Part Two: Ganja Yoga. ~ Dee Dussault {NSFW}

Via on Mar 17, 2013

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This is Part 2 of a series. Click here to read Part 1.

There is a quiet but growing controversy in the contemporary western yoga community about the potential role of cannabis as a tool in the yogic quest for peace, acceptance, and union.

Undoubtedly, new legislation regarding pot possession in some states has created a murmur in others, and those of us who have had to be in the closet about our use of psychoactive substances are now finding more social and political acceptance for our choice than ever before.

Add to this celebrities being “out” about their enjoyment of the herb, scientifically sound articles floating around in the medicinal marijuana movement which illustrate numerous wellness properties, TV shows such as Wilber and Weeds in which the plant is a feature theme, and celebrities with almost incidental use of the drug—it’s fair to say that pot is no longer for the “tune in drop out” crowd, but seems to please across ages, races, and income brackets.

The question is, can it enhance yoga practice?

This question is not an assertion that everyone should use ganja alongside asana, pranayama and meditation. People enhance their spiritual practice if they’re called to, in any way they’re called to, and this includes using various perfumed incenses, drinking a cacao smoothie before class, or practicing in nature under the sun. These, like cannabis, are ways to actively enhance our consciousness and our experience.

Some people may or may not be called to enhance their consciousness and mystical explorations with cannabis, and the call might be different on a particular day, during a particular phase of their life, or over the course of a whole life. Rather than convincing anyone who is not interested in supplementing their spiritual practice with cannabis, I simply invite yoga practitioners to consider that cannabis can be an important and useful yogic tool, not unlike cacao, the sun, or the right music.

I invite this consideration because many of our reasons for being wary of the plant’s role in our relationship with spirit have been impacted by an incorrect history of yoga, relentless anti-drug agenda in all domains of life (including most yoga communities, Western and Indian) and misinformation about the usefulness and relative harmlessness of the drug. This article is an invitation to keep an open mind to the positive relationship cannabis may play for a yoga practitioner, regardless of one’s personal relationship with or ideas about the plant.

It begins with my story.

I started blending cannabis and spiritual practice long before I knew that yogis had been doing the same thing for millennia.

I was a late-bloomer to pot but an early-bloomer for meditation and yoga. I started puffing when I was 27, and once I discovered the non-negotiable importance of appropriate dose and setting (hard lessons, but necessary ones!), I found could enter deep spiritual states, ranging from relaxation to ecstasy, from just smoking up.

This isn’t to say that anyone who smokes pot is going to get meditative each and every time, but to offer that with my yoga background and predisposition, pot would take me there. When I actively combined smoking up with the various yogic practices I’d learned over my first decade of sober yoga, it was even more pronounced.

For example, I noticed that the more mindfulness, reverence and intention I held when using cannabis, the more intense and awakening the ganja experiences would be.

The “high” yoga experiences were in many ways like my most rewarding sober yoga experiences, only with cannabis they were amplified. With intentional use and the right setting and strain, fear-based, mind-dominated, egoic consciousness structures were able to drop away more easily than when I wasn’t enhancing my practice with cannabis—this deepened my meditative states and later integration.

Yes, I continued to do yoga sober. And yes, I could also (and did also) smoke up with my friends quickly while standing in an alley before a concert, and in this recreational setting, the spiritual experience was less apparent than when I smoked up spiritually. But, because of my devotion to yoga, and my practice of reuniting my conscious awareness with my body and surroundings as often as I could, even when off the mat, my ganja yoga practice started following me into late-night park visits and onto the couches of friends.

Cannabis brought in relaxation and invited presence and appreciation into each moment. It reminded me to do my yoga, anywhere. And then I thought of my breath, or held a yogic moment for myself, right there while puffin’ in the park or huffing bongs in my friend’s basement.

5f61b5458698aac7593949a1cd6fb37aFor me, cannabis became a wonderful aid, a great ally in this regard. On one hand, it made mystical experiences even more mystical, like if I made a whole ritual out of consuming the herb before practice; on the other, it invited less-mystical experiences to be more, like a little nudge from nature saying that we can be doing yoga at any time.

In this way, the concert line became sacred—the yoga mat, a ceremony. Naturally, the spiritual effects were the most apparent if I were alone, doing a ritual of some kind, in a sacred space. This would bring ecstasy, bliss and vitality to my meditations, and to my days and weeks following—truly the stuff from the texts.

