Having already been involved in writing and recording music in Minneapolis, I reasoned that Los Angeles was the place to try and ‘make it’ as a songwriter. It was the 1970s, and I landed right in the center of the New Age, self-awareness scene. The feeling was hopeful, i.e. we can change the world. New age music was coming in, punk rock and hip-hop were experiencing their origins in downtown LA, there was reggae and jazz in the clubs, and most importantly, much of the popular music contained the message of spiritual revolution.
Side note comparison with today’s world: I smoked weed nearly every day for six years and never once worried about being arrested for it. In fact, the only ones who seemed to have any concern were the growers, who kept their locations a pretty tight secret. In the movies about that time period there are jokes about the police and paranoia, but as compared to what I see young people endure today, police worries were almost nonexistent in 1980.
Then the destructive hand moved in earnest. I actually saw the incoming of the crack cocaine epidemic. It was the new drug, a pleasant high, considered harmless, and people were trying it… until it became evident that it was a ‘hell of a thing’. I watched a young women, living a ‘normal’ life with a job and all, turn to prostitution within a month. There were so many of these girls that there was actually a name for them – strawberries. Today we know that the CIA was bringing the crack in, but we sure didn’t know it then. It was simply a new and inexpensive way of using cocaine.
The songwriting effort was bringing small success, with a few things published. I was being advised to write according to a kind of pop music recipe, which I didn’t like, so I wrote fewer songs and kept looking for some kind of spiritual knowledge that would help me. Criticism and resentment were still with me, and cynicism came along as well. I had found no answers in the spiritual books. I remember finishing a book one day and deciding there would be no more searching through the bookstore, because nobody knows.
Between 1980 and 1983 life changed again, dramatically. When Ronald Reagan was elected it actually felt like we had entered some kind of ‘end of the world’ time. Loss of hope was the emotional state of many more people than just me… something was over and we felt it. Then John Lennon was murdered, and that underlined the feeling. Sometimes being in the dark can be therapeutic as you bottom out, and it’s honest. You evaluate things.
But there was more to come before I reached the bottom. Within a few months my sister and childhood playmate left the physical and three months later it was my mother’s time to go. I had traveled back to the Midwest to take care of my mother during a planned hospitalization. While there, my sister finished her journey.
Mom and I could not attend the funeral, and she wished to be left alone on that day, so I went to a friend’s house. As I sat by the kitchen window, watching a slow rain turn the garden and even the sky into a deep grey-green, it seemed the rain was weeping with me. “How can I go on without you,” I asked, and at that moment her spirit overcame me with the most incredible bliss – more joy than one could imagine. I knew it was her communicating with me, letting me see her and feel the message. I felt her merging into that bliss, she was leaving, and I wept for joy.
Two months later my mother, now in the local hospital, made her departure. When my mother left it was different. I cried in my sleep for months until I finally saw her in a dream, with her sister. They were just walking and talking. After that I came to peace.
Going back to California, very dissatisfied with my choices, I gave some thought to this ‘music idea’. When you write music and lyrics, the desire is to say something, or create something that gives real value to the listener. What did I have to say? At that moment I didn’t see myself as having any wisdom or even any value. All I could see or feel was, “I know nothing so I’m going to shut up.”
I took all the master tapes that I had made, threw them in a garbage can, and moved to Venice Beach. It didn’t take long to find a job and a place along with all the other weirdos and lost souls. While today the Venice Beach boardwalk is a ‘destination’, having been recognized, upgraded and monetized by moneyed folks, in 1983 it was a gathering. There were new agers dressed in the garb of one or another Eastern religion, add to that the roller skaters and body builders, musicians, performers, homeless people and drug rehabbers turned artist, old folks and Hollywood actors waiting for the right role. I called it ‘the bleeding edge’.
And there I met what I would, at the time and for years to follow, consider my reason for being here. Deepak says it’s our destiny to play an infinity of roles, which seems true to me today, although at that time I had only awareness that this was my assignment, something I had asked for or been born for.
Like so many of us, my heart went out to those who were suffering and uncared for. I would soon meet up with an injustice hundreds of years old… the crux of the matter in the ‘land of freedom’. There was no way to know what would be involved: it was to be a bombardment of experiences teaching me to drop my judgments and the ego’s opinion, because things just aren’t the way my culture had taught me to see.
Among the characters in the beach community was a martial arts teacher who held daily classes on the jetty. I watched the classes, and thought to myself, “Yeah I feel like nothing, and my life is going nowhere, but since I’m here I could learn that… it would be something to do.” So I asked him about classes and saved up my $40 to get started.
The teacher was as interesting as what he taught, and I listened for clues as to what he really knew, as it seemed he knew more than what he was saying. After several months of classes, we ended up walking back to the beach at the same time. The conversation turned to spiritual matters and again I felt like… he knows more. One day he showed up at my door, and we sat and talked for many hours. It seemed as if an eternity of puzzle pieces fell into place as he said, “There isn’t any separate, personal God up in the sky… God is within us… we are within It.” Being very much into Yin/Yang and the flow of energy as a martial artist, he used this information when communicating his understanding of Divinity.
“You are not separate from God” was the message that I comprehended, and it was a life-altering message. I had long ago left the childhood notion that there was a person called God watching my every move and if I should say a curse word or disbelieve for a second he would put me in hell. But still I had found nothing in the spiritual books that would bring it home quite like this conversation did. Of course I wanted to know how God could be within the wicked, and he simply said that people are lost from knowledge of themselves.
