I first learned of Ram Dass (aka Richard Alpert) when I was experimenting with LSD at 15 years old and heard about his research at Harvard with Timothy Leary in the 60s. At the time, I didn’t pay too much attention to him, but eventually he started appearing in my life more and more.
Later in life, he was a guest teacher at a death dula training on Maui. During that time, I also dove more deeping into his teachings on death and dying.
I respected his approach as he himself had suffered a debilitating stroke in 1997; he managed to find a blessing in this, saying it taught him “fierce grace” and allowed him to practice change, the ultimate change being – in the end – death.
While I still haven’t read an entire book of his, I’ve studied with him, read some of his articles, and jotted down truth bombs whenever I heard him teach. Even in that limited context, he greatlyimpacted my life.
So today, I want to pass along to you 3 simple teachings that I he taught me that – if I could integrate just these three – I’d die a happier person with fewer regrets.
The first is “Be here, now.”
Rarely have I found suffering to occur when focusing on what’s happening in the present moment. It’s usually when I’m regretting the past, feeling shame or bitterness about it or trying to change it (which, as a reminder, is impossible ;), or when I’m worried/completely freaked out about the future.
But if I’m in the present, I often realize that in this moment, right here and right now, I am safe. I have all I need. Nothing bad is happening to be in this moment.
Being fully present not only decreases suffering, but also offers a precious gift to ourselves and other. Ram Dass said, “When you give another human being the fullness of your being at any moment, a little is enough. But when you give them half of it because you’re time binding with your mind, there’s never enough. Being fully present in the moment is the greatest gift you can give to each situation.”
So this gift of being fully present for life – whether it’s with you and a butterfly, or a tree, or a sunset, or another being – it means offering the fullness of the precious moment we are in by giving it your full awareness.
It’s like that feeling we might get when we’re trying to be great and work and family life at the same time. At work we feel we don’t do enough at home, and at home we feel we’re not doing a great job at work.
But if we are fully present when we’re in either place, then we can truly see what would be most valuable in that moment, and we’re more effective in the moment.
“Be here now” encourages us to be fully present not just to decrease suffering and be fully present for the miracle of life, but to also give one of the greatest gifts you can offer to another – your attention.
The second thing is from a story Ram Dass told: “When you go out into the woods and you look at the trees, you see that some of them are bent, some are straight, some are evergreens… And you look at the tree and you allow it. You understand that it didn’t get enough life, so it turned that way. You don’t get emotional about it, you just appreciate the tree.
But the minute you get near humans, you lose that. You are constantly saying, ‘You are too this, or I am too this.’ That judgment mind comes in. So I practice turning people into trees, which means appreciating them just the way they are.”
Most of the time, we see that people do and we get angry with them. We personalize it and make it mean something about how they don’t respect us’ don’t love us; don’t care about us.
But if we could see that people do what they do because we’re all just wounded children walking around the world bumping into each other and our tender wounds, when we can embrace the reality that hurt humans hurt other humans, that’s a game changer.
This segues into the third teaching of his that I wanted to touch on, today: “We are all walking each other home.”
I think of a time in middle school when, out of nowhere, my absolute best friend in the world, spent a week shunning me and hanging out with a new group of people. I was on the verge of tears. I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I felt so completely alone.
The next week, during class, she passed me a note. Frankly, I was terrified of what it might say. But I opened it. She had drawn a heart and apologized for being so mean to me. She told me I was still her best friend and that she loved me.
I excused myself from class, ran to the bathroom, and burst into tears. I was so relieved. I had big heavy wet tears that I could hear as they hit the floor.
I was relieved…that I wasn’t walking the world alone.
That day, I learned how much we, as humans, need one another. How much I needed a friend. And what a blessing it was to have someone to stand next to, who will hold my hand.
We are not meant to walk this world alone. It’s important to reach out when we see loneliness, and when we feel loneliness.
Kindness is what matters. We are ALL walking each other home.
So, which of these three teachings speaks to you today? Let at least one of them impact you and the beings you interact with.
Ram Dass said, “We are loving awareness.” This is the goal, right? To be able to see other with loving awareness, with a perspective of compassion, because being human is HARD, and we are all walking each other home, to the same, inevitable end of leaving this brief “Earth Walk.”
You will learn:
// 3 teachings that Ram Dass gave that influenced my practice and allow us to have fewer regrets
// How to decrease suffering through being fully present in each moment we are given
// How to appreciate people just the way they are – with a lens of compassion, even when they hurt us.
// The importance of kindness, compassion, and tenderness in the face of isolation and loneliness
// Episode 128: Bearing Witness – Who Did You Tell
// “Walking Each Other Home” Elephant Journal Article
// If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics.
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