As I told here my friend Nick invited me to move into his apartment in 1968. This came as a gift at the right moment.
The apartment was on the fifth floor and had dormer windows and in the living room one big skylight with many plants. Nick had inherited from his wealthy grandfather, who had traveled in Asia, and the rooms were sparsely but tastefully furnished with lace curtains and costly Oriental rugs. The living room had cushions on the floor, a few small tables and a cabinet with precious artifacts from Nepal and Tibet. My room had a big seaman’s chest and one end wall I covered with shelves hidden behind a white curtain. At the other end wall I sat with my Moroccan table in front of me and to my right a box on end with a shelf in. Between the windows I had a small altar and in front of that I rolled out my bedding, which was kept in the chest during the day.
Every day there was a stream of visitors, and every evening they were offered brown rice with thoroughly sautéed vegetables, Gomasio and Tamari. Both before and after the meal the pipe went around and Indian ragas filled the air; there was not much conversation.
In my room I had the privacy that I sometimes needed. Every morning and evening I lighted the candles on my altar and meditated fifteen to thirty minutes. This practice came about in the following way. One night on acid I had a blissful experience, where my breath took over and it seemed as if everything was created and annihilated with each inhalation and exhalation. Less than a week after, a friend showed me a Chinese meditation book called 'The Secret of the Golden Flower' and as I leafed through, I saw a picture of a meditator, who with his hands kept his navel open, and in the opening sat a small Buddha. It struck me as depicting exactly what I had experienced, and I decided to get the book and follow its method.
I had also been reading a Chinese classic 'The Cannon of Reason and Virtue' (Dao De Jing) translated by Paul Carus, and I had started translating it to Danish. It all mixed and formed one whole when I realized that the first book and its practice was a key to the understanding of the second. For the first time I felt my life in balance; I had found my people and I had found myself; I had my work and my leisure and enjoyed the one as well as the other. Aside from the translation, I wrote articles for Superlove, the monthly hippie paper, on topics such as Tarot, Yi Jing, Marcobiotics, Islam, and, naturally, Dao De Jing. I was also drawing in ink a big mandala inspired by The Secret of the Golden Flower, a very detailed work that gave me many happy hours.
‘The White Tornado’ was a big guy, always dressed in white and always on the go. One time he was at the door and he looked different, all dressed op straight and bigger than usual. Just back from the East, he explained, and as he began to undress the reason for his increased size was revealed: sixteen packages of hash strapped on to arms, legs, and torso. We all had some experience smuggling, but this was awesome, and he reveled in our admiration.
Another time he arrived obviously high on amounts of drugs, and he let us know exactly which, boasting of his strength and hinting that we were rather sedentary and weak. I was listening and looking, and I saw him twist and wriggle like a worm on the hook. A short moment I felt contempt, but then I rejected this feeling and genuinely felt sorry for him, and in that instant I sensed an immense force like a current from above going through me and connecting us, our eyes locked together and he stopped twisting and found rest. Afterwards he asked me: “What was it that happened?” He didn’t expect an answer, but I knew for myself, and it was a great confirmation of my practice.
Swami Kailasananda, or Kailas for short, had met in India his guru Shri Narayanananda, the only living person, he said, to have reached Nirvikalpa Samadhi, the absolute, complete, and final enlightenment. Kailas was proselytizing; it was a bit wearisome, but it had effect. Most of us who went to India went to see Narayanananda, and some got hooked.
One that was specially devoted to me was Fut, who was eighteen and had already been to India. He had shaved his head and with his long neck and sunken cheeks he sometimes gave the impression of being very old and birdlike; I thought it was funny when he said: “I am beautiful!” but he was serious about it. Both he and many others told me: “You must go to India!” I still had in mind the many hardships of my last journeys and was under no pressure to go soon, though I knew I would one day, when I found the right company.
We later had one more resident in the apartment: Gert, a light-hearted and warm person and a comedian, sometimes involuntarily a slapstick comedian. When he was painting a room, the bucket with paint fell off the ladder and it seemed that not one square inch of the room and Gert had escaped being spotted with white. He kept a precious mescal cactus on the windowsill. The day he wanted to eat it, he lost it out the window, and it fell to the sidewalk five stories below. He had to scrape it up and separate it from soil and potsherds, but he did get his high!
(To be continued)