This is effectively the result of a mind enema after a long period of creative constipation. I took the enema and here’s all this shit.
Weed and Awakening.
I went through what I consider to be a major life altering experience. I’ve lived a fairly normal and privileged life on the grand scale of things, but this is a report of the most significant thing that’s happened to me, at least.
I’ve since discussed it with different people from time to time, and never really know where to begin or where to end. I’ve found that the best approach to life, is to be completely open and table everything as it’s the best way to learn and understand things. I find it very helpful and really enjoyable to discuss things with people, anyone and everyone, whoever is willing to listen to my endless and often conclusionless rambling, to hear different perspectives, approaches and reactions to things, as well as using it as an exercise to stretch out my own ideas.
I’ve discussed this period of my life with lots of people by now. Some find it particularly strange, but some have had similar experiences, one way or another, and it’s interesting to see how they felt and how it affected them. I found out about six weeks afterward that one of my closest friends in the world, had had the exact same experience, which gave me a lot of comfort at the time and helped me to integrate it into normal everyday life and learn to live with it, and eventually even come to see it as an advantageous event, and possibly the greatest thing that has happened to me so far.
I am writing this now (approximately 18 months later) as I think it could help people who may have gone through the same or similar experiences, as I struggled to find answers at the time and was only lucky enough to find any understanding because I opened up which was incredibly difficult, and also because of a certain therapy, I am only now learning, that comes with writing.
I’ve put off writing this for a while because it’s taken me a long time to understand it and I was afraid it might paint Marijuana in a negative light, which is incorrect. I have a natural tendency to over indulge when I find something that I like and that works for me. I appreciate everything I gained from weed and still highly recommend use to everyone, and I might even return to it again in the future. I may be writing this more for myself than anyone else, in an effort to try and retrace the sequence of events leading up to, during, and after my experience and in order to unblock some potential creative channel and clear the air so to speak. It may also help as a preface and contextualise anything I write in the future.
I smoked weed a few times in my mid-teens, in a purely experimental way, and I approached it much the same way as I had approached drinking booze the first time; as another way to get funny and as an adventure to go on with my mates. A cheaper, simpler journey to go on than an organised camping trip. To be honest there’s not really anywhere left to explore these days anyway apart from space and our own internal landscapes with a selection of conscious alterations, and the internal is definitely more accessible on a day to day basis than space. I became gradually more aware of weed culture and tended towards stoners even before I became a big smoker. We just clicked. These people seemed real, and tuned into something that I could feel as well. I could always have deeper discussions about things with these people and feel out reality, but could also drop it immediately and end up in hysterics, with a knowledge that we still held the previous discussion in high regard.
I didn’t take the transition between school and university very seriously. I was studious in school and did well in all my exams, and performed well under the spoon fed nature of schooling, and treated my selection of a degree much the same way (how do I shape myself into a perfect cog to slot into the system seamlessly?) I had always had the intention from a very young age that once my exams were completed successfully, I’d be free to finally do what I wanted and become who I wanted to be, whatever that might be, surely it would reveal itself. I knew I wanted to travel and I knew I wanted to be free of the shackles of responsibility and the ties of work or school for as long as possible to begin to blaze my own trail. Unfortunately, similar to almost everyone in the same situation, I didn’t have any money or any solid plans at the end of school, so I just loosely decided to go to university; mainly because it meant I could go to the city lights and join my mates, and I chose a degree based on the merit I thought it would have when going for work (i.e. when I latched onto the cash teat, that would allow me to fund my as yet unknown plans) and I chose Accountancy (the best degree, as per social ideals, that I could enter on my grades). My CV would look great and I’d get a good job to get some cash. I just didn’t have the foresight then, to realise that what you work at becomes your life. And that decision set me off in a very specific direction, and effectively marked the point where my life began to split into two; what I thought I was supposed to become on the surface, versus the expanding and evolving shape of what I would want to become.
I began to smoke more weed when I left home for the first time and went to study in the city. Mainly because I had some space to explore as I was away from home and I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed it. There was no pressure of disappointing my parents (the eternal matriarchal/patriarchal benchmarks of everyone’s lives) as there was a much lower possibility of them finding me with “drugs”, although this was never really a conscious thought at the time, I just had more space. I never saw anything wrong with smoking weed (and still don’t), just as I never saw anything wrong with drinking alcohol at that time, they were just things you did to relax, enjoy yourself and lubricate socialising, which I did a lot.
