Susan Stornetta: Cannabis and the body-mind
The body-mind connection fascinates me. Our bodies do the actual work of existing: breathing, digestion, excretion, reproduction, growth, learning, coordinated physical movement, seeing, hearing and everything else. Trillions of neural connections organized and maintained by our brains access a staggeringly huge database of bits of information which our minds instantly access to interpret a situation, and we react. Our minds are an accumulation of beliefs, experiences, memories, opinions, and decisions we’ve acquired during our lives, and ego directs our talking and personality, which reinforces the mind’s assumptions and emotions.
The body’s system usually operates smoothly without the need for conscious input by personality or mind. We take this fine-tuned functioning for granted, and feel entitled to abuse, criticize, ignore, or even idolize our body. We fear it when there’s a glitch in the works, for we are incapable of fixing it.
I’ve commented as well upon how cannabis helped me heal by restoring my appetite in a time of great physical distress, a common experience among patients who try to escape pain using opioid pills. Cannabis does contain opioids, and novice users sometimes feel fear when unfamiliar thoughts and sensations arise. Unwitting ingestion of several dosed brownies may produce hallucinations.
The plant also has other effects. I’ve found it enhances some qualities I quite like in myself. The herb always brings relaxation, a deepening of my thoughts, and occasionally objective insight into my behavior. Sometimes an almost mystical feeling of gratitude swells in my heart, particularly for that silent partner, my body.
An unfortunate tendency of mine is binge-watching CSI-type or detective/mystery television offerings. These dramas are interesting, but of course each needs a victim, maybe several. Often, the episode opens with the victim-elect screaming, being chased, maybe even being tortured. I have mixed feelings about this habit. I love watching smart people accomplishing difficult things, even if they’re just following a script. The abilities of detectives or agents working out the mystery, following obscure clues to discover the killer, provide that intellectual pleasure. On the other hand, I criticize myself for filling my mind and heart with evil acts one human commits upon another, the horror of the victim, and the glorification of cruelty. Violence begets violence, and it shouldn’t be used as entertainment.
On one particular day, I was slowly recovering from a treatment for macular degeneration. I always pamper myself after these stressful events, usually watching episodes of one of the usual series. I tuned one in, and had a puff of cannabis to enhance my recovery.
I settled into the relaxation the herb brought, the “aaah” moment, enjoying the simultaneous easing of both mind and body. As I made a cup of tea, the screen came to life and the room filled with the sound of fists thudding on flesh, grunts, and groans. I thought to myself, “Maybe no one’s getting hurt, they’re just boxing, people do that on purpose.” As I walked over and saw that indeed they were boxing, my hypocrisy struck me vividly. What came into my mind was the thought, “Am I really going to fill my time with this junk?” Then these words popped out of my mouth: “Don’t waste my time!”
Now, I’m a woman in her seventh decade. Realistically I don’t have the luxury of unlimited time remaining, but, like most people, I simply ignore that fact. Those words stunned me. This was my body, scolding me. I realized that while I waste time with trashy videos, I run a constant undercurrent of self-criticism for not doing the things I’m not doing, as well as for doing what I’m doing. Then I shut off the machine, sat down and wrote this piece, glad to be actor in my life, instead of rationalizing away my avoidance of life.
Susan Stornetta is a retired archaeologist and a longtime Comstock resident.