Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Be Still My Heart these Trees are Prayers.

Admittedly I was a bit of a chatterbox. Call it nervous energy but I hadn’t yet really learned to be still. Now we were walking in silence through the sun drenched forest across the way from our home and I saw nothing but forest for miles around.  

And the silence was exquisite.

Our humble home was in the Eastern Townships of Quebec,  or “Les Cantons d’ Est” en francais. South East of Montreal this region bordered with Vermont. It is a landscape of beautiful rolling hills, actually the worn down mountains of a very, very old (pre-ice age?) mountain range that extends to and joins the Appalachian mountain range still today. We had a little old shack on a county road just outside of Knowlton. It was a clapboard house painted blue I remember and it couldn’t have been more than about 800 square feet in total. A one bedroom house with a proper bathroom and an adequate kitchen the house had  linoleum floors and drafty windows so it sure was a fixer-upper but it was all we could afford then.

Nine months pregnant and with winter approaching--it was already October--we desperately needed shelter. We had come upon some real good possibilities and then things fell through at the last minute. Why so many disappointments. What was the Universe trying to tell us? That we should be trying to live here now or what?

Once we found the little house on Mount Echo road we settled in with all the enthusiasm of a young couple setting up housekeeping. We were preparing for a home birth but needed a home first.

Little did we realize the long abandoned house already had its own little family of mice (or rats or both) but we settled in and prepare to nest here and welcome into the world our new baby.   

Akbar was a musician, a poet and a Sufi and didn’t have much employment so we had limited funds. Still he wanted to live in the country and we at least had a car; a wedding present from his family.

As we walked silently through the woods I soon enough discovered how vocal the forest was. Hearing the sounds of our own footsteps crunching the patches of snow and dead branches and debris below us that made up the forest floor, I was suddenly hearing only this. Listening to the sound of my own breathing and the sounds of the birds calling back and forth, the various animals scurrying through the same forest and the wind in the trees and the rustle of the leaves  I imagined what it must have been like for the native people who lived here before we did.  How did they walk in the forest? And in their bare feet or in moccasins?  I imagine…silently, like we are now.

Akbar was a mystery to me. He was very serious for a young man and didn’t tolerate frivolous chatter and talking gossip. He measured his words very carefully himself as was evident in the way he spoke. He would often break off in mid-sentence to analyze if he was saying what he really meant. It was charming, and well sometimes frankly a bit  annoying as his self expression sometimes meandered a bit too much but overall you listened because he was so sincere.

We had met in a Tipi on a friend’s farm in Sutton. The farm was actually a spiritual community of devotees to Neem Karoli Baba. I had met Baba in India just two years before. That was in 1972. Now this community of mostly one family and a bunch of their friends who were mostly Neem Devotees had arranged a gathering at the Markus’ Family Farm known as Abercorn Satsanga.

So here’s this interesting man: A Jew, named Akbar living in a Tipi in Quebec. A poet, musician and artist he was an all around refined and sensitive man. And if not really handsome in the classical sense one who captured my heart none the less; for his beauty lay in his heart qualities and those - unlike good looks - do not wither with age. I knew a jewel when I saw one. 

Or maybe not. I’m not sure exactly how we chose one another. Like I said we met in a Tipi. It was the summer of 1974 in August I believe. There was a gathering of Neem Devotees, the first such gathering since he’d had his Maha Samadhi (Great Sleep) and devotees were coming from all over north America and even some from India. I was invited by Dasaratha a friend  who had  been a great support to me while I was in prison. It was the anniversary of the Master’s  death. In India they do not celebrate the birth of a great saint but rather his death as it is considered a true liberation for the soul; something to celebrate indeed.  

I was still in shock from my previous experience in jail and still recovering. I had been out of prison just four months now and living in an excruciatingly boring situation.  I just craved some kinship with fellow seekers. When I got the letter with the invitation from Dasaratha I was delighted. Now I would finally meet him in person. We weren’t sure if we’d actually met face to face in India although we were there at the same time and same place. Either way, it didn’t matter he. He had become a dear friend, a kind of wise counselor for me throughout the last year and some and now I was going to hang out with him for a few days and a whole bunch of devotees from California were coming up including possibly Ram Dass himself. Reading the letter my hands shook a little; the excitement was immediate. It would be a fantastic gathering of like-minded souls and there would be lots of chanting and ceremonies, copious rounds  of chillums, art installations and impromptu theatre and great vegetarian feasts and fun. I absolutely had to go. Clearly in violation of my Parole conditions I left my small town Ontario community and hitch-hiked my way to the Eastern Townships of Quebec  my sister in tow.