One early cannabis-enhanced spiritual experience will always stay in my memory as a pivotal awakening on my spiritual path.

It happened one night when I had smoked up and then started doing some energy-building practices from the tantra yoga tradition. Even when sober, these energetic practices can produce a trance state, which is an alternate or non-ordinary, state of consciousness; it is different from how most of us spend most of our days.

By combining the potential for trance from this particular breathing and visualization practice with the potential for trance that cannabis provides, I was, for the first time, able to enter an incredibly deep mystical state—a state in which the ordinary boundaries of my body became less defined and a sense of expansion, ecstasy and cosmic love filled my awareness and being.

For a timeless and very euphoric eternity, every cell in my body seemed to vibrate with alive-ness.

I had experienced what are called “energy orgasms” before, but for the first time I felt the electricity of my whole body as a pulsing erogenous zone—a sensory nerve ending licking the hot juice of the universe, the sweet ecstatic spirals of delicious rainbow fractals moving through my nadis, of being cradled by the divine mother.

The cannabis deepened my sensitivity to the subtle flow of sensation through my body in ways that I had never before experienced, and I suddenly found myself in an expanded orgasm state, overwhelmed by a definite sense that I was being fucked by the universe. (I felt and saw all of creation thrusting in and out of my pussy, filling me up with all that is, was, and ever will be…)

Through nothing more than cannabis, a meditative mental intention and a rhythmic breathing practice, I came to feel that I was the womb of the world, taking in the seed of stardust. And, at the same time, I had a definite sense that I was fucking the universe back, giving her everything I had with my giant energetic cock. I honestly felt it, the diamond-white light of my cosmic lightning bolt, extending out of my genitals or my root chakra (or who knows where?), penetrating everyone and everything, across time and space and even into people I dislike. I was fucking them, giving it with each breath, my energy like a masculine totem pole sliding in and out of all of creation with my loving sexual intention. I was unified, I was one with all that is, I was whole. I was God.

“This is union!” my spirit championed.

This was yoga.

What I had read was real, it was real, it was real!

After that experience, which lasted for quite a long and delicious time, I started researching the sacred use of cannabis in the yogic and tantric traditions. I also began doing my own psychonautical journeying into the combination of cannabis with spiritual practice, and then facilitating ganja-enhanced yoga and tantra classes in Toronto, Vancouver and Costa Rica.

As far as I know, I am one of the only Western yoga teachers who openly advocates and teaches cannabis-enhanced yoga classes. Though they were not aware of this the night the universe and I made sweet cosmic love, the fact is that for thousands of years, yogis, mystics and shamans from around the world have been using cannabis and other plant teachers to alter their state of consciousness in order to experience that very same sense of oneness that I had.

The trance and kundalini kriya that cannabis can put us into moves the identity out of the bounds of ego-dominated consciousness and fosters a sense of cosmic unity or oneness, which is the purpose of yoga practice. Cannabis encourages relaxation, intensifies perceptivity, can induce visions and awaken dormant aspects of the imagination and (with will and discipline) it can also foster the mental concentration and focus necessary to quiet the fluctuations of the mind—the ultimate purpose of yoga.

In ancient yogic texts, cannabis (by the names bhang, soma or amrita), is described as the “elixir of immortality.”

The idea was that these trance experiences are real spiritual awakenings: once we are able to see and feel and know that unity consciousness, we are free of suffering, free from the illusion of separation, free from the fear of death and as a result, we are enlightened, liberated, immortal. For most of us, one puff or a single ganja yoga class does not lead to permanent enlightenment.

Nor does one sober yoga class.

My gang bang with the cosmos was a kundalini awakening, insofar as it propelled me into more such experiences and a subsequently more compassionate, joyful, connected relationship to the universe. But it does not mean that I don’t still sometimes get stuck in separation and limitation. Cannabis is an accelerant to our spiritual practice—not usually a one-time shaktipat, though that happens too.

The idea put forth by the notion of this “elixir” (and my own experience confirms this), is that by entering into this trance state often enough, by producing this sense of unity consciousness often enough, our cells and being and body and soul start to remember or know that we are freer than we often perceive ourselves to be. By visiting this place often enough, we create new neural grooves in our brains. Each time we enter the cannabis-yoga state, this ecstatic expansion consciousness becomes more and more a part of our dominant reality, more and more of the time.

We have the whole of our lifetime (some say, even more) to get it, so with time and practice, we can slowly (but not as slowly as when sober), become increasingly liberated—from the confines of ego, the limitations of the mind and the sense of being separate and alone—by feeling those states intentionally and then integrating them into our off the mat yoga.

