"Mindfulness and Meditation allow us to open our hearts, relax our bodies, and clear our minds enough to experience the vast, mysterious, sacred reality of life directly. With Practice we come to know for ourselves that eternity is available in each moment.

Your MMM Courtesy Wake Up Call:
Musings on Life and Practice
by a Longtime Student of Meditation

Friday, July 14, 2023

High Times and the Timeless

With A Bow to 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) and his wife, Ina May
In meditation, the subjective nature of Time becomes obvious. 

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.  

I first came across the Bodhisattva Vow as it was expressed by Stephen Gaskin in Hey Beatnik!  I was hooked. At that moment the vow took me. 

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 timeThen, 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.

On and off the meditation cushion, the Practice becomes figuring out how to open your heart and mind enough to engage life directly in a kind and helpful way.  This calls for honesty and deep self-honesty.  It calls for getting out of your head enough to stay in touch with the feelings, energies, and "vibes" of a situation.  You make the effort to hang in there with great compassion and persistence.  You try to help out.
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?


Anonymous said...

Back in the day I lived on The Farm for 6 months. Sun. service was mesmerizing.

Lance Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lance Smith said...

Yup. I was able to attend a number of Sunday Morning Services as I "soaked' there a couple of times. He was in prison during my last visit, but came out to help the community heal in aftermath of a homegrown tragedy. Then I had a Serendipitous encounter with him as he emerged from the car parked next to me in the parking lot as I stopped for morning coffee. He was running for the Green Party nomination for President and had a talk scheduled that afternoon at the Community Center in Woodstock, MY where I lived from 1994 - 2004.

I was involved with the Woodstock public access TV station at the time and, after a brief chat with him, I ended up hustling off to spend the next five hours putting together the logistical stuff and the people to help produce a live local TV coverage of the talk, interview him, and tape it all for rebroadcast. He said some things that day about the state of the world and political involvement that still ring True today. He also pointed out something important about me that I didn't catch at the time because I was so buzzed out that I wasn't very Present. I did get to hear and see it on tape though. It was bit embarrassing, but a great lesson. What a Hoot!