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Cannabis aided insight
Answer
4/23/17 5:10 PM
Hi All

Some background - I have a small amount of meditative practice, mainly done alone. I have attended some guided meditations with instructors, but I would say that my practice is quite weak. I started using cannabis for medical reasons something like 5 years ago. It worked miracles for my esophagus, but it made me feel a bit paranoid. I started meditating after I had been using cannabis, I followed the Complete Idiot's Guide to Zen Living and off I went.

The combination of cannabis and sitting unlocked some doors for me emotionally and I became somewhat better at self-inquiry and understanding. I unraveled some deep emotional blocks from my first marriage and other unresolved feelings. I asked the love of my life to marry me and she said yes. It became easier to manage things like over-indulging, anxiety and it even helped my IBS. After some months of this I started having some really bad anxiety which blossomed into full blown panic attacks at times. The first really nasty one came after several major events occurred in my life and I believe I was overwhelmed by the changes. The feeling like I was desperately trying to look forward and backwards at the same time confused me and in the end it sort of felt like I forgot everything. My identity felt gone? for a bit... possibly this is a very unpleasant version of ego death, I don't know.

I do know that everytime I subsequently used cannabis that I would go straight back to that anxiety attack feeling. I quit using THC in any form for a long time, during which I had to learn to live with the panic attacks which would come at odd times during the day, mostly at work. I started researching depersonalization and techniques to manage the attacks and I'm glad to say I have become much better at relaxation through breathing exercises and by cultivating faith that everything will be ok.

I have slowly reintroduced cannabis, my wife and I found that adding CBD to the THC would ward off the anxiety and make the experience more stable and pleasant. Depending on my level of "high" I would still get anxious but by focusing on what I was doing at the time and making sure that my body was relaxed, I would be able to nip them in the bud.

Okay so that the history. My question is, while stoned I have had the firm realization that the with a few exceptions I have spent my entire life looking at reality through the lens of ego. I witnessed the neverending interaction between what I will call the unconscious and the conscious parts of me. I have the notion that I do not make decisions exactly. I either let go and allow things to unfold, which feels amazing or I clench up until one side or the other sort of pushes through, which feels pretty much business as usual and boom goes the suffering.

I believe that the insights that I have had are solid. I do not believe that enlightenment or even a lasting sense of freedom can be found in cannabis. I have this persistent sensation that certain aspects of the human condition are best left unsaid in most company. I am looking for feedback, analysis and if possible, practical advice on how to proceed.

Thank you for reading this!

RE: Cannabis aided insight
Answer
4/23/17 7:50 PM as a reply to John Smith.
Hello John (real name?)
What you experienced while high is very commonly referred to as DP/DR, depersonalization, derealization, and it's quite different from ego death IME (I've experienced both). Ego death is a total lack of fear and anxiety and involves not taking anything personally 
Question. Do you abuse cannabis? Meaning, do you smoke daily, multiple times per day? If so, it is probably the cause of your anxiety and panic attacks, this is extremely common. Check out uncommonforum.com, under the addictions section and you will find countless accounts of exactly this 
I'm not sure about your question, the thing about unconsciousness is that it can't be observed in any way, or it is consciousness, by definition. Your insight about not making decisions is accurate, decision decides is another way of seeing it. If your life has a self conscious anxious flavor, then yes, you are living through ego. Also be aware that spirituality and new agey people are not using the technical psychological definition of ego when they speak this way. Psychologically speaking, ego is a healthy thing, the opposite is DP/DR. This is not what realized people are referring to at all however 
Daniel

RE: Cannabis aided insight
Answer
4/23/17 8:58 PM as a reply to Daniel - san.
I did a quick name change to help avoid potential issues with work. 

Thanks for responding so quickly. What you said about ego death/DP/DR makes sense to me.

I am sort of a light user. I have never had much of a tolerance as the anxiety would quickly become an issue. I do try to use daily, it helps me with some digestive issues and it makes it much easier for me to connect with people. I'm in my mid-forties. Over the course of my lifetime I have experienced night terrors, panic attacks, hyperhidrosis, social anxiety, and some OCD behaviors. Cannabis helps in some ways, especially with understanding what is happening, and being able to connect with strangers more easily. Sometimes it allows for some very powerful feelings of relaxation which is quite blissful.

Thank you for confirming my perception of how ideas manifest. Anxiety has been a more or less constant companion in my life since I can remember. The temptation to eavesdrop on myself if that makes sense gets very challenging the more "high" I am. This causes a number of unpleasant things to happen, and a few really amazing things. The amazing things have a nasty downside.

I have had the feeling that ego is a fundamental component of my make up. Faith is something that I have been seeing as a way to shift the nexus of decision making to avoid confusion and conflict. I am not religious and I seem to have a natural aversion to dogma. My faith in the connectedness of everything is much more stable now than in the past. 

Ideally what I am looking for is the path to keep moving towards being more present and happy. I do not think I can unknow what I have learned, so I believe moving on and perhaps away from any mind altering substances is where I need to focus my energy. I am curious what folks think would be the best way to get things moving again.

 

RE: Cannabis aided insight
Answer
4/23/17 11:01 PM as a reply to John Smith.
Yes a lot of your story is mine as well, weed can help and hurt with anxiety IME, but like a lot of medication it can be abused and it's ultimately addressing symptoms and not necessarily their causes 
Meditation is very useful in this regard, it's also a word that is used to describe many different things in the English language, so sometimes people are speaking past each other
This site is heavily geared toward Theravada Buddhist teachings (one of the three main schools of Buddhism), particularly Mahasi Sayadaw's, one of two major offshoots in the West of Burmese Buddhism
In that particular tradition, the noting technique is used to disembed from one's (bad) habits, giving perspective (the good aspect of what you describe with weed). In this practice one mentally notes thoughts, emotions, sensations and reactions. When awareness is less scattered, noticing is the more subtle practice, where verbal noting ceases, and one is just aware
'Beyond' this practice is something more 'non-dual', being awareness without being an observer of things. The progression of your own experience with these different practices is guided by the teachers you gravitate toward and your own natural inclinations, but I highly recommend 'meditation' in general as a natural alternative to drugs in order to come out of fear
Ultimately one finds fear and anxiety to simply be made of two things, fleeting ephemeral thoughts and uncomfortable sensations in the body, and awareness and equanimity builds as a sort of light within, that dispels negative mindstates on the spot, until they stop arrising, at least temporarily, so one can see the source of suffering, and move in the direction of lessening it