Soothing Anxiety with Cannabis-Infused Meditations & Practice

See the sights (2)Everyone experiences anxiety at one point or another, which can vary from persistent worrying to self-consciousness or fear. Anxiety can occur when the thoughts in your mind are not rooted in the present moment, but there are times when a little anxiety is useful. Feeling anxious can help us be aware of danger and as a result we make life saving choices, but most of the time anxiety is an irrational and all consuming emotion. The experience can be so immersive that you focus solely on the symptoms and lose sight of what the root cause of the anxiety might be.

Regular meditation can help practitioners attain another way of perceiving and relating to reality which is useful for people who suffer from anxiety. The physiological state brought about by meditation is the complete opposite of the state brought about by anxiety as it promotes deep relaxation, and decreases heart and respiratory rates which culminates to a less anxious mind state (as cited in LeShan, Lawrence L., How to Meditate: a Guide to Self-Discovery, 2017, p. 43). Meditation also activates the left prefrontal cortex which has been correlated with greater levels of happiness, more flexibility in outlook, and a temperament that is harder to anger or fluster.

Contrary to some beliefs that cannabis causes anxiety, many people feel relief as it cannabis can diminish chronic affect (fear, anxiety, anger) and replace it with a gentle attitude, an easy smile, and more optimistic outlook, so can be extremely complementary to your mindfulness practice and diminish anxiety.

With consistent practice, the tips and medicated meditations shared below will help you become aware and more sensitive of your internal processes. As soon as you sense anxiety creeping in, you might use a breathing technique, mantra, or specific cannabis strain to slow it down. Developing your awareness allows you to tap into emotions earlier, giving yourself a chance to analyze feelings of anxiety before getting swept away in thought.

Before you dig in, here are some things to remember…

  • Unless you are congested, always breathe through the nose during meditation. The nasal passages are narrower than the mouth and offer more resistance and control to the airflow which lengthens exhales and lowers your respiratory rate. Both of which have a calming affect on the mind.
  • If closing your eyes during meditation exacerbates your anxiety or increases mind chatter, keep your eyes open and find a soft gaze just beyond your nose.
  • Meditation is not about clearing your mind of thoughts. The idea is to acknowledge all thoughts (positive and negative) without judgement, to listen to your thoughts without becoming so attached that you identify as them, then to let those thoughts go. Meditation is about developing a better relationship with your mind fluctuations as opposed to denying or pushing them down.
  • Experiment. If one thing isn’t working for you, try something else.
  • If you notice that your attention has wavered, simply return your focus to the breath.

5 Medicated Meditations

I personally like to practice these kinds of meditations with an indica strain, which brings more stimulation to the body than the mind. Each strain shows up differently from person to person, so be sure to know how the plant affects you before combining with meditation as meditation increases the intensity of being high. Take a hit, wait 10 minutes and see how you feel. Check back in with yourself and stay with this, or keep adding more at this frequency. The mindful practice starts with listening to your body with this plant. 

  1. Diaphragmatic breathing

Slow breathing is calming to the nervous system, so if you change the way you breathe, you change the way you feel and the connection between mind and breath is never as apparent than with anxiety.

People with anxiety often have anxiety-cause muscle restriction so tend to have more shallow breathing and might feel like they can’t take a full breath. With this meditation focused on the breath (which is also good for quieting mental chatter) the focus is on diaphragmatic breathing.

  • Find a comfortable seated position.
  • Start to follow the movement of your breath, letting it flow naturally for a few cycles.
  • On your next inhale, start the breath from your belly, then draw further breath into your chest.
  • Pause when you are full.
  • Gently draw your stomach in as you exhale slowly, visualizing a wave of breath. from stomach to chest and out of your nose.
  • Notice the expansion of your belly and ribs on your inhale.
  • Pay attention to the fluid motion of your breath.
  • Tune in to the exact moment your inhale becomes an exhale.
  • Focus on the fine details of how the breath feels in your body.
  • Notice if the in breath and out breath are equally smooth and of similar length.

