I was raised in Bristol, UK in the 70s and 80s. More specifically, an area of Bristol called Montpelier; an area reknowned for muesli eating, 2CV driving, politically correct artists, social workers and teachers. Bohemian Montpelier was edged by areas such as the more gentile St Andrews (home of Massive Attack), St Paul’s of the infamous 80s race riots; the culturally diverse Easton with its high rise council blocks; and St Werburghs with its barefoot, dreadlocked anti-establishmentists. Bristol was nothing if not a collection of segregated communities! So by the time I hit my teenage years, a time of both identifying and identifying with a social group, I’d been exposed to a good range of choices. I picked what I knew. Vegetarian food, hennaed hair and essential oils. I supported anti-vivisection charities, experimented with Veganism, voraciously read feminist literature and sat in friends kitchens drinking herbal teas while listening to jazz.
To a certain extent I stuck with a version of this right through my 20s too. But in my head searching out health food shops, organic cosmetics and niche music now fitted in ok alongside the lure of mass produced cheap clothing, CDs and fast food. I was all about the balance! To tell the truth, I was never really comfortable with some of the more commercial hoardings but I didn’t want to be a hippie any more. I wanted to be taken seriously. I’d had enough of the sideways glances and condescending comments during my student days when I’d been the proud owner of many a charity shop bargain to go with my beautifully multicoloured hair and tiny, shiny nose-ring. This was the 90s and the image of being a hippie was syonomous with being on a tangent with society: unwashed, jobless and smoking questionable herbs. UK culture was about money, money and more money. I was pretty broke but wanted to appear otherwise . My bank overdraft supported expensive organic haircare and a slew of niche supplements in a continually failed attempt to create that sleek glossiness that the magazines touted as the epitome of hip-ness.
I’d like to gloss over my thirties! Suffice to say, while I dished up as many organic, dairy free-and gluten free meals as I could for my small daughters, the purchase of Eco-cleaning products and cosmetics was quickly phased out on a teacher’s salary! While we spiralled into increasing debt I clawed at any opportunity to maintain a nice, inoffensive “normality” for my family, paranoid that my girls would otherwise suffer the “weirdo hippie” label I was trying to leave behind, particularly as we are currently living in a village that is as suburban as it is rural. There’s rules here – fitting in is expected. What a waste! My beautiful bundles of awesomeness have supreme confidence in their identities. They have little fear of being unique. They are unphased by their friends larger houses, foreign holidays and non-challenging meals!
Bear with me. I’m sure I had a point to make but it’s dancing away from me, just out of reach. I’ll catch it in a minute!
In the last year I have immersed myself in books, podcasts and blogs by an amazing crowd of experts and enthusiasts. Mark Sisson, Daniel Vitalis, Katy Bowman, Dave Asprey, Abel James, Erwan le Corre… The list increases by the week as they introduce me to yet more inspirational pioneers. These guys are the bomb! And I have been inspired to give up what does not actually contribute to my well-being despite the marketing claims: whole grains, agave syrup, corrective trainers (hell, shoes!), sunscreen, whitening toothpaste, anti-perspirant and anti-wrinkle cream.
I kick myself. I, who prides myself on a healthy level of cynicism for any product that is marketed as a must-have, have allowed myself to be totally suckered in to the very area of consumerism that I used to avoid like the plague. Anti-bacterial wipes, a Wii (I’d been persuaded that it was cruel to deny the girls this essential box of tricks), hair-colourant. My all consuming anxiety issues meant that I was fearful of showing my colours; anything that made me different. Anything that made me a target.
Stress creates a biological response state designed to help you to survive. If you can’t fight or flight, hide. It’s life or death here in the 21st century. Marketers know this. They can push any old crap on you if they know your weak points. Wear this perfume so that you can attract a mate, reproduce and not die alone. Shave your legs so that you aren’t shunned from your community and so face iminent death. Use this face-cream to stop you getting old and, therefore, nearer to death. Take this cold remedy or you’ll sneeze and die. You get the picture!
So, finally, here is my point! I had shunned hippiedom in order to survive. I had let marketing, both commercial and societal, maintain my fragile, consumerist state of being. So what allowed me to begin letting go of stuff? I think it’s a chicken and egg situation. The health pioneers that I mentioned above gave me the information I needed to become strong and healthy. To become a balanced being that is increasingly less in need of stuff to feel good.
But how did I know that these awesome health practitioners were giving me the right tools? What made me take those initial leaps of faith in giving up those products and aspirations that I was clinging on to? Well, these guys are the modern-day hippies. Shunning the teachings and trappings of economically biased health practices and commercially led political bias they trailblaze their way across time zones and class systems. Whether sport stars, entrepreneurs, scientists or anthropologists their message is one of ancestral health. Of realigning our bodies and lifestyles with the natural rhythms, foods, medicines and movement patterns that we evolved to thrive on. While most of them have products to sell they make it clear that what you chose to leave behind adds as much value to your health and happiness as what habits, ideas and products you take on.
What makes these modern bohemians so appealing? I think I’ve worked out their secret. Hippies have leant to market themselves! Finally those who shun the mainstream and face ridicule for rejecting the status quo are cool. They still eschew gyms, prioritise organic, experiment with mind altering substances, forgo deodorant, prioritise the environment over wealth, replace painkillers with caffeine and refuse to sit in chairs. They still preach the practice of “making love not war.” They still encourage meditation, free thinking and the accumulation of experience over material possessions. Bloody hippies!
But the modern day hippie gurus have the bodies of fitness models and the inner glow of deities. They move with the grace of leopards, and communicate with the ease of the very best public speakers. They invest in ethical enterprise and make life-changing health information freely available via the Internet. They speak of science and innovation with bulletpoints and references. Talk about re-branding!
Yep, the hippies had a makeover and I think they’re taking over! I’m signing up for the journey. You coming?