On Nourishing Connection

Feeling connected leads us to our best, most expansive self.

Last Friday, June 22, 2018, I was interviewed for an episode of the Casually Baked Potcast by my lovely colleague in cannabis, Johanna Nuding. She asked questions about my work in the cannabis industry and beyond with iRest® Yoga Nidra. That potcast — iRest and Chill — drops today.

We talked about how crucial it is that we all have tools to help us observe, to help us nourish non-reactiveness, and to de-stress. The themes that surfaced in this interview echoed those I’d been exploring in a blog post that has sat in my drafts folder for quite some time…

Many thanks to Jo for helping me elucidate what I was trying to get to in this post — and eventually (this morning), finishing it. 

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I am a meditation teacher. I teach something called iRest® – Integrative Restoration, a Yoga Nidra protocol. Nidra means “sleep.” iRest® is a body-sensing, guided meditation created by my teacher, Richard Miller, based on a lineage from as far back as 4,500 years ago. These teachings have survived because they resonate. Let me explain.

The concepts of iRest® Yoga Nidra are in the Non-Dual tradition. Here’s what wikipedia says about Nondualism. Though I’ve been experiencing and teaching iRest® for nearly seven years, I’m not that so great yet at talking about it. I’m getting better, though, and hope to be great at it one day. Because it’s frickin’ cool A.F.

“In spirituality, nondualism, also called non-duality, means “not two” or “one undivided without a second”. Nondualism primarily refers to a mature state of consciousness, in which the dichotomy of I-other is ‘transcended’, and awareness is described as ‘centerless’ and ‘without dichotomies’.”

By the way, I love that Wikipedia calls it a ‘mature’ state of mind. It makes me feel like I’m aspiring to something awesome. So the practice, in a nutshell, invites us to experience thoughts, emotions, beliefs, as sensations in the body. To peel off the labels of our story — the whys and hows of our past that caused us to come to feel the way we do — and keep feeling whatever it is in the body. It also invites us to feel into our edges andbeyond our edges. Then, to feel out into the reality that there are no edges to us. In our nature, we are expansive.

Okay, it may sound like a lot of hoohah, I’ll give you that. It’s a bit overwhelming to intellectualize it, because our ego/mind can only thrive from the perspective of separation. But I’m here to tell you that touching in on nonseparation or nonduality feels completely natural and yummy. And here’s the kicker: fear – you know, that place from which we are EXTREMELY reactive – only exists from the perspective of duality.

In duality, we perceive ourselves as separate, which creates the illusion of “otherness.” When we live in duality, we feel fear of the “other.” Our edges knock up against the edges of others – ouch! – and we feel threatened. We strive and scheme in oneupsmanship. We cultivate the feeling of scarcity and victim or victor mentality. We feel the need to minimize or tear down others to get ahead, or we feel inadequate in relation to others. We become a small shadow, forgetting our abundant selves and our infinite gifts. We forget that, as a child of the infinite universe, we’re here to aspire to greatness. We forget that there’s room for everyone. We forget compassion.

Like anything worth pursuing, touching in on this experience of nonduality is practice — a lifelong practice, I’m just starting to understand. Everything around me tries to convince me that I am separate from. Seriously. Even typing nonduality right now, my spellcheck keeps changing it to non duality. But I also am beginning to understand how worthy this practice is.

Even the tiniest bit of this experience during iRest® meditation practice is the most expansive feeling I’ve ever had — and I’ve had some very expansive feelings prior to studying and practicing iRest®.

The first time I smoked THC-rich cannabis, I felt a sense of connection to all things, almost immediately. It kind of blew everything apart. I was twelve. Of course, I immediately went back to listening to Andy Gibb and roller skating and kind of forgot about it until I smoked cannabis the next time. And there it was again — this sense of connectedness. Don’t ask me what the strain was. I grew up in the midwest and the strain was whatever-you-could-get, or what I now like to refer to as “St. Louis Schwaggy Diesel.”

Since first experiencing that feeling getting high with my friend off her dad’s weed in the vacant field near her house, I have continued to use cannabis and also have sought out other ways to feel connected in that similar way — in my training as an actor, in writing plays, and performing in solo pieces.