He talked about what was going on in the world, and the changes that would come. This was 32 years ago, and much of what seemed far-fetched to me then has happened. He was a black man, born in the Bronx, grew up in the ghetto, within and participating in the black power and black nationalist movements of the sixties and seventies. Most of what he learned and experienced he learned there, although he was an avid reader of books from different cultures.
Many years later, after I had married him and raised a family and worked to be of service, I listened to someone question, at a Stuart Wilde event, why there are so few black people in the crowd, learning from this great teacher. I knew the answer: for the most part, black people are not going to follow a white teacher, especially in America with its awful history and cultural conditioning. They will follow one of their own, who speaks to their own rise.
Peoples, races, cultures and so on, have their own message and their own teachers, with all that is truthful moving in the direction of individual and collective self-realization. It makes sense that there would be not one avenue but many avenues, as the evolutionary information becomes available to many at around the same time, spreading in a language or method that can be understood.
With that said, let’s go back to when I first met my husband, and an experience that was absolutely new to me then, and hasn’t happened since. My mind was really expanding; things were starting to make sense. At one point I was resting in bed, and breathing to calm myself, when I felt a very rapid buzzing around me and through my entire body – it was as if my cells were vibrating and even the air around me was buzzing like it was full of electricity. As I lay there, I felt myself within a sarcophagus: I felt the headdress, makeup on my face, the position of my body. It was incredibly real, and came with the awareness that I had gone to sleep with the intention of waking up at this time, in this body, in order to play a part in something that was going to happen.
At that time I had harbored no fantasies about past lives and had not done any exploration with regard to myself. Any thoughts I had about past lives was to chuckle about how people like to imagine they had a past life in Egypt. So there I was, in the bed, unmoving, stunned at what I had just experienced. I couldn’t dismiss the experience as simply imagination because it was very physical and real, so I took it in as possible, that maybe people do come in with a predetermined intention, and maybe this is a very special time.
My experience of the Black experience in America: I described a bombardment of information forcing me to drop my judgments and the ego’s opinion, because things just were not the way my culture had taught me to see. So much was learned that I could write an entire book on it, but all we are doing now is a sketch of a few moments. As my life changed, I distanced myself from my family and even burned some bridges, knowing that if they were close, and I was in emotional pain, I might run back. I made it so that I couldn’t go back.
My husband was interested in starting a school in Chicago, so I quit my job and we left the beach community, heading to the Midwest. The largest black populations in Chicago are on the south side and west side: we found our way to the south side.
As I have mentioned, Venice Beach was very mixed community, and I did notice the incoming crack cocaine assault but certainly not to the degree I would have if living in Watts, for example. So I really had no experience of predominantly black communities prior to moving to Chicago’s south side where, in the impoverished areas, the population is 99.9% Black, with a few Koreans or Arabs operating the businesses, and a tiny number of white people. The only other white people I met in my time there were nuns operating a clothing and food bank, plus a very well known priest who was active then and is still going strong.
In 1984 the black rise of the 1960s and ‘70s was ending. Community organized social programs, feeding the children, respect and revolution faded away, and the reason why is not a mystery. The takedown was intentionally done by what we’ll call the ‘system’ via a CIA program known as COINTELPRO, and by crack cocaine. The music reflected the change, going from conscious and empowering to violent and degrading, and this too was by design. It became evident, or is evident… record executives control the message today whereas they did not exercise that kind of control in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
I have spoken earlier about Native Americans, and my childhood questions of, “What do you mean God loves all? If God loves them, and you love God, why do you hate them?” Now to be living within the new thought that there is no ‘in the sky Divinity’, there will be no Truth or Love to the rescue but from the truthful and loving human heart. Well, it was a deep and learning time, and I was an infant in that world.
When we drove into Chicago, and into the ghetto, it was a shock to my eyes and my feelings. There was nothing in the environment of beauty… anywhere. It seemed like even the air was grey: corner store with junk food, liquor store, storefront church in block after block of grey, with no thing of beauty, no industry, no malls, no office buildings, no jobs… some part of me was freaking out.
We stayed, and in the time to follow I would learn and learn and learn, from books, from people’s mouths, from walking down the street, from successes and disappointments, from self-observation. My cultural conditioning unraveled slowly, sometimes painfully, and that is to be expected.
I gave birth to two more precious little boys and I learned how it is to be in poverty… with babies. As with my first two sons, when a choice you’ve made for what seems like the right reasons puts your children in a position that is less than what you want for them, it brings on the self-questioning, and you live with that. It can be comforting in the moments of doubt, to remember that when our babies choose us they know Mom and Dad’s energy and the conditions they’ll be entering.
Here are a few of the hard lessons from Chicago: Why do people go on welfare? I know. What happens to cause homelessness? I know. Are there really no jobs? I know. Is there really no way out without help? I know. What’s it like to be disliked and distrusted because of race? I know. What do poor people lie about? I know. What happens when you take an advocacy position nobody likes and some people hate? I know.
I had some skills, and I could look and talk the part, so I hustled up work teaching Tai Chi to seniors, and my husband established his school. There were so many sweet and happy days: hundreds of hours in the parks and at the lakeshore watching the boys play, a martial arts school where the neighborhood kids got free classes, ethnic foods of every type, bike rides, museums, friends, and re-connections with my family. Poverty sucks: that is absolutely true, but the things that matter still are abundant.
To be Continued in Part Three