Remembering the Days of “Consciousness”

Yesterday I was recalling this rather extraordinary event in Red Deer, Alberta, when the Red Deer College opened its doors to a festival of consciousness for a weekend. These spiritual smorgasbord weekend events were popular back then, and this one featured Swami Radha from her Yashodhara Ashram in the Kootenays, and Geshe Lama Kaldan, the Tibetan teacher who lived in Edmonton (link here to his meditation society or watch for him as a first minister in Scorcese’s film, Kundun.) Now, sadly, both have passed away, but at the time they seemed they would be around forever (and as both are involved in reincarnational belief-structures, perhaps they are!) Stars from afar were also invited, and were the real “feature attractions” – I recall anthropologist Joan Halifax (now roshi, Buddhist centre Upaya) and physicist David Bohm (who passed away in 1994) were there, but memory fails and I can’t remember who else was a “headliner”. I went down there from Edmonton with a small posse of Sufis to lead Sufi dancing (Dances of Universal Peace) one afternoon. It was an intimate gathering, and somehow scattered as these events tended to be.

Two vignettes:

Sitting in the front of a classroom while David Bohm’s explanation of his theory of implicate and explicate order opened my mind’s eye.

Joan Halifax showing how shamans used the rattles on one side of the head and then on the other, in a beautiful format around the head, shifting auditory environment and therefore consciousness. (Until her talk, I was naively unaware that there were urban shamans taking peyote journeys in New York apartments. )
It’s been fun to create this blogpost, googling “where are they now?” and realizing that everything that was brought forward at that rather awkward and somewhat forced gathering in central Alberta is still being nurtured and evolved – not in the same way as it had been done then, but with deeper roots, greater understanding perhaps, and more balance. I remember these people, and those times of sincere exploration with gratitude.

And I recall that year or so before, in Edmonton, there was a festival of consciousness (or was it of awareness?) that featured a Zen teacher from Shasta Abbey and the new age teacher Patricia Sun, who intoned amazing sounds that seemed to transform everyone’s molecules into light. The event closed with a Universal Worship ceremony with representatives from various world religions all sharing the same altar. Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, Islam, and an acknowledgement of all those who hold the light of truth but weren’t mentioned.

(Surprise: Link here to see a random post from my blog.)


3 thoughts on “Remembering the Days of “Consciousness”

  1. I too remember times from long ago with great fondness.

    Having found a new home, for a while, in Yogananda’s Sunset Boulevard Ashram in Hollywood …. this “where are they now” meme is particularly delightful!

    What is “where”?
    What is “are”?
    Who is “they”
    And what the dickens is anything but “now”?

    Over and out from LA and Hollywood,

    I remain,
    Jim Van Wyck

    …. well, actually,
    I’m not so sure about that either.

  2. I’ve always loved the whole Yogananda discipline, partly because Shamcher was also a big fan, but also because of the wonderful story of Sri Yuketeswar meeting Yogananda. The grace and beauty of that encounter, as described in the Autobiography of a Yogi, really brings home the meaning of the teacher-pupil bond, something that could occur over lifetimes.
    So what is “where”, “are” and “they” are definitely great questions – and there is only one answer:

    I’m also intrigued by the idea that you are at the Sunset Boulevard Ashram, which could be somewhat historical, and brings me to imagine movie stars (in the old days of the studios) doing yoga, and the role of California in establishing all these so-called “kooky” concepts in North America.

  3. A while back, I planned a meeting for the various teachers and guides in the Sufi lineage we share, and saw the meeting as a very sacred and contemplative occasion. What actually happened, though, was that one leader arrived with a large, plastic Rubbermaid tub full of books, which we were invited to identify. I could see readily what the top one was: BE HERE NOW by our beloved Ram Dass. When the tub was opened to reveal the rest of its contents, it turned out to contain SUNSEED, TOWARD THE ONE, AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI, and several other of those books most of us seem to have cut our spiritual teeth on. How much they meant to us! And because of where they ultimately took us, with much help along the way, along with numerous misguided side-trips, we love to play the “do you remember?” game. In some way, these books, these experiences, the retreats, the camps, the meetings and seminars…built for us the working knowledge which we would need to internalize….and then shatter. As a fifty-something adult, I feel very nostalgic about those days, and wish I could be a better example for those coming after us. Those hippie-gypsy days took us to many places, both inwardly and outwardly, and made the memory of this lifetime one to cherish. I continue to believe they served me far more than getting an MBA, which seems to be the fashionable thing to do these days.

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