Personal Reflections at 60 on "The Harvard Psychedelic Club": Ties that Bind

Don Lattin's book, "The Harvard Psychedelic Club," a retrospective published in January 2010, describes the ties between Timothy Leary ("The Trickster"), Richard Alpert ("The Seeker"), Andrew Weil ("The Healer") and Huston Smith ("The Teacher"). It describes how this foursome, through their psychedelic use and spiritual and research-academic professional activities, were influential in fomenting the psychedelic revolution of the sixties and thereby affected the lives of millions for the better, and for some, the worse, and American society at-large.

The book reveals interesting historical facts, for example, when Weil was a freshman at Harvard he played a central role in affecting Leary's and Alpert's firing from the Harvard faculty. It seems eventually Leary forgave him but Alpert was less forgiving. Or, that it was Aldous Huxley who introduced Smith to Leary and his research in the early sixties on psilocybin. Smith had told Huxley he wanted to not just write about the mystical life but wanted to have a mystical life (experience).

I was attracted to this book, I believe, because in a sense, I share, as do many others, in these Harvard relationships to this day. This is especially true with respect to Alpert (Ram Dass), Weil and Smith.  I lived through the sixties and so its history and what has followed, in terms of social and spiritual evolution, is also my history even though the events described in the book occurred over 40 years ago. The ties endure. Let me explain.

As I was moving out of the sixties, forty years ago, and began to explore meditation and "the psychology of man's possible evolution" under the counsel of an enlightened psychiatrist (Harvard Medical School trained as it turns out), I was both informed and inspired by Ram Dass's book "Be Here Now," written at the Lama Foundation in New Mexico, where, my current spiritual teacher, Fr. Thomas Keating, held the first 10-day centering prayer intensive retreat 25 years ago. The was retreat was instrumental in beginning the Contemplative Outreach spiritual network wherein I volunteer today. Ram Dass says he moved to Hawaii two years ago to die but continues to live and in fact, he's on Twitter and I follow him there.

In a related manner, Andrew Weil's book "The Natural Mind" in the 1970s asserted there exist an intrinsic human need to alter consciousness and this need could be met with drug or non-drug methods. This thesis was central then in my interests in altered states of consciousness and transpersonal psychology. Now, I'm reading Weil's book on healthy aging (I turn 60 this month) and read his health education material via various media outlets.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, in the mid-1970s I heard Huston Smith deliver the keynote address of the Annual Association of Humanistic Psychology conference in New Orleans, "The Way Things Are." It/he captured, eloquently, artistically and with the intellectual rigor of the scholar, the integrity of the spiritual quest and evolution and the nobility of the human spirit, all of which Smith himself seemed to embody and convey, even in a large hotel conference setting of thousands. It's rather remarkable I recall the title of his talk to this day and even quote from the talk on ocassion. I heard Smith again, he is now in his 90s, speak at a psychosynthesis conference a couple of years ago, and while the years had diminished the body, the same humor, intellect and spirit I admired as a twenty-something in New Orleans was clearly in evidence and obviously appreciated by the attendees.

There is a web of ties it seems, visible and invisible, that bind us and transmits good life - the life that is.

Concept Mapping Servant Leadership

On my return from a week of retreat and enrichment in the principles and practice of contemplative servant leadership, I reviewed my notes and slides from the presentations. It was a challenge to fully appreciate them in relationship to each other and their gestalt when they were being presented sequentially at the retreat.

In order to provide an overview of the concepts in a singular view to myself, to explore some of the relationships between the concepts, and in general to better understand the material, I created the concept map below - a work-in-progress.

As some concepts seemed to me more related to groups as a point of focus and others seemed more focused on describing individuals, I divided the concepts accordingly (others mileage would surely vary in such an exercise). The division is somewhat artifical however, as are conceptual maps in general and as observed in both General Semantics ( "the map is not the territory") and Zen ("the finger pointing to the moon is not the moon"). Contemplative servant leadership takes place within an integrated process where God-Spirit, the group and the individual ideally co-evolve through discernment, the discovery of consensus and follow-through to manifestation and outer expression - and contemplation by its nature is of course nonconceptual in character.

The map below is best viewed in Fullscreen mode, Slide view, then Zoom in (or you can download the PDF file).

Impromptu Conversation with Sr. Maria Tasto on Lectio Divina (video)

This 11 minute, unscripted conversation, recorded with a hand-held iPhone, took place at a Contemplative Outreach retreat on deepening the contemplative dimension of servant leadership near St. Louis MO during November 2009. I very much appreciate Sr. Maria's willingness to share on short notice and "rolling" with the questions and spontaneous conversation that developed.

