I started smoking marijuana early in college. A boyfriend turned me on to it and I never looked back. To this very day I medicate. However, it’s far different than back in those college days. Today I enjoy a toke or two before I go into meditation. I meditate straight, too. I like to mix it up.

In my earlier life cannabis served a different role for me. The plant (I’ll call her she) kept me sane. Well, what I mean is she took the anxiety away. She gave me euphoria instead. Not a bad trade. In fact, such a good trade that she accompanied me throughout my life… single, married, unmarried, coupled, married. She has been a constant in my life.

Marijuana’s still a constant in my life, but now for a very different reason.

Marijuana is soul medicine that helps me surf my invisible inner life – expanding the portal to dive deep into my intuition with singular focus so that I could release embedded trauma.

I remember when I started working with marijuana as a spiritual plant… or as some say, Plant Teacher. That’s when Joan Bello came on my radar screen with her book: The Yoga of Marijuana. I was guiding cannabis elevation ceremonies in Denver at the time so what she was saying resonated for me – that the plant amplified the capacity for spiritual expansion.

She lived in rural Pennsylvania where she was a grower. I was so tickled. I contacted her easily, and we got on fabulously. I’d give her a call every 6 or 8-months and we’d go deep. Joan’s preferred time to connect was around 11pm and we’d talk into the early hours. She’d do most of the talking regaling me with stories of her “sun kissed” outdoor growing, “drug war” surveillance, jail, and activism – lots of (often perilous) activism in push-back against the War on Drugs.
What I marveled about Joan was her equilibrium… fittingly, she was the perfect role model for her theory that regular, responsible use of marijuana – with meditation – balances the Autonomic Nervous System. I’d say Joan was one of the most balanced people I know. And yet a bundle of contradictions: she’d pick to pieces a situation she’d be grappling with and then in a sharp left turn discuss its spiritual dimensions and why she believed this vibratory frequency was occurring. Even though I didn’t agree with everything, I loved listening to her insights on spirituality drawn from her Masters in Eastern Studies laced with yogic science and holistic health.

Challenges and controversy swirled around Joan Bello 

She started her marijuana mission in the early 70s when, against all legal dictates, she listened to her gut and taught her 5-year-old son to smoke a joint in order to treat his epileptic seizures. This was long before the research and advocacy underscored the plant’s efficacy in doing so. She claimed it cured him. She went on to join the marijuana advocacy movement to support AIDS patients and others with medical maladies.

Joan brought ancient Eastern knowledge to the Western mind with her books on spirituality and cannabis.

Despite all the satisfaction she saw from supporting people with marijuana medicine, she bemoaned the fact that her husband grappled with Alzheimers despite his use of copious amounts of the plant. She wondered aloud why it did not curb the disease’s progression.
I remember clearly our discussion about this and my line of questioning in regard to her (now deceased) husband’s turbulent childhood and the trauma he was tormented by all his adult life. I wondered aloud with Joan whether applying my emotional and trauma recovery program with the use of marijuana might have helped him.
Intriguingly, Joan had a limited perspective on who the plant could help in cultivating spiritual expansion. She said only people who were “mentally healthy” could realize the benefits in this vein. We politely agreed to disagree as I, in fact, believe the very opposite and invite my students and clients wrestling with trauma to include marijuana as part of a complete program of emotional and trauma recovery.
In a nutshell, the big difference between her and me is that I see marijuana as a potent tool for trauma healing when applied to a serious immersive program of integration. By itself, I believe that marijuana cannot do the job but when included as a tool it can be a powerful catalyst.
For Joan however, while she believed in the plant’s power as a healer of physical issues and a medicine for many ills, she did not believe in any way, shape or form that it could facilitate emotional and trauma healing.
Anyway, I called Joan the other night and left a long-winded message saying I was looking forward to catching up. The next day, I missed a call from her daughter who left a teary voice message (with no caller I.D.) saying that her mother is “no longer with us” having passed away in February.
An inevitable tinge of sadness engulfed me like a sudden thundershower. Joan left the scene as she came onto it, modestly, low key, and was one of the truest and most beautiful authentic people I’ve ever encountered.
“The people who truly appreciate my work are my
fellow travelers on the path of life.
We are simpatico in the truest sense of that word.
We are here on this planet to share our
understanding of the wonder of marijuana.”

Did you know of Joan’s work? Have you considered the intentional use of cannabis for spiritual expansion? I invite you to drop down to the comments section and let me know what came up for you in reading this ode to a “marijuana guru.”

With Love,
P.S. By the way, don’t yell at me about using the word “marijuana” …I’m also honoring Joan’s memory by using the term marijuana throughout my writing here. Joan was adamant in using the term marijuana as she believed the word had a tone that was more earthy and spiritual than the more clinical term, cannabis (which she called “cold” and “corporate”). What a remarkable human being!