When my mother took LSD in 1975, under the amicable supervision of Stanislav Grof and Joan Halifax, she had no idea I was growing inside her. Throughout the trip, she commented on the movement in her belly, how it pulsed and distended. That was me. I was smaller than a grape seed, yet I was clearly huge. My mother and I achieved a psychic union that was more vast, more seamless than even our circumstance. Perhaps I remember expanding; beyond my cells, their race of microscopic bloom; beyond the amniotic womb—yet corded to the flesh creating me. My early introduction to psychedelics, two weeks after conception, is not remarkable. My parents, a Spanish teacher and a sculptor/businessman, were involved in Esalen during the early seventies and lived for a period in a San Francisco ashram. Twenty years later an open attitude about most things prevails within my family. Including drugs. This may not be the norm, but in some ways, it represents a conceptual ideal for my generation. Nostalgia for the sixties endures in us. After all, we grew out of, around, and into drugs. The stuff is in our very chromosomes; it’s in our memory; it’s in our minds. Now I live in a Buddhist educational and spiritual community. What brought me here, away from home, from school at Barnard College? Many things: among them, wide exposure to Tibetan and Nepalese sacred art, Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, and an Indo-Tibetan Buddhism class with Robert Thurman. However, the most dramatic reason was something I can only describe as a visionary experience that began last summer. In Mesoamerica, I was initiated in a shamanic peyote ceremony. It wasn’t easy; I felt a vast suffering that was not mine alone. Two months later, and completely sober, I experienced a reality as clear and beauteous as a pure land. This lasted four days, during which time my only wish was to revisit, among other Buddhist texts, Shantideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. Here there were echoes of my experience. However, my attempts to communicate this cosmic fusion went largely misunderstood; the university doctors subjected me to substance abuse tests. Whether it was or was not the cloudy biological memory of peyote makes no difference. An inner knowing surfaced in me. I returned to the source, the womb, the infinite. The philosophies I had admired became palpable. I understood that inevitably my mind would return to its old habits if I did not keep the gates open. So I began meditation practice.
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