I’m lucky to still be alive to tell the tale.

suz10All I can do this morning when I browse the news and ponder on all the people who have left the planet in recent days, ranging from self-help author Debbie Ford, who faced her shadow, to the troubled music star Mindy McCready, whose shadow overpowered her, to the many people from my own life drama who have passed on . . . all I can do is shake my head and wonder what really happens in the great beyond. I also say, “There but for the grace of God go I.”
I’ve only minimally tasted the pain of life, and that was painful enough. I once hit a man in the head with a glass bottle while he was driving . . . it was just lucky there wasn’t a gun in the car. I can only imagine the pain in the heart and solar plexus that would cause a beautiful 37-year-old singer to end it all. How incomprehensible it all is, even if we find a logical reason.Yesterday I came across a very interesting piece about Larry Hagman’s mind-altering psychedelic trip. It described how the actor suffered a nervous breakdown while filming a TV show and how the film crew carted him off to a psychiatrist who suggested he ease his anxiety by taking LSD. Hagman claimed that he saw his body’s molecular structure during his first trip. “Some cells were dying, some cells were being reborn . . . I realized we don’t disappear when we die. We’re always part of a curtain of energy.”A 70-year-old friend suggested to me that there should be a gentle, legal form of LSD for senior citizens. He says it’s not fair that we kick the bucket without ever really knowing what this whole trip of being in a body was all about.

It’s been 45 years since I took my last trip, high in the mountains of Ojai, in Matilija Canyon or Rose Valley. It was August or September of 1967, a few days after I returned from Haight-Ashbury. I don’t recall the exact location, only that we drove up Maricopa Highway, parked, and hiked to a place that was absolutely still and quiet, far away from the noise of civilization. I was 18 years old and didn’t have the language to articulate what happened. But I remember that my consciousness shifted from the world of time to timelessness. Maybe it was a taste of cosmic consciousness, maybe it wasn’t. I do distinctly remember saying over and over again, “I’ve waited so many lifetimes for this moment.”

The impression this experience made on my consciousness has never left me. At the same time, I know that the human mind is capable of inventing all kinds of realities, whether born of mind-altering drugs, religious conditioning, or the effects of alternative belief systems, some of which I was briefly “processed” in before I jumped ship.

So here I am in beautiful Ojai, in my messy writing hovel, surrounded by books, journals, yoga props, and cats and dogs sprawled across my bed. I’m still sleeping on a mattress on the floor, just like in my hippie days. The sun is shining through the trees, and I feel blessed to wake up happy. If the world doesn’t end, then this day, like all the others, will be eaten up by endless ADLs (activities of daily living): money reckonings, kitty litter cleaning, dog walking (the highlight of the day), and eating food—both for nourishment and for consolation.

All human beings suffer, no matter what props they accrue on the stage of life. Some overdose on drugs, some put a bullet in their head, and all succumb to accidents, disease, or age. This awareness alone helps move me into the present moment, where I can laugh and realize I’m lucky to still be alive to tell the tale.

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