OWSLEY ACID

        In the late 60’s, after putting out the first edition of a community-based poetry and photography magazine, People on the Streets, based in Washington, D.C., and engaging in several large anti-War rallies, my friend and I decided to take a break and travel to Mexico. Friends had told us about a village high in the mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean that San Francisco hippies had discovered. So, late in December, after a long drive South, we crossed the border and arrived at Zacatecas where bright-eyed Huichol Indians (who take psychedelic peyote and play tiny violins) live. Leaving that city behind, we traveled to Puerto Vallarta where we boarded an ancient ship (resembling the African Queen) which took us down the coast to Yelapa. Left on an empty white sand beach, we were greeted by a tall young blonde woman who told us to leave our baggage on the beach (because no one would disturb it) and go into the village to rent a pelapa (cottage). This pelapa was constructed out of stone and colored glass bottles in the lower third, dark timbers with large open wooden windows in the middle, and a thatched reed roof on top. In the interior, stone steps led up to a one-bedroom loft. We had been told, and the young woman confirmed, that Owsley acid was readily available. The next day, after taking the acid, we climbed to a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful tropical trees and multi-colored birds surrounded us, while beyond the blue, shading into deep blue, Pacific Ocean was shining. Taking acid was like having the coverings of one’s eyes torn off – forcing us to see everything “fresh” – like looking at the world through a newborn’s eyes. It was exhausting seeing everything as if for the first time. Later on, coming down just a bit, I thought this must be how Jesus saw the world – no “ego,” no “self” – just pure consciousness.

       When I came completely down, I wanted to experience life like this all the time, but knew this experience had been a gift of “magical” chemicals and that I would never be able to repeat it in the same way – no matter how many “trips” I took. I understood that I needed to earn my way back – by changing my life and becoming more “like” Jesus and by some serious study. I also understood it would be a long road and wondered if I would ever be able to accomplish it.

        If one thinks about consciousness as an open circle, the part accessible to one’s ego is a very thin slice – maybe 10% – 20%. From early childhood on, that’s the tiny part of ourselves we choose to live within – with our experiences needing to fit within that narrow slice or be excluded. Our ego requires, as the price for its effectiveness, that each and every experience outside the scope of its chosen roles to be methodically and ruthlessly pushed back into the unconscious – sealing off wider and wilder experiences out of our consciousness.

       When we’re “born again,” we gain access to all our consciousness – all 360 degrees of it – and are able to experience full reality. We become completely “free” – open to all experience – just like when we first came into the world. This rebirth, however, doesn’t happen within an ego – it only happens after we break free from that ego and start living outside it. That’s what Zen training, for example, prepares one for – to get “outside” oneself. This, essentially, is the path Jesus took, and what he was able to demonstrate for us. 

A BABY’S EYES

As a young lawyer, I represented art galleries, dance companies, “movement” activists, and various educational and religious groups, especially those wishing to qualify for federal tax-exempt status. During that time, I was representing a small Zen Buddhist group in Washington, D.C. At one point, they requested whether I would also represent their parent group, a large Zen Buddhist monastery in the Catskills. I agreed, but they then told me I would first have to personally meet their Zen Master, Eido Roshi. Every year he came to Georgetown University to give a talk so I would be able to meet him there. When the time came, I went to Georgetown and was led backstage for a face to face meeting. I was a bit apprehensive – what would it be like to meet a “real” Zen Master? The man I was introduced to was in his mid-sixties, but when I looked at him, the first thing I noticed were his eyes. I was looking at an elderly man, bearing a lifetime of experience, who was looking at me through a “baby’s” eyes. (Of course, how this actually works is that one automatically sees oneself through the other person’s eyes.) This was shocking to me – I had never seen anything like it!  What I learned was that human beings exist who are able to combine the openness and spontaneity of a child with a deep adult wisdom. I learned that human beings are not all alike and that, with respect to my own life, I certainly had a long way to go.

LOST IN THE MIST

The truth is we no longer have names
Since the old names no longer apply –
Now, we’re becoming as anonymous as God.

No one knows the original name of God either –
All those religions inspired by God’s ancient names
Have been shedding their names
Along with all the adjectives clustered around them.

That’s why I’m waiting for a new God without a name
To suddenly appear, like happened in the old days –
For example, when Jesus first arrived, no one knew who he was,
But now, everybody knows his name.

Pretty soon, many more of us will have lost our names
And forgotten who we are –
Lost in the mist –
Inadvertently painted over.

I myself was born with a name
But I’m about to lose it
When I step out into a sky of pulsing, radiant stars
I’ll become someone – way up there –
Someone who I no longer remember, and you don’t remember either –
Yes, it’s true – I’ll still be alive –
Alive, but no longer having my own name –

For now, just call me “God.”

SILLY, SUBLIME MAN

Diner Mystic left church behind,
But ended up coming back to sit with Jesus
Because, eventually, he came to understand Jesus
Was who they said he was –
A human being actually capable of “mirroring” God –
While living in a human/God duality.

