Marijuana & Ayahuasca: My Transcendent Experiences – Part 1

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I never would have believed that marijuana could lead to a transcendent experience until Mother Ganga cast her amazing technicolor dreamcoat over my shoulders and carried me off for a ride, but that’s exactly what happened. 

Overcoming Prohibition-Era FUD

Despite having been raised by a forward-thinking post-hippie movement mother (who secretly reaped the benefits of cannabis use long before legalization efforts made their stride), the clever anti-drug marketing strategies of the 80s and 90s left an indelible mark on my consciousness. 

My belief that marijuana use could only lead to laziness, addiction, and other undesirable qualities was so pervasive that even first-hand experience with the heightened creativity and productivity that can accompany a marijuana-high couldn’t shake it. In spite of how much I enjoyed the sensation (and how much better I performed at creative and academic tasks while under the influence), I only smoked MJ socially and under the guise of “peer-pressure.” 

When I did partake, I hated myself. Amid my laughter and enjoyment of my newly altered states, I grappled with an inner voice that was calling me an indulgent fool and ridiculing me for willingly submitting to a demonic intoxicant. In spite of my discontent inner-state, I found myself seeking out more social settings in which smoking MJ was part of the socio-cultural norm, but as I did my self-loathing grew. 

In college, I managed to convince myself that I was allergic to cannabis, and I denied myself all access to the plant from that moment on. I supplemented the hit to my creativity and writing ability with Adderall. Voila! With one stroke of a doctor’s pen, pharmaceutical intervention allowed me to keep the creativity while dropping the self-loathing that accompanied my cannabis use… or so I thought. 

Flash forward a decade, and I was still full of self-loathing for my drug use but now with a wicked dependence on a pharmaceutical substance. The self-deprecating voice that had once condemned me for smoking weed, now derided me every time I swallowed a pill. To make matters worse, I hadn’t written anything in years, and my once promising career as a religious studies scholar, teacher, and writer was little more than a shell. I was a penniless, overweight, unwed single-mother who lived in a spare room in my mother’s boyfriend’s house and depended on them for everything my daughter and I needed, which caused me to hate myself even more. 

These two images of me were taken in April 2016 and October 2015, respectively. In the second photo, I weighed nearly 190 lbs, and I hated pictures of myself. This is among the only photos of my full body at the time. In the first image, only 5 months later, I weighed ~130 lbs, and I took lots of selfies at this time. Regardless of my weight, I was facing major self-esteem issues.

Somehow, I managed to scrounge together enough money selling things I bought at garage sales to (almost) afford my own place. With some continued financial dependence on my mother, her boyfriend, and my daughter’s father, my daughter and I moved out, and I struggled even more without the support that living with my family had provided. 

I was an absolute wreck. Although I had managed to lose a majority of the weight I gained as a result of my pregnancy and the crippling postpartum depression that followed it (once again thanks to ANOTHER pharmaceutical substance), I never regained the sense of self-worth that a person needs to sustain him or herself long-term. On the outside things looked pretty good, but on the inside, I was as big a mess as ever, maybe worse since I was pretending not to be. I still hadn’t dealt with the deep emotional trauma that was left behind when my daughter’s father left me alone with a newborn baby almost five years earlier. 

To make matters worse, I was in a new relationship with a man who reminded me so much of my ex that I had trouble differentiating between the two of them. As my relationship with the new man went through the normal cycles that many relationships do, my trauma reared its ugly head.

Can you tell a difference between the two men in these photos? I struggled sometimes myself because they didn’t fly resemble each other physically, they resembled each other in every way possible. (BTW the first pic is of me and my current boyfriend, while the second is of Jason, my ex, our daughter, Sofia, and me.

I had trouble coping. Every time I got into a disagreement with the new man, I was reminded of the fight that ended with me alone with a crying infant, police sirens blaring, and my ex in the back of a cop car. I remebered every terrible thing he’d said about me that night and in the months that followed to our counselor, to his attorney, and to our mutual friends. I was reminded of how I felt sitting across from him in mediation sessions to determine our custody arrangement, and how I couldn’t believe that he and his family – who I had once thought of as my own – could sit across from me and see me falling apart the way that I was and still say terrible things about me that they knew would hurt me even more.  Hadn’t I been punished enough already? 