Stay with the practice for 2 to 5 minutes.

2. Sandbag Breathing

If slowing down your breath is frustrating or increases your anxiety, sandbag breathing is a great alternative and can train your abdominal muscles for deeper breathing and relief muscle tension.

  • Lay on your back in savasana, feel free to elevate your knees for low back relief and/or support you neck with a blanket.
  • Notice your natural breathing for a few cycles, without trying to alter it.
  • Place a 5lbs sandbag on your stomach (or use a bag of rice or something else of similar weight) and continue to lay in savasana.
  • Breathe deeply, bringing more focus to your exhales. The weight of the bag will make your exhales more rushed, so see if you can control the speed in which the bag falls by slowing your breath.
  • Relax your shoulders, jaw, and face and let the sensation of your exhales feel passive.

Stay with the practice for 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Crocodile Breathing

This meditation uses diaphragmatic breath while laying on the stomach to bring awareness to the contraction and expansion of your abdominal muscles as breathe. This is a great alternative if the weight of a sandbag is uncomfortable.

  • Lay on your stomach with your forearms crossed. Place your forehead down onto your arms, using them like a pillow. Bring a slight pressure to the space between your eyebrows.
  • Let your feet be apart from each other, taking up space with the inner edges on the floor.
  • Start your diaphragmatic belly-chest-pause breathing
  • Your inhales fill and nourish, and your exhales release and empty.
  • Bring your focus to the slight arch in your back with each out breath. Soften your back muscles and allow the breath to flow without resistance.
  • Draw your senses to the back of your lungs expanding with each in breath.
  • Soften the space around your navel.
  • Notice your inhales gently expand your abdomen and exhales gently contract it.
  • Be the witness to your own breath.

Stay with the practice for 5 to 10 minutes.

4. 1:2 Breathing

Extended exhales calm the parasympathetic nervous system and are very relaxing.

  • Find a comfortable seated position or lay down with one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
  • Notice the natural flow of your breath for a few cycles so it can settle into a pattern
  • Start to count the length of your inhales and exhales, ideally they should be the same length at this point.
  • Take note of how many counts you take to complete a full inhale.
  • If you usually inhale for 4 counts, increase your exhale by 1 count. Keep increasing the length of your exhale by 1 until you are inhaling for 4 counts and exhaling for 8. Do this with a slow, smooth breath and only if you’re not short of breath while doing so.

Stay with the practice for 2 to 5 minutes.

5. Mantra Meditation

Repeating a mantra can be more grounding than focusing on the breath. One mantra I like to repeat during times of anxiety is “Everything is temporary.” It’s grounding, accurate, and brings me into the present moment. Ultimately, a mantra is most powerful when it is a phrase that speaks to you, so choose what works for you.

  • Find a comfortable seat and start to notice your breath flow.
  • Gently repeat your mantra in your mind with each inhale and exhale.
  • Let the mantra fill your being on your inhale, and come into existence on your exhale.
  • If you notice that your attention has wavered, simply return your focus to the breath.

Stay with the practice for 5 to 10 minutes.

