Trippin’: Roads, Rails, and Mountain Trails
Episode 49, December 1972–March 1973
I spent a day and a half visiting with friends and working with Rosie on our book. Albert had expanded his ESP training. As he practiced guessing blackjack deals, when he missed a playing card, he'd hike out to the barn, hook his arm up to a twelve-volt battery, and give himself a jolt. Talk about dedication! Las Vegas, you better watch your back.
I recognized with great delight that I was now no longer restricted by a relationship. I also realized that one of the most gorgeous women I'd ever set eyes upon was also unattached. So I said to my canine friend, "Why don't we mosey down to Oakland and pay Ella a visit?" With Charlie on board, we left Winters bound for the bay.
Seeing Ella was a gift to my vision. Over a cheese sandwich, she told me she was going to San Francisco to a gathering called satsang and if I wanted, I could come along with her. I told her, "Sure." Hell, I'd follow that beauty into a hornet's nest.
We drove to the city and arrived at a huge Victorian home in the Sunset district. There were dozens of shoes piled on the porch, where I made room for Charlie to settle in and assured her, "I'll be back." Ella and I removed our shoes and stepped inside.
We sat in a large, adjoined living room-dining room area where the walls and carpets were a soft shade of blue. By the time things were ready to begin, sixty people had squeezed into the space: a mix of freaks and clean-cut, mostly young adults, mainly city folk. One by one, people went to the front of the room and shared their experience with what they called "the Knowledge." Anyone who felt inspired would get up and speak for five to ten minutes.
I could see how the descriptions varied with each individual. Those who came from religious backgrounds tended to express their experience as one of God or the Spirit. Others would speak of it as either energy, consciousness, love, or peace. But there was a common thread—they were all speaking about an inner understanding coming from the Knowledge techniques that they practiced. And they all appeared to be having a superb experience.
I could feel their childlike wonder and gratitude towards the master, the gift of Knowledge that they had received, and the love that they were immersed in. After an hour, everybody, including myself, was feeling pretty high. Then a fellow picked up a guitar and before long the whole crowd was dancing.
This was a group of people I wouldn't normally hang with and they probably wouldn't mix with each other. Despite the differences, the group shared something: a powerful experience, a fierce desire to be conscious, a propensity for love, and eyes that shined and sparkled.
What I sensed was something I had only glimpsed before. There's a quote I remembered by Kahlil Gibran that said, "Half of what I say, I say so you will hear the other half." I now had an inkling of what that meant. The vibration coming from people sharing this love energy seemed to lay a contact high on everyone in its path. I liked what I felt and decided right then that I wanted this Knowledge for myself.
A friend of my brother-in-law remodeled apartments in San Francisco. He hired me for cleaning and painting and I was allowed to stay with Charlie in whichever dwelling I was working on. In the evenings, I continued to attend satsang.
One afternoon, after arriving a few hours early, I was sitting in a library room with seven other individuals, reading an article that discussed the Knowledge. A fellow I didn't recognize came into the room. In a British accent, he asked, “Does anyone here know how to work on cars?”
The other people in the room were from the city and it was apparent by their lack of response that they had little mechanical experience. I felt a bit insecure since most of my automotive ability was limited to flat tires and the work I'd done on Evergreen, my old Chevy pickup truck. Despite that fact, I decided to volunteer.
“I know a little but I’m in no way a mechanic.”
He grinned and waved his hand. “Can you come outside with me?”
With reluctance, I left my seat and followed him through the kitchen and out the back door. We walked down the steps and around the corner of the house to the driveway. A huge delivery truck was parked there, with two other guys standing next to it. The fellow I was following said to one of them, “Danny, this guy knows some things.”
Danny told me, “It starts up and barely runs for a few seconds, and then it dies. Any idea what it could be?” The hood was up, but the fenders were so tall that I had to climb up on the running board to actually see into the engine compartment. With very little confidence, I peered over the fender and was delighted to discover Evergreen's engine in that big old eighteen-foot box truck!
I stepped down and searched through a toolbox that sat on the ground until I found the wrench I wanted—then loosened the bolt on the distributor and instructed Danny to start the thing up. Using the trick that the old mechanic, Steve, had shown me, I set the timing by watching the fan settle down. It ran as smooth as silk and I was the hero of the day.
As I continued to attend satsang, I began to realize there were two things going on—what Prem Rawat, who they called Maharaji, said about life and the Knowledge, and the trappings created around his work.
