TM and Maharishi
One day in May 1968 I was walking down the hall in the Social Science building at UC Irvine and saw Betty, (the same woman who had showed me Zen Flesh Zen Bones,) talking to another young woman, who I think may have been called Linda. They were sparkling as they stood close together speaking confidentially about something. I could see a kind of peaceful and happy glow about them.
I walked up to them and said, "What's happening? I am totally intrigued. What are you talking about?"
Betty, who was always grumpy, said, "It's private, go away."
I said, "Just tell me, please, what you are talking about."
Linda said, "We just learned blah blah blah meditation," this weekend. We are in the midst of the four-day training.
"Would you say that again?" I asked, pulling out a piece of paper.
I wrote down, transcendental meditation, and then asked, "Where do you go to learn?"
"Westwood," Betty said, and then I left them alone.
After my classes were over, I went straight home, called information in Westwood, got the number of Transcendental Meditation, called them, asked them how to learn. They said I should go to an introductory lectre, and I wrote down the date and place of the next introductory lecture, which was in two days. The location was the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, which I knew well, because I used to go there for surfing movies in the late 50's and early 60's. I went up to the auditorium and sat through an entertaining lecture by Jerry Jarvis, who was then one of the main organizers of the "Student's International Meditation Society."
Two weeks later I went up to Westwood, and learned TM (Transcendental Meditation). Because I was now getting to be part of the circle of people around the lab, they asked me to come in and have my brain waves measured before learning TM. So I jumped in my VW bug and drove to the out-in-the-boondocks place where the new EEG lab was, the "Interrim Office Buildings." On my way to the lab I got pulled over by a Highway Patrollman for not having the registration sticker on my car. Beware of making detours on your way to learn to meditate, or not having your papers in order! Then after all that I drove the 55 miles north to Westwood.
Finally I got up to Westwood, and learned TM from a nice little old lady by the name of Beulah Smith. The session with Beulah was on a Saturday. Then Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings there were follow-up sessions. In a kind of careless arrogance I later found was characteristic of the TM organization, each of the evening meetings was in a different location and no maps were provided. Sunday night was in a certain hall at UCLA, which I managed to find. (UCLA is 60 miles north of where I was living at the time.) I drove up for the Monday night session but couldn't find it – it was some other hall at UCLA , different than the one announced, changed at the last minute, and the traffic and parking were bumper-to-bumper. As I recall, there wasn't even anywhere to park at 7pm on a Monday. So I think I missed one or two of the three follow-up sessions, which was bad.
Nothing happened for several days. I meditated in the morning and evening, but did not notice a thing. I felt blah. Then, around Tuesday, I was walking through the middle of UCI, and noticed that I was in Celestial Awareness. The world had very gradually turned from black and white to a very subtle Technicolor effect. Inanimate objects just looked very clear, but the grass, trees, and people were sparkling with life-force. The feeling came on very quietly, just a sense of glad to be alive, grateful to be here and breathing, delighted to be seeing, and wide-open to life. This was the kind of seeing and feeling I had been introduced to during the weeks of the EEG experiment. Perhaps slightly enhanced because I had been missing it and searching for it for several months. And here it was, some kind of inner union, my circuits functioning properly. That's what it felt like – if I was an engine, I was now running on all cylinders, with a properly adjusted carburetor. If I was a piano, I was now tuned.
There was no sense, by the way, of being better than anyone or in a spiritual state. Rather, I felt that I had just come to the party everyone else was already at. I was just now finally seeing what was going on.
So it was that I learned Transcendental Meditation, a wonderfully simple and elegant technique taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Combined with the basis I had in trusting spontaneity, TM was a fantastic technique for me. In 1969 and 1970 I attended meditation teacher trainings with Maharishi, and he made me a teacher of TM. For awhile, I was the only teacher of TM in Orange County. It was great fun, and I continued my pattern of surfing in the morning, taking classes at the university, participating in the scientific research on meditation, and giving lectures on meditation in the evenings.
Maharishi studied with Swami Brahamananda Saraswati, whose name means "the bliss of the Absolute." Swami Brahmananda Saraswati was a true forest yogi, wandering alone for many years in the wild places of India, living in silence, doing intense practices.
Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. Is it just me or does he seem to be scowling at the camera (what you lookin' at?)
Heightened Sensing & Drugs
An interesting side-effect of the heightened sensing resulting from meditation was that I became able to see, hear and feel subtle energies. I think we all can do this, but usually there is so much noise and static inside our heads and nerves that we miss the quiet signals. Dogs and cats certainly seem to be alert to these signals, so it is not necessarily a spiritual quality – or maybe dogs and cats are really spiritual.
Paying attention to subtle sensory impressions was mostly pleasurable, as when I would see a friend approaching me from a hundred feet away and I would know their mood at a glance. If they were at all in a good mood, I would be bathed in delight. But if they were stoned, which looked like they were pretending to be happy, straining to be happy, my senses would hurt.
But this was 1968 and I was at the University of California, and many of my friends were taking drugs. It turned out I could tell from a hundred feet what drugs they were on – marijuana, hash, LSD, speed, mushrooms; whether it was just coming on, peaking, crashing, or hung over; and also the quality of the drug. (The Drugs section got to be long - 2600 words - so I put it in its own section, Drugs). I did not have any willpower, or "won't power." The people I met just did not look like they were having as good a time as I do when I go surfing. They looked fucked up.
Joe Cocker at Woodstock – "Let's Go Get Stoned"