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Even before she arrived at the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of Transcendental Meditation, in Rishikesh, India, a city at the foothills of the Himalayas along the banks of the Ganges River, in 1962, Nancy Cooke de Herrera lived a lifetime of adventure. During the 1950s, she traveled the globe as a goodwill ambassador of the US State Department, giving lectures on American fashion, culture, and customs. But when her beloved husband, Luis, died, de Herrera sought a life of greater meaning. The Maharishi became her guru, mentor, and friend, and in return she served as his publicist, spreading his message of peace and love wherever she went.
In this remarkable autobiography, with a foreword by Deepak Chopra, de Herrera recounts not only her international escapades but also her inner journey to spiritual enlightenment. Trained by the Maharishi, she returned home and taught meditation to troubled youth, HIV/AIDS patients, and celebrities such as Madonna, Sheryl Crow, and Greta Garbo. Her publicity efforts led to the explosion of interest in meditation, yoga, and Eastern spirituality in America.
Rich in endearing anecdotes about life at the ashram with famous visitors, including the Beatles, Mia Farrow, and Mike Love, and pieces of timeless wisdom, All You Need Is Love reveals a life lived with compassion, open-mindedness, and the belief that one person can change the world.
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About the Author
Nancy Cooke de Herrera (1922–2013) was a world-traveler, teacher of meditation, and author of two memoirs, All You Need Is Love and Never Tango with a Stranger. Born in California, de Herrera was appointed “US Ambassadress of Fashion,” as she gave presentations on American culture and fashion around the world on behalf of the State Department during the 1950s. Her travels led her to India, where she met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation. She studied at his ashram alongside other visitors, including the Beatles and Mia Farrow. As Maharishi’s publicist, de Herrera spread his message of peace to the West and helped pioneer the highly influential 1960s spirituality movement in the United States. She went on to teach meditation to troubled youth, HIV/AIDS patients, and celebrities such as Madonna, Greta Garbo, and Lenny Kravitz.
Read an Excerpt
All You Need Is Love
An Eyewitness Account of When Spirituality Spread from East to West
By Nancy Cooke de Herrera
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2003 Nancy Cooke de Herrera
All rights reserved.
Welcome to India
On a dark, starless night in March of 1962, I had a premonition that I was about to take a step into the unknown as my plane descended onto the landing strip of Delhi, India. I knew I was on a search for some deeper understanding of my own spirituality. I had finished the book, Autobiography of a Yogi, after my husband, Luis de Herrera's death. A close friend, Ambassador B.K. (Biju, as I called him) Nehru, the Indian Ambassador to the United States, had sent it to me as a token of consolation. He felt it might give some answers to my many questions at that time about what happened once we passed on from this life. While reading this book, I became enveloped with the desire to know the truth, if any, there was to the stories about life after death.
While reading the book, I not only became fascinated with the life of Yogananda, but also became inspired by the India described in the footnotes throughout, and thus set out to seek some answers that I sensed might be found in this exotic land. Having experienced such grief at Luis's loss, I wanted to find something more to believe in than the "hellfire and damnation" that seemed to be layered in the Christian books I had read. I needed to have some hope that somehow we would be together once more. The possibility of it fueled my sense of adventure. Would this mystical land supply me with answers to the questions that had haunted me for seven years? After all, India was known as the cradle of spiritual knowledge. It raised my curiosity enough that once again in my life, I found myself taking the risk to step out into the unknown.
Little did I know that in the next weeks, months, and years, my journey would take me from the origin of the Ganges to the Valley of the Saints and back home to California, and back again. Time after time. It became a continuum, like a circle — no beginning, and no end. How was I to know that this particular trip would change my life forever?
I had been traveling around the world as a goodwill personality with the U.S. State Department giving lectures on customs, costumes, and cultures. I was known as the U.S. Ambassadress of Fashion, and therefore, was accustomed to being welcomed by governments with a full agenda of activities awaiting me. On this night, however, I was an unofficial visitor, strictly on my own. India was a new horizon for me. Not knowing a soul in this ancient and mysterious country, I prayed that my good friend Tom Slick would be there to meet me.
Three months had passed since our last communication about my coming — would he show up? I was to meet Tom, a Texas oilman and parapsychologist, and our plan was to roam the Himalayan foothills together calling on lamas, swamis, and yogis. While Tom was searching for psychic phenomena, levitation, teleportation, and materialization, I would follow my own search.
When a steward opened the door of the plane, an earthy fragrance filled the cabin. A wave of insecurity washed over me as I climbed down the ramp and looked through the airport lights for the customs house. Then as the soft air caressed me, a thrill of anticipation pushed away my insecurities.