5 Alternative Methods to Soothe Anxiety

  1. Look honestly at what is. Understand whether you are contributing to your anxiety with habitual thought patterns, behavior, or have any unresolved conflicts. This facilitates detaching from thoughts and beginning to see them more clearly, and creates a new relationship to the way you’re identifying with negative thoughts.
  2. Practice “ishvara pranidhana”, surrendering to the universe. Give up the illusion of control. With anxiety there is a moment where you can let go and all of that fear becomes exhilaration.
  3. Know your subjective therapeutic window when using cannabis for anxiety. Everybody is different so what may relieve anxiety for some may exacerbate anxiety in others, so it’s important to know what works for you. Your subjective therapeutic window is the optimal amount and type of cannabis you need to relieve symptoms. Using below your therapeutic threshold is ineffective and using too much may worsen the very symptoms you are trying to alleviate. The best way to discover your window is to start with low doses and go slow.
  4. Try inverted and heart-opening yoga poses. Shapes like legs-up-the-wall pose, supported bridge, and supported fish pose are easy to do at home and can be very calming when approached with deep breath and a balanced mind state.
  5. Be curious. You may not be able to control what is causing your anxiety, but you do have control over how you respond to it. Instead of anxious, choose to be curious instead. What can be learned from this situation? What does anxiety tell you about yourself, about others, or the values you hold dear? What underlying thoughts or events keep popping back into your subconscious and causing anxiety?

With any or all of these mindful exercises the sense of ease created can grow over time as you continue to practice, because just as anxious thoughts can dig deep grooves, a steady practice and the change in attitude that accompany it can also deepen with repetition.

Stay tuned into my YouTube channel next Friday for a medicated meditation and gentle yoga session to let go of anxiety, especially if you have more mental symptoms of anxiety that movement may be more beneficial for than a seated meditation. This was an in-depth post so a week to set an intention of letting go of old thought patterns and put some of these exercises in practice may be a nice way to gain understanding of the practice to get the most out of an online class.

I hope you find this article useful!

Quieting Mental Chatter with Cannabis and Mindfulness

Quieting the Monkey Mind
with Cannabis and MindfulnessMind chatter is a constant for everyone.  In yoga it’s often referred to as chitta vritti which means monkey mind or mind fluctuations. The monkey mind is the repetitive internal narrator that roams from one thought to the next whether you choose to engage it or not. It jumps from the day’s to-do list to irrational fears, worries about what already happened and a laundry list of nightmarish things that might happen in the imaginary future. The monkey mind rarely spends time in the present moment unless it is judging it or fantasizing on how things could be different.

Asana, meditation, and pranayama practice are all aimed towards quieting these fluctuations of the mind to reach samadhi, “a still mind”, which happens when you’re completely engaged in what you’re doing; there are no thoughts of anything else, and time disappears. Cannabis has also been used for thousands of years to facilitate entering this trance-like state of absolute awareness. Whatever the external causes, stress is often fueled by your thoughts and constant mind fluctuations. The mind can even create stress worrying about problems that almost certainly won’t happen.

When you immerse yourself in every instance of mind chatter you can never fully be in the present moment. You don’t hear what your friend or partner just said. You don’t fully appreciate the taste of food. You may not even be aware of how lost you are in your internal world of thought until you try to sit still and be present.

One of the most common reasons I hear as to why people don’t want to meditate or do yoga is because they can’t quiet their mind. This makes as much sense as someone saying they don’t want to eat because they’re hungry. Quieting mind chatter helps us stay focused in the present moment and also affects the way we see and perceive situations, which is much more true to reality when we don’t add extra narratives.

When you feel the monkey mind working overtime and want to find stillness and calm, try some of these methods, but remember to be humble with your expectations. Noticing mind chatter and then attempting to slow it down takes practice and it’s easy to fall into frustration when (not if) your mind wanders and give up thinking, “I’m terrible at being mindful!”. Practice, be compassionate with yourself, and observe without judgment.

1. Breath Counting

Breath counting creates a gentle focus for the mind, anchors you to the present, and promotes smooth, deep breathing.

Find a comfortable seated position or lay down (if you know you won’t fall asleep) and bring one hand to your stomach and the other to your heart. Let your body be fully supported in whatever posture you choose.

Notice the natural flow of your breath for a few cycles.

Take a deep inhale through your nose, counting 5-4-3-2-1.

Pause with your lungs full.

Slowly exhale through your nose, 5-4-3-2-1.

Pause when you’re empty.

Soften and release anything that’s working, slowly repeating this breath (feeling free to mentally count it to bring more focus to your mind).

