Combining Cannabis, Psychedelics, and Meditation for Overall Health and Wellness
An Interview with Harry Sherwood of consciously.org. Harry has a unique and interesting story on how he got into meditation and plant medicine. We talk about his travels through Asia and his time living with monks and meditating for hours in Ashrams. Harry tell us about his experiences with Ayahuasca and what it feels like. He also gave us his insights on plant medicines and meditation and what they can do for our overall health and wellness.
Listen or scroll down to read the transcript.
Let’s start by going into your story. How did you get so deep into meditation?
When I was a kid I loved everything otherworldly. If it held some aspect of magic or aliens or spirituality, there was something inside of me that responded to it. There was some yearning towards it but I couldn’t put words to it.
I was a jock, partier, football player and stuff like that in high school. While I had my fun, there was a growing sense of suffocation, a growing sense of not honoring something inside of myself – a feeling of ‘I need to get out’.
When I was 19, I came across self-realization fellowship. If anyone is familiar with the autobiography of the Yogi, the author, Paramahansa Yogananda came over from India in the 1920’s and started a spiritual foundation.
I started to get into their meditation techniques and styles and it was great and wonderful, but it wasn’t enough doing it on my own. I needed to be in an environment where that was the only focus. I needed to go on a quest. Two years into college I wound up taking a year off and I went to China and studied Tai-Chi and Qigong with Shaolin monks.
That was my first dive into a different culture, a different spiritual tradition, in a way of interacting with what lies beyond the physical body and beyond the mind.
On the second part of my journey I went to live with yogis in the self realization fellowship ashram here in Southern California. I spent six months there and hours of meditation and contemplation service every day. It completely changed my life.
I learned so many things about myself through self inquiry, about meditation. I started to experience expanded States of consciousness through meditation that I’d only read about.
I wound up transferring to University of Michigan and got a degree in religious studies. After graduation I went back to the ashram a second time, I wanted to become a monk- obviously I didn’t decide to do that. Instead, I met my partner in life, partner in business, Melanie McDaniel.
She had a very different way of coming to the spiritual path. She had a lot of trauma in her past. She was in therapy for over a decade. She taught me what she learned. I taught her what I learned. And then we started helping other people. I started teaching meditation, I got back into sports performance coaching and then got into a mastermind where life coaching was the main focus.
She was doing emotional release and trauma work with people. In 2016, we came across plant medicine, specifically mushrooms and ayahuasca. That’s when that journey began. I was already six or seven years into an intensive spiritual path, hours of meditation for years on end – but if anyone’s experienced ayahuasca ceremony, you’re familiar with how expansive it can be and what it can do to open us up.
I wound up sitting in about 15 ceremonies in 2-3 years before taking a year off. All along the way I continued to study other cultures and ways of life – last year we were honored to be invited to Sundance with the Lakota in South Dakota and all sorts of different experiences. We just keep diving deeper and deeper.
Ayahuasca – guide us through what an Ayahuasca experience is like, at least for you?
You should have a healthy fear. Ayahuasca is becoming a bit of a fad nowadays – which I think is helping people dive deeper than they ever have before – but there’s also caution to be very strongly laid in. I genuinely am in the camp that you need to be an inner Explorer by the time you get there. Meditation, self inquiry, having experienced medicines that aren’t as strong, like cannabis and mushrooms to slowly and gradually prepare yourself to go deep within or deep without, depending on which way we’re talking about it.
Even for long time practitioners typically there’s a bit of nerves that come up before sitting with ayahuasca because it is so powerful.
The experience. All experiences are different. Typically over the sits that I’ve had, there are a few stages that I’ve gone through.
The first stage is you drink the ayahuasca and then you go and you sit and kind of meditate. It takes maybe 40-45 minutes to slowly start to come on. When it comes on, I typically get a little woozy. In that initial period, there’s also nausea that can come up. What I’ve found to be true for me even with psilocybin is there’s a purge aspect.
It’s a cleansing part. If I have been ingesting a lot of foods that aren’t healthy for me or a lot of alcohol, there’s a cleansing period that we go through. But even more to the point is it’s a disruptor. It disrupts my internal compass. As humans in three dimensions we are oriented forward, back, up, down, left, right. But what plant medicines have the power of doing is disrupting that and opening us up to a larger array of frequencies, a higher dimension. They bend the fabric of reality and show us what’s far beyond our three dimensions. In order for that to occur, there has to be a disruption.
We have to step out of our normal mode of operation. That nausea that comes on typically starts that process. Five or 10 minutes after that, the hallucinogenic kicks in. That’s where, with eyes closed, a lot of the geometric patterns might start to come up. There are archetypal things that come up, certain animals that are indigenous to the Amazon rainforest, which was where most of this comes from. Snakes and jaguars. The animalistic parts all start to weave their way into this geometric patterning. It’s really powerful because it’s not like I’m just watching this happen. It’s inside of me. I am a part of this tapestry that is being woven in every moment.
That’s one of the beauties of these experiences. Whatever separation there was is blurred. Some sort of merger occurs. From there it can go any direction. I’ve had journeys where it was bliss – amazing opening to Aztec gods of pure color that interacted with me via color. Like their language was color and it was full of knowledge and wisdom. Just seeing this wall of this orange yellowish reddish. Those are the only colors that I know to be able to describe that.
