Saturday hippie: Swami Vidya, Crazy Vicky

NICKNAME: Swami Vidya, Crazy Vicky.

PLACE OF ORIGIN: Brooklyn, N.Y.

PRESENT SCENE: Giving love in my own little corner of the universe.

HIPPIE SINCE: 1967.

HIPPIE STATUS: Retired, recluse by choice, busy by necessity.

AT FIRST BLUSH

Still creating.

Astrological sign(s): 5 planets in Scorpio, all in the 8th house.

Dogs or cats? Both.

Coffee or tea? Both.

Beer or wine? Definitely “other.”

Favorite color? Red

Early bird or night owl? Both

Anything else? Still crazy after all these years

THE DETAILS

I dove in headfirst, and never came up for air.

What quality most identifies you as a hippie? Or did? Sex, drugs, rock and roll, yoga, meditation, protest marches, lots of sex, never forget to love, never forget to forgive, identify with all living things

What part of the movement are you continuing? Love is all you need.

What aroma especially reminds you of the era? Pot.

What piece of hippie attire do you miss most? What sort of costume should I wear today? Indian princess, flapper, sari, skinny dip?

What hippie activity do you miss most? Sad to say … being young enough to do it all over again, plus maybe one more “trip,” which btw, someone just offered me. Alas, I said “No, thank you.”

What was your most memorable protest? Kent State.

What’s your strongest memory? Running away from home with Swami. (Folks will have to read the book, when it’s finished.)

Skinny dip? I noticed that it was always the guys who suggested it.. and the water was toooo cold to go in.

Go to Woodstock or another big festival? Rolling Stones’ butterfly concert (the first time they came out of retirement), escorted by bona fide Hells Angel.

It often seemed that hippie events were outdoor affairs – spring, summer, and early autumn. So where did hippies go in winter? And what did we do? What is this? Where did the chicken cross the road? We went indoors, listened to music, got high and had sex (but not while at the ashram … at least not very often).

Or we addressed 10,000 envelopes, made 800 Christmas cookies.

Favorite food or cuisine from the era? 3-layered cornbread (recipe lost).

Do you ever pick up hitchhikers today? The last hitchhiker I picked up was on 9/11, when I drove some people home. Other than that, I stopped when they started putting razor blades in apples at Halloween.

What was your most memorable experience while hitchhiking? Swami used to ask the hitchhikers all sorts of interesting questions about themselves. It helped to keep her finger on the youth pulse.

Weirdest trip? They told me it was psilocybin. They told me I had a great time.

One time I dropped acid, and decided I did not like it or trust the two strange guys who had just given it to me. I pulled myself together and left the apartment and somehow managed to stay focused while traveling through the NYC subway and bus system. Strange to say, I think I “willed” that trip away.

Bad trip? None, they were all pretty.

Mystery or magic? Watching the taillights on the Belt Parkway.

Spiritual persuasion or practice? I cried a few “real tears” when I realized that Superman didn’t exist. My whole life has been dictated by doing what and when the “spirit” moves me to do. Sometimes I believe everything. Sometimes I believe in entropy. Sometimes I don’t know. I had a couple of visions.

Did you marry your hippie dude? In a two words, yes, twice.

Describe your significant other in one word or phrase.

  1. Hells Angel
  2. Swami
  3. Rabbi
  4. Misogynist

Favorite bliss? (Then and/or now.) Reading, painting, music.

Favorite charity? Hospice.

Latest discovery? Kindle.

“Dirty hippie” was the cliche. How would you reply to the charge? Guilty, your Honor.

Which musician most encapsulates the hippie era for you? John Lennon.

Which book, movie, or song from the era would you recommend to others to help them understand the hippie experience? Eve of Destruction.

 ANY ADVICE OR REGRETS?

Finding out that I spent so much time being the grasshopper, that I don’t have enough to live on. Fortunately, I’m old and figure I only have 10 years left … that’s about how much I can afford.

Don’t give up hope, and enjoy your youth while you have it.

I would like to see a renewed feeling of trust between the races. There is a new racism today. It is well polished and goes to the beauty parlor. It seems that we wear assigned personas. The only ones who seem immune to this rigidity are the kids still in school.

What has been the most difficult part of the years since the ’70s? Speak for yourself, I’m not 70 yet.

~*~

Hippies came – and still come – in all varieties. Saturday Hippie is a weekly feature that profiles individuals who embrace a counterculture awareness and spirit, a vision of a harmonious global commonwealth on the horizon. The work and the lessons didn’t end in the ’60s and ’70s. Here’s to the Revolution.

