LSD – looking at life with a 25 X zoom…

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience ……

The term LSD(Lysergic Acid Dyethylamide) or Acid as it is popularly known has come back into debate since Steve Jobs claimed in his autobiography that taking LSD was one of the most profound experiences of his life. This is not the first time that creative people or those who have changed the world around us have used Psychedelics as a means of expanding their consciousness. Google founders Sergey Berin and Larry page visited ‘The burning Man’ festival before they founded Google as a company. The decision to hire Eric Schmidt was also influenced by the fact that he had been to the ‘burning man’ while others had not. Whether any of them used psychedelics while at the burning man is not documented. We all know the penchant of artists and musicians for psychotropic substances so I will just take it for granted.

While the name LSD instils wonder and mystery may be even fear in most of us in India it has been used for over 40 years in the west as a street drug for so called ‘trips’ and even for exploring its various medical uses. It seems that the scientists are all for it but the governments across the world stand on the opposite side of the fence.The inventor of LSD Albert Hoffman argued that his invention if used improperly could make one go crazy but it used correctly it has the power to make us what we are supposed to be. The fact that he died a perfectly healthy man at the ripe old age of 102 testifies the claim the physical side effects of LSD use are negligible. A year before his death in 2008 Hoffamn had reached out to Steve for funding of his research.While nothing concrete came out of the half hour chat Steve summed up saying ‘ Lets just put it in the tap water and get everybody turned on’.

There are several documentaries on You tube that you can browse to know more about the subject. I am embedding one from the National Geographic channel in case you don’t want to waste your time.

Now that brings me to the larger question that if such a potent means of experiencing your self, dissolving the ego and raising your level of awareness/consciousness exists why put so much time and effort to get realized as per Hindu or Buddhist philosophy. The answer comes in the form of an anecdote shared by Ram Dass ( born Richard Alpert and raised to be Harvard professor of sociology who inspired Steve to visit India as a backpacker in the early 1970’s)  in which he says that one day his Guru Baba Neem Karori told him that he wanted to have LSD. While Ram Dass was surprised he knew that there is no point in trying to hide anything from his Guru who knew everything about everything. He got his bag of pills and wanted to offer just one thinking that it would be enough for the old man. Baba on the other hand selected several of them and popped them into his mouth.To his great surprise nothing seemed to happen to his Guru who just kept looking at him in a a very transparent way as if saying – It is all within you !

Now this is easier said than done to the point of being cliched. You see a guru on one of the religious channels giving gyan and you think to yourself – Oh Yeah, really. We are conditioned to believe stuff that we can see and experience ourselves not something which is surrogate and second hand.It’s like someone trying to tell you that the chocolate was just sooooo good but you want to know how good and the other person can’t really explain it to you. Now in the case of a chocolate you have the freedom to break the bar and take a piece to share the experience but what about self realization ? You don’t even know what it is supposed to be and even more whether the Guru telling you about it has experienced anything by themselves. That’s when faith becomes blind or you start drifting apart into the so called material world which is at least real and genuine to your five senses.

Trying to delve deeper into the subject I have tried to understand the phenomenon of the ‘trip’ and what it does to us I have come to an understanding that the LSD probably helps us to break down the barriers hat we have built around around our mind and spirit. Our sense of being emerges in a self image that results in an ego or what we think we are while in reality this is just a hoax created by our conditioning and orientation, even a sense of insecurity to hold on to what I love to call the gathered past.As soon as the magic molecule fits in the right place in the cortex our ego starts to melt and with it goes away our self image and sense of being. We start to have ‘ a beginners mind’ as per the Zen philosophy ready to look at the world around us in a new light, in a fresh way. Creativity becomes the obvious by product of this process. We are like the child who experienced the world for the very first time. To put it into perspective how magical it is when you fall in love for the first time, how sensuous to make love for the first time, how wonderful to be with friends and discover but then you get into the ‘loop’ mode and the experiences cease to have the novelty they did before boring your mind and making life mechanical and uninteresting. Again as you grow bad experiences such as death, disease and decay stare you in the face and cause another kind of conditioning that aims to block your reaction to these as far as possible. You continuously struggle to break free but you don’t know how and even from what ?? LSD and other such stuff helps you to become a child again roaming about in the wonderland of new experiences,breaking down the barriers of conditioning that does not allow you to see things as Aldous Huxley says ‘They Are’.

