Choosing to live in a hermitage called an ashram in their quest for a sustained natural high, many young Americans once quit their jobs or dropped out of college. In the end, what they encountered was far more than the daily yoga exercises and meditation. Caring for one another and their subsistence lifestyle often demanded intense spiritual struggle. Cleaning the chicken coops, pulling weeds, or chopping firewood are only part of the story. As the eight aspirants who move to a mountain farm in this novel demonstrate, what follows is an often turbulent journey through the heart to enlightenment and bliss. It’s Om, Sweet Om, in the end.
“Vibrations are very important to us. Most people aren’t aware of them, but they’re everywhere. You just have to open up and feel. There are good vibes. Off vibes. Hostile vibes. Angry vibes. Whatever.
“Which is why we intone the sacred AUM together. It contains the seed of every human sound. It’s powerful, especially when sixty yogis chant it over and over again in the darkness here. These vibrations build up into various kinds of songs, most of them in Sanskrit. Kirtana, Swami Bhava says, is the yoga of singing praises to the Lord. Bhajan – the world’s a vibration: God spoke, said the right word, and the solar system – the entire universe – happened out of nothingness. Whew! Talk about heavy! Concentrated like a seed, from which a whole plant emerges. Or an egg. Which reminds me. I need to run out to the chicken house after dinner.”
My novels Hippie Drum and Hippie Love candidly revisit an era too often considered only in stereotypes. In reality, whatever happened in that brief outbreak nonetheless changed American culture forever. Some who participated came away with little more than memories of youthful excess, but for others, the clashes were profound and life-changing. For all of its commonalities, everyone was affected differently, each one in ways that cannot be denied.
Here’s what happened in one circle.
If it weren’t for his weakness for chocolate chip ice cream and other questionable pleasures, he could have run for governor and won. Without losing anything, he had gained so much more in the proposition. He had tapped a collective desire. Instantly, all the used paper tissues, strewn-out clothing, unsifted cat litter (which had somehow reappeared in the ensuing month, despite the cat ban), cigarette butts, magazines, newspapers, and empty beer cans and bottles – most of which belonged to Wink and Irma, anyway – vanished from sight.
Strangely enough, so had Wink and Irma. They possessed a telepathic early warning system, alarming them to any danger, such as Men Working.
The reappearance of Ashram puts the focus once again on the religious and psychological underpinnings of yoga. Originally published as an ebook at PulpBits in 2005, the novel focuses on the popularity of yoga practice in the 1960s and ’70s as it burst upon the American scene from India. Set on a mountain farm not far from large cities, the story follows eight aspirants who range from beginner to advanced stages as their routines and dreams interact through a single 24-hour period. What they discover is that the physical exercises are only the beginning. The real mastery has to do with the nitty-gritty of living. The novel is now available in the ebook platform of your choice for easy reading.
The circle understands everything. Nothing more needs to be said. They fall into meditation. Swami begins intoning AUM and the others join in. Ten, eleven, twelve times. And they sink in solidly. For the first time in months, Veda feels everything. Swami pours psychic energy into Veda, lifting her out of her body. Veda feels a light swelling within and then engulfing her. Next thing, she’s bodilessness – nothing matters – in pure energy, an ethereal orgasm – all fear and doubt melt away; her ego’s subdued by delight. And then without expecting anything, she transcends.
“Don’t anybody touch her,” Swami says, closing their meditation. “And stay clear of the space above her head. You don’t want to sever the astral thread or she might not be able to come back.
When DL drops in on one older friend while hitching across the country, he winds up landing both a room in a rundown farmhouse rented by a diverse band of hippies and a job in town. He soon finds that one colorful introduction leads to another, as well as range of shared and often unintentionally hilarious encounters. What begins in flight from one evolving hippie chick leads to a sequence of others, each of them adding to his self-discovery, growth, and healing. Just who was a hippie chick, anyway? And who was a dude? And where did they all wind up going?
She’d worn a swimsuit under her sundress. DL went in as he usually did when he knew the faculty wives weren’t expected. “Hope you don’t mind,” he laughed.
“I’ve seen it all,” she answered.
He could see she was an excellent swimmer, leading out far over their heads.
And then the lightning cracked and thunder boomed.
To learn more about my novels Hippie Drum and Hippie Love, go to my page at Smashwords.com.
You didn’t need a pilgrimage to India to delve into a life of yoga. You could move to an ashram in America where you could live, study, and work under your teacher. Here’s the story of one maverick outfit as each of its eight aspirants, from beginner to advanced, faced up to the challenges and self-discoveries during a single 24-hour span. Their quest for transcendence and self-enlightenment had more to do with baking bread, chopping firewood, and sweeping the floors than they’d ever imagined. It’s Om, Sweet Om, in the end.
“There are no mirrors in the guest rooms. Only two in the whole house, for that matter. That’s so you start to look good from the inside out, rather than worry about what’s on the outside. Most people, Swami says, don’t look out at other people or the life around them – they only look at themselves.
“They have mirrors, not windows. But here, it’s windows first.
“Swami says the selfish person can never find happiness. Selfishness and happiness are mutually exclusive.
“How can you listen to guests and not get exhausted? By giving! Give them energy and don’t fight it, Swami says. Only by giving – selflessly – can you grow and realize your true nature. That’s what she says.”
Fitz Hugh Ludlow was a psychedelic pioneer and author of the 1857 classic The Hasheesh Eater. I’ve just completed a book about his circle of Bohemian artists, which hung out at Pfaff’s saloon in Manhattan. As I researched, one of the things that struck me was how Ludlow made a distinction between drugs that promised enlightenment, and those that offered only empty sensation.
Portrait of Ludlow (Special collections, Schaffer Library, Union College)
Nowadays, this is a common view. Drugs tend to be sorted into two distinct categories, at least among the lay public. Those such as LSD, mushrooms, and peyote are viewed as means to heightened…
Of course you know them as hippies by their long hair and outrageous attire. Or do you? As DL observes while living on their ramshackle farm, each one is different. Every droll introduction leads to another, especially in his quest for romantic recovery and companionship. Drawn together by dreams of Peace, Love, and Equality as much as cheap rent, even before dogs, cats, and chickens enter the picture, what they find when their summer of mountain lakes and partying fades is a winter of harsh reality. For some, like DL, the melancholy conflicts also lead to amusing delights, bittersweet disclosures, and wisdom the following summer. To say nothing of a lifetime of questioning and magical memories.
As my story continues:
In the midst of his cooking, Mylin looked out, open-mouthed as if a political rally had just tromped through the living room. He stared out and realized that DL was sitting there completely naked. DL, who was usually off somewhere else. It was the first time DL had sat there like a pot of gold. Everything was out of place. Well, maybe there were simply some improvements in design. Irma came in and pinched DL’s arm and ass: “You’re always so solemn,” she deadpanned, just to see him smile.
To learn more about my Hippie Drum novel, go to my page at Smashwords.com.