"Mindfulness Practice isn't just about escaping to some magical inner realm devoid of life's challenges. The Practice is about progressively opening your heart and calming your mind enough to engage Life directly, to be more fully Present in a kind, clear, and helpful way."

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call! Musings on Life and Practice by a Long-time Student of Meditation.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

This Season's People: In Memory of Stephen Gaskin

"There is a plane of experience, other than the three dimensional plane, which can be felt by a human being...If people never get above the merely signal level of communication, and don't become telepathic, they haven't explored their full human birthright."
-- Stephen Gaskin

"We are all parts of God.  Each one of us has an electrical body field that surrounds us, and a mind field that goes on to infinity."
-- Stephen Gaskin

Stephen Gaskin (February 16, 1935 - July 1, 2014) with his wfe, Ina May
One year ago today, Stephen Gaskin passed away at age 79 at his home on the Farm, the intentional spiritual community he had helped to found in rural Tennessee in 1971.  More than anyone, Stephen's teachings informed my ideas about the nature of Reality and the work to be done during our sojourn on this planet.  (I came across the Bodhisattva Vow for the first time in The Farm's first book Hey Beatnik!)

A decade older than many of the young folks who flocked to San Francisco in the mid-sixties as part of the Psychedelic Revolution, Stephen always maintained he was more of a Beatnik than a Hippie.  Yet, wearing tie-dyes til the end, Gaskin was a central figure in the burst of spiritual energy that encircled the globe during the 1960's and 70's, catapulting many of us into a Collective Kensho that transformed our lives.  Claiming that they were "out to save the world," Gaskin and 50 bus loads of Hippies circled in for a landing in Tennessee to form what was, for a time, the largest commune in the world.  Although the size and structure evolved over the years, The Farm is still there.

Although I was a lightweight when it came to psychedelics, the Collective Consciousness at that point in history was so energized that even I had a number of compelling out of body experiences, saw aura's, experienced powerful moments of synchronicity and telepathy and, ultimately, had an experience of Perfect Oneness that fulfilled my deepest aspirations and dispelled any fundamental fear about death -- all without drugs in my system at the time.  (Although, admittedly, I also had some very wonderful moments while under --or perhaps, over --the influence of various medicinal herbs and compounds back in the day.)
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Yet, as the years rolled on it became more and more obvious to me that spiritual practice wasn't about the Big Flash's and Psychic Powers.  The Practice is about simply being Present, opening your heart and mind enough to engage life directly in a kind and helpful way.  That calls for honesty and self-honesty, getting out your head enough to stay in touch with the feelings and vibes of a situation, hanging in there even when you or somebody else blows it.

It continues to be an exacting discipline.

As legend has it, Stephen sat with Suzuki-Roshi at the San Francisco Zen Center (Suzuki's photo and quote begin the book This Season's People: a book of spiritual teachings by Stephen Gaskin and Hey Beatnik!).  Yet he maintained that although he honored all the "old religions", the religion that he and his friends were practicing had no name.  "It lives in the hearts of the people, " he said. "It is the practice of real love, impeccable correctness and politeness and care among each other..." 

Stephen and a Caravan of Hippies toured the US in 1970
Thank you, Stephen. 

I can't think of any better way to see it, say it -- and try to be it.

That's why I Sit most mornings, why I still recite the Bodhisattva Vows.  Loving God and One Another (these are not two) is the only game in town.  I can't think of anything better to do as I wend my way through the last lap of this most amazing run.

How about you? What are you up to these days?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice Read. Thank you!
Seems my soul has been trying to get my attention, and although I didn't travel the hippie trail of enlightenment, I have listened enough to hear instructions, (screaming from my inner self), and will be traveling to the land considered to be of spiritual enlightenment. Got to see and hear what all those red rocks are about there in Sedona! Being a disciple of low employment, I look forward to the nurturing of teachers/practitioners who will be offering instructions/ guidance, helping me to increase my potential of reaching that higher position my soul so strongly craves. I thirst for closeness to the representative who took one for the team. Knowing nothing can quench that thirst like Him, temper for this world needs to be shut down giving space for openness to be filled with joy by expansion of spreading joy. Thanks for the message. It was meant for me. It is.. yet, another crumb on the trail, clearly, leading me in the right direction.

Lance Smith said...

_/\_ May the Journey bring you Face to Face in the Peace and Stillness of the One Love.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the well wishes, this short lived dance of 'human hood' is out there!!! After finishing up 'A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life' by William Law, I found it to be more clearly noted, the path is no easy place to walk for anyone, and just when one thinks they are walking in pure devotion, they awaken a little more to discover just how asleep they have been in their own world. It is clear (letting go) is deeper than anyone can fathom or subject themselves to fully, and remain holding to the earthly self, of who they see themselves to be. I'm feeling humility as the strongest healing balm, second to none after wisdom. Craving this seems to be more Christ like, universal, and harder to obtain than any earthly recognition yet, it IS the one love and the greatest prize offering the most joy to the spirit while here. So...coming face to face with peace is coming face to face with ones self, wholly, to strive for the holy life we can never really hang on to fully at any given time if we are to be truthful to ourselves. The joy to spirit is indeed in the practice and improvements we make as we stroll toward the path, and our own enlightenment, of the real meaning of onenes. Namaste.