Ram Dass Reflections

Sunday Blog 9 – 24th October 2021

Last night I was perusing one of our excellent independent bookshops, already clutching a couple of eclectic choices, when I saw a hardcover copy of Being Ram Dass. This is a memoir written not long before Ram Dass’ death in 2019, and I plucked it off the shelf, shrugging off the price on the back. Because supporting your local bookshops is always a good thing. Even if the shelves at home already groan with a to-be-read pile.

For several weeks now I have been listening to the Ram Dass Here and Now podcast, so it would have been churlish to leave this memoir languishing on the shelf.

If you have never heard of Ram Dass, he was born Richard Alpert in 1930s America, partnered with the infamous Timothy Leary in pioneering LSD research in the 1960s, and went off to India to find a high he didn’t come down from. He found among other things, yoga and meditation, which he brought back to the Western world.

The podcast Ram Dass Here and Now is chopped up recordings of the many talks he gave in the 1960s and 1970s. One of his friends who originally travelled to India with him in the 1960s introduces each podcast, (I’ve learned to fast forward through those bits) and then Ram Dass cuts in and I am treated to Ram Dass’s resonant voice rolling out contemporary slang phrases, such as “dig it.”

He’s quite funny, as evidenced in the picture quote above. I’ve just spent an evening with my family and so any illusion of being enlightened has been wiped clean. (Only kidding, it was a lovely evening – and not a week, so…) I drove home from the family home listening to him talk about the importance of appreciating uniqueness, rather than having preferences. Using the analogy of trees, he notes that we don’t start judging trees when they’re different – we appreciate their different qualities. But this appreciation vanishes as soon as it’s humans rather than trees. We immediately judge and criticise and find wanting. Think of people as trees, he suggests. Celebrate their unique qualities, have no preferences about people. Good advice.

As well as the amusing reflection on enlightenment and families of origins, he is famous for describing our relationship to each other as “we’re all just walking each other home.”

I love that.

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