LSD does not actually alter the reality it just makes it more ‘real’ by enhancing our brains capacity to process sensory information. In a state of expanded consciousness you tend to see things as they happen not depending upon your data bank of past knowledge supporting the vision by assuming what would have happened.

Now you must be thinking about the obvious question – what about me ? Well I will let the fact that whether I have had LSD or not remain a mystery in your mind I will tell you that I do know the ‘high’ that lets the red become really red and when the flower looks more beautiful than it used to. The pupils get dilated and you get goose bumps for nothing. You are just plain amused and the happiness stems from nothing but just pure existence.

I have looked at life with a 25 X zoom ….. and there is no other way but my method and my tools are different. I am convinced that my orange bus might be slow and needs more maintainance but the destination its going to take me will be real and final.

Meanwhile I am just enjoying the ‘trip’ …….

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John the madman….

मैं यहां हूं यहां नहीं हूं मैं, जिस जगह हूं वहां नहीं हूं मैं

कौन आवाज़ दे रहा है मुझे , कोई कह दे यहां नहीं हूं मैं

I am here and I am not here, at all places but nowhere

to that which calls me always, someone just say I am not there…

The Varca beach was quite a deserted place when I reached.The two shacks fondly called Mama’s Kitchen and Joe’s Place had a few takers so they hummed some soft tunes from the time when I was young.It was a  night full of moon and its stars and the sea was surfing on the beach casually,its waves silver and dark.

I lit up a smoke and checked the scene to find a place which was alone, yet not too far away from the world. I could find a good one.There were two chairs looking up to the vast Arabian sea with a table that had a T light in its mosaic holder. With the breeze the flickering light played an interesting game of survival dodging the lethal blows to stay alive. All was set and It was time for a drink….

A couple of hours down ,The Moon, its stars and the sea had a life. I sang to the them with a voice that failed in words but was high on passion :

Before you slipped into unconsciousness
I’d like to have another kiss
Another flashing chance at bliss
Another kiss, another kiss

The days are bright and filled with pain
Enclose me in your gentle rain
The time you ran was too insane
We’ll meet again, we’ll meet again

A voice broke the session and called : Jim Morrison.Right ?

I came back from my reverie to respond ” Yup, Crystal ship”

Hey me Jose, Jose Faria and you ?

I didn’t answer trying to stay with the daze.

Jose understood my silence and tried again : Alone ?

“We all are ” A smirk flashed on my face.

“Can I sit here if it doesn’t bother you ?”He asked and I gestured him to take the seat next to me ” You can try bothering me my friend but I didn’t come all the way to Goa on a beautiful night like this to get worried .”

Jose laughed and I gave him company.We were strangers no more.

So what brings you here ? I enquired.

Oh me ! Nothing big, just wanting to dig a bit on my roots.

I glanced at Jose signalling him to go on…

“Well I am Portugese and my father’s father was living here in Goa. I just came to see the house where my father was born. It’s called Casa Bandiera, and its there near Palolim beach.”

Did you find it ?

Yes I did but I guess they have turned into some kind of a museum.

No one lives there ?

Some locals but it’s under the government in some way.

But it’s your house.Isn’t it ?

It was our house, now it’s no more.But I had a good time here looking for it and I saw it like all the other visitors so no regrets. OK let’s just kill this. You were singing when I came.

Really? I thought I was reciting poetry.

You had hurt in your voice.Miss someone ?

No, just me.I miss myself a lot, all the time. And I like to sing to the stars when I am high. They seem to like it and they kind of come close to hear me out. No one else does that…

I think we are ready for a party Man !! Jose had enthusiasm of a kid as he pulled out a pouch and started to roll the cigarettes.

I don’t know if I should have trust a stranger  offering grass but I guess I was beyond suspicion and other such things – a man on the beach with nothing to loose.

Let it roll baby roll ……I shouted at the deep silence of the night hoisting my hands to the sky seeking to touch the stars.  Everything was so weird. The world before my eyes was stuck and moved in ripples going up or going down when I wished. There were too many colors around and gold was just one of them. With each breath I inhaled life and exhaled death. They had never seemed to co exist so side by side. I was not sure about Jose but I knew he was around as his shadow ran up and down the beach, splashing the waves.When he knew the words, he joined in the chorus otherwise he just kept quite and listened  to me like an ardent fan.It’s unbelievable how you can feel so good in the company of strangers when you are trying to run away from those you know so well.

