A former L.A. wild child on yoga, transformation, and Charles Manson.
“Uh, what is that black shit all over your eyes?” my friend asked.
“Oh my God do you love it? I got it at the Hare Krishna Temple!”
It was the late 90’s, and I was wearing an inky charcoal eyeliner that would run down my face at the slightest provocation, leaving me looking like I had been playing Seven Minutes In Heaven with The Insane Clown Posse. I think I was ahead of my time; even Givenchy sells the same smudgy eyeliner now. And if the French dig it, it has to be cool.
I’m an L.A. chick. And a child of the 70’s. I used to come home from grade school to find Charlie’s Angels shooting on my block. And that’s just how it was. I came of age in a sleepy little enclave of West L.A. called Cheviot Hills with my parents, a lawyer and a housewife, and my older brother John. Being the nurturing big brother he was, John would tell me Charles Manson had escaped and was coming to get me. I totally believed him.
We loved Saturday Night Live, Atari and listening to our huge stack of records. But we had only one obsession: The Beatles. We owned every album and knew every lyric. And were mesmerized by the photos in our Beatles Anthology. That’s where I first saw The Maharishi, the white-robed guru of Transcendental Meditation. The mustachioed Beatles sat cross-legged at His feet, and their sparkly-eyed girlfriends sat there too, resplendent, wearing minis and flowers in their hair. “They look like they’re on drugs”, said my mother, and she made a good point. They looked oddly happy, euphoric even. And looking at those photos, I remember having one overwhelming thought: When I grow up, I want to be a rock star’s girlfriend.
It was just a glimpse. But I was young, and I was too busy stealing my dad’s Salem’s out of the cupboard and sneaking into R rated movies to bother with abstract and trivial things like Karma and Krishna Consciousness. I wanted to wear leather, ride on the back of motorcycles and get in trouble. And by the way… mission accomplished.
I wore black, listened to Depeche Mode and disconnected. Oh, and did I mention I drank? A lot. I wrote a lot but saved nothing. I did a book report on Helter Skelter, but no one seemed to get it. (I think Charlie would have, but I’m not sure that counts.) I read the counterculture beats like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. I may not have had the “best” mind of my generation… but sure enough, it was slowly being destroyed by a madness I couldn’t control. I knew I had to be fearless to be a writer, so I mimicked the destructive behaviors of my newfound heroes in a futile attempt to be one of them. And did I mention I drank? No one thought it was cool or rebellious. It just came across as sad, and maybe even worse, unoriginal. I was lost, and baffled by life and what it was asking from me. Things got pretty dark. I believe Hubert Selby Jr. said it best: “I was a scream looking for a mouth.”
That was half a lifetime ago. I thought I was a rebel, but I didn’t even know what I was rebelling against. And maybe that’s okay; maybe that’s the point.
A decade passed since this strange time of angst and turmoil. And then one morning I found myself in a crowded yoga class at the gym. The teacher played While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and something inside me was awakened. I connected. And so it began: I started practicing yoga every day. I became a vegetarian (alas, temporarily). I even grew Kombucha mushrooms in my refrigerator. I would go to The Bodhi Tree for mala beads, books and statuettes of Hindu deities for my emerging shrine. Sometimes I could be seen sporting a jeweled bindi. It was all so intoxicating, and intriguing. What was it these Mystics knew? I admit it got a little ridiculous. My boyfriend would probably freak out if he saw that black goop on my eyes today, Givenchy or not. And even though I’m just an L.A. chick, raised a world away from India, the mystical birthplace of Yoga and Hinduism and The Maharishi, life started to make sense. I wasn’t so baffled anymore.
When my boyfriend gave me a guitar as a birthday gift last year, the first song I could play recognizably was a mangled version of George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord. My guitar wasn’t so much weeping, it was sobbing. Now it’s been more than 10 years since George died. I learned more about Eastern Spirituality and Krishna Devotion than him than anyone. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. Frank Sinatra only called Something “The greatest love song ever written”. The Quiet Beatle himself said it was about Lord Krishna, “but if I sang about a man, they’d think I was a ‘poof’. ”
The Hindus are all about Samskara, or Reincarnation. The belief is if you practice yoga, you were a yogi in a past life. Not too long ago, I would have told you I thought this was absurd. I could never stand pre-fab spiritual drivel that is supposed to tie everything up in a neat little package for the masses. But Reincarnation ain’t no joke. For me, it’s not just about past lives; Yoga has transformed me into a different person in this life already. And according to The Baghavad Gita, if I’m a good girl, I’ll be “reborn in the house of the pure and the great.” Freedom from the karmic cycle of suffering — just a little something to think about.
After all this time I still have a motorcycle burn on my leg, and a closet that can be confused for that of Nancy Spungeon. Charles Manson is safe behind bars. Sometimes I wear flowers in my hair, and my favorite album is still Abbey Road. But you won’t see me on the back of a motorcycle anytime soon, unless, of course, it’s the only way to get to yoga.
Peace, Love, and Hare Krishna, Baby.
Anne Clendening was born and raised in L.A. and wanted to be Farrah Fawcett when she grew up. She writes about yoga, horror movies, and her hot Aussie boyfriend on www.mysweetyoga.com, all at the same time. If you’re not easily offended, her darker thoughts can be read at www.dirtyblondeink.com.