He was just girl-watching, at first

During the hippie years, many daring souls moved to spiritual hermitages called an ashram to live with a guru. Here’s the story of one renegade mountain farm where eight residents discover that their quest for transcendence and enlightenment has everything to do with baking bread and mixing cement. As for the guru, she’s both earthy and demanding. It’s Om, Sweet Om, in the end.

Soorya_Surya_.“Taking up yoga was practically a joke. I watched a couple of girls practicing these exercises on the beach and thought, ‘Hey, I can do those!’ So, presuming I could really impress them, I marched straight up and asked them to instruct me. Boy, was I in for a surprise! This routine is harder than it looks. One thing led to another and here I am, two years later, on a yoga farm in the mountains. None of my old friends back in New Jersey can believe it. Sometimes, neither can I.

“We begin with the exercises and can’t figure out how these peculiar twists and stretches will change our lives. But they do. In time, we leave the daily physical exercises behind we move further into other dimensions of yoga – the meditation, especially. Suddenly clear of so many former obstacles, little do we suspect the tough new regimen we’re about to face. Discipline, we discover, lets us grow.

“Swami insists on hard labor. Lots of it, in the kitchen and fields and woods. Scrubbing toilet bowls and pounding nails and mixing cement and shoveling manure for the garden. It’s not as exciting as saying, ‘Hey, man, we’re really into meditation and chanting,’ but it’s just as crucial. Maybe more so. Swami’s orders seem so outlandish when you first hear them. But she’s the most natural person I’ve ever met.

“Look closely at the farmhouse. Nothing’s properly squared. Everything’s at an unintended angle. That’s all of our amateur labor at work. Swami says it reveals the love that’s gone into building.

“We put ordinary people to work. Few who come here have practical skills – many can’t even use a broom or hammer properly when they first show up. But that doesn’t stop us. We know the value of the basic skills of living. We guide them by example, and they return some devotion and toil as an offering to the Lord. That’s the way work should be done, anyway. The path of karma yoga is the most down-to-earth, yet profound route to self-realization. That’s why it gets the royal emphasis around here. Talk theory all you want, but when you come face-to-face with a task like vacuuming floors or washing dirty clothes or hauling rock up the scaffolding, ideas are put to the test. You put up or shut up. And then maybe you start learning. As falsehoods clear away, you open to the truth. Karma yoga can push you to the limit.”

~*~

To learn more about my novel Ashram, go to my page at Smashwords.com.

Ashram

One topic was banned

Ashram focuses on the diverse struggles and aspirations a circle of eight American yoga students and their teacher face in a single day of their back-to-the-earth household. Set in the period before scandals rocked most of the organizations of Eastern religion in the West, and before yoga became essentially a physical health movement, Ashram probes the excitement, opportunity, idealism, and intense physical and psychological labor that flourished briefly before the followers’ youthful freedom gave way to the demands of professional careers and raising children.

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“In the old days, when we all sat around the big oak table in the dining room, we often found ourselves discussing our drug experiences. Until Swami put a halt to it. ‘You’re all yogis now. That’s all behind you. Talking about it will only make you think it was a lot more fun than it was. This chatter can lead you astray. Worse yet, you can really hurt the new disciples, who are facing enough temptations without your prompting. You were all pretty dark and hungry when you came here.’

“She’s right.”

~*~

To learn more about my novel Ashram, go to my page at Smashwords.com.

Ashram

Boot camp for the soul

In this boot camp for the soul, the road to enlightenment leads through a cement mixer and chicken house as much as headstands and Sanskrit chanting. And self-realization has more to do with serving others than with your own desires. Swami’s methods may be unorthodox and down-to-earth, but she gets results. Or else.

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Vajra reflects on getting the ashram ready for the summer onslaught. He and Rudy are pushing the garden along, a piece of ground hadn’t been used in many years, it requires lots of extra care. They’ve removed so many wheelbarrows of rock that Uma swears they’re growing crops of fresh stone. Vajra insists they work in a lot of cow manure, as well as piles of peat moss. Stubborn runners from nearby shrubs and Japanese knotweed must be rooted out – real back-breaking grub work! Trenches for carrots and turnips are dug and filled with sand, and ground set aside for an asparagus patch. All of these garden assignments kept their spring guests busy. “What you plant now,” Swami told them, “others like yourselves will harvest and eat this summer. What they can and freeze for the winter, new students next winter and spring will enjoy. We’re all connected through our practice.”

~*~

To learn more about my novel Ashram, go to my page at Smashwords.com.

Ashram