The point is, by combining cannabis and spiritual practice, we are continually and patiently nudging our nervous system towards enlightenment faster than many of us would be if we were to only avail ourselves to the one way of climbing the mountain top.

We can do this with any practice, of course. It does not have to include yoga, or cannabis, for that matter. This evolutionary nudge towards enlightenment, this temporary sense of egolessness, the trance and alternate states—these mystical experiences can come from dance, yoga, fasting, psychedelics, sex, time in nature, dancing, etc. All of these experiences can allow us to enter into states of consciousness that are phenomenologically different from states of ordinary waking consciousness that we, in our modern, frenetic, mind-dominated world, usually experience.

If we wisely double or triple up on the tools that produce spiritual trance and ensure ample opportunity to integrate afterwards, the more impact that state of consciousness has on our spiritual development. My ultimate combination is the powerhouse mixture of cannabis, tantric breathing, yogic awareness, massage, music and ceremony!

f9b9ad90953ef041bb34a6045268a8dfHowever we drop in, once we are in trance, we become less rational, less linear, less time-oriented, less self-oriented, less binary, less productive. And even if we don’t get into trance every time we smoke up, at the very least, cannabis relaxes the parasympathetic nervous system and floods the brain with dopamine, so we feel relaxed and happy, which is a great place to start our yoga practice from.

And if that’s all it did, it would be a lot: with chronic stress as a leading cause of disease and death, anything that moves us off that track to destruction is already a sacred medicine.

But ganja (especially when used intentionally or combined with spiritual practices or tools of some kind) can not only relax us, but take us into and encourage us to stay in a meditative trance, which is a particular kind of trance that requires a degree of effort to sustain.

Let’s touch on this a bit more, for it’s important for us yogis note the difference between relaxation and meditation.

Relaxation might be laying back, listening to music, letting the mind wander, feeling good, rolling, going with the flow, not intending or practicing anything and “just being, man.” It’s a perfect state and there’s no need to do anything.

Meditation practice, on the other hand, is more active: there is a discipline, an intention or an act of will involved, whether to keep a gentle focus on the feeling of the body relaxing, or on the sensation of the breath, or on a mantra. With most kinds of meditation practice, there is a gentle degree of effort or practice required.

Real meditation happens after we are able to relax, and cannabis definitely induces relaxation and can enhance meditation. But to be clear to any hopeful potheads out there, there is a practice involved in meditation, to be sure.

Laying back and having a psychedelic roll is one thing, and sitting for an active concentration meditation is quite another. In reality, when we do yoga we usually float somewhere in between the two states, in a dreamy state of non-ordinary consciousness that is gently intentional and highly relaxed. All trance states can induce that sense of cosmic unity, whether there’s an active practice or discipline involved, or whether the experience is one of surrender to natural forces, as is often the case in psychedelic and shamanic journeying.

As a sensory enhancer, emotional revealer, pain-modulator, mood-elevator, boundary-dissolver and time-stretcher, cannabis can produce pretty mind-blowing spiritual experiences, and when used to enhance other spiritual practices such as yoga, the reported whole is far greater than the sum of the parts.

Much like my account above, the sensory experience of spiritual cannabis use becomes synesthetic: in effect, you are the night sky, you are the universe getting it on with itself through a yogini in her bedroom, you are God. This is the very experience of union which the Sanskrit word “yoga” denotes.

Let’s talk for a moment about the neurophysiology of cannabis and spirituality and one of the potential downfalls of using cannabis to enhance yoga.

Neurons in our brain temporarily become unresponsive after firing, but one thing that the cannabinoids in ganja do is interrupt this refractory period. This means that one’s thoughts, imagination and perceptions can magnify because the neural networks keep firing, and things keep feeling salient and awesome.

You might have noticed this when you were high and eating the best cheeseburger ever, or while listening to music and it was the most meaningful song you’d ever heard, or perhaps you’ve had stoned conversation with someone that was the most fascinating thing in the world. When high on cannabis, our present experience becomes so significant and profound we become completely in the moment.

For a time, our brains can’t see the big picture or remember previous thoughts, which explains the tendency to sometimes find ourselves on an interesting tangent about how Pop Tarts came to be invented, instead of the inflow of our ujjayi breath.