"I'm finally in India. This is the moment I have been waiting for."
I'd come directly from Tehran where, as a guest of the Shah of Iran, I had presented a fashion show to provide publicity for The New Path Society. This was a group of Iranian women who were attempting to ban the obligatory usage of the chador and the facial veil that the women had been wearing for centuries.
"Where is my natural love of adventure?" I silently asked, prodding myself into a confident air. "No matter what happens, it will be fine. If Tom's not here, I'll check into a hotel and in a few days go on to Bangkok."
We were herded into a low, tin-roofed shed glaring with fluorescent lights. A uniformed Indian reached for my suitcase keys, asking in clipped English, "Have you anything to declare, Memsahib?" I shook my head, indicating no, and scanned the crowd teeming in the balmy air around me. Standing nearly six feet tall, I looked out over the crowd but saw nothing familiar. "Oh please, Tom, be here. I have such expectations for this trip."
Emaciated bearers waited by the exit, their somber eyes scrutinizing the passengers. One porter placed three large suitcases on another's head. White- turbaned Sikhs with dark faces and curled up beards milled among brown- skinned women in bright saris. Then, finally, a broad, sunburned forehead framed by prematurely gray hair and mystical, silver-blue eyes peered through the congestion. A smile of recognition lighted the face.
"Tom, over here!" I pushed my way past the passengers. "Boy, am I glad to see you. I was wondering what I'd do if you were not here."
Tom gave me a hug and laughed. "Welcome to India," he said. "You look like a rhapsody in blue. And that blonde mane of yours is like a beacon in this place. You were easy to find."
While at Yale, Tom opted for a life of scientific research rather than the world of oil exploration. From a fortune in huge oil deposits discovered by his late father, he had the financial reserves to make such a choice.
He had established several important foundations, but his favorite was The Mind Science Foundation in San Antonio, Texas, and nothing was too unusual for him to consider. Several months before, I accompanied him looking for Bigfoot (also known as the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman) in the Trinity Alps, a primitive area of Northern California.
A well-built 5'9", Tom, intellectually and spiritually, was my soul mate. He challenged my horizons, he excited me with his ideas, and I felt safe with him. Romantically, time would tell. Neither of us was pushing for a commitment, although we had a close relationship. For now, I was thrilled by his presence.
Tom frowned at my four-inch heels. "Let's get you off those stilts and down to my size. From now on you'll be in hiking boots and khaki."
"I'll be delighted to get out of these clothes, but I had to make an elegant departure from Tehran."
"You will find plenty of material here for your next lecture series."
"I've already thought of that. My agent will make a new brochure with the pictures I'll bring back."
Tom signaled a turbaned porter to secure my bags, and soon we were in an old-fashioned taxi rattling into the night. Little could be seen in the darkness; wooden-wheeled bullock carts passed silently in the opposite direction, their shrouded drivers asleep as the animals patiently plodded along. There was almost no traffic, other than a stray cow or two.
Excitement had pushed away my fatigue. "Okay, I'm here ... ready to go ... when do we start?"
"Early tomorrow morning. But the first order of business is to get you to the hotel and to sleep. Later this afternoon, an Indian parapsychologist from Rajasthan University, Ranjit Ganguli, will join us. He'll bring a Yogi who will demonstrate complete control over his body. While we take his pulse, he will stop his heartbeat for minutes; then he'll send blood to any part of his body we indicate."
"It sounds fascinating."
"It could be more than fascinating — it could be very practical," he replied with a twinkle in his eye. I ignored his innuendo; my interest was on our travel plans.
"Later you can take a tour of the city, and tonight we go to a ball at the French Embassy."
"And tomorrow, where do we go?"
"To Almora, in the mountains near the Tibetan border. Hopefully, we will find Lama Anagarika Govinda. Govinda is translating Buddhist works into books for Western readers. He's well-known in England where he lectures yearly."
This was particularly interesting to me. Previously, during a period of stress and indecision in my life, I had sought answers in Buddhist literature. However, even though the Buddhist emphasis on compassion attracted me, I found the writings unfathomable. I would need to learn a new language to understand the texts.
Religion had always fascinated me. At times this interest got me into trouble. During the seventh grade, while attending a private convent, I asked so many questions during catechism the nuns finally dismissed me from class and had me take art during that hour instead. Yes, I looked forward to meeting Govinda.