I was on a different plane, completely aware of myself and of everything around me. I was like a self satisfied madman with his own version of reality  –

I had less questions but more answers,  less control but more freedom,I had  less of the world but more of me. I felt complete – like a wave which has just come to know of its vast expanse in the form of the ocean.

It was almost dawn and the sun looked pretty in it’s new day when I woke up still lying on the beach. Jose must have checked if I am still alive and left.The warmth comforted me and brought me to life as I tread the path back home.

By the time I got ready it was noon. The cab was there and Raju(the cab driver) was waiting for me. I had no plans to do anything. I asked Raju ” So where do we go today ?” He suggested a number of places and I picked a 400 year old Portuguese house called Casa Bandiera ! We were on our way in the next 10 min.

It was a perfect day with blue skies and a few clouds to fire the imagination of the child in me – I counted a magician, a cake and lots of balloons and candies. Our car waded through the lush green coconut groves and paddy fields as we moved inland away from the sea. On the way I saw a lot of old houses with curious names.Most had casa or villa added to the family names of the occupants.What I found a bit strange was that most of the houses had the ‘old look’ as if it was carefully preserved.Most tourists find Goa’s old world charm mesmerizing but it was unlikely that the residents would go all the way to be lost in time however Sussegad they might be. I checked with Raju ” Why do most houses look old almost antiquated in Goa even though they are not exactly dilapidated”

The tourist guide in Raju took over ” Well there are two reasons for this – one obvious and the other not so obvious one”

“Ok don’t tell me any ghost stories now” I set boundaries to his imagination.

“No No..it’s nothing like that. The first one is natural and the second is official.You see due to the salt in the moisture filled breeze from the ocean its difficult to maintain the paint year after year especially for the old structures.And the other reason is that many of the houses do not exactly belong to their owners.In 1961 when Goa was liberated the Portugese flee the country leaving everything behind.Many of them had lived in Goa for generations and had built magnificent houses and villas.There was no proper government for a while and the locals just occupied the houses left behind by the Portugese. The government has let them live and own these places but with a condition that the original look and structure must be kept intact.The government pays a certain renovation allowance every year for such houses.”

”  Wow that’s some education for me.These houses are almost frozen in time !!” I was sure I would keep coming back just like Jose , looking to find something that got lost in history.

We passed the Zuari and for the first time I saw a ship being built , waiting  for the bottle to be broken so it can unleash its voyages to far away lands.It was majestic when I looked at it from the window of my car but it looked puny when I saw it in the backdrop of the never ending ocean.Perspective changes the way we look at a lot of stuff around us. Isn’t it ?

By about lunch time our car stopped in front of an old building. In the first instance it did not look like something awe inspiring but when I thought that it has been standing at the same spot for over 300 years and has housed some 8 generations ,I was filled with a sense of respect. The facade of the house was divided into two portions the east and the west with a central entrance that was common. As I took the flight of steps and stood in front of the door which of what must have been the east wing I was taken by a sense of calm – the kind you have when you sit next to old people. They have seen the uselessness of it all and have no urgency to either please you or themselves. The house was certainly a peaceful place.

Before I could knock on the door , it opened almost magically. I was greeted by a man in his late 50’s with balding hairline and thick black specs the kind they stopped wearing since the 70’s. I knew that I was going to witness history today. There was something disturbing about the man who had introduced himself as John. First of all in a weird almost frightening move he had latched the entrance door as soon as I entered and now he was staring at me as if waiting for a sign to start. I was not sure if he was a guide as I had been told that the family still lives in one part of the house but which I didn’t know.Finally I broke the impasse and said ” well John I suppose you live here ? ”  A faint smile played on his face and he nodded ” I was waiting for you to ask this question. The answer is yes and no. While I show the house to visitors I do not live here and neither am I a member of the family. But I am not a tourist guide either. You can think that I am a mix of all three” He had figured out the question in my mind ”  one who lives in the house as that’s what I do for most part of the day, two not a member of the family who own the place and three the tourist guide as I am the one who shows people around”

” OK You confused me.Let’s get going ” I mumbled.

