Deep Versus High

In my forthcoming book Returning to Sacred World: A Spiritual Toolkit for the Emerging Reality (publication fall 2010 by O Books) an important aspect of the thesis—and the total focus of the last several chapters—is an attempt to enter the spiritual benefits of a few key spirit/teacher/medicine plants more openly into the discussion about valid, effective spiritual practices and techniques. I’ve worked with a number of these plants in spiritual, healing, ritual contexts. For the past seven years I’ve been a member of the Native American Church, which uses the peyote medicine plant in its ceremonies. I’ve also worked with ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, and cannabis.

As you probably know, the way we conceptualize things goes a long way to determining how we see them. So the language we hang on concepts and experiences is important. I was recently pondering the term “high” in reference to experiences with plants such as cannabis, as in, “I got high.” I’m not sure what the provenance of that term is as a way to describe the effects of a plant or drug. However, it occurred to me that if you’re referring to the effects with the word “deep” instead, it would cast a different, and quite possibly more uplifted light on the experience. High can suggest rising up off the ground, out of your body, perhaps even out of the whole body and into just the head. Old farts like me will recall that in the days of the counter culture of the late 60s and early 70s, users of cannabis and other psychedelics were sometimes called “heads.” Not to digress too far but would we have experienced ourselves differently if we had used the term “hearts” instead of heads?

Recasting the focus of an experience in terms of how deep it is seems to suggest a more powerful way to view the intention. I think I could get away with the gross generalization that for the most part our culture doesn’t have a good understanding of this kind of depth. Most of us have no idea how deep we can go, how thoroughly we can enter experiences. Of course this relates to egolessness, getting the self out of the way to step fully into experience, to become, as they say, one with the experience. Another “of course” is the relationship of depth to nowness, freeing oneself from the obscuring veil of the thinking/discursive mind and being fully present.

I see it as one of the central tasks for the years ahead in our societies: to understand and share knowledge of our potential for entering more deeply into the now moment. There’s an incredible richness of experience available to us frail humans that for most people is left largely untapped. Artists often understand this. A lot of writers, musicians, painters and others have the ability to step through a portal into the world that stands before them as they’re receiving, creating, or transmitting it. We all have this ability but for many of us it remains more or less dormant. It’s a central principle in the vision and prayer for global healing and awakening. We envision a world where people have developed much greater skill at plumbing the depths.

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