trungpa rinpoche

Chögyam Trungpa by Joni Mitchell


[This excerpt is from a longer interview entitled, "Joni Mitchell: Heart of a Prairie Girl," by Mary Aikins, originally published in Readers Digest.]

Mary Aikins: If there were one thing you could do differently in your life, what would it be?

Joni Mitchell: In other words, do I have nay regrets? Well, bad dreams are good in the great plan. Anything that you might regret, sooner or later there is an opportunity that arises out of it for growth. It may not be instant karma. It may take 20 years. Like polio. I would have been an athlete. I probably wouldn't have been an artist. The Joni Mitchell thing wouldn't have happened.

And it wouldn't be an interesting life without the travail. So, you have to get into trouble. You have to make mistakes.

MA: Did you ever have problems with drugs or addiction?

JM: I did, briefly. I didn't get involved for years, and then I went on Rolling Thunder and they asked me how I wanted to be paid, and I ran away to join the circus: Clowns used to get paid in wine — pay me in cocaine because everybody was strung out on cocaine. It was Chögyam Trungpa who snapped me out of it just before Easter in 1976. He asked me, "Do you believe in God?" I said, "Yes, here's my god and here is my prayer," and I took out the cocaine and took a hit in front of him. So I was very, very rude in the presence of a spiritual master.

MA: And he was able to... ?

JM: His nostrils began to flare like bellows, and he a rhythmic breathing. I remember thinking, What's with his nose? It was almost hypnotic. They have a technique called emanating grace ways. I assume he went into a breathing technique and a meditation. I left his office and for three days I was in awakened state. The technique completely silenced that thing, the loud, little noisy radio station that stands between you and the great mind.

MA: And when you came out of that awakened state... ?

JM: The thing that brought me out of the state was my first "I" thought. For three days I had no sense of self, no self-consciousness; my mind was back in Eden, the mind before the Fall. It was simple-minded, blessedly simple-minded. And then the "I" came back, and the first thought I had was, Oh, my god. He enlightened me. Boom. Back to normal — or what we call normal but they call insanity.

MA: It was his breathing technique and he managed to pass it on to you. And when you came out of your three days, you were no longer cocaine?

JM: Yes. Ten years later when I learned he was dying, I went back to thank him.

[See "the Super Black World of..." blog for a reprint of the complete interview at for the complete interview.]

Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell

[Joni Mitchell on meeting Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche]

He was the bad boy of Zen. I wrote a song about a visit I made to him called 'Refuge of the Road.'

I consider him one of my great teachers, even though I saw him only three times. Once I had a fifteen-minute audience with him in which we argued. He told me to quit analyzing. I told him I couldn't — I'm an artist, you know. Then he induced into me a temporary state where the concept of 'I' was absent, which lasted for three days.

[Later], at the very end of Trungpa's life I went to visit him. I wanted to thank him. He was not well. He was green and his eyes had no spirit in them at all, which sort of stunned me, because the previous times I'd seen him he was quite merry and puckish — you know, saying 'shit' a lot. I leaned over and looked into his eyes, and I said, 'How is it in there? What do you see in there?' And this voice came, like, out of a void, and it said, 'Nothing.' So, I went over and whispered in his ear, 'I just came to tell you that when I left you that time, I had three whole days without self-consciousness, and I wanted to thank you for the experience.' And he looked up at me, and all the light came back into his face and he goes, 'Really?' And then he sank back into this black void again."

[see, and]

Joni Mitchell: "Refuge of the Road"

Refuge Of The Road

I met a friend of spirit
He drank and womanized
And I sat before his sanity
I was holding back from crying
He saw my complications
And he mirrored me back simplified
And we laughed how our perfection
Would always be denied
"Heart and humor and humility"
He said "Will lighten up your heavy load"
I left him for the refuge of the roads

I fell in with some drifters
Cast upon a beachtown
Winn Dixie cold cuts and highway hand me downs
And I wound up fixing dinner
For them and Boston Jim
I well up with affection
Thinking back down the roads to then
The nets were overflowing
In the Gulf of Mexico
They were overflowing in the refuge of the roads

There was spring along the ditches
There were good times in the cities
Oh, radiant happiness
It was all so light and easy
Till I started analyzing
And I brought on my old ways
A thunderhead of judgment was
Gathering in my gaze
And it made most people nervous
They just didn't want to know
What I was seeing in the refuge of the roads

I pulled off into a forest
Crickets clicking in the ferns
Like a wheel of fortune
I heard my fate turn, turn turn
And I went running down a white sand road
I was running like a white-assed deer
Running to lose the blues
To the innocence in here
These are the clouds of Michelangelo
Muscular with gods and sungold
Shine on your witness in the refuge of the roads

In a highway service station
Over the month of June
Was a photograph of the earth
Taken coming back from the moon
And you couldn't see a city
On that marbled bowling ball
Or a forest or a highway
Or me here least of all
You couldn't see these cold water restrooms
Or this baggage overload
Westbound and rolling taking refuge in the roads


[© 1976; Crazy Crow Music. See]