Apparently not. And I internalized all of my sadness and self-doubt yet again. The weight of it all began to crush me. The weight I had lost with pharmaceutical help began to creep back on. I couldn’t control my cravings for sugar, gluten, or the lack of energy that accompanied my poor nutrition. I couldn’t work out. I could barely get out of bed. And then I remembered my old friend, Mary Jane. 

Since I couldn’t possibly have hated myself any more than I did already, I succumbed to my friend Lindsay’s insistence that I give the plant another chance, and you know what? It worked! Under MJ’s influence, I could feel my anxiety and depression start to lift. I could function like a normal member of society (minus losing the ability to drive)… at least for a little while. 

A Rift in the Time-Space Continuum

One night I awoke from a deep cannabis-induced sleep with a message that I did not know how to interpret. I still don’t know exactly how to explain what I experienced, but it was as though I had time traveled into my past, and I had to use my rapidly-fading knowledge of the future to change the events of my life. I shot out of bed like a cannon, and these words came out of my mouth: “okay, relax. This is just as far as you’ve come.” Where did that come from? And who said it? I needed to know more. 

This video is a brief introduction to Meow Wolf.

When my boyfriend went to Bali with his niece that summer and Sofia went to North Carolina with her dad, Lindsay and I went on a road trip from AZ to CO and back. On our way back from her friend’s wedding in Colorado, Lindsay and I wanted to do “something weird”. I was up for driving hours out of our way to go to Roswell, New Mexico, but Lindsay thought we should see if there was something of interest in Santa Fe before committing to an extra 4 hours in the car. We found an interactive art exhibit with weird pictures and an even weirder name: Meow Wolf.We had to see what this place was all about. 

There is no chance that I can adequately describe all that is Meow Wolf in the scope of this series of posts, but it was a transcendent experience of high-order. The entire immersive art exhibit (displayed in an old bowling alley the collective purchased with the help of George RR Martin) is predicated on the mystery of the Selig family. While it’s entirely possible for a person to attend Meow Wolf without getting into the narrative, I’m not that person. It’s all about the narrative for me. I was engrossed in the story, moving from room to room as quickly as I could and reading all of the clues (impossible by the way because the exhibit contains more than 300 hours of written narrative, and it’s always changing). Lindsay and I had taken MJ edibles we bought in Colorado, and I was high as a kite. Walking around there and reading the clues, I began to feel as though I were part of the story. I had written some of those same things in my own diaries. The idea that time was not linear had always consumed me, and then song lyrics that never made sense to me before began to click. “You know how it ends, and it usually depends on where you start.” Everlast’s “What It’s Like” suddenly made so much sense. I didn’t want to leave Meow Wolf, but after over five hours in the exhibit, Lindsay was getting tired, and I knew I had to drive back to Phoenix in the morning, so we left. – I went back two more times before the year was up. 

Everlast – “What It’s Like” Video & Lyrics

After my Meow Wolf experience, I reluctantly began to embrace MJ even more, and as I did, she showed me things. On some days, she would leave me mostly alone, either making me lazier or more productive, more depending on my own subconscious desires than hers for me. But on others, she would send me into states similar to those I’ve heard Yogis describe following deep meditation. I suddenly understood how the world worked, how it was all nothing more than an illusion. A deep and sometimes disturbing conundrum. An oxymoron of the highest level. 

There were times when that knowledge left me paralyzed… and others when it lifted me up to new and unexplored realms. Days when it gave me limitless power, and others when I was so unproductive that I longed for the days of my post-partum depression.  And then one day, out of nowhere, came another message. Once again, I shot out of bed: 

“My sister; your mother, needs to talk to you.” 

What the FUCK???!

To be continued in part 2

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