The gathering that weekend consisted of about 60 people and it was understood  that many would have to camp out so there were tents everywhere you looked. And a couple of small Tipis too and then one large communal Tipi of about 20 feet diameter  which no one slept in because it was reserved for Kirtan, Yoga and community readings and other events. 

Akbar was living in a Tipi with his best friend David - two middle class Jewish guys from the Suburbs of mostly English Montreal at that time. Their Tipi was situated near a river on the farm  in the lowest quarter. We’d walked from the main house at least a half hour and I was thirsty and tired. Then in a clearing in the forest swith a little stream rushing nearby I saw a tipi, a carpet and a little out door cooking set up and a few char blackened pots and pans and implements hanging from the trees. It was the penultimate experience of out-door living. Well that’s what I thought, anyway. 

David and Akbar had lovely little outdoor living situation right there smack in the middle of the woods. And just across the stream Howard and Donna also had a tipi and a little installation. 

These guys were really doing the back to nature thing, pretty seriously. That evening David made some lambsquarters with dandelion greens and wild rice and some kind of zucchini chutney. I wasn’t too keen on eating this stuff but have to admit it tasted pretty good. Who would have thought you could eat weeds? My new friends certainly were both healthy muscled lean men in their twenties with the good looks of a sun tanned skin and outdoor freshness in their aura. I remember David, half naked in loin cloths…yes, I am serious he was wearing a loin cloth! squatting by the fire to shelter it from a bit of wind that was annoying his attempt to make tea. Akbar wore a lunghi - an Indian garment for men much like a sarong. We’d just smoked a great big chillum and he had been reading from Rumi. ]

I was so pleased he had introduced me to Rumi. I’d heard of him a bit in India but now I was meeting a full on Sufi initiate who was well steeped in the poetry of the Persian mystical poets. His own master Hazrat Inayat Khan, was a great poet and musician and one I’d never heard of before. Akbar  introduced me to the beauty of the word well written. He, having had a very fortunate upbringing in that his mother saw a deeply sensitive child with tremendous artistic potential and put him into art schools from the beginning, had won a Province wide poetry contest in High School. I guess that was pretty impressive for me as a young woman then.  Yes, he seduced me with poetry and music, with philosophy and intense dialogue and even at times with silence. Now he seduced me with silence again.

What did he mean these trees are prayers. And why is he more interested in the trees than in me?

I later discovered that he was quoting from Hazrat Inayat Khan, our Sufi master who’s son Pir Vilayate was our living master. At the time I thought these were his own words because I’d heard some of his own spontaneous utterings and he’d sound just like that..like  Rumi or Hafiz or Sham’s or Omar Khayyam or Farridudin. It didn’t take long to realize that the man I had married was in fact a poet, a devoted spiritual seeker and a committed Yogi except that he was thrust into the householder role right now.

Still both he and I believed that having a baby would not really in any serious way impact our freedom, our way of life or our spiritual pursuits but rather that it would enhance our journey along  the spiritual path because as parents the first lesson is: Self Sacrifice.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Indigo Books Launching Memoirs of a Hippie Girl

It was quite a fiasco when the security guards tried to stop us from documenting the event.

I had been invited to launch my newly published book at Indigo Books Thursday April 10th.  As this was my first book launch I thought it might be fun to have some photos taken and I found a friend to do this for a very reasonable fee. She brought along a video camera too as she knew live action is the way to go. Plus I brought my guitar and would be singing.

It was not a great turn out but it was still an event. I managed to get the books just in time the night before. She printer based in the U.S. had lost track of my original shipment and another had shipment had to be expedited.

Then they got the cover all wrong...missing some of the important graphics on the cover design.

Oh well, gotta go with the flow.

My friend Kimberly showed up with her camera and equipment and we had been working for about a half hour when along comes a beefy security guy who decided to look in on us.

I suppose he was just bored with his job and needed something to do. Wearing a uniform and the big arm band that states: Security with a capital S...he had to act like a tough guy I suppose.

So he started harrassing us about taking photos and video images. He told us that because this was private property that it was  technically illegal to take photos or film without a clearance from the property  manager.

We pointed out correctly that since we were in the book store proper, and since Indigo Books was in fact a public place that we were not taking pictures in a private institution but in fact in a public place. The security cop with the capital S wouldn't hear any of our arguments.

