What happened to the yogis and their dream?

We were wide-eyed and innocent as doves though not wise as serpents, as the Bible would add.

We had room for exploration, certainly, and for some of us that included yoga or Zen. Hitchhiking was part of the scene, too. I touch on those in several of my novels.

I realize that in posing the question as “yogis,” I’m focusing on a corner of the hippie experience. The dream I’m thinking of is a better world for everyone, and not just a few who wanted to drop out altogether.

I don’t see that among today’s youth, who have good reason to be more cautious about the future. Besides, they’re shackled by college debt, an outrageous amount compared to their income realities.

But it’s not all economic. I’d say much of the current malaise is spiritual.

Without that element of hope and universal love, how can we possibly overcome the forces that are dividing and oppressing us?


American yogis touring India

As young yogis living at the Poconos Ashram in Pennsylvania, Bhakta and Jay made a pilgrimage to India in December 1973. It was Bhakta’s first trip to the source of the religious tradition and Jay’s second. Unlike many young American and European aspirants who moved to India to study with a guru, they were teaching and practicing on a rundown farm not far from New York City. Their daily encounters in the household they shared resembled much of what I describe in my novel YOGA BOOTCAMP.

I remember our teacher, an American woman, telling of her first experience with a real elephant in India. I think she would have loved having one on our farm.

Mixmaster? Just look at ‘Nearly Canaan’

What, me as a Mixmaster?

Just look at the topics percolating in my novel Nearly Canaan.

Take just ten, shaken or stirred or mixed in a bowl:

  • Promise. The word has many meanings, including ability, talent, potential, opportunity, guarantee, understanding, agreement, contract, oath, pledge, vow. It can also have quite different meanings for each person. In this novel, especially, it’s a promised land, a dream, and sometimes even a broken promise.
  • Place. This story is rooted in the surrounding landscapes, beginning with a small-town on the prairie and moving on to the Ozarks before landing in the desert interior of the Pacific Northwest, where Mount Rainier and the Cascade Range and Seattle beyond also play into the action.
  • Intimacy. The story goes behind closed doors, for sure.
  • Friendships. In this story, these usually arise among the couples and their shifting inner dynamics. Often, these friendships prove essential for daily survival.
  • Family. Jaya becomes quite fond of her in-laws and their support despite their initial differences.
  • Spirituality. It’s not just faith and meditation but a meaningful faith community, too.
  • Career. Jaya isn’t the only young adult trying to navigate a demanding career in this story. The long hours and endless struggles of being a rising executive even in nonprofit organizations take a toll. As for their spouses? Finding their own niche is not always easy.
  • The seasons. Dwelling in an apple orchard, Jaya and her husband observe the rhythms of the year close up.
  • Wilderness. Part of the allure of the Pacific Northwest is its access to forests and mountains, but open desert is wilderness, too.
  • Lasting impact. For many in their circle, Jaya is seen as the Wise Woman who fosters a better life. How far does her impact extend?

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The beaters were a pain to clean, though. Licking frosting from them was another matter.

Are you embraced fully into your mate’s family?

It’s a phenomenon I’ve observed repeatedly now, where a man finds his basic family connection through his wife’s siblings and parents, more than his own. He feels especially welcomed and embraced.

That’s the case with Cassia’s Baba in my novel What’s Left, when he becomes an active member of her mother’s extended clan. Well, it can also happen in the other direction, as it does with Cassia’s aunts Pia and Yin, or in Nearly Canaan, where Jaya grows especially close to her in-laws and vice versa.

This came up, too, when a friend and I were discussing our own lives and that of an important American figure we were examining. We realized it’s far more universal than we’d thought.

Can you tell me of a time you’ve seen this?