|Stephen Gaskin (February 16, 1935 - July 1, 2014) and his wife, Ina May|
Sometimes, an hour zips by. At other times, I've felt like a dazed prizefighter hanging onto the ropes of a painful existence waiting forever for the bell to ring.
And that's only one hour.
As I get older, it becomes increasingly impossible to grasp the nature of concepts like a "year." It feels easier, at times, to sense the mysterious nature of the Timeless in the boundless expansiveness of each moment.
I guess my head goes to that place whenever Stephen Gaskin crosses my mind. Interestingly, he came to mind for the first time in awhile just the other day. Looking at the calendar, I realized it was the sixth anniversary of his passing -- to the day. (I wrote about another such synchronicity involving his death here.) Although I have only had three conversations with him over the years, Stephen's teachings had a profound impact on my ideas about the nature of Reality and the work to be done during our sojourn on this planet. I came across his rendition of the Bodhisattva Vow for the first time in The Farm's first book Hey Beatnik! I was hooked.
At that moment the vow took me.
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. It was a Collective Kensho that transformed many of our lives. Claiming that they were "out to save the world," Gaskin and 60 bus loads of Hippies left San Francisco to tour the country on a journey known as the Caravan. After returning to San Francisco, they decided to acquire land, finally circling in for a landing in Tennessee. There, in 1971, they created what became the largest hippy 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, those were High Times. The Collective Consciousness was so energized that even without drugs in my system, I had a number of compelling out of body experiences, saw aura's, and experienced powerful moments of synchronicity and telepathy that were mind-boggling. Ultimately, in the spring of 1972, I had an experience of Perfect Oneness that fulfilled my deepest aspirations and dispelled the fear of death. (Admittedly, I also had some very powerful moments while under the influence of various powerful medicinal herbs and compounds back in the day.)
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. When we are not lost in our thoughts, or swept away in self-referenced, afflictive emotions (I got/didn't get what I wanted, or got what I didn't want,) we can come to our senses. There, in what Eckhart Tolle has called "the eternal now," Reality asserts itself. In those precious moments, we come to know that who we are is all that is. The One Love becomes self-evident.
So, then what?
When you're not absorbed in your own suffering, you notice that a whole lot of folks are suffering. At that point, it becomes clear that sitting there on your butt, although important (I meditate most every day, at least for an hour,) isn't enough. You choose to do something about that suffering. This becomes, Stephen once characterized it, "an exacting discipline."
|Stephen Gaskin and the Caravan toured the US in 1970|
Yet, Gaskin said that although he honored all the "old religions," the religion that he and fellow hippies were practicing had no name. "It lives in the hearts of the people... It is the practice of real love, impeccable correctness and politeness and care among each other."
Thank you, Stephen.
I can't think of any better way to see it, say it -- and try to be it. As I wend my way through the last laps of this most amazing run called "my life", I can't think of anything better to do.
How about you? What are you up to?