announced that he wanted to start an ashram. “In the spiritual
life,” he explained, quoting Yogiji, “we move from individual
consciousness to group consciousness to universal consciousness. Living
in the ashram will give us the experience of group consciousness.”
Patrick described it as living in a spiritual vortex. He said that
it would propel our growth exponentially. Again quoting Yogiji, “Animals
live at each other. Most people simply live with each other. In the
ashram we will live for each other.”
I had heard of ashrams. They were places in India where spiritually
minded people went to live a yogic lifestyle usually under the instruction
of a guru or master. I had no concept of a spiritual vortex, never-the-less,
I was pretty excited about the idea of starting one in Tucson.
He passed around a sign up sheet for those interested. Andy and I
were first on the list. A few weeks later we moved into a house near
the University of Arizona campus. We cleaned everything, painted the
walls a pure yogic white and the trim a hippie rainbow of colors.
Patrick may have been a yogi but under the surface he was very much
still a hippie. For extra income he used to play bass guitar with
Andy and I kept our dorm rooms on campus where we stored most of our
stuff. We were only allowed a simple mat, sleeping/meditation blanket,
pillow and yogic clothes. Andy and I shared a sleeping room with 3
other young men. We each set up a little space with very limited personal
belongings and a simple altar. It was all very austere.
Life at the ashram was scheduled and disciplined. We awoke at 3:15
a.m., usually to the angelic voice of one of the women on wake up
duty. We took cold showers, although in Tucson they could better be
described as cool. We gathered in the Sadhana room and chanted from
4:00 to 6:30. After a short relaxation we all went to the park just
up the street for the 7:00 a.m. yoga class. At 8:30 we ate breakfast
as a group, cleaned up the house and took off for the day. We came
back together for the 5:30 p.m. yoga class and dinner at 7:00. A pot
of Yogi Tea was always heating on the stove and spicy aroma permeated
the house. We shared cooking, cleaning and shopping responsibilities,
we chanted before meals and we generally enjoyed our first experience
of group consciousness.
ashram consisted of six men and eight women all under thirty, except
Patrick who was the old man at thirty-one. We spent a lot of time
together. It would be quite natural for special relationships to develop
between men and women of the ashram. However, this was discouraged.
teachings on the matter were simple. A single man is to treat
every woman as his mother, sister or daughter. A single woman is to
see every man as father, brother or son. There was to be no sex among
single ashram members. Women were “The Grace of God”.
As young men we were to train ourselves to overcome sexual desires,
overcome our cultural programming and see the divinity in each woman.
We could be friendly, even affectionate but not physical.
Yogiji spoke often about sex. “If you want to be celibate without
ever having sex, remember to practice Sat
Kriya each day so you can utilize the energy and not go nutty.”
I was eighteen years old and horney as a, well an eighteen year old.
We did lots of Sat Kriya
and other yoga exercises to channel our sexual energy so as not to
go nutty. I even climbed mountains, ran in the desert and played a
lot of tennis. I was still nutty. Try as I might see the women in
the ashram as sisters, they started looking pretty good in a very
un-sisterly way. What’s more, they were much friendlier than
my sisters ever were.
It didn’t take long for me to develop a crush on one of the
young women. She was cute, a dancer, with a body to match, and no
compunction about showing it off. She may have been a few years older
than me but we hit it off pretty well. When we were together yoga
and meditation were the last things on our minds. On several occasions
we were asked to keep our noise level down. Patrick even explained
to me that special relationships detract from the group energy.
One afternoon when we were playing around she looked at me with big
brown eyes, an inviting smile and said, “I always get the young
ones.” With those words she invited me in, she acknowledged
our relationship and she suggested we take to the next level.
I wasn’t ready. I avoided her gaze. It was totally involuntary.
I really did like her and I wanted to take it to another level, especially
if that meant physical. But something inside me, a much wiser me,
knew she was not right. She moved out next day.
Why did she move out? I think I was more disappointed that she moved
out than I was that we would not take our relationship to the next
level. Her commitment was to having fun. When the ashram stopped being
fun, she was gone. My commitment was to getting high. Even with her
gone, the possibility of getting high persisted.
Patrick had a gig one evening and asked me to take the afternoon yoga
class. Oh wow, my first class. This was years before we had printed
yoga manuals or even specific sets. Directions for teaching were simply,
“Ong Namo and away we go”. In other words, tune into the
teacher within, go with the flow of energy, start at the lower centers
and work up, keep the stretches balanced, take time for a relaxation
and finish with a meditation. People
said it was a great class.
I loved teaching. I knew I wanted to do more, but I needed training.
I looked forward to when school would get out. I would move to Santa
Fe, to Maharaj Ashram, Dawson and Karen’s teacher training center.
A large young woman came up after class and asked all kinds of questions.
She was really interested in our whole lifestyle. I invited her to
the ashram for dinner. She continued with the questions, including
how does one move in? She moved in that night. Before she did she
went to her friends and returned the $5,000 she had carried from Boulder,
Colorado to buy pot.
Kara attached herself to me. I liked the attention. I took her up
to the mountains and we found a small, secluded lake. Before I knew
what she was up to she had all of her clothes off and was in the water.
I am not used to smiling naked women encouraging me to lose my clothes.
With an unexpected physical response to her nakedness, I was too embarrassed
to join her. It did not diminish her enthusiasm. After her swim she
plopped down on the blanket next to me. Once again, part of me wanted
to make love to her right there, part of me did not want to touch.
She eventually picked up on the part of me that did not want to touch
and put her clothes back on. After a couple of weeks she moved back
to Boulder with the intention to keep the yogic lifestyle. My karma
with these two women was not finished. I would meet them both again
I was not sure what I was looking for in a relationship with a woman,
but I was learning what didn’t work. I liked fun. Fun was great
but I knew it would not sustain me. I wanted sex. In fact I really
wanted sex. But I knew even that would not sustain me or sustain a
relationship. I was pretty mixed up. One part of me wanted fun and
sex. Another part, a quiet part, wanted something real, something
pure and beautiful and something that touched my soul. I prayed that
I would meet that person that touched my soul before I completely
lost it with a funny, sexy disaster.
The ashram attracted all kinds of people – practicing yogis,
spiritual wannabees, spaced out druggies, nut cases of every kind,
burned out hippies, college students, some were younger than me others
old enough to be my parent. I saw them come and go like an endless
and colorful parade. Andy and I would guess how long one would last.
Many were gone in three days. Some lasted several weeks. The rare
one lasted months. Six weeks seemed to be a cut off period. Anyone
who stayed more than six weeks was considered a serious practicing
yogi. Those of us who stuck it out became brothers and sisters on
the path. It was a deep bond that endured for many years.
Living in the ashram was not all love and peace. In the early days
the novelty carried us. But pretty soon getting up at 3:15 a.m. became
hard work. Paying rent, cleaning the ashram, cooking food, attending
meals and sitting through group meetings became one challenge after
another. Simple domestic chores such as who takes out the garbage
could become major points of contention. And Patrick, our beautiful
yoga teacher, became distant, moody and sometimes demanding. In many
ways we were a family, often close, warm and affectionate, but sometimes
distant, even hostile.
In spite of the many challenges, there was a sense that we were blazing
a trail and that we were the cutting edge of a major change in consciousness.
The Age of Aquarius
was not some distant pipe dream. We were living it and manifesting
it every day. -- Chapter Seven is next.