Year Two: Learning to Live as Awakened Awareness
“Don’t tell me how awakened you are, how free you are from ego. I want to know you beneath the words. I want to know what you’re like when troubles befall you. If you can fully allow your pain and not pretend to be invulnerable. If you can feel your anger yet not step into violence. If you can grant safe passage to your sorrow yet not be its slave.” — Jeff Foster, spiritual teacher; excerpt from the poem Who Are You Without Your Spiritual Story? (originally posted on SAND)
As January 1st approached and I started considering the year ahead, thoughts about the year just finishing kept coming to mind; it’s been a doozy. Against the backdrop of eyebrow-raising political headlines and other far-reaching news, my year was largely spent first learning about consciousness and then blogging about consciousness, which is not at all what I thought I would be doing at this point in my life. And after a year spent living the unexpected, I questioned the wisdom of setting a goal for the new year, as I usually do; seems like I would just be teeing up another one of life’s little lessons. (Still think you are in charge? Ha!)
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Re-awakening While Listening To The Grateful Dead
Judging by the public debates I’ve heard on the topic, I’ll bet one of the questions this blog will raise for some is “why continue using psychotropic plants to explore consciousness after awakening?
“. Having listened to a number of opinions on methods for exploring consciousness, I’ve heard (at least) two schools of thought from those who support using psychedelics. One approach advocates putting the psychedelics aside once an awakening is experienced and continuing the journey through other means – meditation, breathing, tradition rituals, etc. The other school advocates for the continued use of psychedelics as a means to achieve inner healing and further insights. It seems groups of the first sort are most concerned with maintaining sacred intent through ritual and the second group is more comfortable with mindful personal exploration. After bouncing back and forth for a bit I have finally come to embrace my membership in this second group of private psychonauts, though it took a perceptual kick in the pants to finally overcome my cultural conditioning.
A bit of history … Outside of college, my psychotropic plant use was limited to the very intermittent smoking of cannabis flower. Though I enjoyed the effects, it might be months or even years between encounters – usually in some social setting – and I rarely had my own stash. Instead, my consciousness-altering drug of choice was a glass(es) of beer or wine, maybe a nice cocktail if I was feeling ambitious, and that was about it. The ‘joys’ of aging changed all that.
Having earlier determined I was going to let hormonal nature take its course, I braced for impact after noticing the first signs of menopause when in my late-40’s. Though I was spared some of the more disruptive symptoms women experience, when frequent hot flashes started impinging on my always-reliable sleep and vivid dreaming, I had to intervene. Daunted by the idea of sorting through the myriad of over-the-counter and prescription options, I decided to start by taking a toke of cannabis before bed and – voila! – problem solved! And of course, once I stocked up for nightly use I found myself smoking recreationally more often, preferring it to alcohol for all sorts of reason (and because – and I know everyone will agree – Yellow Submarine is the perfect movie after roasting a nice sticky bowl of indica :))
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