The underwater OM circle

This story is dedicated to Jan Hutton, whose crossed to the spirit realm on June 27, 2013. Jan was a willing participant in all my improvisational ceremonies, no matter how crazy they seemed at the time, because she had a deep connection with the spiritual vibrations. Her spirit is a good place to be.

By the time I went to my first National Rainbow Gathering, I’d already been hanging out with Garrick Beck in the East Village for over a year, and also attending the Rainbow picnics in Central Park, which I stumbled into by accident one afternoon.¬† So when I arrived at my first gathering, I came well prepared and even carried a bunch of water-based florescent paints so I could make cool signs, paint faces and customize my camp. I built a pretty elaborate scene next to Garrick. This is where I first met the great Fantuzzi, the star of the midnight jam sessions.

Of course, my life turned 180 degrees after that experience. I’d been focused on the garage band scene at the time and leading my band the Soul Assassins to rock’n’roll glory on the Hemp Tour while leading the fight to legalize marijuana, but suddenly I had an urge to put a major effort into spreading Peace Vibe Consciousness. First thing I wanted to do was visit my cousins in Florida. Tom had saved me in 1970 by buying a one-way ticket to Stockholm so I could escape the Vietnam War, an experience both my cousins had been through and neither wanted me anywhere close to that national nightmare.

After Vietnam, my cousins had spent a few years traveling the world. I maintained correspondence with them during this time, and kept everything, including all the Vietnam letters. Someday I’ll put that up on Smashwords, as Tom is a great writer and very funny. They both became anti-war activists right after leaving the service. Eventually, they settled in Delray Beach and got jobs as lifeguards. But they had a secret hideout in the Florida Keys, where they would go on vacations whenever they had time off. I went there to initiate them into the Rainbow Family. My plan was to build a sort of private gathering celebrating the Rainbow spirit, something I thought might convince both my cousins to come and join me at an upcoming regional in Ocala, Florida.

Before my cousins arrived I constructed a giant peace pole and designed some ceremonial spaces.

There were psychedelic signs everywhere. I had a bag of mushrooms and brewed up some mushroom tea, the drinking of which would be our first ritual.

Just to get the right vibe going, after the mushroom tea and ceremonial face-painting, I started reading from the autobiography of Red Cloud.

Most people don’t realize the counterculture came out of Congo Square in New Orleans, and it started as a merger between Black African slaves who had been living in Haiti working the sugar plantations and the local native Americans. You can see the Native influence in the New Orleans ceremonies of today. That influence is huge on hippie culture as well, and it’s a path for all people to experience vibes of Native culture without actually becoming a wannabe because our version is a hybrid of all cultures, which is what Rainbow is really all about. After an OM around the Peace Pole and drumming and chanting, it was time to get into the boats. My cousins had two sailboats at the time, a big one and a little one.

Jerry built the little one himself, as well as the trailer he lugged it around with. It was a masterful craft, very fast and seaworthy. As I recall, there was a race to see which boat would get launched first and Jerry won easily. Once we were out near the Gulfstream, it was time to go snorkeling, one of our favorite things to do in the Keys, and this was before the pollution killed most of the coral.

Then I got the inspiration to do an underwater OM, which actually worked out fantastic since we could all hear each other clearly and it seemed to have a calming effect on the ocean around us.

(I’d later try to do one of these in Jamaica with the High Times staff, but soon discovered they were all wearing life-preservers which made submerging impossible.)

After the underwater OM, I got fascinated by a lonely baby jelly fish and followed the transparent little creature back to his nest, where thousands of relatives were breathing in unison. I was thinking about doing an OM with them, but then suddenly snapped out of my mushroom fog and realized what a dangerous situation I was in. Very suddenly I was swimming full-speed back to the boat.

We loaded up on the big boat and headed back to the safety of our camp. It was a great week, and I had a blast creating my little hippie disneyland, but, in truth, although my cousins went along and joined in on the ceremonies, they didn’t get drawn in enough to want to ever attend a Rainbow Gathering. In fact, Jerry admitted he’d accidentally stumbled into the Ocala Gathering one year and been scared off and freaked out by the sight of some naked hippies. That was the difference between me and my cousins. I had joined the counterculture as a teen while they had joined the army, so going to a gathering for me was like going home. Why it’s so hard for outsiders to get over the nakedness I’ll never know. It’s just another form of freedom, and if you never use it, you aren’t really free.

Born-Again Hippies

It takes more than a bag of weed to forge a hippie heart. In fact, most of the time, it takes a major ceremony. I spent a long time searching for answers throughout much of the sixties, but I didn’t get truly “zapped” until I attended the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival in the summer of 1969.

I’d planned to meet up with Larry Green and Carole, but they were coming from New York City, while I was traveling south from Cape Cod. Once the highway was closed, I feared they’d been turned away.

As it turned out, however, meeting people at Woodstock was no problem. I ran into James “Chef Ra” Wilson almost immediately. I could tell Jim was already zapped. His life would never be the same. Davy Goldwasser, one of the brightest kids in town, stumbled into our camp in the middle of the sea of humanity. When the rain came, we hid under a tarp Davy had brought along. A photo of us appeared in a German magazine (left). Note the fence I constructed to keep people off my comfy bed. I remember Larry was really pissed at me for changing into my dry clothes right after the rain blew over. I think it was about the only negative second we experienced at the event, and Larry was afraid the straw we were sleeping on was getting muddied, although I suspect the real reason was Carole’s frequent whispering in my ear.