I quickly slunk into the cosy life of a cheery stoner. I only had eight hours of classes per week, which kept the idea of that topic at bay and left plenty of time for doing my own thing every day, a period I look back on with a great deal of joy. I fell in love with the Canadian stoner comedy Trailer Park Boys, which alleviated any remnants of ungrounded guilt that remained within me about smoking weed, and allowed me to embrace it completely and seemed like my permission was granted to embrace stonerdome. I watched documentaries on space and science which massaged previously passive curiosities into muscular domains of interest. I learned about music all over again, and could appreciate more than ever the previously under appreciated landscapes of some of my favourite songs and artists. I have a fairly inquisitive approach to life which was amplified during this period, and with my friends we’d revel in sprawling conversations, philosophical and humorous, about all things in life and how to approach it, about the insane nature of reality as we know it, as well as a multitude of other things, and began to see an absurdity in the normal approach to life that I couldn’t quite gel with, but which was distant enough on the horizon not to pose any threat to my reality.
I managed to do well in my first year exams, but with a more forced effort than I had felt in school, as I had lost the ungrounded urgency I had felt in school (pass your exams, or you’ll end up a homeless bum). On one hand this was because I felt very alienated in the third level education system, and I couldn’t develop a bond with this new laissez faire approach (here’s your work for the week, go and do it on your own time), and on the other hand it was because I realized that I had absolutely no interest whatsoever in my Accountancy degree. These two things combined with the realisation that there was more to life than exams and work only increased my disinterest with this line of study and everything it had to offer down the road.
As the year rolled over, I moved from university halls, into a house with friends, all of whom were also big smokers, and we had a blast. The majority of time was spent smoking and watching movies, documentaries and TV shows, chatting a lot, and venturing to the shops for munch and such. Another period I remember fondly. Eventually as we went our own ways, I moved in with other, generally non-smoking friends and my habit continued and deepened, as I branched into my solo career as a stoner, as did my interest in all things philosophical and thought provoking.
Eventually I quit my degree, two and a half years in. I had just returned home from a 6 week road trip to Norway and back again with two of my best friends which opened my heart as well as my eyes. I went back to the new semester but my heart and mind were realigned. I want to make it clear that I don’t blame weed for this, the degree simply lost any value that it had to me, and even now I don’t smoke I feel the same way. I understand the impracticalities of the shift at this point, but it felt essential to do so. Some of the realisations I had through smoking may have effected this decision but they’re realisations that I consider paramount. Weed effectively cleaned a dirty windscreen, so I could see the road more clearly. I realised I didn’t need to subscribe the education and work paradigm as much as I had previously thought to do the things I wanted to do in life. I also had concerns that finishing the degree would lead to continuing down the road to becoming a fully qualified Accountant and everything that life brings, and I knew I didn’t want that. This was the first time that I effectively derailed the train because I saw a fixed destination that I didn’t want to end up in. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I did know what I didn’t want, and sometimes that’s enough to push you in the right direction. I got an office job within a few days of quitting, in a very reactionary way and to allow me some time to think and still pay the bills. It’s been one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced; changing path’s in life.
At some point one of my good friends introduced me to the concept of minimalism and as these things tend to, it came to me at the perfect time. I had always been a major hoarder. I had spent the previous few years attempting to clear my head of mess, bad habits, negative thought patterns, and trying to expand and open my mind, (always conscious of trying to remain open minded albeit with challenges), and now I had a mechanism for clearing and organising my physical world as well, to potentially create the space and environment for opportunity to land, though I didn’t know that yet. I consider minimalism to be the first major, real world step I took from thinking philosophically and from the perspective of existing in an infinite universe and within the temporal nature of life, and actually applying some practical elements in the day to day. It began as a process of removing excess. Getting rid of the things I didn’t use, or hadn’t used in years that hung around like little white lies of some illusion I was trying to maintain (to myself, more even than others). I think we’re all guilty of this. Then it became a process of questioning the remaining things I had, and their legitimacy in my life. A question of identity. Am I these books? Am I this collection of films? Am I this guitar? Am I this author? Am I this chord progression? I think that we surround ourselves with as much as we can to try and help identify ourselves and remove the primary fear that everyone has, knowing yourself, but I think the result is simply a rotating series of material items the only serve (at best) to outline our true self, leaving behind a cavernous silhouette of what we really are.
