I ate several brownies that first time, and when the euphoria hit, I lay on my back looking up at the stars, and I thought that I never wanted those good feelings to stop. That was my introduction to drugs, to sound I had never heard before, to light and beauty and a deep sense of peace. This is what I had been missing, and I do not regret having had those experiences. They were part of my history, just as Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell were during the sixties, when we were experimenting with everything. Along with those icons, I was a pioneer.
I came across a picture of myself taken in winter in Big Sur. I was on my knees, looking out over the ocean on Highway One. My friend and I were driving north from LA, and I was high on acid. It was winter, and I was wearing a hand-woven Indian poncho over jeans, my head wrapped with a scarf so that my long red curls spilled out of it in ringlets. You could tell it was cold because my curls were a bit frizzy, and the fog over the ocean gave the picture a muted cast. My friend took the picture from behind me, so that you could see my profile looking out at the ocean below, and my eyes had a slightly dreamy, glazed cast from the acid. My freckles were in clear view, and I was smiling sightly, like how you keep your lips in meditation. Like the calm bliss of Buddha's gaze. I was completely there.
I remember the moment, held in time in this photograph, as if it were yesterday, although I was in my early twenties. I remember the beauty of the view and how, each time I turned away, it hurt. The intensity of the beauty on that cliff, made so sharp by the acid I had taken, was holding me there, and turning away from it felt like ripping away pieces of my heart. My friend was patient, and could see that I was in deep communion with the place and the moment. Every few minutes she would ask softly, "Are you ready?," and I would say, "Not yet." I couldn't look away, for fear of losing it
There is safety in the light. I have heard that, felt it. Perhaps that is one reason I prefer the light and the long days of summer. The brain chemicals that make us feel happy are regulated by light, released in the bright sunlight; this is one of the reasons we like to be outdoors. And, although I used to be afraid of the dark, afraid of walking down a dark street or walking into a dark house alone, I no longer have those same fears. Perhaps this change came with confidence in myself—a confidence that I would be able to take care of myself. I now believe in a kind, safe world, even in the dark.
There is safety in the light, which makes these days when darkness comes so early harder to bear and introduces the question of whether we need light to survive. There were many acid-filled nights in my youth when I watched the sun rise, welcoming the day. Many yoga teachers think of the flow of Sun Salutations as a beginning to practice, a dance with breath, a choreography that can be slow and studied, or fast, intense, and aerobic. However you do them, the rhythm is your choice, private and new as the day. They are either the prelude to your practice, or they can nicely stand alone, complete within themselves, as so few things are. This lovely flow, in and out of standing poses, powerful lunges to awaken the groin, plank positions to strengthen the core, and the graceful rolling into Cobra or Upward Facing Dog, then Downward Facing Dog and back to standing, is a full cycle that allows for both a new beginning and an opening into the future with each breath. With the same depth and clarity that acid once showed me, the practice of yoga questions, What will the practice bring today? As they delve into the present moment, millions of people practicing yoga ask each day, What will the sun bring? And now, What will the new year bring?