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.
Georgia Perry is a freelance writer currently based in Denver, Colorado. She has been published in The Atlantic, CityLab, and Vice. Follow her on Twitter @georguhperry.