“It’s you who’ll define which I
you think of when you say ‘I’.”
– Ram Dass
September, 1973, San Francisco
At what precise instant my mind slipped from wine and weed induced giddiness into silence, I don’t know. I only remember existing in a calm like no calm I had ever experienced, present in a way I had never been. Across the midnight street, a red flashing light spun a crimson circle as it careened round and round. I seemed to know that the light was stationary, that the spinning perceived was the looping of my own short-circuited brain.
The knowing I felt was not thinking. Rather, it was a seeping in of perception akin to red bluing into magenta deepening into purple. I saw and heard and held all in unwavering attention, as if I were a timeless entity keeping company this particular ripple in eternity and the seeming husk that was my body. Alone inside the car, in the back seat, my body sat upright at a side rear window, motionless.
Out on the sidewalk, Bill, my then-husband, and the other couple with whom we had been partying, Bobbi and her man at the time, were all standing toward the rear of the car. I could hear Bobbi’s partner pontificating –in that puffed-up way he had, chin pulled in to deepen his voice– on the likelihood of my remaining catatonic. I heard him with the simple detachment I’d feel were he describing the whoosh of his own blood in his veins. In that moment I simply was… and the rise and fall of tones carrying meaning that were his words simply were. I felt them uttered through stiff lips, sensed the high arch of brows over long-lidded eyes that peered like a magistrate’s down the side of his nose. I heard –felt– the silence of the others, uneasy, not knowing. Purple shaded into violet that an accidental overdose might have blown my young mind. A pale tingeing flowed through and with it a soft, sad regret… and then an airiness filtering anew into seamless calm.
I noted and felt all. My own stillness. I was in my body, yet also beside my body in the cave-like dim of the Porsche, and beyond its windows in the cool air of the night. I was in the words spoken and in the hearing of the words. As my companions spoke, I was in their midst. I seemed to be –from some depth in my own being never before known to me– present everywhere all at once.
At what point the me that I usually thought of as me reappeared, whether it crept in or broke through in a burst, I never knew.
I had not known then –on the brink of turning 30– that I was on automatic, driven by reactions to past conditioning I had thrust roughly away yet still internalized. And I was blindly, foolishly ignorant of the nature of Mystery. Having slammed the door on the oppressive religion of my youth, unwittingly I’d also locked out mysticism, the direct experience of connection to All. For years the incident floated at the edge of my consciousness, unmoored by any conceptual framework by which to reap meaning. Yet, in a manner unknown to me, it led my life into a hard right. I left the marriage and had my tubes tied, returned to school and embarked on fierce experimentation: Who was I?
Not until 15 years later when I had devoured Africa in a rumbling odyssey along its dusty roads and wandered alone all over India in a numinously-directed search that led back to me, did I begin to realize what had happened that night in the back seat of that car. That through a tear in my own veil of inherited and unconscious illusions I had caught a first glimpse, and tasted the unforgettable, indelible and undeniable presence, of the single shared reality that is our innermost Self.
Change your Mind Change your Brain: The Inner Conditions…