My first experience meditating was a disaster.
I sat quietly in a room full of quiet people while my mind felt like screaming as loud as it could. As someone with severe anxiety, who had had no practice sitting with those feelings undistracted, jumping into mediation was like jumping into a pot of boiling water. While I had gotten into meditation (on my doctor’s recommendation) to help my anxiety, it only seemed to escalate it. It sent me into a full-scale panic attack. I remember jumping up after the session was over and practically running away from the cushion. Clearly, meditation wasn’t for me.
Meditation and Cannabis for Anxiety
But more than a decade later, I have an active meditation practice and even teach mindfulness meditation techniques to others. Meditation has helped me immensely with my anxiety and transformed my way of being in the world. What changed? Well, a few years after my disastrous first try, I tried meditation again. But this time, I was using cannabis.
With cannabis, my experience transformed. While using varieties of the plant that helps me to relax, I was able to sit with an understanding of meditating in a new way. Suddenly, I was able to use the quiet time to sink into my body. I could feel what was happening and offer myself a little compassion for the challenges I was facing. It completely changed my life.
Over the years, as my understanding of both meditation and cannabis grew, I also began to see how different types of cannabis could enhance my meditations in different ways. Some varieties helped me to stay clear, focused, and uplifted; some helped me to stay embodied and calm; some sparked a more profound sense of love and compassion. Finding the right match between my meditation and my cannabis became part of my spiritual practice – and healing journey.
What Are Terpenes?
Terpenes are natural chemicals are found in many plants, including cannabis, and can have significant therapeutic effects 1. In fact, research suggests that terpenes can be the most significant chemical factor in the experiential differences between different cannabis strains 2. The different varieties of cannabis I was using were different, in large part, because of differences in the terpenes they contain.
Aromatherapy and Meditation
I was utilizing these terpenes to enhance my meditation in the same way that people use aromatherapy. I noted the emotional and physical effects each one promotes. I paired that with the appropriate practices. In aromatherapy, different scents provide different results, such as clarity of mind, uplifted spirit, body awareness, or compassion. Research even shows that many of these scents can ease anxiety and depression 3. With terpenes, we see the same pattern – and this is no coincidence. The essential oils used in aromatherapy are actually also rich in terpenes and rely on them for their effects.
When you use essential oils for meditation, you are actually already enjoying a terpene meditation.
How To Meditate with Terpenes
Terpenes can enhance your meditation in a variety of ways, from improving your relaxation or boosting your positive moods to stimulating increased awareness of your perceptions or leaving you feeling more creative, insightful, and focused.
So, how do you start adding terpenes to your own meditation practice?
There are so many ways to incorporate terpenes into your meditation; it’s usually easy to find one that works for you. My usual approach is by using the terpenes that are naturally present in cannabis. Look for strains high in the terpenes you are interested in or find cannabis strains that cause the effects you are looking for. These strains can then be inhaled in smoke or vapor, consumed in an edible, or even turned into a topical you can rub on your skin.
If you prefer to use terpenes without the other chemical compounds in cannabis (such as THC – known for inducing cannabis’ famous high), you can get products made with isolated terpenes, or terpenes blends 4. Many terpenes can be mixed (in minimal amounts) into food or drink or into topicals. They can also be used in an aromatherapy diffuser. Still, if you are using isolated terpenes (rather than in cannabis or a premade product containing terpenes), understand that these are very concentrated and need to be diluted to use safely. Be sure to investigate how diluted each terpene product should be before you use it.
Or you can also use essential oils – as these also contain terpenes. Lavender oil, for example, is rich in the relaxing terpene linalool 5.
It’s easy to add terpenes into your meditation before or during your practice, and it’s up to you how you want to use them. Just use a little bit before your session if you are eating or inhaling your terpenes. Or create an environment that is bathed in their aroma and breath them in as you meditate.
Here is a quick list of ways to use terpenes during meditation:
- Use essential oils or terpenes in an aromatherapy diffuser
- Rub a terpene scented aromatherapy oil topical on your body, so you are bathed in the fragrance
- Inhale terpene-rich cannabis smoke or vapor
- Eat a terpene-rich cannabis edible
- Use a terpene-rich tincture or spray
- Sit in a natural environment that is full of terpenes like a eucalyptus forest or field of lavender
How To Customize Your Meditation with Cannabis Terpenes
Of course, different terpenes cause different effects, so you also want to choose the ones you’ll use carefully. Some may enhance your experience, while others may create challenges. Some may fit well with certain types of meditation and be counter-productive to others. So the fit is essential. People also meditate for many reasons and in so many different ways. You want to make sure that the terpenes you are using are intentionally chosen for the meditative practice you are working with.
Below, I’ve listed some recommendations for terpenes that can help support different types of meditation, but these may differ amongst individuals. What works for some may not work for everyone, so it’s essential to hone in on the options that work best for you. A good tip is to keep track of how different terpenes (or many different blends of terpenes or cannabis strains) make you feel. Then you can customize your experience to your individual needs.
Still, the suggestions below are in keeping with the typical responses to these terpenes. They are a great place to start on your terpene meditation journey.
Terpenes for Relaxation Meditation or Body Awareness Meditation
One of the most common reasons that people meditate is to cultivate greater relaxation and awareness of their physical bodies. These practices, whether they take the form of basic sitting meditation, mindfulness exercises, chants, or some movement like yoga, are all alike. They ask us to sink deeply into our experience and relax into the moment. This is easier said than done, as I found out in my first meditation.
Thankfully, many terpenes in the cannabis plant (and other plants as well) can help us to relax more deeply and get more in tune with our bodies. Terpenes like linalool (the calming terpene in lavender and mint), beta-caryophyllene (the pain and anxiety-relieving terpene in black pepper), and myrcene (a calming and soothing terpene in mango) can be particularly helpful for this type of meditation 6 7 8.
Related Article: CBD + Terpene Combinations for Relaxation and Stress Relief
Terpenes for Focus Meditation or Insight Meditations
In other styles of meditation, practitioners may be looking for more clarity, insight, or creativity. In these meditations, we are asked to clear space in our schedules and our minds to see what arises. For this style of meditation, you want to have a clear head and a sense of curiosity and spaciousness. If you are practicing in a meditative form like this, terpenes that cultivate a sharp, creative mind may work best to enhance the experience. Alpha-pinene (which is present in pine needles) and eucalyptol (found in eucalyptus trees) are two uplifting terpenes 9 10. They are known for promoting focus and relaxation without putting you to sleep. If you’ve ever stood in a pine or eucalyptus forest and breathed deeply – you’ve already felt these terpenes at work.
Terpenes for Self Compassion Meditation or Sleep Meditation
There are also meditation practices that are specifically geared at cultivating compassion for yourself or others. Here, the ideal terpenes would help facilitate the felt sense of compassion, enhancing your natural instinct for caring. Cannabis certainly has a reputation for sparking compassion in those who use it – but which terpenes cause these lovey-dovey feels?
While there isn’t a lot of research on this effect, in my experience, there are a few terpenes that leave me feeling, especially uplifted, relaxed, and loving. Relaxing and uplifting myrcene never fails to leave me with the warm fuzzies for everyone around me 11. If you prefer something more energizing than sleep-inducing, limonene (found in citrus) is another terpene that leaves behind a compassionate feeling and supports this type of meditation12.
Whatever type of meditation works best for you, terpenes can help enhance your journey. Try some out next time you meditate and feel the difference for yourself.
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