I questioned everything to figure out what substance it truly had, and by extension what substance I truly had. Eventually I worked my possessions down to a small percentage of what they were. Including clearing out everything that could be labelled as mine in my parents house and attic from my childhood, all except for a few of my earliest childhood toys. The whole process unfolded over the best part of a couple of years, and was incredibly lethargic. It’s another thing I would recommend to everybody and do. Minimalism illuminated to me, the difference between substance and illusion. What has real substance, and what will add positive value to my life and others? Both in terms of the things I own and acquired and in the things I chose to do and how I did them?
The only nagging concern I had ever had with my weed habit was that I had developed a tobacco smoking problem, and my preferred method of smoking had been smoking joints. There’s something to be said for nicotine, as it has been proven to clarify thinking. The molecule has an increased receptivity to firing synapses, in a nootropic kind of way I think, the only issue being the delivery method, via tar and chemical filled smoke that’s incredibly toxic for your body. Negatives aside, smoking joints is a double barrelled approach to clarified and expanded thinking, and it’s also socially scalable as well.
I think too many people struggle with opposing interests and goals in life. The main one I’ve noticed and struggled with myself, is self destruction versus self improvement. We all naturally want to join in on partying when it’s time to party, and no one wants to miss out on getting messed up with everybody, but on the other hand everyone wants a perfect body and clear mind and would like to become the best they can be physically and mentally, but trying to maintain both of these lifestyles is effectively like trying to grow vegetables and store poisonous gas in the same room. You can never quite fulfil your potential in either when you try to hold onto both, like trying to start a fire for warmth and take a shower for cleanliness at the same time.
I had developed interests in the Buddhist way of thinking and self-improvement, as well as an understanding that our bodies should be maintained properly with good nutrition and natural sustenance as well as undergoing physically demanding efforts a few times a week. I continued to develop interests in philosophy, space, science, nature, minimalism, psychedelic literature, consciousness and meditation, self sufficiency, counter cultures and harboured a general disregard for the standard narrative in modern society. I still do.
Disconnection and Reintegration.
In the run up to Christmas 2011, I was probably at the peak of my use of Marijuana. To this day I only have fond and loving memories of grass and everything it brought into my life. I had some of the most connected and enlightening moments in my life while I was high and many of them, but unfortunately I had got to a point of smoking at every free moment outside of work and with intensity. I remember on a few occasions in that last month or so where I had some of the most intense periods of “high-ness” I’d ever experienced. I’ve done other drugs on a few occasions, and am very fond of mushrooms and mdma on occasion and I’ve whitey’d before on a few occasions so I have a fair grasp of other altered states of consciousness good and bad. But I had a particular relationship with weed that crystallized during that period. I had been a committed weed smoker for the best part of five or six years.
I had been working at Citibank for the previous 18 months or so, and felt the same way about my job as I had about my degree, heading in a direction I didn’t want to be going in. I remember when I went from temporary to a permanent employee, my heart sank, as I had visions of my future as an unhealthy, stressed, under appreciated employee. I see this period as the big war between the two selves that I had felt split out at the end of school, but the true self, who I wanted to become was beginning to defeat the illusory.
It was Christmas 2011 and I was back home at my parents place for the holidays. My interest in health and fitness, self-improvement and self-actualisation finally trumped my joy of all things drinking and smoking, and I had just finished reading Alan Carr’s “Easyway to quit smoking”, so I set myself the goal of not smoking anything until the end of January 2012 in an effort to remove the tobacco element of my habit, with the intention of bringing the weed back when I had successfully kicked tobacco. I succeeded and was quite pleased with my success and went about sorting myself out with a new bag of grass and proceeding to bong or pipe it from there on, with the intention of buying a vaporizer when I had the funds.
I can’t remember the experience with direct or distinct clarity now, as I find is the nature of memories. The bulk of my recollection is based on the intense feelings from the period that I can recollect and pockets of memory that stand out. I search my mind for memory of the time and mostly find the traces and patterns left behind by it, which also help to harness some of it back into a recognisable form.