Because of this salience, cannabis can sometimes cause more work in my meditation practice, because every thought is the best thought ever. So, if you’re using cannabis to enhance your yoga, you might find you can definitely get ripped out of your intention to stay in the present moment with all these super-jazzy ideas popping up inside if you. It’s a great way to practice concentration, and letting go. If you can let those exceptional ideas go and return to your breath, you’re really practicing the art of surrendering to the moment. And it is for this reason that I also suggest meditation practice when sober, so my students can get a feel for the discipline, effort and will required to do a sit.

Another piece of advice is to do the concentration-meditative practice where you stay gently focused on one thing only at the end of the cannabis high (after salience has zipped its way through you). You’ll be able to stay more present than earlier on, and you will probably find that once you do start to notice your breathing, or the feeling of your body stretching in a posture, these sensory aspects of the present moment in turn also become the most fascinating thing ever (much like the cheeseburger example above).

And that’s why it’s called a yoga practice—you might have to return your awareness from the coolest thoughts ever, back to the breath and body, perhaps a hundred times while your butt is on that mat. Zone out and relax if you want to, but if you’re calling it meditating, then be sure to keep practicing.

Use the salience of cannabis to your advantage, realizing new things about your inner world, your organs, your breath, the sensations of energy flowing though your body, new things that maybe you had never noticed when not on cannabis—or which are amplified because of it.

Along with the salience consideration above, there is also the conversation about addiction. I have been asked questions like, “So if tantra teaches that we can avail ourselves to all the tools we want to, what about heroin-enhanced yoga?” And while I think it’s obvious to anyone who’s ever consumed one or both of the substances that they are totally different in their ability to impact consciousness and the psycho-somatic awareness of our body, emotions, mind and energies, I think the underlying question really is: “What about addiction and attachment?”

Everything which gives pleasure can cause addiction, even cannabis (despite there being no basis for physical addiction).

Throughout the ages, yogis have been warned not to get trapped by any siddhis (supra-natural powers that can sometimes develop as a result of our yoga practices), and in the same way, tools like cannabis or music can certainly trap us, leaving us wrapped-up in the mind-opening experiences and lulling us into complacency without doing the necessary effort to spiritually evolve. We can become state-dependent, where we only feel spiritual when we’re high. Or if the yoga class really kicked our butt. Or if we are in nature.

With something that changes our state so effortlessly, there’s a real risk: we may want to keep chasing the dragon, seeking greater and greater highs without the necessary expansion of our capacity to accept the moment as it is. After all, being spiritually evolved is not simply a matter of how trippy you can feel.

Cannabis, like anything, can be an addiction or distraction from reaching our fullest potential, if we let it. The tantric path is often considered the hardest precisely because we are invited to use all available tools that call. We have to take responsibility when we use such potent helpers, be they sex, drugs, cacao, music or some other state-altering technique.

We must be mindful of our relationship with all things and people that feel good, as they have potential to become potential crutches or vices.

In a similar vein, I’ve heard people say, “I don’t need drugs to get high on life,” or “If you were really spiritual, you would be in deep, natural, intoxication all the time.” Ok. Then don’t do it. I’m happy for those who have attained constant cosmic unity and need nothing else. It’s not really yogic to try to convince people to do a practice or use an aid that doesn’t call to them.

But if you want to enhance life, and enhance your spiritual practice, with a relatively harmless, yet incredibly healing and spiritually useful (not to mention long-historied) plant medicine that has incidentally co-evolved with the spiritual history of humanity, then my argument is that there’s no reason not to go for it. Especially if you’re mindful about set, setting, and the potential for using it as a crutch.

One of my ganja yoga students says it is like adding salt or spice to your food; cannabis isn’t the food itself, it’s enhancing the food. If we only eat salt (or spice), then we miss the meat of life. If we only smoke cannabis without cultivating the sometimes effort-full aspects of our spiritual practice, then we are not fully serving ourselves. Though, it might be better to smoke up, be relaxed, but not do yoga then to not smoke up, stay stressed-out and not do yoga…just sayin’.

As a tool for spiritual liberation, cannabis has been an indispensable part of humanity’s evolution; playing an intricate part of the formation of not only yoga but of many other mystical and spiritual paths across the globe.

df43795ec81c592590ba36b975bdac45It is clear that the plant augments a range of experiences, from deep meditation to watching Dazed and Confused. The range of types of experience cannabis can bring speaks to the psychedelic advice of appropriate set and setting.

