The Conscious Farmer: CBN Cannabis

Jonathan Wentzel, 39, is the owner of Beija Flor Farms, a Mendocino-based cannabis farm. With a spiritual and environmentalist bent, Wentzel believes that cannabis not only helps to awaken consciousness in the human mind, but that farming cannabis consciously and sustainably can have a similar effect on the physical and spiritual health of the planet. In Northern California—where Wentzel was born and raised—the frequent forest fires press the urgency of these issues. When I asked him if he thinks humans are capable of turning things around at this point he said, “I’d like to think that we could be.”

 How did you get started farming cannabis?

Growing up in the Napa Valley, I was surrounded by agriculture. I come from a farming background. My family started growing small scale, a few acres of grapes, when I was in about the 3rd grade. We had chickens and grew some of our own food, too. I’ve always had an innate interest in the physiology of plants, what their functions are on a cellular level.

I just gravitated toward cannabis. Initially it was just the love of the plant and being around it. I started farming cannabis when I was in 7th grade. I didn’t smoke it, I just really liked the plant. I experienced a kind of mystical intimacy with it. It wasn’t really the smoking so much as the direct experience of being with this plant, the intimacy of sitting with a living thing and the vibrancy it gives off drew me into it. At that time in Northern California there was a mysticism associated with the plant, and there was a culture that went around it. I gravitated toward that culture, and found that it was conducive to spiritual seeking and the exploration of experience.

In what ways does your spiritual connection to cannabis—the “mystical intimacy” you described—affect the way you operate as a farmer in the now-legal California market?

We’re in a time period that’s an early stage of what I call “corporate cannabis.” We’re seeing the same sort of basic economic analysis that we see with other commodities. We’re all looking for the investor aspect, and some of these bigger companies are looming in the background.

Cannabis itself is fairly sensitive thing and it deserves a platform of respect, in my opinion. Cannabis has the potential to be an adjunct tool of working with consciousness. I’m using that term loosely, but [I mean] a coming together to deal with large scale ecological collapse. To deal with things that other generations maybe have not had to deal with. It seems that the generations above us have had a different experience, with resources and other things. In my position as a farmer, there’s an observation of natural systems and sensitivity to the earth. Within that context, it’s very hard to see catastrophic ecosystem collapse that we’re on the threshold of potentially experiencing.

I’m interested in farming cannabis naturally and sustainably. But, moreover, I’m interested to see the potential of sequestering carbon to grow it in a way that is conducive to spiritual growth and higher consciousness in a culture—so that it’s not just sort of a random variable that goes into large scale production that a whole lot of people put on their Wall Street portfolio. In my opinion that’s kinda the lowest potential of cultivation for cannabis, and not a complete respect toward the consciousness, culture, and natural evolution of the plant.

What kind of action are you taking on your farm to combat climate change and help heal the environment?

I’m developing plans for our farm and ranch in relation to carbon sequestration. It’s bringing the carbon molecule back into the substrate of the soil to enhance the microbiological life, and help foster we call a “living food web,” the indigenous food web of the soil, so to speak.

How would you describe the personality of the cannabis plant? If you were to anthropomorphize it.

It’s a really…Wow. Fascinating. It’s a really—wow. That’s a hard one to delve into.

Why?

The direct experience of something—the human experience—is an abstraction. It’s an intellectual abstraction and a beautiful personification of what that thing is. However, it’s to be treaded upon lightly, as it is only a human personification.

So, the direct experience is what we’re after. I think of the common phrase, “let the mystery be.”

However, we’re doing our work with this plant. It’s gonna be very individual for different people, but nonetheless it’s all truth. Truth is relative, in a way.

I heard you make blends that support spiritual journeying. What kind of thought and consideration goes into the blends you make?

With the cannabis I farm, one of the things I do is work to boost the terpene profile of any given cultivar. I’ll take a lower yield with a higher terpene content any day. In farming, I’m looking for the most complex cannabinoid profile that I can pull out of any sample or substrate or soil structure. That relates particularly to the entourage effect of the terpenes. They’ll have different balancing effects for people, and I think that’s really beneficial.

