Under the Influence of the Buddha.

Via on May 17, 2013


Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

I’ll admit it; I love the Buddha. Both the smokable plant variety and the ancient teacher who found enlightenment under a tree in India a long time ago.

The first few times I smoked weed in high school, I didn’t feel a thing. So, when offered a big ol’ blunt at a party in Austin circa 2000, I inhaled extra deeply, determined to feel the effects. It worked. After nearly coughing up a lung, I got giggly and  paranoid and had the shallowest and deepest thoughts cross my mind simultaneously. It was a ton of fun.

The following year, I went on a cruise with one of my girlfriends for spring break. One of the stops was Jamaica. We ignored her well-traveled mother’s stern advice about the dangerous taxi drivers in that country and immediately walked up to a taxi driver, innocently asking, “Is pot legal here?” Thus, we scored a baggie full of beautiful green Jamaican ganja. We spent the next five days as high as the clouds, euphorically lazing on beaches and eating our body weight in rich cruise-ship foods, amazed by how clear everything looked and how amaaazing everything tasted.

I met my good friend Tommy O’Malley in 2005 when we were both working in the marketing department for a non-profit called ABoR, aptly pronounced “a bore.” It was such a bore, in fact, that I would often smoke a bowl on my way to work in the morning and/or during my lunch hour. (Side note: If you find yourself smoking or drinking in an attempt to make your workday more interesting, it’s time to find a new job.)

I used to hang out at Tommy’s apartment on South Congress and we’d smoke and talk and watch TV. Even though the smoking wasn’t necessary for us to enjoy each other’s company, it became a habitual ritual. I have an addictive personality when it comes to this particular substance. If marijuana is available, I will inevitably consume it, morning, noon, and/or night. If it’s not around, I don’t jones. I’m just fine. Certainly more clear headed, energetic and productive.

Getting high was also a favorite activity when I lived in Guatemala City from 2009 to 2012, next door to a couple of sixty-something gringo hippies whose green thumbs grew flourishing mota plants in their backyard garden. Smoking out with my fabulous pothead neighbors and other expat friends and partakers was more appealing than risking my life by going out to a bar. (Guate City has one of the highest murder rates in the world.) Plus, the bar scene was unappealing as I’d long since given up drinking to the point of drunkenness. Although I enjoyed my share of alcohol-fueled debauchery in my teens and early twenties, the binge drinking naturally fell away as my aging body began to automatically want to prevent painful hangovers. Alcohol abuse fell away effortlessly… pot abuse not so much.

vegan college pot marijuana funnyNow… about that other Buddha.

Long story short, I started practicing yoga as a young teen in 1993 and became a yoga teacher in 2002. When I was living the dream in the San Francisco Bay area in 2003, I started practicing Buddhist meditation at the local Zen center.

I loved it so much that I soon took a personal meditation retreat at Green Gulch Farm in Marin County. For four days, I lived like a Zen monk, rising at dawn to sit and stare at the wall and watch the fluctuations of my mind with a straight spine, chopping vegetables in the communal kitchen, walking mindfully through the gardens, listening to the resident teacher’s dharma talks on the Buddha’s teachings in the evenings. When I left, I felt utterly high. It was a 100% natural high that lasted a solid two weeks. It only faded because I succumbed to the temptation to smoke with my stoner roommate.

The trouble is, temptations never end, and a true pothead can always invent a good reason to smoke. Because I’ve got a headache, a stomachache, insomnia, boredom, stress. Because it’s Saturday morning. Because the sun is setting. The list goes on forever.

One of the Buddha’s many wonderful teachings which I have often chosen to ignore is not to use intoxicants, as they tend to get in the way of realizing your inherent divinity, your Buddha nature, the light within each of us. When I am not in the habit of regularly smoking, I write more and meditate more, and am therefore calmer, healthier and happier.

And yet, I have continually fallen back into the habit, for well over a decade now. I now live by a beautiful lake in the Guatemalan highlands and have a baby girl. My boyfriend is a marijuana aficionado, too. We ran out last week and are consciously not going to replenish our supply for the foreseeable future. And, not coincidentally, I’ve been meditating and writing up a storm early every morning.

I am a bipolar Gemini; I tend to extremes. I used to like to make vows: “I’m never drinking again! I’m going to quit smoking for three months! I’m going to be a raw vegan!” Now, I find balance in moderation. I will drink a beer or two. I will savor a glass of wine once in a while. And I will almost certainly smoke the Buddha again in this lifetime. But it needn’t happen daily, nor three times a day.

And maybe, with effort and intention, it will soon drop away in favor of the natural high that comes from flowing with Life as it is, day-by-day, moment-to-moment.


This was originally posted on Tommy O’Malley’s terrific blog, A Year Above the Influence.

About Michelle Margaret Fajkus

Michelle Margaret Fajkus is the founder of Yoga Freedom and co-creator of EnlightenEd. She is a 30-something gringa Gemini in Guatemala where she lives with her life partner, daughter and black cat. Michelle learned hatha yoga from a book at age 12 and found zen in California at 23. Read her books, or come down for a retreat! Connect with Michelle on Google+ or Facebook.


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2 Responses to “Under the Influence of the Buddha.”

  1. Julian Walker yogijulian says:

    nice article!

    i myself don't enjoy pot – i think some brains just metabolize it better then others! no judgment on those born with brains that are tickled pink by the green buds. but i would point out that as you know, a HUGE part of the history of religion lies in consumption of mind-altering plant sacraments, and a significant part of renunciate sadhu culture in india revolves around ritual use of cannabis…

    buddhism of course tends to advocate for a clear mind, which is why i too have gravitated more toward that aesthetic.

  2. Michelle Margaret Fajkus yoga freedom says:

    Thanks, Julian. True about the sadhus and trust me, I've used that fact as an excuse in my mind for sure. The natural high is the best though. :)

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