Ram Dass: Soul Land

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December 31, 2019

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Last week, the Sounds True community was saddened to hear of the passing of Ram Dass, one of the great lights of American spiritual inquiry. Born Richard Alpert, Ram Dass (meaning “servant of God”) rose to the forefront of psychedelic exploration and the movement toward Eastern philosophy in the 1960s and ’70s. He wrote the all-time classic Be Here Now in addition to many other published works, including Sounds True’s Walking Each Other Home. This special edition of Insights at the Edge presents an interview between Tami Simon and Ram Dass from 2012. During this conversation, Ram Dass and Tami discuss a deeper exploration of the self and the individual soul. They talk about experiencing the guru Maharaj-ji living on through the bodies and teachings of his students. Finally, Ram Dass considers the everyday experience of the atman—what he calls “the mega soul” beyond all others.(64 minutes)

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Ram Dass (1931–2019) first went to India in 1967. He was still Dr. Richard Alpert, an already eminent Harvard psychologist and psychedelic pioneer with Dr. Timothy Leary. He continued his psychedelic research until his journey to the East in 1967, driving overland to India, where he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, affectionately known as Maharaj-ji. Maharaj-ji gave him the name, Ram Dass, which means "servant of God." Everything changed then—his intense dharmic life started, and he became a pivotal influence on a culture that has reverberated with the words “be here now” ever since.

Be Here Now, Ram Dass's monumentally influential and seminal book, still stands as the highly readable centerpiece of the Western articulation of Eastern philosophy, and how to live joyously 100 percent of the time in the present, be it luminous or mundane. From a backpackers’ bible in the 1970s, Be Here Now continues to be the instruction manual of choice for generations of spiritual seekers. Fifty years later, it's still part of the timeless present. Being here now is still being here now. Ram Dass's work continues to be a path of teaching and inspiration to so many. His loving spirit has been a guiding light for three generations, carrying millions along on the journey, helping free them from their bonds as he has worked through his own. For more about Ram Dass’s teachings, visit ramdass.org

Author Photo © Kathleen Murphy

Listen to Tami Simon's in-depth audio podcast interviews with Ram Dass:
Walking Each Other Home »
Soul Land »

Also By Author

Ram Dass: Soul Land

Last week, the Sounds True community was saddened to hear of the passing of Ram Dass, one of the great lights of American spiritual inquiry. Born Richard Alpert, Ram Dass (meaning “servant of God”) rose to the forefront of psychedelic exploration and the movement toward Eastern philosophy in the 1960s and ’70s. He wrote the all-time classic Be Here Now in addition to many other published works, including Sounds True’s Walking Each Other Home. This special edition of Insights at the Edge presents an interview between Tami Simon and Ram Dass from 2012. During this conversation, Ram Dass and Tami discuss a deeper exploration of the self and the individual soul. They talk about experiencing the guru Maharaj-ji living on through the bodies and teachings of his students. Finally, Ram Dass considers the everyday experience of the atman—what he calls “the mega soul” beyond all others.(64 minutes)

A Personal Message from Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush

Dying is the most important thing you do in your life. It’s the great frontier for every one of us. And loving is the art of living as a preparation for dying. Allowing ourselves to dissolve into the ocean of love is not just about leaving this body; it is also the route to Oneness and unity with our own inner being, the soul, while we are still here. If you know how to live and to love, you know how to die.

In this book, I talk about what I am learning about death and dying from others and from my getting closer to it. And I talk about what I have learned from being at the bedsides of friends who have died, including how to grieve and how to plan for your own death as a spiritual ceremony. I talk about our fear of death and ways to go beyond that fear so we can be identified with our spiritual selves and live more meaningful lives.

I invited my friend Mirabai Bush into a series of conversations. Mirabai and I share the bond of being together with our guru, Neem Karoli Baba, and over the years, we have taught and traveled and written together. I thought she’d be able to frame the conversations for you, the reader, and also draw in some of what I’ve said in the past about dying, while keeping my current words fresh and immediate. And I wanted to discuss her thoughts on dying as well.

From Mirabai Bush . . .

This is a book about loving and dying and friendship. It is a conversation between old friends, in which we talk about love and death in an intimate setting. I hope we’ve captured Ram Dass’s wisdom, expressed in a new way now that he is 86 and close to death himself.

“It’s about sadhana, spiritual practice, and I want both our voices to be in it,” he said. “I want it to be a conversation.”

