How Cannabis and a Nude Retreat Woke Me Up

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In childhood, I’d always had a sense that I was different. I didn’t quite fit. I remember the adults around me being obsessed with sports and money—but it all seemed so boring to me. I remember my friends desperately striving to get good grades at school—while I couldn’t care less. I slept through most classes. What I wanted, rather, was to hug people, to play, to explore, to laugh, and to learn about love and relationships… unfortunately, these were not on the curriculum.
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As a kid, I longed for creative expression. I remember dancing silly, even somewhat sexual dances in front of my bedroom mirror: I was utterly fascinated by how my body would move. I remember skipping school in favor of writing long, epic poems and randomly weird stories. I remember creating incredible, off-the-cuff songs that nobody heard but me.
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And I remember the mystical moments, too. Moments when there wasn’t any explanation. Like when my stuffed animals and dolls would move by themselves. Or when I would dream something and then it would come true. I particularly loved those lucid dreams on lazy Saturday mornings, where I’d float outside my body and be taught by angels.

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And, yet, despite all of theses amazing experiences, I suffered deep depression. As my childhood years passed into young adulthood, I began to slip more and more into a coma of forgetfulness. I entered the mass delusion, the Matrix. I believed the advertising and made sure my makeup was perfect. I hated my small breasts and wanted plastic surgery.

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And then comes a poignant afternoon. I am in my early twenties, smoking a very potent strain of cannabis. Leanne, a dear friend of mine, is playing guitar by my side. She is happy and carefree. I am watching the light dance on the wall from a nearby curtained window. All of a sudden, I erupt into a rush of giggles! I begin shaking and rocking with utter joy! As Leanne watches in amazement, my giggles soon turn into howls. I begin to slap the table like a madwoman, gasping for breath, delirious in bliss. I know my friend is confused, so I try to force my mouth to make the words, to try to somehow explain to her what’s going on, but I just can’t. There is no way I can explain it in words. Some kind of veil is being pierced. I have the thought: “Everything they told me about Jesus was a lie.”

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This is the moment that began my journey as a mystic. The moment when I moved from religion to spirituality. It was the first crack. And although I didn’t stay “high” (as in, higher consciousness) and soon resumed the normalcy of my depressed life, the shell of my ego was beginning to crack.
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The crack became a full-fledged break about five years later. On this particular afternoon, I am sick in bed (as usual). Browsing through documentaries on Netflix, I discover this offbeat documentary called The Workshop. It’s about a spiritual teacher named Paul Lowe. On the cover of the documentary are a bunch of naked people, smiling and making all sorts of quirky faces. Even though what initially attracts me to click on the documentary is an interest in the nude retreat he leads, where he teaches about the value of radical honesty, I cannot help but be captivated by his deeper mystical message. He keeps saying: “Be here now. Right now. Don’t be anywhere else—just now. In this moment.”

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Although my brain is accustomed to high logic (I am in graduate school at the time, fully absorbed in the “truth” of the scientific method), his simple words somehow penetrate me. A wave of palpable relief fills my body. I slowly let my head sink downward, finally resting my forehead against the softness of my palms. Inside this dark little cave, I smile to myself. I am aware of the feeling of breathing. I am aware of being alive. I distinctly realize that my thinking mind has stopped. I am present. I am in the here and now. Whoah.

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For the next two weeks, I am high without any form of drug. (This is what’s known as a temporary Kensho experience.) I wake in the morning in ecstatic bliss and my feet no longer seem to touch the pavement. All my friends and classmates ask “What happened to you???”, their eyes a twinkle of curiosity and amazement. But I cannot explain to them anything. I just know that I’m finally free and happy.

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Since those two precious moments—the first one with plant medicine and the second one with Paul—my life has been a whirlwind of revelations. I’ve befriended shamans, healers, and teachers of all kinds. I became a Reiki Master. I travelled to India and began teaching yoga. I became self-employed and wrote a book about how to create outside-the-box relationships. My life is amazing.

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I have the very clear sense that I’m being guided by a vast power. It’s not about “me.” It’s about something greater. I’ve surrendered to the Light, to the Divine Will. It’s not about the pleasure I can gain from life, rather it’s about how I can serve and how I can grow. It’s about waking up as fully as possible in this lifetime.

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In the end, our stories are not so different. We all wake up sleeping, and then we move—gradually or speedily—towards a sense of waking dreaming. Isn’t that amazing? Indeed, we learn (to our surprise!) that everything is a very lovely illusion. We learn that suffering and trauma might seem real, but our stories shape that “reality” and we can quite literally heal the past, the present, and the future with our thoughts. We learn how powerful we are.
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We learn other lessons, too. We learn that our bodies are beautiful and it’s good to take care of them, but we also learn that our bodies are a temporary manifestation that we must, eventually, leave behind. We learn non-attachment. We learn how to say goodbye. Hopefully, through all our spiritual training, we can do it with grace.

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Ultimately, we learn that we are a speck of consciousness floating in a sea of eternal mystery. We learn so many things… we gather up so much “information”… and, in the end, we laugh. We remember the cannabis, we remember the documentary (or whatever it was that woke us up), and we laugh. We bow our heads in gratitude, saying: Thank you for this life. Thank you for helping me remember. 

 

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