I had finished work for the day, some point mid-week, and proceeded with my normal habit of returning home, having a shower getting into my slacks, making a cup of tea, sticking on the next episode of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and filling a bowl in the bong and getting supremely high.
I also remember I was midway through reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, (a book I’ve since re-read and appreciate enormously) and the narrator was breaking down the period of his life where he had gone insane, and I remember a lot of the ideas that drove him insane matched closely to the ideas I’d have myself.
Carl Sagan had just poetically expressed the enormity of the universe as we can know it, and how magnificently insignificant we are while simultaneously being so superbly significant. He was somewhere in the middle of breaking down atoms, in his majestic way and I was completely engaged. He began breaking down facts I’d heard before, but facts I’d not really felt as reality until then. He was somewhere in the midst of how our atoms is 99.9% empty space, and therefore we are effectively 99.9% empty space, and he began to explain the nature of reality in terms of the hooks and barbs that hold atoms together, and that’s the only thing holding reality as we know it in place.
For some reason, at that moment I took a deep breath and then suddenly doubted if I had even taken that breath. I took another, and when it was over I wondered if I had even taken that breath. I think my heart began to race.
It’s been one of the most difficult things to relate, but my entire reality broke down in front of me, and I felt naked in the face of existence. I felt like I had touched base with something and in that same instant everything about my reality became disconnected in a sudden snap. Suddenly I felt like an observer outside of my body, but still within it. Everything I knew as being me dissolved into nothingness, and I felt completely dissociated with physical form. It felt like I was inhabiting someone or something else’s body, and it felt very clunky and robotic. It felt like I was looking at a set of hands for the first time in my life but the very concept of hands even fell away. All the concepts I had placed onto everything over the course of my life fell away. But where all my previously concrete concepts had fallen away there was an explosion of new information to be observed. I looked around the room in a state somewhere between panic and reverence, I felt like I was suddenly seeing everything that was to be seen. Eyes blinded in this explosive illumination, for a few moments I tried to process all this new information but felt completely overwhelmed. I felt as if I could experience forever in an instant. It felt like there was now a thousand light years between my observing self and the other end of the room. I panicked and in a state of reaction turned everything off, locked my door and jumped into my bed with the hope that I could fall asleep as soon as possible and let this wear off. At the time I assumed I must have had a severe whitey and just wanted it to be over.
I don’t know for how long, but I laid awake in my bed just listening to my breath, feeling like that there was no reason everything existing around me as far out as the reaches of the galaxy, couldn’t have popped into existence before my previous breath. Everything means everything and everything means nothing.
I can’t really remember the next morning, or any individual morning for the next month or so either, only that whatever had happened to me was here to stay. You can’t unsee something. I remember small pockets of memories when I was at work in the office, and my previously underlying suspicions that this whole set up was farcical and incongruent with nature now became glaring and unavoidably obvious truths.
I experienced several recurring episodes during this period, that after some frantic research online I diagnosed as panic attacks. Something I’d heard of before, but never taken seriously. Not until I had stared real terror in the face. I now recognise this as a shattered ego resisting the new reality and scrambling for life and a solid identity. I remember I had one major panic attack when I was sitting on the toilet in the stall in the men’s bathroom at work! I was just killing time in there to get away from my desk as it meant I didn’t have to worry about any inquiries from my boss for a short while. Everything became very slow and very quiet, and suddenly in front of my eyes, from the centre point of my vision, it felt like I was being pulled into blackness, like I was going to be sucked from existence. Panic. Deep breaths. Snap back to reality. Breath. Breath.
I spent time online trying to find some sane diagnosis. I literally thought I was could be going insane, (does this happen to normal people?) I stumbled across articles on depersonalisation and derealisation, which seemed to capture it quite well. I also found information on ego death which seemed to ring true. This is also where I first heard about Eckhart Tolle, although it was perhaps 9 months before I actually read any of his books, and as with the minimalism, that seemed to happen at the exact right time as well.
