The word hippie means something different to everyone — but I like to associate it with what is arguably its original meaning: a person who embraces the ideological system of the 1960s based on the values of love and peace. We all know that there is often a stigma associated with the word "hippie" -- particularly that hippies are woo-woo, hallucinogenic drug users. But not all hippies are stoners, period.
My parents were hippies in the truest meaning of the word: they were baby boomers of the flower-child generation. They emphasized the virtues of love and peace, identified as anti-war, valued simple living and community and strove to live in harmony with nature. I didn't always see it at the time, but as I reflect on my childhood and how it helped shape who I am today, I am grateful for these seven benefits of growing up with hippie parents (among others!).
1. We ate organic and natural food — way before it was cool.
Some of my first memories from childhood are of pulling carrots from the garden. I couldn't even wait to wash the dirt off before munching on them. I grew up surrounded by sprout jars and pots of soaking beans and snacking on cherry tomatoes from the greenhouse. My school lunches of grilled tofu, brown rice and seaweed would sell for big bucks at today's chic organic cafes.
2. Growing up without refined sugar made me have a distaste for it.
I was not allowed to eat white sugar as a kid — at least we didn't keep sweets around at home. Unsurprisingly, I would sneak candy and sugary cereal whenever I was at my friends' houses. But even with this desire for the "forbidden fruit," I was always met with undesirable consequences: refined sugar inevitably gave me a tummy ache, and ultimately never satisfied me as much as a ripe papaya or basket of freshly picked berries.
3. They showed me the magic of nature.
As early as I can remember, my parents took me camping, hiking and swimming (naked) in streams and hot springs. They pointed out native healing plants, encouraged me to look for fairies among the flowers and nurtured my love for animals. I developed a love for the natural world that never wore off.
4. I was taught respect for reusables.
We never had much money when I was growing up and got just about everything secondhand. Garage sales, thrift stores and free boxes were the treasure troves of my youth. Now, even though I can afford to buy new things, I don't see the point a lot of the time. I can find more unique items secondhand, because they aren't on the shelf next to hundreds more just like them. Also, items that are still in circulation in a secondhand shop are likely better made than new items of lesser quality.
Above all, though, my respect for reusables has to do with my respect for the environment, for the power of conservation, and for feeling fortunate in all of the ways I am already blessed.
5. I learned to value community.
Although there was a time during my childhood that I rolled my eyes and was embarrassed to hold hands in a community circle and sing "Simple Gifts," they are some of my fondest memories now that I have retroactive perspective. I am grateful to have known the sweetness of deep connection with a community of friends who feel like family. I now seek this kind of connection in all facets of my life.
6. Without television, my imagination and innovation blossomed.
For a large part of my childhood, my parents didn't have TV in our house, so I really had to tap into my imagination in order to feel engaged and entertained. In fact, I believe that my urgent need to harness the power of my imagination and creativity as a kid is one of the reasons I developed an entrepreneurial spirit.
7. They passed on their "new age" ideas about manifestation to me.
Like many hippies in my parents' generation, my parents were into "new age" books like A Course in Miracles. I remember my dad telling me when I was 10 years old that if I wanted to manifest something, all I had to do was visualize it and then imagine a rubber band stretching between me and the thing I wanted. The "structural tension" of the rubber band between me and whatever I wanted would draw it to me. This image, and the philosophy behind it, has probably been the greatest gift my hippie parents ever gave me.
Today, my husband has short hair and I wear makeup and shave my legs. We have jobs, drive cars and live in a city, but I still like to think of us as modern-day hippies, in the best sense of the word. We try to instill those same values in our kids that my hippie parents passed on to me — the values of real food, real nature, real community and the awareness that our thoughts have powerful effects, as do our actions. Peace out.