|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 week, an month, a year, a decade. At this stage of the journey, it's easier, at times, to directly sense the mysterious nature of the Timeless glowing in the boundless expanse of each moment. I blame that on jumping heart first into Bodhisattva Practice years ago.
So, did Stephen Gaskin and the Farm.
Although I only had three conversations with him in my life, Stephen was a major influence my life. I'm not surprised that he came to mind for the first time in a long, long time during a conversation with an old friend recently. It was time. Gaskin passed away ninth years ago on July 1.
In some traditions, the anniversary of a guru's passing is a high holy day. Although I don't usually put a lot of weight on the "spooky" stuff. Gaskin's "Mahasamadhi" brought about his mysterious "appearance" in my life eight years ago during the first week of July.
For some inexplicable reason, Google re-delivered an email I'd sent six months before, announcing the week's blog post. (As usual, I'd sent that email to myself and a .bcc to a list of others at the time.) As I sat at the laptop, struggling to write a commemorative post on the first anniversary of Gaskin's death, the iPhone dinged. When I opened the phone, I was amazed to find a quote from Stephen staring me in the face! (I'd only quoted Gaskin twice before in the epigram of a Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call post in hundreds of posts to that point.) Google had never re-delivered an old email I sent before -- or since. Wierd!? Synchronicity? Coincidence?
All I know is that I found myself grinning from ear to ear.
Stephen Gaskin and the Farm
Stephen Gaskin 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. A Marine Corp veteran of the Korean War, he was teaching in the English department at San Francisco State College when the hippies of Haight-Ashbury mushroomed into a worldwide counter-cultural phenomenon. He became known in some circles as The Acid Guru.
What Gaskin started as an experimental evening discussion class with six students in 1968 grew into Monday Night Class which drew as many as 1500 people to meditate together in silence, then listen to a extemporaneous talk on psychedelic spirituality before engaging in questions, answers and informal discussions. Within three years, Gaskin and those who considered him to be their spiritual teacher had established an intentional community called the Farm in rural Tennessee. At it's peak it had about 1600 residents.
This, of course, gathered a lot of public attention. It sure caught mine. I devoured the books the Farm's publishing company distributed. I visited it three times during its first 5 years, staying a month at a time twice. (When push came to shove though, I couldn't make the choice to live 700 miles away from my ex's and children.)
High Times -- With or Without Drugs
If the truth be told, I was a lightweight when it came to psychedelics. Introduced to marijuana in the Spring of 1968, I went on to experience a number of trips on mushrooms, and on what was presented at the time as "synthetic mescaline." (who knows what it was...) Yet, as I began to explore Yoga and Meditation, I soon sensed that the drugs weren't the only means to accessing transcendental forms of consciousness. Intrigued, I read extensively about spirituality, religion, and mysticism. I met regularly with a small group of friends involved in the peer counseling and human potential movement. At one point, we even began to form a small intentional community.
Although I continued to pass a joint around once in awhile during those years, I actually avoided LSD out of concern that I wasn't "ready"-- until I took a few trips in 1979.
It didn't matter!!
The Collective Consciousness was
so energized as the 60's became the 70's, that I had a number of
compelling out-of-body experiences, saw aura's, and experienced moments
of synchronicity and telepathy that were absolutely mind-boggling -- even without drugs in my system at the time! Then, in the spring of 1972, I had an experience of Perfect
Oneness that fulfilled my deepest aspirations for Spiritual Connection and dispelled a fear of
death. I knew, as did St John of Liverpool, we all shine on!
Life Moves Right Along
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 I'm not lost in my thoughts, or swept away in self-referenced, afflictive
emotions (most often emerging from identifying strongly with what I want and didn't get), my Awareness shifts to my Heart. There, Reality asserts itself. The gracious spaciousness, clarity, and warmth of what Eckhart Tolle has called "the Eternal Now" becomes a palpable Presence. In those precious moments, we
come to know that who we are is not separate all that is and could ever possibly be. In those moments, the sacred and the ordinary dance hand in hand as we experience directly what I have come to call One Love.
So, then what?
It gets pretty obvious: When you're not absorbed in your own scramble to acquire stuff (things, status, fame, power, etc.) and/or wallowing in your own suffering, you notice that a whole lot of folks are actually 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, as Stephen once characterized it, "an exacting discipline." Loving your neighbor as yourself isn't for sissies. It takes commitment, effort and patience. Lot's of patience.
|Stephen Gaskin and the Caravan toured the US in 1970|
As legend has it, Stephen sat with Suzuki-Roshi at the San Francisco Zen Center. Suzuki's photos and quotes begin both the book This Season's People: a book of spiritual teachings and Hey Beatnik!.
Yet, Gaskin said that although he honored all the "old religions," the religion that he and fellow hippies were practicing had no name. He continued,"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. As another master of Timeless Wisdom once said, "If not now, when?"
How about you? What are you up to these days?