During that period afterwards, it felt as if all of my senses had been turned up to three times their usual power. I was wandering through a hyper reality. I had an intense awareness of everything around me and somehow even more than was there. In a way it felt like everything was emanating more than it’s own physicality, and I had some sense of this. Reflections and bright surfaces were brighter and sharper than I’d ever seen them. I also noticed I was picking up sounds of a much lower frequency than I would have before. Taste and touch were much the same. Flavours of foods had intense explosions of information input and just sensing the enormous amount of information received in day to day life could be exhausting.
As well as this increased sensitivity of senses, I noticed that if I starred into the distance I could notice what I assumed to be some kind of energy field in the space between, though in reality I was probably just noticing floating dust or something on the lenses of my eyes. I would have circular thought loops often, where my mind would relentlessly focus on an idea for a long period of time. I remember holding a conversation with a friend, and becoming aware that I had gone off on a pretty normal tangent around the topic we were discussing, and suddenly being overwhelmed by trying to understand how I could just talk about this subject so freely, without preparation, wondering where all this information was coming from and how we all do this every day endlessly and don’t have a full grasp of the semantics behind it all. During this period music became astonishing, and I could only listen to a little here and there, not to mention playing guitar which became an over stimulus, I could only handle playing for short periods of time. Again I couldn’t get my mind around how, from nowhere, rising from nothingness comes something so powerful and effecting. Playing a simple chord progression and seeing and feeling an eternal bliss. Eternal bliss is frightening on first approach.
I also became acutely aware of the unconscious. How so much of what we do and say and how we react to life and live. We are effectively two beings simultaneously. On one hand we are millions of years old, and we owe that to an enormous matrix of ancestry, but seem to unconsciously claim pride as well as shame for our current state of being. And on the other hand, the much more prevalent side, we are the selves that we have been defining and creating for our whole personal life times. This brought out the idea of identity, another circular thought I fell into, and demanded unanswerable questions about who I was and what I was and how I defined myself, and how much this was a process in vain. This period taught me and internalised the idea that I can never be the things I own, or the things I say I like or the things that create the illusion of my individual self, but rather I am only what I am in the present moment. Eternally. What people think I am, and even what I may think I am, has no reflection on my true nature.
Everything could mean nothing, or everything could mean everything.
After about six weeks of what felt like total and utter disconnection, I opened up to one of my best friends in the world, and explained briefly what I thought I had gone through and what I was still going through, and to my great surprise he had experienced something almost identical some years before, and I couldn’t believe how closely our experiences mirrored each other. It was my great break, my great relief. I wasn’t quite alone anymore. Or more, I was alone, but now we were alone together. I remember a distinct physical feeling that night in bed, after weeks of insomnia and frantically circling thoughts, and an seemingly ongoing, unnerving fear of relinquishing my consciousness to sleep, I felt like someone had opened to lid on top of my head and the bubbles had fizzed to the top releasing the pressure. It was strange but relieving.
Nothing really changed much after that. I asked my friend how long it took to return to normal and he told me that it never really did, you just learn to live this way, from this new perspective. I slowly started reintegrating into normality and still am in ways. The discussion with my friend really showed me the value in opening up, and his support meant an enormous amount at the time. The first thing that made me start actually feeling human again was that connection. I began phoning my parents again regularly after that, and it was only then that I realised how far we had drifted apart over the years. It was re-establishing connections with the people I loved that really pulled me back onto my feet. I began to feel a real sense of purpose. Aimless purpose, but purpose.
I am very lucky that I had the support structure of a work routine and loving friends and family, as it provided a backbone to my life while I found my feet in my new reality. I began going to the gym more frequently than ever before, and I also began saving. I eventually left my job at Citibank with some savings in tow (and now appreciate having worked there) and began travelling.
I do consider my whole experience to be hugely positive and rewarding. It was definitely challenging at times, but it enabled a huge amount of personal growth. I realised what my priorities are in life, from love and family and friends, to where I want to go personally, physically as well as where I want to focus my mental effort. I have become a much more positive person in life, and have developed a real appreciation for just about everything.
I could rewrite this a hundred times and probably every time it would be different.. In fact before posting this I re-read and edited it several times and I still don’t think it’s caught the whole experience nor laid down the context with the accuracy I’d like, but such is the nature of language. Writing this out has been very therapeutic and I hope it can reach others who might have had similar experiences in one way or another..