I’ve also found that being surrounded by trees gives me that experience. And looking at the stars and the moon. I get the feeling listening to a choir of voices. I get the feeling practicing yoga, looking into the wise eyes of a baby, tasting a good, dark chocolate, smelling fresh ground coffee, and holding a puppy or kitten. It’s difficult to describe the feeling. But if I had to, I’d describe it as a resounding Yes.

Again, I realize, this could seem like hoohah, perhaps unattainable (separation likes us to feel like we’ll never get ‘there’). The good news is, your brain is ready to get you there — or, rather, here. All you have to do is show up.

The brain has several networks that oversee all of the body’s — and mind’s — functions. We tend to operate in the Default Mode Network, (DMN). This is the network we are in when we are daydreaming — the network that carries our autobiographical info, as a separate entity from all the other entities. When the DMN is online, we are replaying events over and over with better (or worse) outcomes. We are constantly creating and recreating the story of who we are, and how we were shaped by these events and circumstances. Operating from the DMN, we are the hero, or victim, of life. A tape is constantly replaying how we’ve told people off — or should have — how we’ve helped people, accomplished things, been cheated out of things, been victorious, missed out, regretted, etc.

Functioning from the DMN also puts us in worry mode about the future, and about others. It causes us to be suspicious of others’ motives and how they threaten our livelihood. The mind kicks in, doing everything it can to figure out what will happen, when, and how. The fact that we can’t see the future can cause anxiety and make the mind crazy fearful — or can cause us to be constantly plotting our master plans for dominance over others.

The Task-Positive (TPN) or Present-Centered Network (PCN) comes online when we are in our bodies. When we are involved in a task, exercising, or when we are purely in sensory experience. Try smelling a lemon and thinking about the future simultaneously. It’s really difficult to do. The PCN is what comes online when we do iRest® Yoga Nidra (or any body-sensing) meditation. When you’re feeling into the body, the thinking mind/DMN starts to quiet, and the PCN comes online. We drop out of time and space. We drop out of our biographical sense of self and the story we carry around about who we are and why. We drop out of any conditioning we carry in that autobiographic self — including trauma. In as few as about ten minutes of body sensing, the DMN switches off and the PCN switches on. We drop out of a sense  of separation. We are present. We are connected. And we are expanded. 

When things took an emotional turn for me at my last job as a budtender, I redoubled my focus toward the patients who came to my window, and in finding that which connected us. This was a magnificent experience. My engagement with patients deepened. I felt less and less a sense of separation in all my interactions. And I began to literally see myself in everyone who came in. Or see everyone in me. More and more understanding and acceptance flowed, and I came to comprehend that someone else’s suffering is my suffering. An understanding developed in me that we can hold the space for healing for others while we pursue our own bliss. Conversations were easier and more rewarding. I began to feel thrilled about others’ accomplishments and rejoice in their successes.

This feeling of expansiveness — even in the smallest doses — is a tremendous gift. And did I mention this feeling lasts beyond the practice? My esteemed teacher, Richard Miller, likens it to a perfume on the wind, an essence of the feeling that remains and keeps calling us back to who we truly are — children of an infinite, ever-expanding universe.

Now.

Microdose and read this again. 

Join me for free June iRest® Meditation!

The Compassionate Budtender #JustSayKnow

KindPeoples in Santa Cruz has great edible inforgraphics!

Go Low and Slow/KindPeoples

I love this easy infographic from the brilliant brain of Elise McDonough, PR Specialist at KindPeoples in Santa Cruz. Elise is also a former Edibles Editor at High Times Magazine and the author of “The Official High Times Cookbook.”

Adding my two cents for newbies, since I’m so protective of you and want to prevent you from making the terrible mistake of overdoing it with edibles which could very well scare you off of cannabis medicine entirely because it IS NOT FUN:

*Rate symptoms before starting

*Lower and Slower! Start at 2.5mg for newbies – or for any new edible.
(While 5 – 15mg is considered a starter dose, many people do really well with microdosing.)

*Put the edible up and away in between doses, so you are NOT tempted to nibble more!

*After two hours, rate symptoms again.