Soon our car turned off Jan Path, Delhi's main shopping thoroughfare, into a driveway lined with stately palm trees that led to the Imperial Oberoi Hotel. A magnificently uniformed Sikh doorman greeted us and led the way into a dark wood-paneled lobby, straight out of the thirties. It was inviting and appropriate. Again I noticed the smell of India. It seemed to impart a mixture of flowers, smoke, and earth.
An hour later, unpacked, bathed, and lying on cool sheets, I watched the ceiling fan turn slowly, my thoughts turning with it. "Am I really here resting on a hotel bed in India?" As far away from my family in California as I could be, I wondered what my three sons and daughter were doing. It was yesterday for them, I realized.
A flood of love and gratitude washed over me as I thought of Mother. By living with us, and with the help of our housekeeper, she made it possible for me to follow my career. My two sisters also lived nearby, completing this support system.
A year after my husband's death in Argentina, we left our home in Buenos Aires and all the happy memories it contained, and returned to San Francisco. It was a painful but correct decision, and now, seven years later, things were going well; my children were thriving, and I loved my profession, along with the financial stability it provided.
With this contented thought, and to the sounds of birds greeting the Indian day, jet lag won out and I fell into a deep sleep.
The next morning, Tom, Ranjit Ganguli — an earnest young Indian — and I set out on our journey in a brand new Dodge, a real luxury in India. Our Sikh driver, Kali, was so proud of his car that every time we came to a bump in the road he made us get out and walk. Then when the radiator boiled over, we found he didn't know how to open the hood.
"I think we're in for trouble," announced Tom. "We would have been smarter to stick to the Indian-made Ambassador car; every driver knows how to fix them."
We traveled over rough terrain, across the hot Ganges plain as we headed north. The hours passed rapidly, as everything was a feast for the eyes. Tom was an encyclopedia on India. "The first time I came here I hated it; the next trip I fell in love with it. It's important to meet this country properly." This was his eighth trip, so I knew I was in good hands.
At night while the driver slept in the car, Ranjit, Tom, and I shared Spartan sleeping quarters, usually a DAK bungalow, a kind of primitive cement hut built by the British for passing travelers. We bathed out of a bucket, and our beds consisted of four posts and a webbed frame over which we spread our bedrolls — hardly conducive to flaming romance.
For food by day, I lived on hardboiled eggs, fresh oranges, bananas, and peanut butter, rather than eat in the dirty places available. "If you stick to Punjabi food straight out of the boiling oil, you will be safe," cautioned Tom, but I treasured my powdered milk and the other staples I'd picked up in Delhi. At night we'd get the DAK bungalow attendant to buy fresh vegetables, which were plentiful, and cook our meal over a small fire in front of us. This way I knew what we were eating — I was taking no chances with dysentery.
Soon snow-capped mountains were visible, but it was slow going. We had just spent a day waiting for a mechanic to come from a far away village to fix the car. Tom had had it with delays; he decided to go on without the troublesome Dodge or its driver. "Kali will go back and we will continue by bus."
The bus was memorable. The windows were so dirty one could hardly see out. A leathery-faced old hillsman sat backwards, cleaning his teeth with a stick and staring at me without interruption.
"You are a one-woman show for him," laughed my companion. "He may never have seen blue eyes before."
The bus driver rarely took his hand off the horn. Women got on with naked babies, and everyone took turns helping the mothers. It didn't matter that the baby would wet the pants of the obliging passenger. Everyone laughed and chatted. I felt as though I were on the "Toonerville Trolley." When we came to villages, we got down to tend to bathroom necessities — it was my introduction to standing on two footblocks and squatting.
It was getting cold as we gained altitude. "Look at that, Tom, I'm impressed! In spite of this chilly weather, those people are bathing. They wash their few rags and then put them on again."
He explained, "It's part of the Hindu religion to bathe daily, even if it means going into a cold river. You rarely smell any body odor amongst the hill people."
There was constant activity in the villages. Everyone seemed to have a job to do. "These people don't seem to be starving, as most Westerners think," I remarked.
"It is all worked out on a barter system. When statistics report that the average Indian lives on only two rupees a day, it's misleading."
Finally we arrived in the hill station of Almora. The imprint of the British Raj still remained in the architecture of what had originally been summer residences. Lama Govinda's home was another five miles of walking. So huffing, puffing, and suffering in the thin, cold air at 6,000 feet, we traversed the final mountain slope astonished by the magnificent scenery around us.
With no means of communication, there was no way to ascertain that the Lama would be there, or that he would receive us. Tom explained the term lama as when a Buddhist monk becomes a teacher and has a following, he earns the title of lama.
