Meeting Nina Gitana

Nina with her beloved Master, Kirpal Singh

Nina with her beloved Master, Kirpal Singh

Bill Lederer would probably not have gotten along with Nina Gitana.

Where he celebrated life’s physical manifestations, the million million narratives in the world, she strove only to leave them behind.  Where he was profane and lusty, she was soft-spoken and chaste.  Bill, despite having worked in the rigid hierarchy of the military, believed in hewing your own way through the fray and accepting no one as your master.  Nina believed absolutely in egoless devotion and submission to her spiritual master, Kirpal Singh.

I didn’t often get along with her, either.

Those who loved her and knew her better than I did are unlikely to share my perspectives here.  But I do not apologize: My memories are what they are; my moments with her were my own; the lessons I took from our relationship are my own.

Nina Gitana — “gypsy,” in Spanish — lived in an old farmhouse in the woods, well off a back road between Worcester and East Calais, Vermont.  I first heard about this ascetic mystic from Rick Silberman, a long-time friend who had practiced various forms of meditation and yoga and was at this time exploring the teachings of Kirpal Singh, Nina’s master.  Her house served as an ashram for disciples of Singh.

This was in the early 1970s, and in spiritual matters I considered myself to be a “renegade mystic.”  My practices took many forms, but one of my most important meditative disciplines was to listen to the “sound current” — more on this to follow — and study the “light current,” the silvery microscopic starfield against the black when you close your eyes.

The sound current was central to Nina’s discipline as well, Rick said.

Also like me, she had an eclectic bent.  Back in the 1950s, rumor had it, she had been a member of The Living Theater, the experimental troupe known for vigorously challenging the norms of society and the dramatic art.  It caused scandal and controversy because its actors sometimes performed nude; authorities several times closed down their off-off-Broadway stages in New York.

To me, Nina’s association with such an outfit suggested a radical, bohemian outlook, a willingness to take risks.

I liked people who took risks.

She was also said to have hung out with Anais Nin, now well-known for her astonishingly detailed, intimate, and explicit journals and her relationship with writer Henry Miller.  In one of her journal entries, Nin apparently wrote “Nina is in love with Manfried.”  Whatever Nin intended, Nina’s disciples took this as allegory: Nina is in love with Man Freed.

I have always been in favor of Man Freed, too.

I had read Nin’s journals and Henry Miller’s writings, and this association further intrigued me.  So I readily agreed when Rick said he’d like to introduce us.  He drove me through the winding back roads to Nina’s house and presented us to each other.

Rick was probably appalled at what happened.  From the moment we met, she and I did “dharma battle” —  a conflict of beliefs and practices, a disagreement as to (spiritual) duties and values.  We would have many such battles, and some astonishing moments of accord, at future meetings.

I didn’t accept her belief system.  But as Ouspensky did with Gurdjieff, I witnessed miracles in her vicinity.  She was inarguably, as Carlos Castaneda would have said, “A person of power.”

spacer

9 comments on “Meeting Nina Gitana

  1. LB

    Thank you – I’ve really enjoyed reading about your experiences, in particular with Nina Gitana. My brother knew her and introduced me to her in 1997. Growing up Catholic and not knowing anything about Surat Shabd Yoga at the time, I was completely unprepared and ever since have been searching for the answers to the questions she asked me.

    1. danhecht@myfairpoint.net

      Thank you for your comment! I very much appreciate the sincerity of your quest. It is difficult for many to perceive the difference between the individual and the “accepted” discipline, including established forms of Eastern spiritual practice. That is, I believe Nina was not only the creature of her guru or her named spiritual path. In my experience, what made her magical, potent, and influential — what affected me, certainly — was her individual personhood. For me, she affirmed the “miraculous.” Yet we were mostly at odds with each other! I hope I caused her to feel doubt as she did me. Please do keep in touch! — Daniel

      I teach at a Vermont college now. The best thing I tell my students is to “be stupid.” That is, go into life admitting that you don’t know anything. Thus you study and learn. I think Aristotle came to the same conclusion.

      1. Paul Dykstra

        Hello Daniel!

        Thanks so much for the remembrances of Nina. I had encountered her a couple of times in NH when Sant Ajaib Singh visited here.

        If anything, I agree with you about Shamanism, the Teachings of Don Juan, having a deep personal effect upon us in our youth. Nina was, indeed, a person of “Power”. Such intoxicated, wild beings are there, in every culture. In the Indian culture they are called “Mastanas”. Ultimately, only Love matters. It is a testament to her love that, even now, 12 years later, you can blog about meeting her, and everything seems fresh and new. Thank You!

        1. danhecht@myfairpoint.net

          Hello, Paul. Thanks for checking in. I love your phrase “intoxicated, wild beings,” and I was unfamiliar with the term “Mastanas.” Thanks for making me aware of it. — Daniel

  2. LB

    That’s wonderful Daniel – I agree, the curiosity and learning never stops. That’s what keeps us moving forward. I wish I had a chance to meet Nina again before she left her body. It sounds like you had an interesting relationship and I’m guessing she enjoyed being challenged by you. She certainly affected me from just that one meeting.

    Thanks again and I’ll keep an eye out for your future posts.

  3. Rick Silberman

    I love you, Daniel. And reading this reminded me of how much I loved her. Thank you.

    1. danhecht@myfairpoint.net

      Thank you, Rick! I am glad to hear from you, and I hope my portrayal of Nina somewhat accorded with yours. Thank you for recognizing the strange kindred spirit that she and I share and introducing us! I ran (jogged) past her old place not so long ago while my son was playing a soccer game in Worcester. Just up the hill a mile or so, really. The trees are getting older there. I see from the No Hunting postings that the land is owned by someone name Singh . . . . Kirpal’s son, do you suppose?

  4. sarah lombard

    i did meet nina a couple of times with my former boyfriend sometime in the late ”80’s. she was very magical and we spent an afternoon picking up kindling in the woods by her house and setting them in piles under the trees.
    she noticed the cigarette burns on my down jacket and suggested i embroider beautiful flowers and vines were the holes were. i was about 23 at the time and was very taken with nina. she suggested i chew on licorice sticks to help quit smoking and to do simran as i did it. her home had seats made of tree stumps and hay as insulation. i noticed all the walls were gone in the front room of the house and it was all open. there was a piece of mica in place of a broken pane of window in the attic.

  5. Juanita Kyle Boardman.

    Kirpal ashram, or Wawasiki as it is now called, is under the name of Ajaib Singh, Kirpal ‘s successor.

Leave a reply

Follow Me