It’s All One by
50
(87 Stories)

Prompted By Drugs and Alcohol

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It seemed almost inevitable that one day I would drop acid.  Not that I was anxious to do so, but it was 1970 and I was living in Berkeley not being in school, living with a childhood friend and trying to sort out my life.  We met random acquaintances off the street, took lots of Free University classes, joined study groups, looked for work, ate meagerly from weekly Food Conspiracy boxes and searched for meaning.  The future was fraught but open and we were open to it.

It was a fall afternoon when Ron and his friend appeared with the acid and what the hell, we had nothing better to do.

I dragged my feet at psychedelics however, afraid of a bad trip and loss of control.  Never was a big drinker or toker and didn’t feel the need to do more.  And yet the golden hills above Berkeley sported the letters “LSD” (altered from “CSD” for California School of the Deaf which lay below), tie-dye was rampant, my friend was keen, she knew someone who could get some, and one day I would relent.

It was a fall afternoon when Ron and his friend appeared with the acid and what the hell, we had nothing better to do.  With some resignation, I took it and braced myself for weird hallucinations of unknown intensity and duration.  And yet, after sitting around in our living room for a bit, what I felt was a beatific sense of contentment.

I didn’t want to move and felt an emanation of good will and unity.  The boundaries of my physical body merged with the atoms all around so there was just a continuity with everything else.  In fact, there was no “me” without the field of everything around me, just as gravity is not a separate force but a manifestation of mass contorting space-time. This essential connectedness removed the ego; it was intensely reassuring that I was integrally part of the whole and belonged.  Conflict receded into peace.  Even then, I was a bit embarrassed to find myself acknowledging that the cliche was true, it really is “all one”.

Someone suggested we look in a mirror, and I was bewildered by the concept, since I would not see the true me—my reflected body was but a shell and “I” existed only in relation to the world around me.

Staying in the living room, I felt I was in a green valley with sunlight and blue sky, a small stream and a wooden fence in the middle.  On the other side of the fence was my best friend, both of us having come home to where we belonged and felt safe.  We wondered why we didn’t come here more often.  It was always there.

This experience was an unbidden revelation, a gift bestowed when no one was seeking it, a oneness deeply felt, not consciously constructed. With a bit of a shock, I realized I was imagining death, albeit a supremely reassuring one.  I hardly knew what the other people with me were experiencing.  I just wanted to sit there and beam like a Buddha.

After some hours, the acid gradually wore off, but the world was not the same.  It seemed I had been shown a fundamental and positive truth of existence that would always be there waiting, regardless of what life may bring.  And I didn’t want to seek it out again—it was a gift not to be searched after.  Life was here, now, and death would be forever, so I may as well spend my life doing the things that you can only do during our brief time here.  Dive in, work, love, suffer and don’t worry.  It will be alright in the end, however it turns out.  Anytime you want, you can reach out and connect with the universe.  You are the universe.  But you are not always alive.

I did drop acid one more time, against my better judgment.  It wasn’t a bad trip, but it wasn’t like the first experience, nor did I expect it would be.  How could it be? Don’t mess with success.

Recently, since legal restrictions have eased, researchers have begun using psychedelics to treat people with depression and distress at the end of life, with some good results.  It makes sense to me.

Over the years, the immediacy of the acid experience faded and I don’t think of it much, but still recall it as a completely unanticipated gift that helped me through life.  These days I do think a lot about the prospects for the immediate survival of humans on our planet, as we destroy our home.  If we self-destruct, the universe will still go on, and the planet (and untold others) may still harbor life in different forms and varieties—a wee bit of solace perhaps.  People are just star stuff and a presumably limited (but grand) evolutionary development with certain powers of consciousness–and ability to act.  Our hopes for our children may rest on our actions based on the recognition and respect that we are “nature” along with everything around us—all one indeed.