*If needed, dose up another 2.5mg. As Korova says on their packaging, ‘You Can Always Take More, but You Can’t Take Less!”

*Keep your edible wrappers away from pets! If they go into your garbage, DON’T put wrappers in there. Tie them up in another bag and put them directly outside in the dumpster.

*If you get too high, remember the three things I always tell Newbies!

#7 ThCB — Honor thy Budtender

Be kind to your Budtender.

The Legend of 420 Harborside Screen Shot 2017-12-06
Courtesy, The Legend of 420, currently on Netflix.

I know, friends, we’re all excited. Suddenly, what was verboten for many years is free to all. Well. Not free. In fact, taxes are upwards of 35% for Adult Use cannabis in California. But you get it. Freely accessible. You just might have wait in some long lines with other equally excited folks. All those throngs of excited people sift and filter down to come face to face to one person: The Budtender.

I worked until recently at Harborside, the biggest (and arguably the most famous) dispensary in the Bay Area for nearly five years — with just under two of those years spent in the role of Budtender.  Under the leadership of the dynamic Steve DeAngelo, our team of Budtenders made it our collective mission to quench our own thirst for cannabis knowledge — combing the internet for, studying, and sampling (on our own time) as much cannabis as we possibly could. We shared with fellow Budtenders the knowledge we culled independently from researchers, growers and product-makers about the different cultivars of cannabis, the varying effects of cannabinoids and terpenes, products and methods of delivery — all information that is constantly evolving and changing — so that we might best serve the patient — you.

Everyone I know in the California cannabis industry has worked hard for the legitimate advancement of cannabis as medicine because we’ve experienced firsthand how effective and powerful it is. We’ve also seen — again and again — how it helps others. Everyone you’d ever see in your lifetime, we’ve seen at the counter, right in front of us, telling us their stories of struggle and heartbreak, of pain and loss. Google ‘cannabis helped my’ and watch the testimonials pile up onto the results pages. We’ve come in contact with the lot of them. It’s nearly impossible to hold that kind of space for healing on the daily and not be enduringly and seriously affected by it. Changed.

Along with the plants we’ve watched fill our gardens and line our shelves, our capacity for compassion has blossomed in ways we never imagined. The roots of this ever-evolving compassion informs our every decision — even outside of the workplace. Cannabis, in its essence, connects us to each other, helps us to empathize and try on the struggle of another, to see things from beyond the neatness of opposing views, to approach even the toughest of situations from a ground of love and respect for humankind.

And those times when we fail at the grand mission of compassion that cannabis has imprinted upon us, we suffer a greater sense of guilt than most — How we might have handled things better? How might we have been a better resource for information? How might we have tried to connect, rather than distance ourselves, from the suffering of another? How might we have exhibited more willingness to listen, observe, and, when appropriate, educate and encourage?

We share in your excitement about this brave new world, and we’re smiling right along with you — because cannabis is all about community and compassion. We’ve dreamed of this moment and we welcome newbies — whether brand new, or returning to cannabis after some time — with open arms. We know that this medicine can help everyone on the planet in some way. We. Just. Know. But there are also some things you should know about the Budtenders.

As you stand in the lines to be part of this moment in history, it’s important you know that behind the scenes, a massive reshuffling is at play in the industry to which we’ve dedicated ourselves. For several weeks now, we have witnessed a mass exodus of highly knowledgeable and trusted colleagues of quality cannabis flowers and products — victims to the new, ‘liberated’ world of Adult Use. They’ve been unable to secure funding, quality material, proper space or licensing and we’ve had to watch as it happens, helpless. These friends, many of whom were leading innovators themselves, are brokenhearted at being forced to leave their beloved industry and devastated at deserting the patients who have come to rely on them. So while we are celebrating with you, it’s important you know that the ground beneath us is giving way. Seismic changes are occurring at every level of what we’ve built upon for years. The future, while certainly open, is uncertain. This can have a dizzying effect for your Budtender.

The announcement today that Jeff Sessions had rescinded the Cole Memo — safeguards for legal cannabis businesses, employees, and users put in place by President Obama — further adds to the stress of providing safe access for new consumers, which is every Budtender’s mission.

