For a time during my high school years, I tried to make a psychedelic sanctum of my bedroom, declaring it a separate place from the rest of the house. I asked my father to bolt a three-foot ultraviolet black light to the ceiling. He did this to make me happy, and understanding that while it did make everything look enchanted, I would soon grow tired of seeing purple spots in front of my eyes from looking up at it from bed. I was striving to create a special atmosphere where transformation was possible.
I lined the bedroom walls with fluorescent Day-Glo posters that glowed in molten sunset colors when the light was switched on. The posters depicted winding pathways through trippy forests, mandalas, a psychedelic Jim Morrison reaching out a hand with smoldering eyes. I played cool music in that purple haze, as if I could make the counter culture rise like a whale from the depths of the past and carry me away to a bigger life. I read The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda, seeking a path with heart. I read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, and later Be Here Now by Ram Dass, longing to go on similar journeys. During my high school years, I vividly remember sitting up in that room and on similar rooms with other kids. It was as if I thought that just the right lighting or reading or music would open the door to lasting change.
In the years that followed, I gave up trying to stage manage conditions in quite the same way but I kept trying to force change, hoping that just the right course of study, or diet, or exercise regime would help me change. Along the way, I discovered meditation. I tried to meditate my way to freedom. It didn’t work.
There was something wholesome in all this longing and trying. Even in my faux hippie years, I sensed that I needed to find a way that wasn’t in my head alone. Along the way I learned that trying to eat well and exercise helps, that meeting deadlines and commitments helps. Showing up helps. But I also learned that real change cannot be forced or controlled and what it feels like to be a little more free cannot be predicted. I learned that what is needed for real change is radical but not in the way I thought. What is needed is a willingness to see things just as they are. What is needed is a gentle surrender, a letting be, an inner movement of availability. We have to allow change to happen.