Note: recorded for distribution on Twitter @centeringprayer.

Gran Torino the Movie "gentle now the tender breeze blows"

I must admit I seldom go to, buy or rent movies of late but when I have a persistent itch to view one I pay attention to the attraction. Such was the case with "Gran Torino," directed by and featuring Clint Eastwood. Its a movie obstensibly about a car (the GranTorino built by Ford in the early 70s) and its owner, Walt, a recently widowed and 360 degree bigot. However, Walt doesn't know what hit him as the story unfolds of how his heart opens to those he dispises. The movie's theme song, written by Eastwood and Jamie Cullen, is sung at the end of the movie and gives the film's many meanings even greater significance. If you haven't see it this is a great movie.

The lyrics:

So tenderly
Your story is
Nothing more
Than what you see
Or
What you've done
Or will become
Standing strong
Do you belong
In your skin
Just wondering

Gentle now
The tender breeze
Blows
Whispers through
My Gran Torino
Whistling another
Tired song

Engine humms
And bitter dreams
Grow heart locked
In a Gran Torino
It beats
A lonely rhythm
All night long
It beats
A lonely rhythm
All night long
It beats
A lonely rhythm
All night long

Realign all
The stars
Above my head
Warning signs
Travel far
I drink instead
On my own
Oh,how I've known
The battle scars
And worn out beds

Gentle now
A tender breeze
Blows
Whispers through
A Gran Torino
Whistling another
Tired song

Engines humm
And bitter dreams
Grow
Heart locked
In a Gran Torino
It beats
A lonely rhythm
All night long

These streets
Are old
They shine
With the things
I've known
And breaks
Through
The trees
Their sparkling

Your world
Is nothing more
Than all
The tiny things
You've left
Behind

So tenderly
Your story is
Nothing more
Than what you see
Or
What you've done
Or will become
Standing strong
Do you belong
In your skin
Just wondering

Gentle now
A tender breeze
Blows
Whispers through
The Gran Torino
Whistling another
Tired song
Engines humm
And bitter dreams
Grow
A heart locked
In a Gran Torino
It beats
A lonely rhythm
All night long

May I be
So bold and stay
I need someone
To hold
That shudders
My skin
Their sparkling

Your world
Is nothing more
Than all
The tiny things
You've left
Behind

So realign
All the stars
Above my head
Warning signs
Travel far
I drink instead
On my own
Oh
How i've known
The battle scars
And worn out beds

Gentle now
A tender breeze
Blows
Whispers through
The Gran Torino
Whistling another
Tired song
Engines humm
And better dreams
Grow
Heart locked
In a Gran Torino
It beats
A lonely rhythm
All night long
It beats
A lonely rhythm
All night long
It beats
A lonely rhythm
All night long

Is There an Applause Meter in the House? (video)

I serve on the Board of Contemplative Outreach, a non-profit that shares within the contemplative Christian tradition the method of centering prayer and its immediate conceptual background. The Board met in New Jersey over the weekend and was led by 86 year old Fr. Thomas Keating, Roman Catholic priest, author and Trappist monk. In this brief video Fr. Thomas appears to receive the most "applause," even though one cannot hear it (the "sound of one hand clapping").

Sent from Ron's iPhone

Sign for Silence In Secret

"Prayer is the soul's sincere desire uttered or unexpressed;" - James Montgomery

"When you pray, go into your inner private room, close the door and pray...in secret...and your being will blossom and flourish." - Matthew 6:6.

Sent from Ron's iPhone

"Love After Love"

This morning Jon Kabat-Zinn was interviewed on the PBS program Speaking of Faith about mindfulness. He ended with this:

LOVE AFTER LOVE

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here.  Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine.  Give bread.  Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit.  Feast on your life.

Here it is with the human voice (Kabat-Zinn)

"Love after Love" from COLLECTED POEMS 1948-1984 by Derek Walcott. Copyright © 1986 by Derek Walcott. Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC

"Moon of Tunis"

Double-click below to start/restart video.

As an inactive, i.e. backsliding, mandolin player I've recently become inspired by the sounds of The Beymen Bros after they were featured on NPR http://tr.im/h9Qm. The lifelong bond, since childhood, that exists for two of the more senior "bros" and their many years of informal music-making and the Bros's tranquility vibe leaves me most attentive.

Wild Things

And when he came to the place where the wild things are
they roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth
and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws
till Max said “BE STILL!”
and tamed them with the magic trick
of staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once
and they were frightened and called him the most wild thing of all
and made him king of all wild things
“And now,” cried Max, “let the wild rumpus start!”

From "Where the Wild Things Are" http://tr.im/h77E