Take this information with you when you enter the dispensary. Bring your kindness and patience. Know that the Budtenders are smiling through the challenges they are facing, because they want you to love cannabis like they do. Know that though they’ll not let on, their home lives have been affected by the madness of this massive moment in time. Know, that while they are thrilled for you, they’ve taken all these changes on their feet and their bodies are suffering under the weight of the run up to legalization and the constant rush of consumers since.

Know that the lines — at least for the time being — are unavoidable. If they’re going to trigger you, you might consider signing up for delivery. There will always be time to set foot into the dispensary, because Adult Use is now a reality. It’s all very exciting. And exhausting. With a little bit of mutual understanding, this new world will take root in wondrous ways for all of us.

May we all seek to embody the sweet gift of Compassion that cannabis bestows upon us.

#6 ThCB — The Compassionate Budtender — 1:1: A Slow Jam

CBD and THC — the Greatest Love Story. Ever.

Newbie! Meet the 1:1 Ratio!

I’d been thinking about writing a blog post about the 1:1 ratio for some time and was planning to put fingers to keys last week, but then was beset by a maleficent flu that put me down in all the worst ways. While I was aching and writhing for endless spans over three nights, a sweet riff from the beginning of a tune started playing in the back of my mind, lulling and soothing, like a cool cloth on my fevered brow.

Ding Ding…Ding Ding…Ding Ding…Ding Ding…

“One on One,” from 1983. Hall & Oates.

Let me explain: Many of you newbies say “One on One” (instead of One to One) when you talk about ratios, and it’s just another reason to love you. As I’ve mentioned before, we love everything about you, and we welcome you to the cannabis community with open arms. You’re even more endearing than you know, because when I hear you say One on One, I am transported. Suddenly, I’m a junior in high school again, swaying slowly at the Winter Dance to one of the best second verse phrasings in the history of 80s pop ballads, under a mirror ball with the shortest guy in my class. Know this, Newbie: Cannabis is like your best days at school, and we’ll never make you feel like a wallflower here.

The drum machine and sweet bass line… Ding Ding…Ding Ding…Ding Ding…Ding Ding…

When I talk about ratios, including the 1:1, I am talking about CBD to THC. Well, usually. Some product packaging still lists ratios in other, confusing ways, but the industry standard is mostly alphabetical — CBD first, then THC. That said, Newbie, just a friendly reminder to ALWAYS CHECK THE LABELS CLOSELY. This is your medicine, take a little ownership, you adorable newbie, you.

We’re so early in the game with regard to knowing how the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) works. We know that every mammal has an ECS, as does every other creature on earth.  Except insects. Maybe even insects. We know that we have cannabinoid receptors all through our bodies. We know that THC locks into the CB1 receptor. We know some other more complex facts about CB receptors, too, and about endocannabinoids (cannabinoids our bodies make) as well as phytocannabinoids, (those in cannabis plants and plants like echinacea), but I’m not trying to overwhelm you with all of that delicious info. You can research more about it when and if you feel like it. Take your time!

CBD interacts with and benefits our bodies in varying ways — acting as, among other things, an anti-depressant, anti-psychotic, anti-tumoral, and neuroprotectant. CBD can also remove beta amyloid plaque, the hallmark of Alzheimer’s, from brain cells. Like THC, CBD has many different applications. But CBD works a little bit differently than THC.

CBD doesn’t lock into the CB1 receptor like THC does. Instead, according to Project CBD Director Martin Lee, “CBD changes the interface of the CB1 receptor so that THC doesn’t lock into it as well as it would normally.” What does that mean to you, Newbie? It means that when CBD and THC is taken in equal amounts, one will experience the medicinal benefits of THC without much of the euphoria (high) or dysphoria (unease) which normally accompanies THC use. Further adding to its mystery, according to Lee, “CBD interacts with over 65 targets in the body, including many non-cannabinoid receptors,” binding to some, influencing others.

Because of all this action, scientists, including Lee, refer to CBD as a promiscuous compound. While I find this label a bit unfair due to the general derogatory common usage of the term, (preferring myself to see CBD more as the quintessential flower child, loving the one its with and all that), I must agree. CBD slips gracefully into more varied positions than there are poses in the Kama Sutra.