There was also this being that was with me all the way into bare very dark dimensions. The entire dimension itself was fear. I experienced the depths of my own fears and the fear that is the collective fear of the human race right now.
Ayahuasca isn’t necessarily going to be a great time. It’s more along the lines of what is it that I am in need of physically, mentally, spiritually. I’ve had the full spectrum of the deepest dark I’ve ever experienced to some of the most brilliant and wonderful experiences in my life.
Talk to us about combining plant medicines, cannabis or otherwise with meditation?
There’s a few things to be said. One of them is we live in a new time. Never, at least in our recorded history, have we had such access to the world. That comes with a lot of privilege. It comes with the ability to read scripture and wisdom teachings from every corner of the earth. It comes with the ability to travel to a lot of those places that might be open to our experience.
I’ve been privileged to live with monks on two different continents in Ghana, Indonesia, Africa, Thailand. There’s becoming this melting pot of tradition and spirituality that at the same time is actually kind of breaking tradition.
We’re stepping into a new way of doing things because we have the ability to do this versus this is the path, follow it to a 10. There are an infinite amount of paths to the top of the mountain that I might call enlightenment.
You might hear in certain circles that you shouldn’t mix medicines. Essentially saying if you’re sitting with marijuana, sit with marijuana, don’t sit with marijuana and mushrooms. There are two literally different energies that open you up to different frequencies and they’re going to cross contaminate and not necessarily be as powerful as intended. Some people say don’t mix meditation with plant medicine.
The universe is so expansive and there are so many frequencies that you don’t know what you’re getting always. So I would say no matter what you do, especially with this combination, intention is the very first thing to bring in.
What is my intention? I’m here to connect with the natural world, with the natural energy of life and the flow of life. One might call the Tao. To feel that natural flow in a safe and sincere way, all these intentions start to create this bubble that is going to be a part of my experience.
I want to talk about meditation by itself first. The origin point of meditation – why does it exist in the first place? Essentially it is to dive deep within self, to dive deep within consciousness, beyond matter, beyond even energy, into the depth of being, and to sit in that place and become deeply aware of all that that is. When that happens, we have this ability to disidentify with our individual self.
When we do that, it creates this door opener. It’s called the song of enlightenment written by a sixth century Zen master. He said the great gate is wide open and no one’s obstructing it, meaning this portal to the divine, this portal to a deeper connection – there’s no gate there. It’s open, we just become aware of it by sitting deeply into it.
Meditation originates in that practice of deeply connecting with self. You take something that’s truly profound and then you mix it and bring in an amplifier like marijuana, it has its own intelligence. Marijuana itself has its own type of intelligence. Not necessarily like a human being with a physical brain. It’s a deeper intelligence.
If we look outside, plants run this world; they are the ecosystem.
They have this interaction, this balance within their state of being. So an amplifier like marijuana is bringing in a deep level of intelligence that helps us connect to nature and in a larger sense, to the universe.
The merger of cannabis and meditation can be truly powerful.
Practices like meditation or sitting with something like plant medicine allows us to have our heads in the cloud but our feet on the ground. It grounds us deeply into the present moment. While I can have this romantic view, I can also be at peace with walking step-by-step along that path, which comes with its ups and downs. It allows us to have this great mystery, but also be present with where I am.
There’s actually not much of a difference between walking, just having a conversation and then the depths of the universe. This conversation itself holds such beauty.
How Does Meditation and Plant Medicine Contribute to Overall Health and Wellness?
The side effects of meditation are becoming more well-known. Meditation helps reduce stress and anxiety. Helps gain clarity and creativity. Helps lower blood pressure. Heart coherence with the Heart Math Institute. Meditation has profound benefits.
It helps increase DHEA. It helps decrease cortisol production and overproduction. Meditation can do wonders to the stress response in our bodies. When we get into the intricacies of meditation alone there are so many health benefits that even if I don’t ever connect to the deeper spiritual aspect, just the calming effect that it has on my brain and the heightened production of gray matter that helps with the sensory neurons in both my brain and my heart is worth it.
Jumping over to marijuana and psychedelics. Marijuana helps us calm down, slow down a little bit, helps us maybe perceive life through a different lens, broadens our scope a little bit. THC and CBD wind up helping with things like pain and our sleep, which has a cascade effect on our health. The better we sleep, the healthier we are.
It’s a way to get in tune with our emotions, to have cathartic releases, to find peace. ‘m not of the opinion that either cannabis or meditation is a magic pill. It’s more of a magic lifestyle. If you bring this into your daily habits and routine, you can create a new baseline for relief from stress and anxiety.
Tell us a little bit about your business, Consciously?
We are holistic life coaches. If someone comes to us saying, Hey, I want to lose weight. There’s so many questions that come up. What is your nutrition like? What are your sleep patterns? How are you doing? What are your stress levels, all these different things.
We teach meditation, plant based nutrition, emotional release sessions, and then I do life coaching. Where do you want to be in two years? And how do we break that down into what do you do today? What can I do today to build towards that life that I want to manifest and create?
We approached this from every angle and we do our best to meet someone where they are. We slowly build a lifestyle, which is why we like working with people over extended periods of time.
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