 

 

Profile photo of Khati Hendry Khati Hendry


Characterizations: been there, moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Marian says:

    This is a beautiful essay, Khati, and it makes me wish I had the courage to drop acid when I got to Berkeley. Your experience was transformative, and I hope now that more research is possible these “hallucinogenic” drugs can be used to help people. By 1975 when I lived in Berkeley, I was already working and going to graduate school, and the 80-hour weeks left me no extra time and space (so I thought) for experimentation. I can only hope that my current foray into meditation can give me a sliver of the connection you felt.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      It was kind of like an unexpected short cut, and maybe therapeutic psychedelics will become more available one day. Meditation and thoughtfulness are wonderful if you have the persistence—also reading can help. Lots of smart and articulate people have gone before and I haven’t read near enough. I spent many years after that gap year in school and training and working professionally where I had little time or inclination to experiment or indulge, and Berkeley was like a serendipitous revelation.

  2. Suzy says:

    Khati, this is a wonderful description of a really perfect acid trip. I had some like that too, where I felt all calm and beatific and we were all one, while other times they were a bit frenetic. I think it may have had to do with what was going on in my life at the time I dropped the acid. Here you were in a “what the hell, we had nothing better to do” mood, and that may have been why it was so good. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  3. Fred Suffet says:

    That’s a wonderful story, Khati. The word that immediately came to mind about the experience you describe is ‘exquisite.’ That may appear a bit unusual, but it seems to capture the beauty of what happened. It’s interesting that once you experienced the of feeling of one-ness, more acid was not necessary for you to regain the perception: it was now a permanent part of you. As for myself, I was too chicken — loss of control and all that. In later years, I realized that we are all made of star stuff, and that was a first step. (NASA photos helped, believe it or not.) Also, I had my first brush with so-called minimalist music composers like Terry Riley and Philip Glass back in the late ’60s. I thought the music had its charms, but, being a jazz fan, it wasn’t going to replace Miles Davis. However, in recent years, I’ve come back to it, and spend an hour each morning, sitting quietly and listening to more recent composers in the genre. If you’re curious, here are links to two examples, the first by Olafur Arnalds, the second by Max Richter. If you listen, I hope you’ll see (or hear) what I mean. Take good care.

    youtube.com/watch?=TXjrFW26k1Y&ab_channel=ErasedTapes

    youtube.com/watch?v=rVN1B-tUpgs&ab_channel=FatcatRecords

    • Khati Hendry says:

      I completely believe the NASA pictures helped—I have been interested is cosmology since I was a kid, and it has been very enlightening. Thank you for the reflections on new music and jazz—I will have to check out the links. Your morning routine sounds excellent—better than my doodling with the Spelling Bee.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      Thanks for the links–I was expecting something more discordant, but they were both enchanting. I too have gravitated to music with more space in it over the years. I was listening to the links you sent and started reading “Braiding Sweetgrass”, which speaks about listening and understanding the world from an indigenous perspective–also recommended. Thanks again.

  4. Thanx Khati for this beautifully written memory of your first acid trip and so glad you came out wise and healthy.

    I’m not at all savvy but maybe the second time around is never the same and somehow that’s the point – you’ve seen the pot of gold and now you can get there yourself.

  5. Laurie Levy says:

    Thank you for sharing this story, Khati. It is such a vivid description of your trip. I felt like I was with you as I read it, although in reality I have never gone beyond getting high in college. Still, interesting to imagine what your experience was like.

  6. Betsy Pfau says:

    Like you, Khati, I was always frightened about the possibility of being so out of control. Your first experience truly does sound like a wonderful, out of the this world experience, and hard to replicate, as you confirmed, but I’m happy that you had that one sense of otherworldliness.

    I’ve heard Michael Pollen speak about his controlled experiences with mind-altering drugs, which now may be useful for severely depressed people as well. I hope they do find new ways to treat severe depression. That would be invaluable.

    • Khati Hendry says:

      I have read a number of articles about the therapeutic use of psychedelics, and I hope they can be used effectively. As with most mind-altering drugs (from alcohol to opiates to caffeine etc), there seems to be value somewhere, as well as risk—especially when used indiscriminately. People (and other animals!) appear to seek them out pretty consistently. There is much to learn.

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