He said it was a question of "patient confidentiality". His and the Hospital's concern was: if any patients strolling in the background might not want people to know that they were in the hospital.

Kimberly my friend and camera woman pointed out politely' Yes, we totally understand sir. But I can assure you that we are only shooting our guest here, who is here by the authority of Indigo Books, your tenant it would appear. And yes, only shooting her and her book stand. We can promise you we have no interest in taking any images of patients.

Mr. Security guard with the Capital S...still wasn't buying it. Said he'd have to confiscate the existing video footage. Kimberly said. "it's already been destroyed"

I had enough of this guy's harassment. I told him "Buddy, you know you take your job too seriously. We are telling you that we have no intention of compromising anybody's confidentiality issues and are only shooting me in the book store with some customers. Now do me a favour and go get your superior. I want to talk to the building manager.

After another twenty minutes time during which Indigo books acting manager came out and several employees to see what was up the Security guard was still arguing with Kimberly and wanting to take away her existing footage.

She protested: "hey this lady paid me to come and do this. It is only for her own career we are documenting this. What exactly is your problem buddy.

Security Guard: Well, where's it gonna be shown? Just then the manager arrived. A smart well dressed woman thirty something, and we explained the situation. Pretty soon she gave us clearance and all was well.

As for the bully Security Guard with the capital S on his arm....get a life buddy!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Questions About the Book

For those who have already read my book Memoirs of a Hippie Girl I would like to address some questions that were frequently asked.

1.) Whatever happened to Sitar Sam?  I honestly don't know. The last contact I had with him was in 1982 and he was living in Indonesia. He also had a house in Australia. He had visited me briefly in Montreal just prior to that and he was very sweet and a little apologetic as I think he felt a bit responsible for my landing up in jail (and the fact that he didn't write to me for three months)

For all I know he may not even be in this world any more. So many of the characters of that time are sadly gone now. In fact, it was one of  the more difficult aspects of writing this memoir was to find out how many of the principals are dead now.

2.) Why did you wait forty years to write your story?  Frankly, it was not something I was really proud of. I mean telling people you spent time in prison is, well kind of embarrassing. I was a single mom raising two kids on my own and I didn't want to bring them any "shame" or embarrassing questions from friends.

These days they are full grown adults and can handle the truth.  AND these days everyone seems to be telling their story and there is no more shame.  I originally wrote this story for my own purposes back in 1986 as a kind of healing process. I have always enjoyed writing and find that it is cathartic. When I revisited the story back in 2009 and a friend read the story she insisted: "you HAVE to publish this story Ann" and so the process began.

3.) How did you remember so accurately the conversations and events that transpired over forty years ago?

Obviously, I did not remember conversations verbatim. Most of the dialogue I "made up" but remembered the gist of conversations we had and the types of exchanges that took place. In terms of events, well I had a few notes from the period and to be honest, when you experience stuff like being imprisoned in a foreign country it is just something you don't forget. I didn't remember the exact dates but had my passport  from that time so I was able to reconstruct the dates. I did remember I got out of prison on Independence Day.

4.) What possessed you to do some of the things you did? Especially the "high risk" stuff? Well, I was really stuck between a rock and a hard place. I mean I was totally preoccupied with survival. And remember too that my parents had basically disowned me when I left for India..so I really had no family support or even a home to go to. Although some folks question my motives...it really never was about money it was about surviving.

This two year period of my life was a huge life-lesson. I learned more in my two years of travel and jail time than most kids learned in the same period in college. I carried those lessons with me through my whole adult life and the courage I found within gave me strength to endure even more hardships later in life.

Thank you for your interest. My next book will be called Memoirs of a Hippie Girl Part Two and covers the years 1974 to 1981 (the commune years and the Sufi years)

Ann BeCoy

Dear Readers:  If you have read the excerpt from my book Memoirs of a Hippie Girl which recounts my meeting with Neem Karoli Baba and which was recently posted on RamDass.org website I can answer some questions you may have.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

I Meet Neem Karoli Baba

Dear Friends: You can read an excerpt from my book Memoirs of a Hippie Girl on the following website: http://www.ramdass.org/meeting-neem-karoli-baba/

This is the true story of my meeting Neem Karoli Baba in his ashram in Vrindavan in August of 1972. This excerpt recounts my meeting with the great teacher and how he influenced my life. There is also a follow up story where Baba appears to me in a different form. Well....at least I believe it was him.  Stay tuned to the Ramdass.org website for my next story entitled "A Strange Encounter".

If anybody has questions regarding my book, my journey, or my life I will be happy to respond to any and all questions.