Like Maharaji, his instructors came from India and they brought with them Indian and Hindu cultural influences that were reflected in their practices and behavior. Since I had read Autobiography of a Yogi, these rituals didn't bother me. But many American followers were influenced by the Eastern concepts, which was understandable considering they had been handed a powerful experience and then turned to the Eastern instructors for guidance.
When I paid attention to Maharaji's words, I heard that this Knowledge had nothing to do with East or West, rites or rituals, philosophy, belief, or even religion. He said it was simply about the profound energy within each human being—the Knowledge of Self— who we really are at our core. He taught that the Knowledge was a practical tool to access a perfect peace within. And when I listened to his followers, I sensed their passion along with a very powerful tender feeling!
Maharaji's message was clear: what we are looking for is inside. All we needed to do was learn how to connect with it. I knew I had tasted this experience and I realized that I wanted it in a more lasting way. And besides, it was free. There was nothing to lose by giving Knowledge a try.
When I finally experienced the Knowledge, an encounter with the purest part of my being, I was amazed. It was much more beautiful than I’d ever imagined.
I’d heard it said that when you die your whole life flashes before you but I had an erroneous concept about what that actually meant. I now saw with clarity that everything in my history had brought me to this point: the highs and lows, the trials and tribulations, the climbing the mountain meditation event, facing the draft, the heartaches and blissful encounters with lovers, the times I came close to death, and the times I soared through life. It was all part of a quest to find inner peace which had brought me to a point where I could accept this subtle experience—as if my entire life was woven in a way that prepared me for this moment.
I could even see the perfection within the searing pain of trying to break through Jodi’s wall. The humbling experience of the past year along with the dedication and devotion Jodi had demonstrated, all served to develop the thirst that sparked my search—which allowed me to yearn for serenity. My heart had known what I needed all along—to be open enough to experience what I now was able to feel.
I had tasted this love before but in a random way and had been disappointed again and again because I couldn't sustain it. Ingested drugs provided glimpses of this but it was always masked by chemical distortions. I had embraced it in my “climbing the mountain” experience, which now seemed like a mysterious gift to whet my appetite. Finally, I knew without a doubt “what is never changing in an ever-changing world.”
The sensation I embraced now was an overwhelming fulfillment that was constant, which I could connect to whenever I desired. This Knowledge put me in touch with my essence—the energy that was keeping me alive. Not due to somebody telling me what this was—but because I was having an actual experience of it!
And it had been right there within me all the time!
So I did what I always do when I come across something beautiful—I tried to turn all my friends onto it, thinking my excitement would be enough to convince them to check it out. Knowing that this Knowledge was inside us all, I wanted everyone to be aware of the high to beat all highs. But most of my friends figured I was on a personal, evangelical crusade. They thought I was just another “born again” fanatic.
At first, I was disappointed but I soon understood that if I hadn't been ready to accept this, I would have reacted in a similar way. It took a while and a few brick walls but I finally figured out that we each have our own path. My hope remained that everyone would find a way to fulfill the fundamental request of their hearts.
How surprising and perfect that after traveling and tripping for so many miles, by so many means, my last expedition of those pipe-dreaming years would simply lead me inside.
And wasn't that what the sixties were all about? It was a time when we woke from a slumber—a time for journeying both inside and out— a time to live, love, laugh, explore, and be amazed. Only those who were there know what it was like to catch that exceptional wave.
Don’t forget—no one else sees the world the way you do,
so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell.
– Charles de Lint
This is the last installment of my true-life adventures from the ’60s. All released episodes of Trippin’ are available here.
If you haven’t already read the first book in the Hippie Adventurer Series, the award-winning Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes, you can find it on Amazon and Audible.
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Trippin': Roads, Rails & Mountain Trails
In book 2 of his Hippie Adventurer Series, Rich takes us on another wild ride during the 1960s as he and his faithful canine companion, Charlie, hitchhike, hop freights, work in an Alaskan gold mining camp, and manage a Sacramento Valley cattle ranch.
A Message from Rich
Trippin’ is my gift to all of you. For me, the ’60s were a heartfelt time of growth, exploration, freedom, and brotherhood. I hope to impart a truthful account of what it was like to live as a hippie in that wacky, magical era. Enjoy the journey!
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If you haven’t read the first book in the Hippie Adventurer Series, the award-winning Groovin’: Horses, Hopes, and Slippery Slopes, you can find it on Amazon and Audible.
1A. Escape from Heavy Caverns