If you are fortunate you have had the indescribable experience that is called Nirvana. And I don’t mean the band.
The nirvana I am talking about is a pure clear state of abject bliss. It is a state of grace that is better than any drug or alcohol distortion. I believe I visited this quality high frequency state often in childhood . At the time I had no label for this blissful place of heart and mind.
I was fortunate to have a relatively benign existence growing up in the Bible Belt in the 60s. My friends and I experimented with psychotropic plants and LSD when it was first becoming available.
By the early 70s I had moved on and gave up on drugs and alcohol in favor of TM (transcendental meditation) as taught by Maharishi Mehesh Yogi. In the summer of 1971 I had hitchhiked to Northern California with very little money and even less fear and joined the Maharishi at Humbolt State College in Arcadia, Ca. For a three week retreat and teacher training event.
Earlier that year I had paid fifty dollars to be initiated in the practice of TM and received a mantra. The WOW-experience I had in my first meditation (initiation) is now an illusive high water mark, one that I would measure the rest of my meditation sessions against for many years to a come.
This was all brand new stuff and there was a powerful sense of hope and love that spread thick across the dry crust of mundane life. The world was a-supremely wonder-filled place to be.
Northern California on the coast in August was as close to heaven as one could find anywhere, save for the mosquitoes now the size of small birds. I remember a cartoon I had drawn in my journal. It was two thug like mosquitoes sitting on a tree limb looking down at a passing hiker. The bubble caption read, “shall we eat him here or take him back to the nest”.
The Maharishi was adorable. There were almost 500 would be gurus who, myself included, flocked around him twice a day to hear him speak. When he talked he could go on and on about everything and nothing at the same time. We were all spell-bound. One of the first things he taught us was a set of Yoga asanas which we would be doing in conjunction with the Standard 20 minute meditation . The daily schedule began with waking early am and then a short meditation followed by a 20 minute round of Yoga asaanas that were to be performed in a precise sequence.
Then we gathered at 7am for breakfast, next the Guru spoke for an hour. Lunch was timed to be at high noon.
In the late afternoon we did a round of meditation and hatha yoga and then, there was a 6pm evening meal followed by a presentation by Maharishi which
Included questions from the audience that could go on into the night or until he decided to stop.
Each day we added another “round”. (20 minutes TM, 20 minutes yoga asanas) to our schedule . By the 3rd week we were “rounding”, all day and all night, with only breaks for meals ,and short meetings as a group with the Maharishi. No sleeping was allowed.
In that last week there was a tremendous amount of emotional release going on in the group. People were losing it all over the place. Maharishi would just laugh and say “you are merely unstressing”. Or his favorite saying at the time “water the root and enjoy the fruit”.
A lot of people could not handle the effect that the rounding had on them and they packed up and left. Myself and about 100 others made it to the end of the course. 400 decided to leave early in all sorts of physical, mental and emotional distress.
On the last day I was walking on the grounds of the campus at Humbolt. I was in such an elevated state of being that when I looked at a bush or plant I would see the energy of the plant as if it were composed of tiny specks of light. I imagined I was seeing the molecular makeup of everything and in addition Everything had a colored haze surrounding it. I later learned this was called auras. This was way better than acid or mescaline …it was several decades before i learned that DMT is produced by the brain.)
The intensity of this state of mind began to subside and I set off hitchhiking home. I gradually settled into a very peaceful place of being. I got a ride out of Arcada almost immediately and ended up sometime later in San Francisco. I have very little recollection of that day, I do remember, however seeing
Richard Bratigan (a hip writer from the peace/love movement, now rather obscure ) some where on a street in the Haight ,talking to a hippie chick ( no offense intended..chick was quite acceptable in those days ) . ..before long I got a ride with some fellow travelers who were headed to Houston in an old dodge van. There must have been 10 of us jammed in this traveling den of inequity, I tried to sleep on the old surplus army sleeping bag I acquired after traveling west with out one. The droning sound of the van’s chassis reflecting off the pavement below finally lulled me to sleep in a pile of six or more bodies . when I awoke it was dark and my left ear was pressed against two very large mamary glands . I had no idea who they belonged to but this was right in keeping with my blissful state. From my prostrated vantage point on the floor of the van I could make out a distorted image of the driver as he started to apply the brakes and gingerly swing the steering wheel to the left and into a parking lot of a well lighted service station. Everyone piled out of the sweaty van. There was a ime when very few cars had air conditioners.