Maybe I’m just a romantic stoner, but it seems to me there is no greater love affair than that which exists between CBD and THC. In the 1:1 ratio, working together as a team, there’s really no stopping these cannabinoids. Together, they might just change the world…

discodancing (3)

Here are just a few of the many, many ways THC and CBD work together:

  • CBD mitigates some of the high that makes newbies afraid to try THC.
  • CBD is great for quelling THC-related anxiety; if you get too high, take a little CBD!
  • CBD and THC are both anti-inflammatory powerhouses.
  • CBD and THC together are great for sleep — CBD calms the nervous system and THC brings relaxation and drowsiness. (CBN — the aged cannabinoid version of THC, is even more drowsy-making.)
  • On a cellular level, CBD and THC both capture free radicals to mitigate oxidative damage to cells.
  • Unlike many pharmaceuticals, which are experienced by the body as toxins, cannabinoids float around freely and are interpreted by the body as natural.
  • Both CBD and THC can help prevent Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), taken as a prophylactic, and even directlyfollowing impact.
  • in addition to altering the CB1 receptor to keep THC from locking into it, CBD also inhibits the enzyme that breaks down THC in the liver. THC may recirculate and re-dock in a CB1 receptor, increasing the duration of effectiveness, (which is why a high may be felt some time later when using a 1:1).
  • CBD decreases cravings for opioids and THC help is a powerful analgesic. This is a winning combination to help fight the opioid crisis.

How should you get your One on One…? In stereo, preferably somewhere where you’ll be comfortable dancing along. I’m sorry, Newbie, I can’t get that song off my mind. Here’s a link, in case you love it like I do.

Inhaling is definitely the fastest-acting method of delivery, and you can get excellent, clean delivery of cannabinoid medicine vaporizing flower with a good handheld or table-top vaporizer. I do NOT condone the use of vape pens, as I cannot attest to their safety), and generally, they do not feel good in my body. Please do your due diligence on any method of delivery, and listen to YOUR body, Newbie.

My vote is increasingly for sublingual tinctures as method of delivery preference — for you, Newbie, as well as for myself. For anyone, in fact. Sublingual delivery runs a very close second to inhaling for quick feedback and is definitely in first place for putting the user in the driver seat. Sold in bottles with droppers, tinctures provide the patient the most control over effects, which is what every experimenting newbie wants. With a tincture and a little bit of free time, you’ll find your minimal effective dose pretty quickly and painlessly.

I know I’ve said this before, but just a reminder, Newbie, record your dosing progress in a journal. Before each dose, record date, time, starting symptom level, product taken, how much, effects (once the dose has kicked in), time, and another rating of pain level. Save the labels of the products you’re using so you can refer to them when you figure out what is working for you.

One to One, One Drop at A Time: The Newbie Challenge

  • Start with with one drop under the tongue, (I always use a mirror – that area under the tongue isn’t sensitive enough to feel each drop). Don’t oversaturate! Be diligent!
  • Hold the drop of tincture for at least a minute under the tongue, swallow, and wait 15 minutes.
  • Rate your symptoms again. Choose whether you want another drop, or if you’re feeling relief already. It’s quite possible to feel relief with one drop — microdosing is very effective for many people, yours truly included. Stopping at one drop or even a couple of drops of the 1:1, you may not feel any psychoactivity whatsoever. You may just feel good.
  • If you continue, dose up very, very slowly — a drop at a time — and check in with your body fifteen minutes after each drop. Ask yourself, ‘Am I feeling different?’ ‘Am I feeling better?’ And wait. Listen for the response in your body. And write it down!

At the end of this experiment, you’ll have your first baseline for dosing. HOWEVER. This does not mean that this will always be your dose. It’s more of a starting point. Some days you may need less, some days a little more. If you found you used under five drops, excellent! Your low tolerance means you will get more for your money with cannabis medicine. Continue to dose up one drop at a time.

If you find your tolerance was over ten drops, the next time you dose, you may choose to use two drops at a time, every fifteen minutes. Keep notes! Rate changes! Check in with your body, and know that you’ll feel the effects a little more quickly.

