I went to visit the New Buffalo commune in Taos yesterday — you may recognize it from the 1969 film Easy Rider. I have a pottery friend that lives there among the goats and chickens, ducks and rabbits. There is even a mascot donkey who will nibble on your fingers if you let her. The quiet communal spirit of the property is palpable. The utopian energy of this throw-back culture extends beyond the boundaries of the ranch into the surrounding mountains and mesa and permeates the people who live here. Everyone I meet is either buying land and building their dream escape, or gathering around shared hot springs, campfires and tee-pees, to indulge in ritualistic — and often psychedelic — fun.
I dove into this lifestyle about 9 months ago without any sense of what I was actually doing. Live on a farm. Build an Earthship. Sleep in a pyramid. Try some peyote. I’ve been in constant companionship during this time by conscious young adults who could easily be mistaken for the hippies in the Peter Fonda movie. They believe in environmentalism, sexual freedom, community and social change. They have radical intelligent voices. They are reformed architects, nomadic yogis and polyamorous vegans. They question the mainstream ethos that has been the backbone of my entire life.
No one I’ve met in the past 9 months cares about how many articles I’ve published, how much money I’ve made, how many followers I have or what clothes I wear. They are endlessly curious about what countries I’ve seen, my healing abilities, the adventures I’m planning, the llamas I lived with. We don’t watch TV or go to fancy restaurants or attend sporting events. We build things together, make meals together, play board games together, listen to music together, we get high together, laugh until I’m lying on the floor in the fetal position together — and sometimes we cry together.
There is a dark shadow that follows around my new friends — and it smells of anxiety, depression, addiction, loneliness and shame. I don’t think you can live in exile from the main world and not suffer the consequences. I don’t think you can endure disapproval and disappointment from your loved ones without collecting some scars. I don’t think you can empathize with the burning planet and boiling ocean and not bawl your eyes out sometimes — or drown yourself in tequila. Having lived in both worlds — living with one foot in each world — I can’t say which brand of suffering is more potent. The suffering of suburbia and corporate ladders and mortgages and infidelity and credit card debt — or the suffering of the ones who are trying to live in opposition to all of the above. I guess, at the end of the day, all the roads are hard and that’s the one thing we have in common.
In the short time that I’ve been living with the hippies, I’ve been birthing a new version of myself.
I’ve been letting go of conditioning about the perfect life constructed by American media.
I’ve been embracing things I once rejected like living an unplanned life.
I’ve been reckoning with the ways that I’ve created problems for myself in the past with my stubbornness and righteousness.
I’ve been letting go of stigma and judgements about atypical and unconventional people and lifestyles.
I’ve been breaking open to more love — different kinds of love — seeing the ways I’ve blocked love with my self-limiting beliefs.
I’ve been seeing myself through the eyes of others who value me more than I value myself sometimes.
I’ve been learning about myself in every conversation, in every connection, in every mirror reflection between me and these remarkable humans.
“Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me
Other times, I can barely see
Lately, it occurs to me
What a long, strange trip it’s been.”
~ Grateful Dead