It was Allen, of course, who introduced Joni Mitchell to his “friend of spirit”, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche.
She came late to the rolling cavalcade
but stayed to the end.
As she candidly confesses (in Readers Digest of all places!):
“… 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.
…His nostrils began to flare like bellows, and a rhythmic breathing. I remember thinking, What’s with his nose? It was almost hypnotic. … 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.
….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.
I wrote a song about [this] visit I made to him called “Refuge of the Roads.” [subsequently released on the record Hejira]. I consider him one of my great teachers, even though I saw him only three times….[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
Refuge of the Roads
“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”
Here’s some more recent Joni – Her interview with (subsequently-disgraced) Jian Ghomeshi for CBC broadcast last year (2013)
Joni Mitchell interviewed by Morrissey.
BBC footage from 1970 – live in concert – Joni Mitchell Sings Joni Mitchell.