The zapping I got at Woodstock sure faded over the years, as I went back to college in California and then back to Illinois as I had to work my way through a couple of degrees. I’d lost most of that non-violent telepathic energy by the time I hit High Times in the late 1980s. When I’d first moved to New York at the beginning of the 1980s, my primary interest had been experimental theater, and Julian Beck’s Living Theater was one of my biggest influences. Imagine my surprise when I saw Julian standing on the corner outside my apartment on 98th Street shortly after moving in.

Many years later, however, I’d meet Julian’s son, Garrick Beck, one of elders of the Rainbow Family of Living Light. Soon after meeting Garrick, I attended my first National Rainbow Gathering, which is where I got re-zapped.

That’s when I also decided to inject some ceremonial elements into the Cannabis Cup and WHEE! festivals I’d created. I was hoping to pass this non-violent culture on down and let the future generations get zapped by our peace-love vibrations. We really need a return of this culture in order to heal some of the trauma of the last few years, especially all the shootings. By showing respect for non-violence, you can help turn the children away from the allure of violence. But when you disrespect the cultures of non-violence, you actually urge children toward prejudice and bigotry.

Sad to say, many people walked through these ceremonies over the years and never got zapped by anything. Nothing even close. If anything, they developed a further hatred for hippies, vegetarians and the Rainbow Family. However, there were plenty of born-again hippies created as well. I know because many of them came up to me and told me so, while thanking me effusively for putting them back on the path of non-violence.

Best Treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Many people who lived through the recent shooting in Colorado¬† will spend much of their lives from here on dealing with PTSD, as do many of our soldiers returning from overseas combat. You simply can’t be exposed to deadly fire from automatic weapons without suffering some degree of this debilitating and little-understood mental disorder.

I recently read a scientific study that said it was better to stay awake as long as possible after experiencing a traumatic event. Once you fall asleep, the trauma can amplify inside you as you sleep. At least, that was the upshot of the study, which indicated rats exposed to trauma were better able to process that trauma if they were prevented from sleeping for many hours, while the rats who were allowed to sleep immediately after the trauma had much more difficulty readjusting.

My life changed after I went to my first National Rainbow Family Gathering. I had no idea what the mental health impact of landing in a world that provided free food and free medical care for everyone was like.¬† And I didn’t realize the profound impact peace meditations and love energy could have on a damaged psyche. I saw a lot of healing going on at the first gathering, much of it involving Vietnam Veterans.

Recovering from trauma is easier when its done in a group and that’s what meditations like the Rainbow Family Gathering are really all about. When thousands of people gather together and pray for peace in silence, there’s a telepathic energy that can affect everyone in the circle. It’s already been proven that violent crime rates fall immediately after peaceful meditations. Not just for the people in the meditation, but for the surrounding community for miles around. That’s the power of telepathic energy. That study was done decades ago, yet aside from the Rainbow Gathering, you won’t find many people organizing peace meditations to deal with PTSD.

I’d encourage the residents of Aurora to gather next Sunday and hold a community prayer service in an open park or field for the purpose of praying for an end to senseless violence. Ideally, the prayer should include several hours of silent meditation. In order to direct these prayers, it’s important to have a focal point for the energy. I prefer a peace pole, but any sort of altar will do. In this case, the pole or altar should have the names and photos of the victims on it.

If the community leaders don’t want to organize a peace circle like this, I’d recommend counterculture high school kids organize the event on their own. If it does happen, one thing you an count on is that a lot of people will be shedding tears during the meditation. That’s a good thing because tears can be a purification to help wash away PTSD.

One of the most important things hippies learned nearly fifty years ago was that love energy could be amplified and shared. That’s why we were called the “love generation.” Outsiders mistook this for sexual energy because we were the first generation to reject the concept of abstaining from sex before marriage. But sex and love are different energies, even though they often converge. Love energy is the most healing power on earth.

The other treatment I recommend, obviously, is cannabis. I don’t think there’s a medication on earth as effective in reducing trauma than cannabis. I remember when I was arrested in Amsterdam for having 2 1/2 kilos of pot and hash in my hotel room. Tourists are only allowed to posses five grams of cannabis at a time, so having that much in my room turned out to be a big problem. The narco squad busted into my room in the middle of the night and arrested me and my video crew while we were trying to edit footage. I spent a restless night in a cold jail cell. The next day, however, the chief of police let me go. He’d just read my book “Adventures in the Counterculture,” which began with my examination of the JFK assassination. I think the chief was impressed by my understanding of deep political events because he treated me as an intellectual equal. He told me were were in the richest neighborhood of Amsterdam, where much of the old money currently resided. “Your event should go on,” he added, which is why he let me walk free. All I had to do was take responsibility for the weed and hash. I ended up paying a multi-thousand euro fine and never had a problem in Amsterdam since. The chief told me the main reason he could go so lightly on me was because no hard drugs had been found in my hotel room. Had any white powders turned up, I would have gone to jail for many months. When I got back to my hotel room, I wanted to check out of that hotel immediately. I could still feel the trauma from the police breaking into my room and throwing me on the floor, handcuffing me, and dragging me out of the hotel. It was not a pleasant feeling, and I didn’t think I’d be able to sleep comfortably in that room ever again. And I had another week to go in Amsterdam. But then I noticed a slab of Soma’s jellyhash sitting on my desk. I guess the cops thought is was a chocolate candy bar or something because they took all the hash and weed, but left that hunk of dark, gooey, waterhash. I was expecting to get out of that hotel as quickly as possible, but after a few hits of Soma’s jelly, I realized staying in the room for the rest of the week was no longer a problem. That’s how effective cannabis can be on PTSD.