It was a perfect storm of sorts when I found a craft that would carry me through it all. In 1975, I was 25 years old—just coming into my adult life. I completed college, had a job, a husband, friends; it was all exciting, lovely really . . . and it felt empty. During this time I was enjoying adventuring with the chemicals that were around.
It was the end of the 60s and beginning of the 70s and the “cultural revolution” was alive, though flickering. I was the right age at the right time with the right food for discovery. I was finding my experiences in psilocybin and LSD, especially among the drugs I tried, a vibrating, shimmering reality set in a sense of timeless peace in which I felt at home, empowered, and yet rudderless and with no compass in hand.
My heart, though, was opening wide. The natural state of loving that I enjoyed my whole life poured forth with my students, friends, and every being with whom I came in contact. After all, I could see them in me and me in them and us all in the hands of God. Yet I was alone, not quite singing the same songs as my friends and family. Then the little purple book appeared on a table at a youth organization where I gave my time and love to high school students who were in pain.
The leader of this group was Alan Cohen, a Yeshiva-trained, young holy man who loved Jesus. It was Alan with whom I first felt this gentle, open, loving, accepting, non-judging embrace like no other; it was not familial, not romantic, not even a friendship, but deeply unattached loving that allowed me to feel nakedly exposed and awkwardly slowly calm in his love. Alan brought Ram Dass to me.
I read the book voraciously—the brown pages, not the white. The brown pages were experiences. They were my experiences, well, most of them. So much was a mirror of my inner and outer life that I naturally thumbed past the pages I was not ready to understand. I am not alone! I am not crazy! Deeply heartfelt loving in a world of the spirit is real and possible! It doesn’t belong clamped with the heavy doors of churches and dusty, crackly pages of bibles. We talked for hours about Be Here Now, rosy with joy. We visited spiritual teachers such as Hilda Charlton and others who came to the Church of St. John the Divine in NYC. I studied Kundalini at an ashram in Princeton and gathered up books mentioned in Be Here Now, reading each one with care to know, I wanted to know, had to know, how to live with this newly awakened restless snake within me.
I was blessed into this life with a deeply passionate heart and joie de vivre that led me to take an enormous leap and walk away from my life as it was to explore the REAL world, or a less distorted illusion than the one I was raised in. I left my job where I had just gotten tenure. I left my friends and family to move to California. And I left my good, kind, handsome, hard-working husband because I had learned just enough to be dangerous and unable to grow personally within our marriage. So off I went, by myself, driving across country to stay with friends.
Without going further into my life, I’ll just say that I went into a pit of suffering, though it did not appear so to most of those who looked on. The book was with me, deep inside my backpack along the way where I had forgotten about it for a time. I went to the very brink of death as I searched, teacherless, to resolve the meaning of this life. Then I rose up, purged of all the illusions of the cultural and personal expectations into which I was born.