The other thing I’m big on is incorporating CBN into the mixture of your cannabis profile. For certain people, they’re over stimulated. They have a complex degree of psychological things they’re working out, or stresses. Maybe they don’t want to get completely blitzed. I find in a modern-day culture, not everyone needs a stimulant. We’re surrounded by stimulants: caffeine, florescent lights, the power structure grid. Some of these “degraded” cannabinoid blends are beneficial to people’s stress management. CBN is one compound I find to be really more conducive to relaxation. As with meditation practice or mindfulness practice, the first goal is to just be gentle with yourself. First, you get rid of the stress. Then you can go other places with it. But trying to go to level ten psychedelic voyaging when you’ve got six bills to pay and appointments to get to and the stresses of modern day life is not realistic for everyone.


using cannabis in ceremony

Sebastian Beca is a psychotherapist based in San Francisco. In addition to offering psychedelic integration and harm reduction as part of his private therapy practice, he co-founded Bay Area Conscious Cannabis, a community exploring consciousness, spirituality, healing, and growth through the use of cannabis sativa. Beca founded the organization with his partner, Javiera Köstner, who we recently interviewed. Beca and Köstner are both trained cannabis guides, certified with Boulder, Colorado-based Medicinal Mindfulness. bud.com connected with Beca to talk with him about how he connects cannabis to his practice.

A big part of your work with Conscious Cannabis is leading circles where people come together to use cannabis for spiritual and personal exploration and healing. What happens at the circles?

These are similar to what you may find in other medicine ceremonies, like ayahuasca. People gather in a circle, and the first thing that happens is we share intention. “I’m looking to go to a more heartfelt place,” or, “I’m working through a trauma situation I had and I’m looking for some healing.” So immediately it does have this spiritual connotation. Then, we imbibe together with a prayer, and participants are invited to lay down on their mat. You can wear an eye covering if you like.

We lead the journey with a guided body scan, which like yoga nidra includes a description of your body and the energy flowing through it. This is a beautiful way to enter a psychedelic experience in general, because a lot of times when you're coming up on a medicine, that's the scariest time. Oh, my goodness, I'm leaving normal space and going somewhere else. The anxiety can come up there. So, what happens at our circles is you meet it with grounding in your body. This is where I am. Let's relax. Let's breathe. Let's really breathe into this. And then you go there.

Then, participants are guided through a journey for an hour and a half, accompanied to evocative music that includes shamanic, electronic, and ambient styles with instruments that evoke a lot of physical tension release. Then, you have a break, smoke a little more if you want and go for another hour and a half. Finally, we bring the group back with a return meditation and some time for integration. What was that like for you?

A lot of people might be surprised to hear that cannabis can be used as a psychedelic.

I like to call cannabis the "good enough psychedelic." That's in reference to the "good enough [parenting]" concept from Donald Winnicott, an English psychoanalyst who, in the mid-50's and 60's started promoting "good enough mothering," saying it’s not really needed that the mother has to be perfect. The mother is always going to fail the child. What needs to be provided is a safe container, and then the child has a space to explore. There’s a certain amount of love that is enough. It’s good enough love, good enough mothering. And a good enough psychedelic is cannabis. It's there for you, it doesn’t really demand that much of you. It’s not expensive. It’s not inaccessible. It will offer you something very light if you ask for it, and if you ask for something deep it can provide that as well.

Daniel [McQueen, of Medicinal Mindfulness] was talking the other day about the spectrum of agency. You have medicines like DMT and 5-MeO-DMT, with which you’re just absolutely in another place and you don’t even have control sometimes around your motor functions. Then you’ve got psilocybin, and high doses can also be like that. MDMA maybe you have a little more control and agency. And then you’ve got cannabis. I mean, you can smoke a lot and maybe lose some agency, but still. It's very, very safe. Finally, maybe breathwork, which would be the lightest kind to some extent—you have a whole lot of agency because you’re controlling your breathing voluntarily.

In general, psychedelics for people that don’t have a solid psychic structure can be too disorganizing. Also, if you want to do other medicines cannabis is a great place to learn some skills about navigating these things—about breathing mindfully, checking your posture, how to find your center and how to go deeper. Because sometimes in medicines you can either resist your ride, or you can say, "Oh! Here’s the five-headed dragon. I’m just gonna aim for the eyes." Go in there. Go towards what’s coming up.

I think, because of its broadness, cannabis could be one of the big catalyzers of consciousness transformation that is so needed now.

I can see how cannabis is much less intimidating than more intense psychedelics. Do some people at the circles still feel fear around it, though?

