Part 1 of Jeevan’s life story: her song, her childhood, student years and Ellis Island
Everyone in life should have a mission.
Making people happy is the height of my ambition.
And when I get them happy, they stay in that condition.
I have a system of my own.
I have a lot, a lot of what I’ve got, and what I’ve got, all’s mine.
I’ve had a long life, it’s been a strong life,
and one of the things I’ve learned along the way:
If I want to be free, it may not be easy,
I’ve got to make some changes each and every day.
I was a daughter, also a sister and I grew up in that ordinary way.
Became a mama, [four kids] as well as a housewife [one man]
and went through a lot of changes along that way.
Changing my conditions, changing my dispositions,
saying hello and goodbye to many friends.
Letting my master find me, he’s always here to remind me:
Changing is the one thing that never changes all your life.
There were some dark days, I had some dark ways,
and there were times when I got stuck along the way.
But now I’m finding my own song, and I know it ain’t right or wrong,
and I’m make lots’a changes in my life, again today.
There are many times in my life when I could say, “Here, my life begins!”
The first time of course was when this body was born, May 9, 1927 in The Bronx, New York, to a middle-class Jewish family. I was raised as a ‘Jewish American Princess’, never asked to help around the house and grew up without any of the usual female skills. But I came into this family after a great tragedy had occurred. My parents and their three little boys were on a summer holiday when the children were playing around a big bonfire. The youngest caught fire and they all watched in horror as he burned to death. I was born a few years later, a baby girl welcomed and adored, by her brothers as well. This little brother event was kept a family secret until I was in my teens, but the feeling of being hovered over, especially by my Jewish mother, never left! My parents were both nearly forty when I was born, and their love of music and books permeated my life; my mother loved to sing and play the piano and my father enjoyed his records of Enrico Caruso and other classical recordings.
School was fun for me; I was a good student and I was skipped two years to graduate from high school at sixteen. I was also very lucky to be sent to Jewish summer camp every summer from age five where our young counselors on summer jobs from live New York Theater directed us in sports, plays and musicals and taught us the true facts of life. I learned to sing to an audience without any fear. I was lucky also to have many boyfriends at summer camp and my teen years during those summer days were very romantic as were my city teen years. At thirteen, I was in love with Stanley, a fifteen year-old genius who was already in college, and we used to spend weekend evenings in his fraternity house ‘making out’!
College Years and Marriage
Another new life began when I was nineteen, a student at Cornell University in my senior year, working in Columbus, Ohio for the summer for a labor union, organizing workers as part of satisfying my school graduation requirements in the Industrial and Labor Relations School. This school was attended mainly by the boys who were returning from the army after World War II, and I wanted to be where the boys were. I had been in an all-girl’s high school, and this coed life really was a thrill. I became the first woman to graduate from that school in 1948.
Although I loved the work with the union, I missed the social life of a campus so I went one night to have dinner at a fraternity house on the Ohio State University. There I met the man who was to become my beloved husband Paul and the father of my four children. That became a new life, the ordinary life of a householder. At university, I had read Buddha’s The Dhammapada where he describes living the ordinary life, first as a child in a family, then as a householder, and then after a few years, becoming a sannyasin. Ooops! I misread the age he said: I read forty instead of sixty! My leaving the family occurred at age forty!
My householder period continued for some twenty-seven years. I was fortunate to live in California where, as Osho says, “Everything in California is a little far-out.”
And it is! Those were the years of the late sixties, the hippies, the flower children, where rebellion was in the air, and Paul, I and our children got and lived the message. Paul and I created an open marriage, having other relationships and dealing with the jealousy that arises. It was wild! We joined an organization called Synergy and met others who wanted to experience this way of relating as well. I also had taken my two youngest children out of public school and enrolled them in the Los Angeles Free School, where they welcomed their freedom in experiencing an education that gave them great growth. Our nuclear family collapsed – and I celebrated its demise. Our family hierarchy no longer existed.
Another new life began: it became apparent that our lifestyle no longer fit the conservative small town we were living in – Downey, California. We wanted to live communally, and were fortunate to discover one where our oldest son, Bob was playing music: Ellis Island. We all moved into Ellis Island, a radical commune in Los Angeles where twelve young friends, college students and high school drop-outs welcomed us with warmth and curiosity. Ellis Island was an old 14-room Victorian house in a rundown neighborhood of Los Angeles, located very near the University of Southern California. (I have written more extensively about this time in the article Jeevan Bridges the Generation Gap published previously in Osho News.)
We lived collectively in a non-hierarchy, meeting weekly to deal with any difficulties that arose. There was a commitment to freedom that I loved. Ellis Island is named after the island where the Statue of Liberty stands, welcoming immigrants from foreign lands seeking a new life. We all were products of nuclear families seeking a new way to relate as adults. At the same time, I was in training to become a Radical Therapist with a women’s collective and I practiced much of my learning in the collective on all of us in the commune.
At one point, during the year I lived in Ellis, twelve letters arrived for each of the friends in the house sent by Bob, my oldest son, who had become a Scientologist after his jail term for drugs. The letter to me announced that he was taking distance from me and didn’t want any communication by mail or phone until he responded. The other letters were to each of his friends in the house telling of his distance from me and reassuring his friendship with all. It seems I was becoming too nosy about his ‘case’.
A few weeks went by and then a phone call came inviting me to meet him on the steps of the Scientologist Center between 11:30 and midnight! Well, the whole house got in cars and we had a big half-hour party reunion. Great joy to relate again, now in another way. From that day on, the distance between Bob and me was the beat of a heart. I was able to be with him on his last birthday, age 38, and ask his forgiveness for all the yelling I did. He told me, “Jeevan, whatever you are feeling now completely erases the past.” We hugged and I sang and danced with him in the street in front of an Italian restaurant, singing the Sufi song we all danced to in Pune 1: “I love you whether you know it or not.” Six days later he was killed in a traffic accident. I was given a session of healing called Auditing which helped me immensely to say goodbye with love to my beloved son, Bob.
There came a time when I wanted out of any family relationships completely. I had read many books including Ouspensky’s In Search of the Miraculous and was blown away by it, as well as by Gurdjieff’s ideas. I was also influenced by David Cooper’s Death of the Family. In this book, this anti-psychiatrist colleague of R. D. Laing describes communes where ‘someone knows and everyone knows he knows’.
Next month we will publish the second part of Life, Love, Laughter by Jeevan