From Dr. Gibbs's forthcoming book:
The Art of Mind
In 1967 I began my freshman year of college at Arizona State University. I majored in psychology, thinking nothing could be more interesting than studying my mind. I traipsed down to the college bookstore and purchased a book called Psychiatry and Everyday Life by Bingham and Redlich. Fredrick Redlich was the chair of psychiatry at Yale and the book had lots of witty New Yorker cartoons illustrating key concepts. I figured with his credentials a book laced with cartoons should be a fun start to continue my journey in finding out just what makes us all tick.
I wasn’t disappointed. Faithful to the Freudian model dominant in academia I learned the mind lived in the form of an iceberg. Just like an iceberg a little of the mind was clearly visible above the ocean water, but the vast mass was unseen below. I found out the visible part was called the conscious mind and in the larger part unseen lived the subconscious and unconscious mind. And luckily, Sigmund Freud had discovered the “talking cure”, psychoanalysis, as a shining flashlight revealing the hidden mind submerged under water. I found out about defense mechanisms like rationalizations, projection and denial, Freudian slips and Freud’s theory of errors and “forgetting,” how cigars and tunnels are phallic symbols but sometimes just cigars and tunnels, all kinds of cool stuff - down the rabbit hole let’s go!
Then I went to psychology class and learned all about rats and mazes, and how psychology (which I later found used to be under the Department of Philosophy) had taken a new turn! The mind was deemed unmeasurable, hence unscientific, unworthy of study, and B.F. Skinner at Harvard led the charge. The new God of psychology was called Behaviorism. B.F. Skinner believed his study of rats and pigeons and how he could change their behavior with food pellet rewards was a great gift to society as to how to educate people into becoming better human beings. B.F. Skinner had pulled off an incredible coup. Unbelievable!
I heard about the University of Wisconsin and how Carl Rogers, a leading humanistic psychologist used to teach there and some luminary named Harry Harlow, who did a famous study on love and infant monkeys, was still there. Off I went, but again more rats and mazes! The weather was cold and I didn’t have a warm jacket. Florida State beckoned me with in state tuition, palm trees and a much more favorable girl-boy student ratio. With this in mind I headed to my home state.
There I found out about Students for a Democratic Society, got involved with some political organizing, and graduated with honors in psychology, but discovered something to my dismay. I discovered I still wasn’t sure about how the mind really worked (although Freud was on to something) and Albert Ellis wrote an interesting book called Living Rationally in an Irrational World. Ellis mentioned he derived his ideas from this Greek philosopher named Epictetus. Boy was I glad he could decipher Epictetus and give us ten steps to living a rational life. Not until thirty years later did I try reading Epictetus for myself. Boy was that a mistake to wait so long.
I worked as a counselor in a mental health center, in Florida, floundering my way around, with my lowly bachelor’s degree and no real formal training in psychotherapy. I delivered mail in California, was a Precinct Captain for Bobby Seale when he ran for Mayor of Oakland, and eventually became a Rolfer.
I read a book called Fundamentals of Yoga by this medical doctor Ramamurti Mishra who became a Yogi. He said relaxation was more important than anything else. So I went to a yoga class, and when we laid down at the end of the class the teacher guided us through our bodies, tensing and relaxing the muscles and then directing us to relax each of our internal organs - ending with visualizing our brain as a clear blue lake. Next, he had us visualize a column of colored light descending from the ceiling coming down to the center of our chest and then pervading throughout our entire body. The columns of light change through a variety of colors, ending with a brilliant white light radiating inside of our bodies. Finally, he guided us to concentrate on our third eye, where we hung out for a short time and then jumped up to the ceiling and took a look around.
Then I found out about pranayama (breathing exercise) and meditations and how this could take us to our superconscious mind and I thought “Boy that’s it! I’ve got to find a guru now! That’s what I want to find out about, the superconcious mind!” College taught me about abnormal psychology, pretty interesting stuff, but they didn’t talk too much about the higher state of mind.
So I kept my eyes open looking for a master yoga teacher. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the guru to The Beatles, had his picture in all the papers. For a fee, he would give you a mantra to meditate on. He even had his own jumbo jet. I figured I’d give him a pass.
I was living in Coconut Grove, Florida, when I heard Ramamurti Mishra was visiting and teaching nearby. I went to an apartment in Miami and Mishra took us on a trip through the universe in our mind’s eye and he told me I should look to above for guidance, and not to try and do it just on my own. Then I heard about a guru named Muktananda who Werner Erhart had brought to the U.S. Muktananda used to travel around the United States with an elephant. He taught us a meditation about loving ourselves just as we are. I enjoyed the retreat but did not feel drawn to him as a teacher.