We do have a lot of people who come to the circles and say they’ve had a lot of fear and paranoia and hypervigilance before on cannabis. The whole piece around shame and "I'm doing something wrong" is really strong and we see it a lot in the circles. Some people that are coming into cannabis may have smoked one time before. They were young and had a poor experience. They were scared. There’s a lot of paranoia, a lot of anxiety. They'll say that [in the circles] they experience something different because it was so safe, so held. We’re actually saying those as affirmations to people. "You are so safe. You are so held." This helps them really feel that in their body and then it starts changing their experience. In a way cannabis can amplify anxiety, but if you learn to work properly with it, it can actually heal a lot of your underlying anxiety. It’s like the medicine of anxiety to some extent as well.

Many people carry in their mind “Cannabis is an illegal drug” and it’s shamed on. But people come to our circles, and the ganja yoga classes, and they’re like, "I felt it was really ok to share this experience in a community, and we’re not being shamed." We’re doing a lot of healing from the war on drugs is what I feel.

How did you discover a connection between cannabis and spirituality in your own life?

I first smoked cannabis when I was 16 or so. I remember having what I would describe now as a very somatic experience. A lot of shaking, releasing and pleasure. And, my goodness, I didn’t know that I was in a more constrained reality and there was a broader thing out here. Early on, there was something about cannabis. Usually I would use it outdoors—go to the park with my friends, smoke a joint. So, there was always something close to the earth, close to the land. A very chill, reflective kind of vibe.

Initially, there was less of a sense of separation. More openness to creative expression, like drawing. [Cannabis helped me do] things that were out of the box for me. I'm from Chile. My parents are very structured, very rigid. Catholicism, the religion I was brought up in, is like that as well. Cannabis was more free-form, more spontaneous. It made space for my own individual spiritual questions. Well, what does this feel like? What does spirituality feel like for me? Not, what is it supposed to be like? There’s no predetermined structure, or specific way in which I should have a relationship with god. Or whatever I want to call it.

It’s experiential, this type of spirituality. Try it out for yourself. Is it meaningful for you or not? If yes, wonderful, if not, adjust.

Bay Area Conscious Cannabis holds monthly conscious cannabis circles in San Francisco.


Mindful Ganja Yoga

Javiera Köstner is a San Francisco-based yoga instructor and a leader of the San Francisco Ganja Yoga community. She recently talked with bud.com about yoga, spirituality, and weed—and how they all fit together.

How did you get started practicing yoga, and combining yoga with cannabis?

I started the practice of yoga in Chile, where I lived before moving to San Francisco. My teachers were very, 'Cannabis and yoga—that’s not the way it goes.' I went to one class high and I felt horribly anxious. Oh my god, they’re going to discover me. But one day I was in my house and I smoked and I was like, I want to do some movement. I practiced, and it was just this spiritual thing like, ‘Oh my god, wow.’ The way that you get embodied. The way I could feel the movement and the connection to everything around me. I couldn’t do it in Chile, but when I came to San Francisco there was this person, Dee Dussault, that was doing it as a practice. She had been teaching Ganja Yoga for seven years. I went to her class. It was amazing. A beautiful class, full of about 20 people smoking together and doing this mindful movement.

Can you zoom in on what it felt like that first time when you combined yoga and cannabis at home, and what you have come to appreciate about combining yoga and cannabis as you have continued on this path?

My approach to yoga has always been from the somatic world, which includes trauma, illness, pain management, and the ability to be in your own body despite discomfort. It’s really powerful to stay with sensation, stay with feelings, and treat them like the weather. When you go inside with yoga and cannabis you can really go deep, and you can really travel to different spaces. And you can open up. After I did my first yoga teacher training, I knew the poses and what you had to do—you flip your hand and you inhale forward and then you go down. But with cannabis it’s a slower practice, so when you reach out your arm you can really feel and notice every detail all the way out to your nails. Where are my nails pointing? And how does that affect the movement? For example, when I inhale and lift my arm, I’m not just lifting my arm. I’m lifting all my body as the muscles are connected with each other, they tangle along with various muscles and tissues, so it’s kind of all a movement and adjustment of the complete body to just reach out the arm.  Cannabis gives you that kind of openness to the feelings and to the little details in the movement.