If you get too high, and you don’t have extra CBD on hand to inhale or take sublingually, don’t forget the three things I tell every newbie:

Tell yourself it will pass,

Surround yourself with things you love, and

Go to sleep!

Who knows? The 1:1 sublingual may become your go-to cannabis medicine, as it is mine.

Cause if it’s really right…there’s nothing else…

#5 ThCB – The Compassionate Budtender – Giving Thanks for the Tender Bud

Newbie – I know I’ve told you this before, but you’re in good hands. Your cannabis community welcomes you with open arms — no matter who you are, where you come from, or the challenges that have befallen you. Cannabis is a healer, and whether you’re looking to lighten things up and laugh a little more, or hoping for help with sleep, pain, anxiety, depression, or other more serious health challenges, you will find relief in cannabis — but only if you’re taking an active role in your care.

Approach cannabis with an openness and optimism. The lovely plant is here to heal and it will keep on healing, despite its own challenges. Despite the monetization. Despite Big Pharma. Despite anyone who looks upon it solely for the purpose of capitalizing on it. It will persevere. It will change minds. And lives. It will continue its Mother Nature-assigned mission of healing. And so must you. It is the calling of all of us to heal ourselves, heal each other, and heal the planet.

I didn’t enter the cannabis industry five years ago knowing that it would become such an integral part of my life. I’d used cannabis recreationally for many years and always knew there was something to it beyond giggling and getting the munchies. I got my card to help with pain from a yoga injury. I was a yoga and meditation teacher, and planned to continue studying the healing arts. I had no idea that cannabis itself would become such a force for healing, or that it would complement my other interests so beautifully.

I began to see for myself how healing this plant can be to so many. I came to hear – again and again – testimonials about difficult symptoms and serious illnesses being managed and even reversed with cannabis medicine. I started learning about our beautiful endocannabinoid system (Relevant Sidenote: my spellcheck is still underlining endocannabinoid! We still are so early into all of this that my operating system doesn’t know what do do with it!). I read more and more about the cannabinoids, the terpenes, and how, through the miraculous ‘entourage effect,’ they all work together synergistically to make the medicine even more effective.

I also began to work with patients on developing treatment plans that they then made their own, adjusted as they felt was right, and reported their discoveries back to me. This feedback loop in itself has been tremendously healing for me and for others around me. We’re all learning from each other, since cannabis is still STILL! demonized by the federal government. The plant has made me her own, and I will forever believe in her. I invite you to allow her into your life, too. Microdose her, or saturate with her, and watch the shifts in your health and in your consciousness.

IMG-7443

As this movement continues to grow, keep in mind that people everywhere are being drawn to the plant. There will soon be many more new workers entering the industry, as we move into adult use in California in January, so be sure to bring your patience and compassion with you when you come to the dispensary.

And, should you ever feel like your questions are not being answered, or that you’re not getting the attention you need, don’t take it personally. Ask to speak to the sales manager. If you still feel like your needs are not being met, go to another dispensary. Do your research. Check out reviews on YELP. Find out where the best people are near you. Read up! Research! Take responsibility for your health.  Keep. Going. Don’t give up. If you honor your own journey, you’ll be surprised and delighted at the people that show up to support you.

Blessings to you and your loved ones for Thanksgiving. I’m so grateful for the healing power of cannabis, for all those who lovingly tend it, and for the this moment we share in time!

Jaene

#3 ThCB (The Compassionate Budtender) 10 Awesome Things Every Newbie Should Know

Insider Tip for Newbies: Indica is IN-DA-COUCH…

Okay. First of all, thanks for letting me wallow in the bottomless pit that is Big Pharma in ThCB #2. I have to admit, researching the myriad ways pharmaceutical drugs are effing things up was beyond sobering and I had to close the computer and walk away many times. It’s very personal for me — because for every one of those stories, I’ve met with countless patients at the bar who are seeking relief not only from pain, but side effects, decreasing effectiveness and, should they try to come off the drugs, the crippling withdrawal of opioids. The good news is: cannabis is a non-addictive, effective alternative. CBD helps by blocking the opioid reward center, making withdrawal more manageable.
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