Have a blessed day. Have a blessed life. Remember to feed someone. Remember to be KIND. 


Friday, February 28, 2014

Osho News Review

To all those who read Chinmaya Dunster's mostly positive review of my book on Osho News website I would like to point out one thing. My meeting with Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh as he was then called) was over forty years ago. Likewise the whole trip and the varous meetings took place such a long time ago that it is difficult to have a very accurate memory. HOWEVER, I did have some journal notes from that time and certain experiences were so profound that they are etched in my memory forever. My encounter with Bhagwan was precisely one of those etched in my memory. I can recall practically word for word what was said to me by the master and so I resent people assuming I put words in his mouth that they have never experienced him saying. Why would I put words in his mouth? Why would I change what was said to me? It was a very ego shattering experience and I am certain that my recollection of that encounter is entirely accurate.  

Did anyone know "Osho" back in 1972? I sure would like to meet some old devotees like Sardarji Sing or Ma Laxmi, or Tony and Rene who were on the scene at the time as they could certainly verify some of this information. I know for a fact that his residence was in Hanging Gardens in Bombay. I also know for a fact that BEFORE  Pune he had a camp at Mount Abu.

Sorry if my experience with him left me confused and disappointed. He was the first of many teachers I met and I was not ready for Tantric yoga at that time. I did have another encounter with the guru that I did not mention in my story. Perhaps people want to know about that?

I would be happy to share that experience on the Osho News Website if any one is interested.

Thanks to Chinmaya Dunster for his review of my book and I hope you too will enjoy the read.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

House of Mirth and Memoirs of a Hippie Girl

What strikes me is the parallels of House of Mirth and Memoirs of a Hippie Girl.

Not the styles of writing, but the lives. A young woman born to wealth in New York City in the late 1800s and a woman born to immigrants and middle class Toronto in the mid 1950s have the same binds.
Whether the turn of the century or 1970s, they are each scrabbling to make enough to eat, borrowing. These two women are moving from the grace of one person who lets them stay at their house to another. In both, men around are doing high cash deals, pick up, and drop, women at their indulgence. The women form uneasy alliances. The women are without parental support, fledged early. They both want to live with the freedom of movement as a man has, but in one case she is stormed by a crowd and called a prostitute and police need to do crowd control, and the other, for going out after 9:00 pm, midnight even, is considered a bought woman as well. Recorded with a sharp eye, different countries, and, in some sense, different eras.
One more generation on, are we any further? Can men freely wear what they like? Can women and men talk in public without raising some version of a scarlet letter? Progress perhaps. Men still command higher incomes. And how much do well-meaning women and men still warn women not to walk alone, go out after certain hours, rather than making it practice to demand that all people can wear what they like and it not signify invitation to being harassed to walk at any time of the day?
The book wanders around India, or rather, the white hippie sub-culture, the yogis and posers, the underground. Like Wharton, whether noticing the monks chasing the raiding monkeys in the Himalayas, or describing the scene as the group drops LSD to see the Taj Mahal, there’s a detail of space and textures. Who are the servants? They are given room and board and no more, are slaves sleeping in the kitchen or on the door stoop, which is how middle class can afford servants. There are almost 2 pages of encountering how people in India bathe without electricity or hot running water. p. 102-103,
"Chandra knocked on my door and led me to a concrete stall with a single tap that was knee-high from the ground and a drain in the floor: I guessed this was the bathing room. There was a little wooden stool covered by a clean towel, and several buckets of steaming hot water. I was invited to undress discretely in a corner of the room curtained off for the purpose. When I stepped out, Chandra gestured for me to sit on the stool It occurred to me that she had probably been up for over an hour to supervise the boiling of the water. Even the suburbs of Bombay has no such luxury as hot water, so I knew the water would be heated on the pathetic little stove, a propane burner in the kitchen.[...]
It felt odd and a bit discomfiting at first to have someone wash me from head to toe but it also felt luxurious, and when I finally surrendered, I discovered that I enjoyed this Indian way of bathing. I felt so babied, so pampered. For me it was doubly delicious after 3 months of self-bathing, self-nurturing and self-pitying [of being in jail with ticks and illness]. I felt mothered, loved and nurtured for the first time in a long time. Part of me wanted to stay forever with this delightful family."
It was a fascinating journey to go in on of times and places that were ephemeral and distinct from life in mainstream Canada. Seeing her thought processes as new developments came to her teenage life as she made her way were interesting. We read the whole aloud over a week or so.