Do you think cannabis facilitates slower, more mindful movement?

Yes. It’s also about finding your own rhythm. In a class setting, maybe the class rhythm is not your rhythm. So how do we invite that to class? In some kind of power Vinyasa classes, it can be like: 'You do this; you do this. You breathe like this. That. That.' And you have to follow it. And maybe my breath is not your breath. And I have to go slower, or faster, or whatever. So, in Ganja Yoga, we move but we also find our own way of moving. Then you open your eyes and see the class and everybody’s moving and its sort of like a forest.

That sounds beautiful. Everyone moving together like a forest. Can you talk more about the community aspect of the classes?

Every Ganja Yoga teacher has their own way of leading their class. In my class, there’s an altar, which is where we put all our offerings. People tend to naturally gather around to socialize versus spreading out into smaller or separate groups. It’s something that makes people unite in one place.

Ganja Yoga classes have this space before class for socializing. Sometimes people will say, 'This is the first time I’ve smoked in a group. I usually just smoke in my house, because I don’t feel comfortable.' So, we have a time, a half hour, forty minutes. This communicates, 'You’re ok here! What you’re doing, this is ok.' And then we have that again at the closing part of the class. I encourage people, 'If you see anybody that you haven’t met, go and say hello.' If you can take a moment for self-care before you leave the class so you don’t leave feeling like, 'Oh my god, I’m high.' Ask yourself, what are you needing before you step out into the world?

The social part at the beginning and end of class is a very important piece. Sometimes when you smoke you get a lot of downloads, and you need a little bit of time before you actually do the movement or step into other spaces.

To unpack a bit the 'not feeling comfortable' aspect some people feel, in what ways have you had to deal with judgments or perceptions from others about combining cannabis and yoga?

This makes me think about [the Hindu god] Shiva. Shiva is the lord of yoga, but Shiva is also the lord of ganja. I find myself having this conversation with other yoga teachers that are kind of—'Ganja no, but Shiva yes, our lord.' Yeah but, you know, that’s interesting because he’s also the lord of ganja. You can see him with the drink—bhang. That’s a cannabis-infused drink. So that’s curious. You take what you want, you know?

When my other yoga teachers talk about cannabis they say things that are also very true. If there is no container, and if there is no intention, you can get really stuck in the kind of, 'I want to disconnect,' piece. And if you’re depressed, it might actually not help you in getting better. It can actually make you tired, and have no more motivation. They call it 'sticky aura.' it’s very hard to push through. Cannabis is not [chemically] addictive, but it’s more a psychological dependence, how you feel with it.

Do you feel like the mindfulness that is often paired with yoga can come into play with cannabis consumption?

Definitely. That intentional piece, for creating more consciousness and more awareness, is tied to both yoga and cannabis. We talk about more yogic ways of consuming. Try to smoke less. Try to use THC tinctures. Try to use cannabis topicals. Or, try to use it when you really need to use it instead of, 'I’m going to be high all day.' you know? Choose the moments to do it. In Chile cannabis is illegal so when I first got to San Francisco, I would seek out the strains with highest THC. But now with more information I look for effects and terpenes: anti-inflammatory, pain management, sleeping, reduce anxiety, creativity. I can make a choice for when it’s needed, when it’s not. Now, I am not like, 'let’s be high all day and kind of flow throughout the day'. You can really get more from that, from the intentional piece.

It being a practice is also super helpful. Thinking about it as, 'This is my monthly practice to feel better. I do therapy, I do yoga, I mind my way of eating, and I add this as part of the process that I do.' I think the having practices thing really helps with discovering yourself and going deeper. Even if, let's say, you smoke every day to relax. Really use it to relax. Not just to turn the TV on, but to take a moment and, 'I’m going to breathe, I’m going to take 15 minutes just to relax and then I’m going turn the TV on or whatever.' It really adds the intention.

How has cannabis affected your personal spirituality?

This has shifted a lot of times in my life. What is god, and how do I feel it, and where? Now I just believe that god is love and the ability to connect to love. And it is really not easy to stay in the path of love. With everything that’s going on, it’s just hard. But when you smoke you get that little crack open. It’s not love to all the world, but how can I love myself? Then, from loving myself how can I love others? There’s compassion and self-care and self-love. And when you’ve got the seed in you, you can start to spread it out. And it’s really beautiful to see.