A Life Lived Backwards

DANCING DOWN THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD

My simple, rudimentary hatha yoga practice always resulted in another of those out of body experiences. Each time this occurred my symptoms disappeared. Though they returned as I became aware of my body, and thoughts again filled my mind, my sense of wellness and well-being grew.  A thread of awareness was connecting all my daily activities. I was aware of my posture, my tendency to slouch, the way I moved my arms, my sleeping posture. My years in Seattle were my “disco” years. As I felt able to return to that activity, I remained mindful of my intent knowing that the movement and exercise was an essential element in this healing process. I had to keep moving. Long periods of physical inactivity resulted in stiffness, often in pain.

I soon added another element to my practice, the use of the drug LSD. I’d been introduced to LSD as a subject in a study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh’s Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in the late 1960s and later as a member of the “Woodstock nation.” My first use of the drug as a “pleasure” drug was through the generosity of a friend I’d met during my stay in Hawaii. He was a soldier from Kenai, Alaska en-route to the battlefields of Viet Nam. We were passing acquaintances, but we each shared our lives with the urgency of young lovers about to part. LSD expanded our friendship and the time we had to share it. I never heard from him again, but he brought an important element into my healing journey. I overcame the fear that had hounded me since early childhood. The fear that no matter what I did, no matter how well I did it, I hadn’t done enough. Though the fear died on the beaches of Hawaii, where I was finally learning to live, its ghost remains with me even now.

Acid, as it is known on the street, was synthesized in 1938, and introduced as a psychiatric drug in 1947. In the 1950s the CIA conducted secret experiments that led to great controversy many years later. By the 1960s, during a period of even greater experimentation, the USFDA banned the drug from the market except for research purposes. News of the drug’s psychedelic effect, the main reason for the ban, did as much to rocket the drug to popularity as its guru, Dr. Timothy Leary. Leary visited campuses across America and around the world advocating its use. His mantra, “tune in, turn on, drop out,” became the mantra of a generation. Imagine, a generation handed an option to use, with easy access, a psychotropic medication without supervision. The government’s almost comical efforts to dissuade the youth of the nation from using it had the rebounding effect of drawing more and more people to it. The “magical mystery tour” was conducted at rock concerts, most notably the Woodstock Festival; discos, almost every night of the week; and just about any place that folks congregated to protest a war, declare their sexual freedom and otherwise rebel against the established authority. “Blotter”, “windowpane”, and other forms of the drug were the communion host served on the high altar of the sexual revolution and the anti-war movement.

For me, acid opened a new window on reality. I discovered other realms of consciousness cloaked by the tedium of daily life in the world created by our fathers. Each trip was another opportunity to explore hidden realms of a dimension that was beyond time and space. I felt myself a pioneer exploring liquid space in a vast expanse of awareness without borders. Time ceased, body and mind dissolved in an ocean of electromagnetic current and awareness. All physical boundaries disappeared. Everything around me, everything I could see or hear, touch, taste or smell was a breathing, living conscious being— hardly the world as I understood it until then. Not only a living conscious being, this world, and everything in it was me. I was no longer separate and within it, I was it and all the universe seemed to be within me. Harming anything or anyone became a masochistic act of self destruction. I no longer needed the boundaries of our artificial, arbitrary and forever changing Christian morality— a morality hedged to meet the needs, desires and lust of those who created it.  A true morality arose as I saw only myself in the vast universe of the senses.

During my final year in Seattle, I enjoyed the experience and benefit of LSD on many occasions. I would leave my home early in the morning and walk through the parks, or urban trails. I incorporated my developing yoga  and meditation practices into the day’s journey on acid. An evening at the disco on acid was like an extended holiday. With increasing mindfulness, my attitudes about so many things transformed. The continuous drizzle that annoyed me for most of my time in the Pacific northwest suddenly became refreshing, the mist soothing against my face. The rumble of the city became a symphony. Each event, each expanded level of awareness brought increased wellness. I began to understand that this disease was a blessing— an opportunity to heal, an opportunity to transform a life of ignorance into one of grace and understanding. I discovered that healing as a living process was greatly misunderstood in our modern world. Our medical culture had trained us to think in terms of “curing” this disease or that. Illness and it’s cure had come to be seen as events, now you have the disease, now you don’t. Disease and healing exist far beyond narrowly defined clinically significant events. My experiences in yoga and meditation, the wisdom of the human potential movement, and the use of LSD and other psychoactive drugs were combining to bring me to an understanding of both the process of disease and the healing mechanism within the human psyche.

Finally, rather than plodding on through life, a victim of its whims and whimsies and the legacy of my roots, I found myself dancing. With joy and lingering trepidation, I was dancing down the Yellow Brick Road. It was not long before I found myself in the Wizard’s Emerald City.