” Where are we “. i quizzed the guy who had been the driver since San Francisco.
“This is Las Cruces, New Mexico,” were you going to get out here” he stumbled over and gave the girl who had been my pillow for what must have been the last 10 hours a Limp embrace.
He took a deep sigh and made an exaggerated sweeping gesture,, as if to say I needed to go over the bridge embankment to get to the on ramp for I25. It was early morning but still dark. I sat down on the bridge abutment. And waited for a ride toward Denver. No one was up at this obscene hour , so I started reading the messages other hitchhikers had left on the concrete columns. Several said something like “been here for 38 hours, no ride “.
I went back to my spot by the bridge abutment and plunked down and decided to meditate. I got into a peaceful groove (language of the zeitgeist). After about 10 minutes I heard a very faint rustling and sensed a presence in of some sort right next to me. Hell, it was right in front of me. I very slowly raised my eye lids so I could see. My heart skipped a beat. But I managed to remain still. Through the slits of my eyelids I could make out at first a furry face with large curious eyes. Trying to not panic here I open my eyes just a little more. There was a kit fox standing no less than 3 feet from me staring straight at me. What to do?
As my meditation was now officially over, my mind felt free to race around like a headless chicken. . Gradually I opened my eyes and the fox just stood there . Our gazes locked in an eternal moment. Mexican stand off. This was very intense. And then it happened. All the world stopped and I melted into the essence of this strange creature. I felt him/her so profoundly that I was him/her. This must have all happened in a few seconds but it registered on my soul as an eternity. There was no more fear, whatever happened in that encounter was beyond my ability to describe. The Fox broke the spell by shifting it’s weight on it’s feet and then slowly turned and walked away.. I somehow managed to remain motionless until it had retreated into the dark night. That encounter was so magical and so sublime, that it changed something deep inside me forever.
The early morning light was awakening the earth and I decided to pick up my things and move on up the road to the next freeway exit. A sign up ahead said it was out1.5 miles. By the time I reached the next access, it was fully light out. There was someone else already there and he was standing with his thumb out. We were still exchanging niceities when a Green Ford Galaxy pulled up and 2 men got out of the car and ask us if ether of us could drive.
The other guy who turned ou to be 17 years old enthusiastically volunteered and slid into the cockpit of the Galaxy. The two older men climbed into the back seat and somehow managed to fall asleep. We were cruising about 70 mph , i was riding shot gun. We were not on the road more than fifteen minutes when I noticed a car up ahead driving on the right shoulder. I glanced over at the kid driving. He saw the other vehicle and moved into the left lane to allow the other car space to get back on the road. Suddenly the driver of the car swung a hard left right in front of us. The older lady driving the car was planning on crossing the median in search of nice rocks . We were barreling down on them and there was not enough time to avoid a collision. The Galaxy plowed into the left rear tail section or the offending vehicle. The impact spun the car around and it crashed into the median. We left the highway on the right shoulder, crossed a bar ditch and came to an abrupt stop in a tangle of dry dirt and barbed wire. My forehead slammed into the windshield and broke the glass. I immediately got out of the car to see if I was still alive. A little stunned, I determined I could think. The next span of time was chaotic. No one had died but everyone but myself was complaining of some sort of injury. The highway patrol arrived, and then ambulances and on lookers. An EMT came over to check on me. I said I thought I was fine. I refused to be taken to a hospital.
The next thing I knew everyone had left…. I was standing on the side of the road alone. The hot New Mexico sun bearing down me. My sense of peace and tranquillity, my hard fought for and won Nirvana–gone.
Stay tuned for part 2