To get the most from mixing the plant with our spiritual yoga practice, we are invited to bring light to a unique constellation of experiences—determined by the personality, physiology, intention, environment, culture, and mood, as well as the setting in which the cannabis is taken. The use of ceremony is something that has been greatly lost in most western cultures, and the word itself has many negative connotations for those of us who were forced to perform empty or even offensive rituals as part of family or religious upbringing.

When creating the intention and setting for a spiritual cannabis experience, understand that “sacredness” is whatever you make meaningful or important.

Whatever you ascribe meaning to something, it becomes a sacred thing. Invite reverence for the plant before consuming it, however that expresses for you. Some people wash their face, hands and feet before smoking, to symbolize purity and respect for the plant. Some chant “Boom Shiva” or “Om Nama Shivaya” as an homage to the Lord of Ganja, Shiva Dev. Some people light candles, just to create a sacred space different from usual hang-out space.

Even if you’re not going to be breathing, stretching, or doing conventional yoga or meditation practices, know that for thousands of years, many gurus and babas have been smoking, like you here. You might evoke them, or send a prayer of gratitude for them and for the plant. You might decide to take ten deep breaths before puffing, to clean the lungs before inviting the sacred medicine into your body.

Anything can be a ritual or ceremony, as long as your mind is present and the intention is there to create non-ordinary or spiritual space. I just know that for me, my high is much more rewarding if I clear off the coffee table and light some incense first, it really can be as simple as that.

Finally, a word about dosing: cannabis can shave excess noise out of your mind and allow you to be more fully in your body, but only at the appropriate dose. Less is more. I have had students lose kinesthetic connection with their bodies because their consciousness was high above the physical realm.

Use the yogic tool of self-awareness to monitor your high, whether it’s “ganja-enhanced yoga” or “yoga-enhanced ganja.”

In closing, cannabis is not the moon, but it can be a finger pointing at the moon. If you don’t feel like you need or want the finger, don’t use it, there are many others. But if any plant or molecule helps you to see the moon more clearly, for now, or for your whole life, then go for it. In the tradition of Tantra, we use wisdom and awareness to avail ourselves to all tools we are called to, with joy and acceptance, in order to awaken spiritually and serve others.

Boom Shiva!

 

dee dussaultDee Dussault is a tantric yoga teacher, as well as a pleasure and cannabis activist. She fashions custom spiritual experiences from a variety of tantric modalities, including sexual-awakening yoga, guided meditations from the Tantras, meditative bodywork, and intimacy coaching for singles, couples, and small groups. She is deeply committed to the exploration and expression of her sexual-spiritual self and encourages others to do the same. Dee especially hopes to reawaken yoga practitioners to the mystical, consciousness-enhancing side of the practice of yoga, which is often lacking in body-focused yoga. Dee has helped hundreds of people connect to their radiant, divine selves. You can reach her at dee@deedussault.com.

 

 

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Assistant Ed: Caroline Scherer/Ed: Bryonie Wise

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2 Responses to “Part Two: Ganja Yoga. ~ Dee Dussault {NSFW}”

  1. Dave says:

    Right on.
    My only knowledge of G#d is up a mountain and a solitary blaze with a view. That presence and connection that expands to include everything, to become aware again of being one with it all. That there is no separation, no I and It. Living in the city splinters us off from each other, and between yoga, ganja and the occasional mountain, I can return again and again to that invigorating realisation of oneness. It keeps me getting up in the morning, and working on being the best part of that whole I can be.
    pEACE

  2. tao23 says:

    I would say to Miles, and others who would dismiss cannabis out of hand – I not so long ago would have counted myself among your numbers. But I began availing myself of some home grown, heirloom strain hemp given to me by a friend when intuition told me that it might help with some blocks in my body mind. I've practiced yoga and zen for over two decades. I've never been a habitual smoker, and am not now. I check in with the plant occasionally, and have found it has allowed me access to not only deep wells of grief and trauma, from this life and seemingly previous, and help to process them; but I also always find myself entering into spontaneous gentle asana and qi gong, and have learned a great deal about what real asana is through this. To smoke daily or even especially regularly would I think begin to diminish the returns. But then, its only through having allowed intuition to lead me into an ongoing relationship to this plant teacher that I am learning what she truly has to offer. I experience her directly (and sometimes even visually in the mind's eye) as Shiva's consort, a great yogini and guru – who if approached with honor and respect will grant boons of insight. She meets you where you are, and with all great medicines can easily be abused or simply misused. That's most of the time, apparently.

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