I’ve caught myself telling casual acquaintances that I once smoked crack. “It was offered to me, and so I said, ‘why not?'” I don’t know why I tell people that. I get some weird satisfaction from their horrified look of disbelief. I come across as pretty straight. My girlfriend can’t comprehend that the same person who won’t walk through a park where it says “keep off the grass,” once stripped naked on public access television while blackout drunk.
As much as I love shock value, I almost never tell people that I once willingly drank my own pee for its purported spiritual and health benefits…
It was the winter of 2009. I had recently returned to Seattle after my first experiment in renunciation and subsequent encounter with Christ while living homeless in Oregon. It was about 6 months before I moved to Maui to serve Ram Dass. I knew that I needed to open my heart more, so I landed a job working as a residential counselor for at-risk youth at a non-profit group home. I had recently completed a 10-day silent Vipassanna meditation retreat and was adamantly sitting an hour every night and every morning. I had heard about monks in the Himalayas meditating naked in the snow and so I tried it on a few occasions in our backyard, never for more than 20 minutes at a time, but for some strange reason it made me feel like I was on the fast track to enlightenment. I was going to the nearby Hare Krishna restaurant and making friends there. I was dumpster diving for food, eating vegan and practicing Reiki. I held a spoon-bending party at our home, and I did the 10-day master cleanse. I played with Tarot cards, saw psychics, and even organized a failed attempt at using a Quija Board.
I was your classic spiritual hipster, and like any other spiritual hipster, I would have become angry and defensive if you had tried to label me as such.
Always looking for the next “thing,” I was intrigued when one of my closest friends informed me that several of the monks at the Hare Krishna Temple were practicing “urine therapy.” They all raved about the effects, and that was enough for us to give it a try.
Besides the purported health benefits, somehow we were also convinced that there would be a spiritual component as well. The mixture of controversy, extremism, and the fact that real bona fide Hare Krishna monks were doing it all gave it an air of legitimacy. It felt like some final step, almost like a rite of passage, of moving beyond the mass mind of culture. I could finally join the likes of Ram Dass, Hendrix, Ginsberg, Robert Anton Wilson, Leary and others- those brave souls who had freed themselves from the shackles of culture so they could dance playfully in the mystery. By drinking my pee I will REALLY be spiritual… I don’t think I ever said any of this, or even consciously allowed myself to think it, but nonetheless it sums up the backdrop of motives and desires that ran through me at the time.
The more we researched the more the excitement grew. According to self-professed urine therapy gurus found on the internet, urine does not even taste bad and actually has a sweet odor. We don’t think twice about a baby drinking milk, so why do we wince at the prospect of drinking our own urine? The trick was to slowly work our way up to it, to start by drinking a tiny amount. This would begin to unravel our social programming so we could uncover just how truly amazing urine is. Drinking coffee, kombucha and alcohol are all acquired tastes, so why would urine be any different?
There were a few other guidelines as well- we were supposed to collect our urine midstream, leaving out both the beginning and end of our pee. Avoiding certain foods could also enhance the flavor, and morning urine has the highest concentrations of the vitamins and minerals our body needs. It was also recommended that we rub the urine onto our skin first. This would help acquaint us to the process and is healing to the body as well.
I feel the need to mention here that we were two young, intelligent and educated people who knew how to use logic and reason. We did have questions- Why are we drinking stuff that our body is getting rid of? Why would billions of years of evolution produce a human body that discharges a golden nectar of enlightenment so frivolously? And is the pharmaceutical lobby really that strong that it can convince us not to use something so powerful, amazing, and free as our own urine?
But those Hare Krishnas… they were really on to something. I had never met a group of people that seemed so genuine, so joyful, so peaceful, and so deep. The devotion when they sang was real, and you could feel it. My own personal spiritual experiences had blasted me wide open to seemingly-infinite possibilities. I had experienced profound miracles, synchronicities, and deep truths about the nature of reality that seemed at odds with the views of mainstream society.
This made it difficult to filter through information. Knowing that there were saints who could bend the physical laws of nature opened up the pandora’s box of What if? What if 9/11? What if aliens? What if vaccines? What if Moon landing? What if chemtrails? What if ancient civilizations? What IF? I didn’t know who or what to believe anymore. It all seemed possible, and I had no leverage to know what to hold onto. I was falling down the rabbit hole and hoping for the best.
I didn’t blindly believe everything that the Hare Krishnas told me. Some of what they said seemed to contradict my religious pluralism, and some of it seemed a little dogmatic. I wasn’t banking my life on urine as the eternal elixir, but I was willing to take a chance.
This was a period of intense searching. I wanted to do anything I could to crawl closer to God, and if that meant drinking urine, well, it was at least a safer leap of faith than when Abraham walked up the mountain with his son…
Although ultimately this period of searching served me well, this isn’t the only awkward story I have from it. (It wasn’t much after this, for instance, that I had diarrhea for a month straight from switching to a raw food diet…)
Since then I have found that science and spirituality don’t have to contradict. I can have faith in my Guru while also accepting that vaccines have saved millions of lives. I float freely into the Mystery with logic and reason as my compass. I melt more deeply into the Unknown by keeping my sanity intact.
I was only able to take a sip before throwing the rest out. Urine is pungent, and trying to catch your pee midstream makes a mess. I stared down at the orange-abyss of my pee as I flushed it down the toilet, my dreams of enlightenment flushing down with it.