Easter break I decided to do a wilderness excursion. During my psychedelic
days my little group and I used to go out to the desert or up to the
mountains to 'trip'. Nature was the best place for spiritual communion.
Now drug free, I wanted to experience my new method of getting high,
do three days of intense Kundalini
Yoga in the desert, and make the comparison.
I idealized the ascetic yogi. I thought it would be pretty cool to
renounce the world and sit in blissful meditation
on some remote mountaintop. I often escaped to the wilderness to chant,
to hike or just be with nature. The life of Milarepa,
Tibet’s ascetic yogi was my inspiration. I really thought leaving
the world behind would be the best way to achieving a truly spiritual
life. Dawson tried his best to talk me out of it.
Yogiji says, “The student of Kundalini
Yoga should be a householder, raise a family and fulfill the obligations
of a spiritual society.” I was eighteen years old and the idea
of me raising a family was about as realistic as me going to the moon.
also says, “Kundalini
Yoga is for a householder who wants to be a saint and a soldier,
and prosperous and successful at the same time.” I could relate
to the saint part. The rest was beyond me. I thought a soldier was
the last thing in the world anyone would want to be. I had protested
against the Vietnam War, been tear gassed and artfully dodged the
draft. I also had serious hang ups about money. Rich people in my
book were greedy, materialistic nobodies. Man, was I ever mixed up.
protesting the Vietnam War
In spite of Dawson’s attempts to reel me back to earth, I was
determined to hike into the mountains and meditate. Andy was back
East for the holiday, so I decided to do it alone. I asked my mother
to drive me out to the trail head so I would not have to leave my
car for three days. I packed my sleeping bag, yoga mat, meditation
blanket, six pounds of dry mung beans and rice, cooking utensils,
bowl and a large canteen of water.
“Don’t you need a tent or something?” my mother
“It won’t rain,” I said.
“Are you sure you have enough water?”
“There’s water up there. Don’t worry about me, Mom.
I’ll be fine. Just be here in three days.”
I took off cross country up a ridge towards the peaks in the distance.
After a few hours I had emptied my canteen. I saw a small stream of
water way down in the canyon below me. I knew there would be no water
on the peak so I headed down the canyon.
The canyon floor was wet but no running water. I was at the top of
a dry waterfall. The rock was smooth from water flow during run offs.
Fifty feet below at the base of the dry waterfall the stream did have
moving water. The canyon walls were very steep around the waterfall.
The safe thing to do would have been to climb back up the canyon,
traverse above the steep part and come back down below the waterfall
where it was less steep. Instead, I inched down the smooth rock to
see if there was a way I could climb down.
The rock became steeper and I soon lost my grip. I began sliding,
very slowly at first, but there was no way to stop. “Okay, God,”
I thought. “What are you doing?” The rock got steeper
and I moved faster. The stream was still way below and the angle left
only one conclusion. I would soon be airborne.
“Is this the way it ends?” I asked. I was not afraid of
dying. I had a pang of guilt that my mother would freak out when I
did not show up.
“Enjoy the ride,” came the answer.
I relaxed. The last fifteen feet was free fall and I hit hard. But
my pack broke my fall and I landed in two feet of soft mud and sand.
Unfortunately my left foot landed on a rock. I looked up the cliff
and was amazed. I had not only survived a dangerous fall but had emerged
relatively unscathed. “Thank you, God. That was quite a ride.”
My foot hurt but was not broken. I think the heel bone was bruised.
Walking was not an option. I set up camp. I had water, the canyon
was magnificent and there was a little beach on which to sit, meditate
and do yoga. I figured after 3 days I would be able to limp out.
I meditated, chanted, did some intense yoga and breathing. I drank
lots of water, built a fire in the evenings and cooked a bowl of mung
beans and rice. I wanted to see if I could invoke the spiritual experiences
of my previous chemically enhanced outings, using only yoga. I spent
a lot of time watching the stream.
When I limped down the canyon to meet my mother I knew a couple of
things I did not know before. Yoga was not a quick fix. Reaching any
state of advanced spiritual consciousness would take time, maybe years,
maybe lifetimes. It would be hard work, along the way there may be
tumbles and bumps, maybe even some dangerous falls, but if I kept
up my practice, had faith, I would eventually reach my goal and it
would be quite a ride.
It was a significant change in my approach to spirituality. Instead
of the immediate gratification with which I attended yoga classes
I was beginning to see my spiritual development as a long term process.
It would require commitment. If I kept up, it would eventually encompass
every aspect of my life. Possibly, if I allowed it, it would even
encompass my idea of who I was.
As I waited for my mother, I sent up a prayer of thanks. It had been
an eventful three days. I was grateful that I was alive. I was grateful
for the little insights into who I was and what I had to do. I was
grateful for a spiritual practice that offered the possibility of
real spiritual growth.
Soon our Kundalini Yoga classes moved to a local park as the spring
weather warmed the dry desert air. Classes attracted larger and larger
groups until we often had fifty people at a class. Dawson and Karen
left for their home in Santa Fe with an open invitation to all of
us to come and live with them at their ashram-teacher training center
in the hills outside of the city. I wanted to go right then but had
to wait until my University classes finished in May.
I had reservations about Patrick taking over the classes. He was reserved,
sort of introspective and did not have vast knowledge of yoga that
Dawson had. Nor did I feel I could not talk to him as comfortably.
Bottom line, he was not Dawson. But as soon as Patrick chanted Ong
Namo Guru Dev Namo, personality ended. His voice subtly changed,
took on more authority and a beautiful class came through. I never
thought about it again. He was the teacher. It made me appreciate
that being a teacher was just opening to the flow and becoming a channel.
It had nothing to do with personality. --
Chapter Six is next.