Diner Mystic left the Church 40 years ago
And returned when he was able to say “Jesus Christ” –
Numbering himself among the others who are able to say this –
Including Mary Magdalene (the first), as well as the other Mary who Jesus taught spirituality,
His own mother Mary –
The women at the Cross –
His disciples –
And then, last but not least, Saul/Paul.

It took Diner Mystic a long time to arrive at this point –
And he apologizes for his tardiness –
But that was the path necessary for him “to say it real” –
He had to leave in order to come back –
He had to travel to the ends of the universe
To find his very own feet.

Silly, sublime man!

“LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME”

 “Mr. Personality” gets up onto the stage
And shouts: “Look at me, Look at me!”

This act verges on the hysterical –
A part he’s always wanted to play.

Someone living inside one’s personality has no imagination
Since they could actually be living inside a much larger Being.

For example, instead of “going small” –
Expressing oneself as a modified (but hopefully better) “self”
On some small stage or downtown square
One could go all the way.

Way past the gold-painted alters
Or soaring baroque spires –
All the way up to Heaven –
To God.

Instead of possessing a “personality”
One could decide to take up residence inside God’s body –
God’s illumined mind
Or God’s thrumming heart.

Then you would be able to say God’s truth
Through your own mouth –
Feel God’s love
Through your own human heart –
See far out to infinity and think about eternity
While engaged in singing God’s universal song –

It goes something like this ….

A NEW START

The self is nobody
And God is no one.

That’s a start!

God, was, is, a great idea
Coming into existence through a single flashing thought
On its way to becoming everything else.

This idea that eventually became everything
Met nobody – time after time –
And exchanging places in a magical spiritual marriage –
Repeatedly resulted in the birth of pure joy.

I’m working on another idea –
It runs through me only when I’m not looking:

Suddenly, I become a new person
Shining like Jesus or the Buddha
Born this very day.  

It looks like this!

GROWING YOUNGER WHILE GROWING OLDER

While still young, we become anxious to grow older
Modeling ourselves on nearby adults who seem successful –
Eventually, however, we become older ourselves – inside and out.

But this turns out to be not right!

Later on in our lives, some of us begin a struggle
To become free of our earlier-developed “mature” selves
While an even smaller number manage to actually accomplish it –
By becoming “children” again.

Growing older, at some point we find the need to start over – reversing direction –
Spiritually – getting younger year by year –
Until we achieve the stage Jesus might look over at us –
(Now, perhaps, grandfathers and grandmothers)
And say: “Let the little children come unto me.”

BOOKS ARE MY FRIENDS (For Laurel)

Books are my friends –
Accompanied by them I’ll never get bored
And if at times I get a bit “down,” a passing title will soon pick me up.

Books surround me with the most thoughtful people who ever lived –
Crowding around in my study
Their intrinsic seriousness and brilliance lifts my room sky high
Ready for long-distance visits to a future “me.”

If a book is empty and brings me down – I quickly put it down
And pick up another.

People without books remind me of deserts without water –
A mechanical kind of survival –
“Clank, clank, clank.”

Books are the sea we swim in
So as to relax by distant shores.

Books are magic pills we swallow
In order to change into someone else.

Books are dreams we can make real
By spending time inside them.

Books will make you an entirely new and different person
If you’re open to opening them.

ALWAYS FRESH

“I go back to where everything is nothing.”
                                                      Rumi

Along with Rumi, I want nothing – except freedom
And perhaps a friend to point the way to God for me
In place of all the religious “professionals” lining the way to nowhere
And flatterers complimenting us on things we already know.

I want nothing
And the freedom that goes along with it –
I also want a God who still desires being God
Along with a quotidian material world whirring into and out of existence.

I want a freedom that’s fully paid for –
And a love that arrives “out of the blue.”

Speaking of “blue,” I want a lot more of that
Skies, oceans, robins’ eggs, and Van Gogh blues –
Along with the spectacular “yellows” I’d never seen before visiting Musée d’Orsay.

Nothing is absolutely the beginning of everything –
Nothing is a midnight diner – cars streaming by –
Nothing is music discerned through an almost-waking dream.

Nothing is a God who doesn’t need to be acknowledged as “God” –
Since God’s perpetually fresh!

NOT THE PICTURE BUT THE REAL BEING

Where is Jesus in this ancient religion called “Christianity?”
Certainly not in a silver medal hanging around one’s neck
Requiring people to nod when passing.

Jesus is not anybody who needs to be worshipped
Since, today, Jesus is you – and nobody else.

If you do decide to “become” him –
Open the doors of your soul and say, “please come in.” 

Jesus is not the world religion created by Paul and institutionalized by Constantine
At which all the good seats have already been taken –
Hypocrites being the first to rush in
Pretending, unconvincingly, like modern-day Evangelicals to be Jesus’ best friends.

When someone decided (who was that who decided?)
To merge the Roman Empire into the name and spirit of Jesus –
He (Jesus) quickly left by a side door – and has never been seen again.

Curators plaster museum walls with pictures of him
Framed with gold and precious jewels –
But Jesus, himself, is back out on the street – searching for God
All over again.

Birds see him
Cats turn their heads when passing
But only crazy people are willing to unembarrassedly acknowledge him in public –
When they see
Not the common-accepted picture – but the real human being!