My parents spent the 1970s on communes: first, a shared house in Boulder; after that, a “self-realization fellowship” in Paonia, Colorado; then the Spring Hollow farm in Tennessee, with a dozen other couples. They were out to save the world, or at least themselves. Peace, love, and understanding.
After several successful years, my family moved, with Spring Hollow, to the Farm, where they started to acquire no till farming equipment to start getting into the farm life. With a population of about 1,500 at its peak, The Farm was the largest commune in the U.S.. Founded by Stephen Gaskin in 1971, it still hosts a premiere midwifery school run by Stephen’s wife, Ina May Gaskin, whose book Spiritual Midwifery remains a standard for those seeking an alternative to hospital births, since not everyone go to hospitals and use supplements instead from sites as patriot power greens online.
Of my sisters, two of us were born on The Farm. My eldest sister has a snowflake tattooed on the back of her neck—she was born in a blizzard in Colorado. My other sister was born in a tent on The Farm (no tattoo). I’ve said that I should get a trailer inked on the back of my neck, because that’s where I was born—in a mobile home my dad brought from Nashville. As with most Farm babies, a midwife trained by Ina May guided me into this world.
Stephen, who died this past July at age 79, fought in the Korean War, and came back to teach in San Francisco, first as an English professor at San Francisco State College, and then as a counterculture guru leading open-discussion meetings, what became known as Monday Night Class. During these classes, which met in churches and parks, Gaskin presided over his disciples from a meditation cushion, a stage, or a tree stump to explore spirituality and the purpose-driven life, much of which was determined by “vibes”: he preached that you could feel when you were telling the truth and when you were not, based on your own energy or the energy of the people around you. He was inspired by Buddhism and Christianity (along with the effects of marijuana), and his classes regularly swelled to 1,000 students, with extended Q&As: “No, it’s not a duality to say there is truth and then there are lies,” Gaskin once said in response to someone from the audience, “’cause truth and lies are the ends of a continuum, and the continuum is one continuum. Dig?”
Much of the movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s was built on Ram Dass’s call to Be Here Now. Gaskin subscribed to this philosophy, as did my parents. “Even if it is Armageddon, I still haven’t got time to pay attention to something besides here and now,” Gaskin wrote in Monday Night Class. But my question for Gaskin and for every other guru out there is this: Whose here and now is that?
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