In the previous installment of our series for cannabis newcomers, we explained how you can practice mindful awareness to help improve your cannabis experience. In this article, we explore the intersection between mindful awareness and cannabis more deeply by going over some easy mindfulness practices you can use in conjunction with cannabis. Trying these simple exercises can help you get the most out of your cannabis experience.
Our first exercise is an adaptation of a basic mindfulness technique called a body scan. To perform a body scan, rest all of your attention and awareness on your body. Starting at one end of the body, say the feet, slowly move your attention through each area of the body, noticing all of the physical sensations happening in each area of the body.
Without the use of cannabis, this is a helpful practice that allows you to tune into your body and its needs. The regular use of mindfulness practices has been shown to:
Often, just the simple act of paying attention can help ease chronic pain, tension and other conditions, but it also gives you valuable insight into your internal state.
When you add cannabis to the equation, a body scan can help you better understand what your needs are before consuming the plant. It can also help you gauge your response to different cannabis products. By comparing your body scan experiences before and after cannabis, you can begin to understand which products are helping, and which might be making things worse.
Here are some simple instructions to guide you through a cannabis body scan.
Step 1: Before consuming any cannabis, start with a normal body scan to establish your baseline. Take note of how you’re feeling, paying special attention to anything painful or challenging. Does your back ache? Are you feeling tired?
Step 2: After you complete the body scan, take notes on what you experienced, whether painful or positive.
Step 3: Once you’ve established and recorded your baseline, test out a cannabis product. Wait until the effects have set in.
Step 4: When you’re feeling the effects of the cannabis, perform a second body scan. In this second body scan, take note of what’s changed. Does your back ache less? Are you less tired? Or maybe you feel more fatigued or have a headache you didn’t have before consuming marijuana.
Step 5: Record what’s happening in your body with this second body scan, then compare your notes to the ones you took in Step 2. How did the cannabis change your experience? Comparing your experiences before and after cannabis consumption can be a powerful tool for honing in on options that work best for you.
Once you’ve had some time to practice performing body scans, you may want to try body mapping. This practice takes body scans to the next level by creating a representation of what you’re experiencing.
In body mapping, first take an outline of the human body, then color in visual representations of the physical sensations you experience in a body scan. This practice can help bring out aspects of your experience that you never noticed before.
Step 1: To get started, gather your supplies. You’ll need a cannabis product to consume, some paper along with pens, pencils or crayons in a variety of colors.
Step 2: Draw two outlines of the human body on a piece of paper. Label them “before” and “after.”
Step 3: Using a body scan as your guide, color in the body outline labeled “before” with representations of what you’re feeling. Use color and texture to add depth and meaning. For example, if I feel a sharp pain in my shoulder, I might draw a jagged red line across the shoulder of the body outline. If I feel queasy, I might draw a yellow spiral on the stomach area. If I feel loving and happy, I might draw a pink heart in the center of my chest with lines radiating out from the center. Make up your own symbols and associations as you record the state your body is in. Ask yourself questions like: What’s the shape, color or texture of this feeling? You may be surprised with the answers you give.
Step 4: Medicate using your cannabis product and wait until it begins to affect you.
Step 5: When you’re feeling the effects of the cannabis, color in the outline of your body labeled “after” with the same methods used in Step 3. Take note of what’s changed in your two pictures.
Step 6: You can also extend the body mapping practice, making drawings multiple times during your cannabis experience. Your sensations may change completely between the first half hour of being medicated versus two hours in. Try setting a timer every hour to see how your sensations shift at each of these points. It will give you a whole new perspective on how different cannabis products affect you.
These mindful exercises are a great way to start tuning into your cannabis experiences—and to learn more about how different cannabis options affect you.
This is just the beginning though. In the next installment of the Cannabis for Newbies guide, we'll get into the merits of cannabis journaling. By recording your experiences with different products, you can better remember which products helped you the most and which produced effects you’d rather not repeat.
Photo credit: Lara Westrich
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