Finally, a small stone house came into view. A tall pole stood between the building and us. From its top fluttered long white clothes covered with strange print. Tom explained, "These are Buddhist prayer flags. Each Tibetan family has its own prayer mark; they use it to stamp cloth after cloth until they create a whole grove of flags as evidence of their devotion. As the wind blows, the prayers flutter their way up to heaven." I thought, "What fun to do this at home."
The heavy rough-hewn front door opened and a thin, angular-faced European woman stood on the threshold. With long, flowing robes and her hair tucked into a hood that arched over her dark-rimmed eyes, she could have been from another century. Hardly pausing to study us, she tipped her head to the side with a smile and said, "I am Li Gotami, the lama's wife. My husband is working, but he will be pleased to receive you." We felt such relief at her welcome.
Li Gotami escorted us into a small, bare room. The whitewashed, stone walls bore the scant decoration of mandalas, portraits of monks, and mountain scenes. There was little furniture on the stone floor. Thangkas, Tibetan scrolls, hung from the ceiling.
On a carpeted platform, spotlighted by sunshine beaming through a tall window, sat a frail figure. Above his burgundy and saffron robes, the man wore a loose wool cap, which hung below his ears and rose to a point high over his head. This framed a thin face with bushy eyebrows, deep-hollowed blue eyes, and an aquiline nose. A thin white beard hung from the tip of his chin. This was Govinda; born to German parents in Bolivia, he was, at 64, the most revered Western-born lama.
I followed Tom's example and greeted him with my hands pressed together — prayer like — in namaste fashion, the traditional Indian salutation. Then I ventured, "Mi querido Padre. Con mucho gusto conocerle."
"Gracias — y yo tambien, Senora."
Govinda inquired about my Spanish and how I happened to have a name like de Herrera.
"My late husband was an Uruguayan."
Govinda bobbed his head enthusiastically. "Yes, yes ... I know that continent well. My grandfather was a comrade in arms to Simon Bolivar, one of the gran libertadores of South America." With this, he gestured for us to sit on cushions lying on the floor.
"Your Holiness," Tom said, introducing himself. "I have come to you for help. I am seeking proof of psychic and physical phenomena that can be repeated under scientifically controlled conditions at my Mind Science Foundation in Texas. I believe that if we can demonstrate these abilities in a manner beyond dispute, we will be able to get our foot in the door of the Western mind and open up new realms for exploration."
Govinda's face exhibited little. He drew Tom out, asking him to enlarge on some of his points. Then he seemed to make up his mind; evidently he would trust this stranger's motives and talk freely. I felt relief; I'd been praying for four days that this would not be a false lead.
"To us Buddhists, such attempts to 'prove' extrasensory perception through scientific tests seem crude and laughable. The conditions for these experiments are in themselves the greatest hindrance to any success." Govinda's cheeks flushed. He paused and cleared his throat. "By reaching for objectivity, you exclude the emotional and spiritual elements of the human mind, without which no state of real contemplation can be created."
Excerpted from All You Need Is Love by Nancy Cooke de Herrera. Copyright © 2003 Nancy Cooke de Herrera. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
- Part One: Changing Focus on Life
- 1. Welcome to India
- 2. An Offering of Miracles
- 3. Atomic Death
- 4. Island Romance
- 5. Adventure in Meditation
- 6. Twenty-Six Miles Across the Sea
- 7. Good News … Bad News
- 8. Promoting a Guru
- 9. An In-House Miracle
- 10. Enter Doris Duke
- 11. Triumphant Return to San Francisco
- 12. The Haunted House by the Bay
- 13. Invading Catholic Territory
- Part Two: Reaching for the Stars
- 14. The Bumpy Road to Cosmic Consciousness
- 15. The Valley and Its Saints
- 16. Mia, Mia, Quite Contrary
- 17. The Beatles Invade the Ashram
- 18. The Mechanics of Creation
- 19. Storm Warnings
- 20. Explosion by the Ganges
- 21. The Vale of Kashmir
- 22. Dark Forces Attack
- Part Three: New Beginnings
- 23. Politicians versus Saints
- 24. Doorway to Exotic Lands
- 25. Adventure Becomes Addictive
- 26. Karmic Bull’s-Eye
- 27. Come in to My Parlor
- 28. Action—Reaction
- 29. Garbo and Gayelord
- 30. Without the Magic Carpet
- 31. The Eye of the Storm
- 32. Keeping an Open Mind
- 33. Spirituality Based on Common Sense
- Epilogue: Closing the Circle
- About the Author