination, tackling our discontent with
    life, and unearthing its meaning.

    Its about finding where we fit in all this mess, and why
    we find ourselves here in the first place.

    Any discussion that deals simply with weed, while amusing, to me, misses the point.

    just my five shekels.

  13. Logan says:

    I don’t look at weed as a drug because I don’t abuse it and yes I do smoke weed but not very often. When you abuse something then it’s considered a drug to you because you want it or need it. Coffee for example is a drug to someone because they it to keep them awake. I smoke when I hang out with friends because I’m just having a good time and you sometimes you need to let go and expand your mind and not get tunnel vision for looking at the same direction in life. Marijuana has been used 1000s of years but now our goverments tells us that it’s bad for us never trend into that follow what you think is life you were born with that right listen to the bible not the government.

  14. abutterflyloves says:

    I have often wondered if our DNA has a clue on what we prefer. I cannot stand the smell, or the effects of Pot or other substances. And the people I see that are "dope" smokers, always seemed a little slow in intelligence. I am sorry if that offends people. I know I look like a total idiot when drinking multi shots of Jose Cuervo Gold.

    I use to think I wrote better drunk. It's simply not true. Drugs and alcohol just slows down the brain, and allows us to focus more on one thing. With practice and dedication, you can achieve the same focus with meditation before writing, art, etc.

  15. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    Thanks so much for this, Emily; yes, I certainly did not mean to include medicinal use in this piece. As someone else has pointed out, the piece is really less about weed per se than about our tendency to flee reality. Thanks for being so open and thoughtful in your response.

  16. yogiclarebear says:

    This is an excellent article. I also smoked when I was younger, until I had a bad experience that "sparked" into motion a terrible turn into anxiety related struggles. Reading this I realize that my "bad trip" was for me a harsh realization that the "drugged fascination" wasn't going to be a substitute for realizing the Truth via the change that comes from going through the tough stuff organically, "naturally."

    Very good piece.

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  18. Scott says:

    Fascinating how the comments section reveals so much about the commenter's degree of capacity for multiple perspectives…it's like getting to read a whole different article every time.

    As for weed. I smoked/ate/vaporized it for many years to varying degrees. Took breaks, went back….never really drank much after I legally could as it lost the edge that interested me.

    I felt like weed "opened" so many spaces inside my consciousness and body that felt great and kept me deeply drawn to exploring. And it made sex seem so much more amazingly energetic and alive.

    Around the time I was noticing that even a few days after smoking that my Awareness seemed less crystalline, a day came in meditation where this voice simply said, 'You're using weed as a short-cut to feel things rather than develop your capacity to open to them now on your own. Everything you love about experiencing while using weed is already here, are you willing to open that wide?'

    And at that time, the answer was a strong yes. At that time it felt like the thing to do was take everything associated with weed out of my house, to renounce for a while and see what would arise.

    The first few weeks brought strong nostalgic cravings. I can still find those feelings if I look.

    AND related or not, the Clarity of Awareness seems to have more depth, breadth, and width to it, and increasingly so these last several months. Right now it's edgy for me to not use it and explore there. Not good or bad or right or wrong, just where my edge is. And that interests me.

    Thank you for the article!

    Scott

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  21. roy says:

    weed is a great anti-depressant and anti-anxiety agent. so folks medicate themselves with it. but like all substances, it's globally psychoactive and does not get to what specifically irritates your being. it's a temporary salve. try a combo of meditation or psychotherapy of some sort to heal in a deeper way. it also takes a lot of energy to be stoned and that is why the tribes used weed only on special holiday rituals. yes it temporarily takes you away from your troubling thoughts, but there are many ways to get liberated from mind that do not challenge the purity and health of your body. take care of your beautiful and special pet. discover your truth in the boundlessness of the boundaries.

  22. dave says:

    In every human culture across the ages, only two things appear universally. Some notion of deity/spirit and its worship, and some desire to find a way to get off your face. All cultures, separated by vast distances and ages, develop these two things. Every single one.

  23. Dr. says:

    It took me months of using weed in a meditative way to come to the conclusion that I have been depressed for many years of my life and that I have been running from the emotional trauma of the past, but not with weed. See I only started smoking a year ago, but the trauma that I had been trying to escape stemmed from my childhood. Weed helped me to realize this, and because of this I started seeking professional help. I will have to stop smoking once I start medications (wish me luck) but I will never be able to say that weed took me away from reality. Weed took me deeper into it and for that I am grateful. I think that it's up to each individual to keep track of how they're using their tools to seek their own Truth. To be aware of whether they're trying to escape or trying to find help. I meditate regularly, exercise often, read, write, play music, and draw. Weed never slowed me down, but it helped me to recover.

