I throw back my last sip of coffee and kneel down to lace up my running shoes. The prospect of a morning adventure has me frothing at the mouth like a pent-up canine, impatiently waiting to run free. I stand at the front door, hand gripping the knob, doing my best to remain calm, while my partner, Mathieu, dons the last of his things.
When Mat and I first met in 2013, he introduced an out-of-shape, overweight, fitness-averse me to the concept of disguising “exercise” in “adventure” as a way to trick myself into embracing the foreign world of physical movement. The idea literally re-shaped my life.
Today, we stand together at the foot of an unfamiliar mountainous trail, rife with endless elevation to explore. We’ve been patterning some rendition of this morning movement routine ever since my fitness capacity evolved and I discovered that trail running wasn’t just for spandex-clad, high achievers with A-type personalities. Since then, it’s become our favourite way to start the day.
With our anticipation building, I turn to Mat, remind him to “have fun” and with a single, solid high-five, we are off and running.
We breathe and climb and climb and breathe until a blur of minutes passes and we come to a halt on the side of the trail. Panting, sweating and sufficiently warmed up, we pause to soak in our surroundings, slow down our breath and light up a joint. After a couple of puffs, we put out our pre-roll and get back to the adventure at hand.
As we traverse the mountain on the undulating trail, my experience begins to transform. I can feel the effects of the coffee and cannabis seeping in, altering my mindscape as it allies with the anandamide and endorphins produced by the exercise. As my euphoric state shifts into flow, I begin to move effortlessly and efficiently over the ever-changing terrain, each footstep in the precise and perfect place, as if premeditated—but not.
My thoughts begin to stray away from the closed loop ruminations of my familiar past and potential future. My awareness moves unencumbered through new and novel perspectives, unveiling an array of aha! moments or, as I like to call them, “high-deas.” They bubble up to the surface and linger for a moment before disappearing as quick as they came. Profound, yet equally fleeting.
As I continue to run and breathe and climb, the intuition of my body merges with the expansion of my mind and I align in a state of ecstasis—pure and total bliss. Immersed simultaneously in my body, mind and surroundings, I feel deeply connected within myself, but also to something beyond. A smile spreads across my face and I am overcome with joy. This is the moment I came here for.
There’s the me before movement and the me on the other side—kinder, calmer and infinitely more patient. I'm happier, healthier and filled with a sense of resilience, strength and agency to achieve absolutely anything I put my mind to.
It’s an earned confidence, a far cry from the me of the not-so-distant past, the me that shirked responsibility and avoided discomfort, that prioritized fast food, cigarettes and complaining about what is. The me that preferred to see the world through a beer glass half empty from the safety of my couch, afraid to fully participate in the world for fear of failure, fear of looking like a fool, fear of ever really living at all.
These moments of transcendence in the middle of the woods are what have allowed me to grow. They've helped me push past the perceived limitations of my physical, mental and emotional self and led me to understand that I am capable—we are capable—of so much more than we realize, if only we’ll go out and try.
The potency of these peak experiences has truly transformed the entirety of my being. Yet, with the same breath, I must admit that this nearly foolproof, flow-inducing elixir has also had a dark side for me: the tendency to develop dependency.
Like anything in life that is beneficial and bliss-inducing, it has been challenging, at times, to find a conscious balance between healthy use and abuse, the ratio of which has ebbed and flowed as I myself have evolved.
After years of trial and error, I’ve come to know for myself that habitual overuse of even a good thing can often make it less of a good thing. That constantly clogging my receptors with naturally occurring chemicals—yes, even the ones from plants—actually leads to a dramatic decrease in my ability to uptake their positive potential and enhance my human performance.
So with that in mind, I do my best to consider a conscious approach to my consumption of the coffee and cannabis concoction, aka the hippie speedball—taking days, weeks, even months off every year as a way to reset my receptors and return, however briefly, to a more homeostatic state. From here, I can reintroduce the beauty of this botanical elixir and revel in the goodness of its capacity for change.