It’s okay if thoughts still persist for your attention, this isn’t about emptying your mind.

Acknowledge any thoughts that creep up. Notice thoughts without judgement, then gently bring your attention back to the ebb and flow of your life giving breath.

Stay with the practice for 2 to 5 minutes.

“When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath.”

~ Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika

2. Meditation on the breath

This is a technique I pulled and adapted from a great book, Yoga As Medicine by Timothy McCall MD.

Set yourself up in comfortable seated position. If you’re feeling particularly mind racy, gently cover your eyes with the heels of your hands to bring focus inward.

Start to follow the movement of your breath, without making any effort to change it.

Notice the sound of breath flowing in and out.

Notice the air as it brushes the insides of your nose.

Pay attention to the entire inhalation right up until it ends and an exhalation starts.

Tune in to the exact moment of transition.

Focus on the fine details of how the breath feels in your nostrils and listen to the sound it makes.

Notice if the in breath and out breath are equally smooth and of similar length.

If you notice that your attention has wavered, simply return your focus to the breath.

Stay with the practice for 2 to 5 minutes.

“The mind and breath are like two fish in a school; when one moves, the other moves. If our mind is agitated, our breath is short and choppy. If the breath is short and choppy, the mind becomes agitated. However, if we slow the breath down and breathe more deeply, the mind also slows down.”

~ Bernie Clark, The Philosophy & Practice of Yin Yoga

 

3. Add an indica strain to your meditation

Indicas bring more awareness to your body than your mind, and also have more CBD than sativa strains making them more relaxing. Sativas can magnify your thoughts and the speed in which they enter your mind, so stay away from them for this exercise.

If you’re in a space where you can comfortably consume and have more time, smoke an indica dominant strain (smoking is the best method for monitoring your high) and try the breath counting meditation.

Notice the expansive sensations in your head as the high starts to settle in.

Allow that expansiveness to create space for thoughts to come and leave, not being held in your mind.

Slowly count 5-4-3-2-1 with your in and out breath.

Stay with the practice for 2 to 5 minutes.

4.Practice non-attachment

We know the mind will have fluctuations, so avoid getting caught up in labeling every thought that pops up. Let thoughts come and go like a child attempting to interrupt a conversation for attention. Gently and kindly acknowledge the child is there, maybe even rub their head, then usher them on without them necessarily affecting the integrity of the conversation. Non-attachment doesn’t mean not feeling or listening to what comes up, it means having nonjudgmental awareness of thoughts as they arise without having to cling to or change them.

5. Journal

Writing thoughts down can be a good way clear mental clutter. Your mind chatter might be trying to tell you something, so don’t shut it up! Notice whether you’re feeling worried, resentment, holding onto something that didn’t seem to bother you but is suddenly popping up in your subconscious. This exercise won’t be for dissecting every thought, but will create physical space for those mind fluctuations and feelings to be acknowledged. The journaling sessions I’ve combined with a joint have been the most cathartic experiences I’ve had as there’s a sense of comfort, honesty, and deep relaxation around the process.

6. Try a Mindful Coloring Book

If you enjoy creativity, mindful coloring books immerse you in an engaging and positive outlet for your mind chatter. When you are focused on one thing, especially something fun, visually pleasing, creative, and with no right or wrong way to do it, there’s more opportunity to enjoy the present moment as the mind is occupied with one thing.

I personally love to light up a bowl as I color. Take a hit, set it aside, and let the creative juices flow without judgment as a hindrance. Mindful coloring is especially good if you want to fill leisurely time (where mind chatter might be at it’s highest) with a relaxing and focusing activity.

“The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.”

~ Robin Sharma


I hope you find these tools useful in taming your monkey mind through cannabis, mindfulness, and practice. Remember to be humble in your expectations and allow yourself to be human throughout the experience. Try this online class I created to relax and release mind fluctuations, I hope you enjoy it!