    As Ram Dass once said, "It doesn't matter how you get there, just that you get there."

  24. Natural-I says:

    Only one plant told me I didn't need to smoke marijuana, twas marijuana itself. Pot is a great teacher, but like all teachers you have to let them go, even gurus have to be let go… so that you can really fly! But like all good teachers marijuana also deserves respect and can be kept that way. If marijuana is an entry way into the spiritual world for many, let's not deny it. The majority of deep commentators here appear to have used this entry way at one time or another… let's not deny it to others on the ground that they have found higher realities that are truer to human nature, like to simply be present for instance. One step at a time. Yet others didn't need to go through this entry way at all to keep awake their "baby fascination". Good for them. We are all happy here :) Peace and Love always. Gosh, that posting really do make me want to smoke a nice blunt…

  25. mrchokeys says:

    In states where the medical cannabis industry has been allowed to develop, it is no longer necessary to "smoke weed" to get the many potentially beneficial effects of the plant. Tinctures, edibles and topicals are available in a wide variety of formulations. In fact for those who do not wish to get high, but are seeking other ingredients, particularly CDB (Cannabidiol) special preparations are available. Almost all use of cannabis is medical in some sense. While is possible to abuse cannabis, much like food, TV, soda-pop and porno, it is not addictive. People did not start getting "addicted" to cannabis until the addictions industry started offering costly treatments for this supposed addiction. Psychological dependency, and physical addiction are two different animals. Anyone who thinks they are addicted to cannabis has never actually been addicted to real drugs, such as those pushed by big pharma and organized crime. I speak from personal experience. As a medical doctor told me once "it's the only thing that won't will kill you." It is not a "pathway to a higher reality," but can help bring the triviality of everyday stressors to light, bringing anxiety to the surface where it can be experienced, examined and dispatched with. Not everyone can do it, some get caught in the initial phase and can't get past it. Nothing is entirely harmless, or good for eveyone, but as herbal medicines go, cannabis is one of the most effective and least harmful when used properly.

  26. jay says:

    "Longing for this “something more” is, I believe, the reason people smoke weed"

    wow, you think there is ONLY one reason?

  27. Rastaman says:

    I always find it funny – those that used to use weed. USE it, freely accept the mind altering ( upgrading) wisdom it imparts, then turn around and badmouth it. Failing to see – that they got where they are now because of it.

    Plants bring about consciousness – the same with all the magical plants.

    Learn from your teachers, but please don't disparage them.

  28. Wholey Guacamole! says:

    I agree with you 100% on this article. I could never "relax" into the high of smoking or drugs, largely do to the fact that I absolutely love my life sober. Thank you for vocalizing perfectly something that I've been trying to explain for some time!

  29. Sara says:

    My father is in constant, acute pain…broken metal plate in his neck, two broken spinal fusions and was told that he needs another surgery. Forced into early retirement, and devastated. Sometimes he is in so much pain that he can't move from bed for days; weed is the only thing…that helps. He became addicted to pain killers and had to go to rehab. It almost killed him. Weed is the much safer alternative. This article is one-sided, which is based on assumptions.

  30. Jettha says:

    People who smoke pot do so for many reasons mainly to escape from the hash reality of life, just to get high in a party, having a good feeling for awhile; certainly not all do so for getting close to god or seeking enlightenment. Your article seems to point to the fact that people do so for the latter reason. The title of your article is quite misleading!

  31. Jettha says:

    Smoking pot may give you some relieve from from troubled minds but like all medicine, the effect is only temporary; and when the effect is gone, you gonna come bak to the reality of life and probably feel even more depressed. The Buddha says " mind is the foremost to all our thoughts". One can't resolve and escape from our problems or seek enlightenment by smoking pot. All depression and problems can only be solved by the mind itself either through psycho therapy or properly guided meditation….the answer are all within us. However, I must say that in some cases of depression, it's the imbalance in the chemicals and peptides in our brains which only proper medicine can cure. One may be born with the imbalance of certain peptides or the cause of depression maybe due to the pressure of life and stress. One needs to trace the roots of his or her problems.

  32. Ashley says:

    I've been a drug & alcohol user & sober daily meditator and yogi, and everything in between. High or sober, seeking can still be misguided. Once you know that whatever you seek is within you, you can go about your life being unattached to your choices & going with the flow of what you desire and how you live.

    There is no right way. There is no wrong way. It just is…and it's all good.

    p.s. if you smoke weed, I just want you to know that it doesn't make you any less spiritual. your pursuit of a rich inner life is not insincere because of your choices. deepok doesn't know you 😉

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