Turney Street. Sausalito. 1965. My neighbors across the street were taking LSD. Mary, who lived downstairs, tried it a few weeks later. She paced back and forth in her living room, tall, bony, forthright, dressed in beige slacks and a red sweater. Her eyes glowed as she talked. “Hold my hand,” she said. I did for a while.
“You’re too fragile,” they said, but I took it anyway.
That night I saw things with special clarity as I lay in my bed and gazed at the turn-of-the century windows with their crystalline glass, gazed at the soft light of the candle. I had prepared for this occasion. I’d been reading Timothy Leary on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (his hip version), and before that, for years I’d carried the Evan-Wentz translation around Europe.
The clarity of who I was, who my father, mother, lover, child were—their essences shone so clearly. The knots that I had spent years of therapy trying to untie dissolved. I wrote and wrote and wrote to channel the energy coming down. Luckily, the dose was not too strong because I realized how close I was to the edge of spinning off into something terrifying. Ken was my guide. I gripped his hand to keep hold of my body, to keep from letting go completely. Coming down was hard. Like being enclosed again inside a box that was now too small. For weeks I felt nervous, neurotic even more than usual.
During the next few years, I took a few more trips on acid, and these times I was alone. I always prepared as if for a religious ritual. And always there came that clarity, that precious opening up of the mind and body.
Ward Street. Berkeley, 1973. As soon as my daughter had left for school, I swallowed the small pill. The acid was not as pure as it had been. Street drugs. It didn’t feel so safe. Nonetheless, thoughts and images poured into my mind. I wrote and wrote and wrote non-stop on a portable typewriter. Somewhere in a box filed away is the heap of pages—nearly a hundred –that I wrote. I understood with such clarity the relationship between me and my lover, and what I had to do as a writer, and also I realized that this would be the last trip I could take, that this was truly acid in its potentially corrosive effect.
Meditation was the next step.
Karme Choling. Vermont. 1986. A dathun, or month long Tibetan Buddhist meditation retreat. Hours each day of sitting. No matter that I got a really bad flu. Keep on sitting, the instructor demanded. But at times, I just copped out and slept and slept. Towards the end I recovered, and I continued sitting. And as with the acid, but much more slowly, drop by drop instead of pouring out in a torrent, this wonderful sense of slowing down, of seeing the world clearly began to develop.
In a future dathun, I sought this experience again, but it could not be recaptured.
The past never can be.
It is always NOW. Meditation helps me plunge more clearly into the center of NOW, and it is then I realize that in my usual frantic mode I am like a rat running along the edge of a wheel. Meditation pulls me closer to the center, to that core of calmness, that core of being.
Causes Maria Espinosa Supports
Amnesty International, KPFA, anything to ameliorate homelessness and to make shelters more livable