” Do you smoke ” John asked offering me a cigarette. ” No I don’t” I said. Actually I was not too sure.The slur in his voice had become pronounced from the time I had met him and his expressions clearly showed that he was completely drunk. However, it was quite strange that he did not smell a bit of alcohol.

We went along from one room to the other and John carefully kept explaining to me various aspects and historical trivia about the house. The chandeliers were Belgian, while the marble came all the way from Italy. The ballroom could hold 500 guests at one time and the red candle stand that looked to be made of plastic resin was actually a priceless piece made of real ruby stone !!

After a while John was completely in his elements. He asked me to sit on a antique looking arm chair and guess what was so special about it. I sat on it and tried to put all kind of logic and reason that would have made it something special – may be it was gifted by the king of Nepal, May be this was not made of wood but some stone, may be even that the chair had some magical powers !!

John was in splits at my suggestion. He asked me to disembark my thrown which I had held on tightly to feel the mystery it seemed to be hiding within itself. ” you are completely wrong, my friend” said John as he lifted the seat of the sofa. ” This is no ordinary chair like I said.It is a commode !!”

” Oh shit” was my spontaneous response and I could tell from John’s face that he was not at all impressed with my choice of words.

“Its OK. don’t worry it has not been used since it came into being.I just use it to play tricks with unsuspecting travelers like you.”

I was growing fond of this man who looked stoned, talked like drunk , did not smell of alcohol,  knew his stuff well and was gifted with some whacky sense of humor. The tour was coming to an end and I was so glad I had made this trip.  History has always enamored me and there was so much of it in this place. I had checked with John as much detail as possible about the furniture, the pictures on the wall, the paintings, the chapel,the people who lived in the house at different times and also about those who didn’t. Having such a vivid mental picture gave me such joy that only one who dwells in the past to visit the future would know.

I looked at my watch as a sign to leave and John understood. He stretched out his hand for a handshake and said ” Are you sure you don’t want to smoke ?” I looked into his eyes and said ” you know I do.right ?” He flipped open his pack of navy cut and lighted my cigarette. ” John you knew I smoked or you just guessed ? ”

” Well the moment you hesitated when I offered you a smoke the first time I knew it.You see people say that I am mad but I think I am just different.20 years ago when they thought I had hallucinations they sent me to the asylum.The Doc there was a good guy but he thought I needed to behave myself so he gave me shocks 3 times. I lost a part of my speech but they said that I started making more sense .Tell me Sir – how did I do today ? Did I make sense to you or you thought I am just a waste.Please don’t say something if you don’t  mean it.I beg of you.”

I was shaken not only by his story but also by the manner in which John had asked me for feedback on his act. I was speechless…..words were failing me completely. The events of yesterday night and today morning just flashed in front of me like a movie. While I had made all attempts last night to alter the reality this man was fighting so hard to remain real. I had struggled to let myself loose and here was a man so eager to find himself. The world that I had wanted to let go so pompously was slipping through his fingers like dust while he desperately wanted to hold on to it.My heart became heavy and there was no way I could have passed a judgement. I took his wrinkled hands in mine and   said to him  –

“John I sincerely feel you were great company. I don’t know about others and what they say but if you are different , may be mad ,then so am I.The fact is that all of us are searching for some unknown truths which may perhaps never reveal themselves.It was a pleasure to have met you and I mean it from my the depth of my heart”

John waved at me as my car took a turn around the corner and I waved back at him. It was not  “good bye”  wave but a wave that says – We shall meet again !!!

The sky …

There are Images I need to complete my own reality.

~ Jim Morrison

The road goes places

I go with it

The river flows

I flow with it

My mind is numb

words can’t take shape

and give meaning

to the void

they just

float in the air

Its a starry night

I shout at the sky

my words come back

unheard

Vast and silent

the nothingness stares back at me

Its  haunting

as my frustration mounts

Is there anybody out there ?

I am tired of living

waking up

going

coming

thinking

working

sharing

caring

trying

hoping

I wish I could take my self away

from me

look at it from outside

so it starts making sense

But for now

I am sure

Its not this……It can’t be.