I went to a meeting about this fourteen year old perfect master, a guru from India, but he asked his disciples to give all his worldly possessions to him for safe keeping, so I decided to keep what I had. Next, I found about Rajneesh, a retired philosophy professor, who was having a lot of fun in Poona, India. Everyone was dancing and partying around. He gave spontaneous discourses on Zen, Jesus, the Buddha, the Sufis, Heraclitus, Patanjali and much more. I was thinking about going to see him. Then I was peering in a metaphysical bookstore window in Coconut Grove, Florida. There was this small flyer of this yogi named Baba Hari Dass, with hair down to below his knees, who was traveling and teaching yoga and something I had never heard of called Ayurvedic medicine, apparently some herbal stuff from India.
So I went to see Hari Dass at the Yoga Temple. We were told to show up at 6:30 a.m. We did these asanas (yoga postures) pranayama, and meditated, then he showed up in white robes. He walked past me and hit me with his robe, I felt some kind of electric shock.
Turned out Baba Hari Dass was a siddha yogi (a yogi with powers) and he didn’t talk but wrote on a little chalk board. So Hari Dass sits down and beckons this young boy to come sit next to him. This six year old kid lights up and sits next to him beaming. So Hari Dass writes “Does anyone have any questions?” I can’t remember what others asked but I asked him about how to treat a massage client of mine with spondylolisthesis, (I had become a masseur in preparation to become a Rolfer). Hari Dass gave me a penetrating look that went into me so deep that it touched me in a way I had never been touched before. (Did the iceberg suddenly rise above?) Who knows? He showed me a yoga posture to give the client and I figured I better check this guy out more.
Hari Dass offered this retreat in Ocala National forest and I drove up. I picked up a hitchhiker on the way. Turned out he was an American Indian studying to be a medicine man and he had been off the reservation now for three months. Because he had been off the reservation for three months living among the white men, he told me that when he returned to the reservation he had to be naked for three days on a raft to cleanse himself before he saw his teacher, the medicine man. This was so he wouldn’t have to ask any questions. Perhaps I was being romantic, but it all seemed like too much of a coincidence to me, here I had been looking for a teacher for all these years and now I meet an American Indian on a similar path as I’m on my way to see Hari Dass.
Hari Dass was leading classes on yoga philosophy, asanas (postures), nose cleansing with water, pranayama, meditation, there was also Kirtan, (spiritual singing), but the best part was just hanging out for questions and conversation with him. He had written this book about a legendary guru in India named Hariakhan Baba, who had been living for thousands of years and could appear and disappear at will. Sounds far out, but I thought this could all be true, and I’m going for this ride.
They said you can have a one on one meeting with Hari Dass for ten minutes, just sign up. So I see Hari Dass in a trailer and he has an assistant reading off his chalkboard. He says, “How are you?” I said “Good.” He then asked “What do you do?” “I’m a massage therapist.” He said, “Good.” “But I want to be a doctor.” He said, “Do it.” I said, “But I’m studying to be a Rolfer.” And he said “You can do that also.” I had no idea I wanted to be a doctor, the words just came out of my mouth. I asked who I should study with and he pointed to himself. And I was off to the races. After the retreat, I started to correspond with Hari Dass, completed my Rolfing training and moved to Santa Cruz to study with him.
Five years later I decided to become a doctor, did my pre-med work at UCSC and went to The University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine where the students were treated like saints, I had a great time and learned about osteopathic manipulation and all about allopathic medicine. At UNECOM we were told we were training to be mind-body-spirit doctors and I felt at home.
I did residency training in psychiatry at Albert Einstein and St. Luke’s Roosevelt Medical Center in Manhattan. I ended up with this huge debt from school, about a quarter million dollars and decided I should write a book about psychiatry. Initially, I wanted to just write about the uses of natural medicines in psychiatry. But then I decided I wanted to add psychotherapy from a holistic perspective as well. I joined the National Health Service to help me get out of debt and practiced psychiatry in South Carolina in a town called Conway and played tennis at this great club with sixteen clay courts in Pawley’s Island. Six years later I returned to Santa Cruz and my teacher.
I have been preparing and writing this book for the last twelve years. I have read and reviewed spiritual, psychological, metaphysical, zen, yoga and natural healing books and studied with every great psychiatry teacher I could find. I ended up with a library of over 3000 books, found out about Epictetus, Pythagoras, Marcus Aurelius, and training the mind the Greco Roman way, Tibetan Buddhism, Ayurveda, and Western herbology. I have been studying with Hari Dass for thirty seven years now. I discovered some stuff I have found helpful for my own self development as well as helping others, but maybe that’s for you to decide. I hope you enjoy what I have found!
Let’s begin with a prayer:
May you find this book useful in the beginning.
May it be useful in the middle.
And may you find it useful in the end.
Copyright @2015 by Gary Gibbs DO, all right reserved. No part may be used without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles or reviews.