“But I need to ask a basic question,” I said.

He nodded.

“Why are we writing this? Who are we writing it for?”

“I want to help readers get rid of their fear of death,” he answered. “So they can be,” a long pause, “identified with their spiritual selves and be ready to die. If you know how to live, you know how to die. This will be a link between my teachings about Maharaj-ji and about death. And people who are living who can see that they are dying each day, that each day is change and dying is the biggest change—it could help them live more meaningful lives.”

After a while, Ram Dass continued, “I’m also thinking about people whose loved one has died, who may live with grief, or guilt and regret, and I’m thinking about those beings who are sitting bedside with the dying . . . this could help them prepare for that role. And people who are dying, who could read this book to help prepare them for dying more consciously, more peacefully, being in the moment.”

Okay, I thought. This will be a good book to write. We’ll be exploring the edge of what we know.

From Ram Dass . . .

I have had aphasia since my stroke 20 years ago. Aphasia impairs a person’s ability to process language but does not affect intelligence. Sometimes I pause for long periods to find a word or figure out how to express a thought in just the right way. I like to say that the stroke gave me the gift of silence.

When I thought about the best way to write a book on dying while having aphasia, I knew it would be important to express these ideas and experiences clearly, subtly, truthfully. I realized that these days I have been expressing what I know best when I am in dialogue with another person—someone who is comfortable with silence and listens for new ideas as they arise. Why not create a book that way?

I like that this format for the book draws you into the room with us, into this conversation that we all need to have. I invite you to watch this video of us talking together, to give you a sense of how our conversations unfolded.

 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=3Tq7kLnYqIs%3Fautoplay%3D1%26utm_source%3Dbronto%26utm_medium%3Demail%26utm_campaign%3DR180831-Dass-Bush%26utm_content%3DA%2BPersonal%2BMessage%2Bfrom%2BRam%2BDass%2Band%2BMirabai%2BBush

 

With love,

Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush

Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush: Walking Each Other Home

Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert) is a world-renowned spiritual teacher and the author of the indispensable classic Be Here Now. Despite suffering a massive stroke that left him with aphasia, Ram Dass continues to write and teach from his home in Maui. His longtime friend Mirabai Bush is the founder of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, and was the one of the co-creators of Google’s Search Inside Yourself program. They have teamed with Sounds True to publish Walking Each Other Home: Conversations on Loving and Dying. In this special episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush about changing our society’s dysfunctional relationship to dying, focusing on how to ease fears around the process. They talk about facing a lifetime of regrets and why going into our last moments consciously is so important. Finally, Mirabai leads listeners in a practice designed to help release attachments and comments on why grieving is an important act of love. (63 minutes)

Tami’s Takeaway: Ram Dass, who is now 87 years old, has planned at the time of his death for there to be an open-air funeral in Maui. He has even secured a government license for this to happen. Ever the teacher (even when it comes to his own death), Ram Dass’s intention is to introduce Westerners to teachings from the East—in this case, the value of sitting with a burning corpse while contemplating impermanence and living whole-heartedly. Of course, we don’t need to wait until we are at an open-air funeral to engage in such contemplation. We are each asked to die in some way every day, to let go of an old image of ourselves or an outmoded configuration of some kind. Can we embrace the dying we are going through right now? And in the process, experience our hearts breaking open so that we can live and love fully, without constraint?

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Reciprocity

Tending to the natural world is essential. We can no longer ignore or expect the Earth to just be there giving us all that we need, shutting out her cries. Her resources are limited. She is our mother, and she is burning, melting, and roaring in a call for help for us to tend to her needs. Animals are becoming extinct and others are abused and mistreated for profit, as are our trees—our sacred lungs here on Earth. We are meant to connect to the natural world as if it were a friend, a sister or brother, mother or father. We are all a part of the same Earth family. The trees need the air we exhale, yet we forget that we rely on them to breathe, as well. We forget, so easily, just how important this relationship is for our mere existence. Our connection is such a simple act, but we’ve completely lost our intimacy with the natural world as a collective and it’s begging for us to return to this harmonious kinship.

The Earth is our mirror—the truest reflection for our collective. Its self-destruction and decay shows us the separation we’ve created with it, with ourselves, with all that is Sacred, and with each other. When she burns, it mirrors the repressed anger we are holding from not meeting the needs of our Spirit, for not listening to truth. Her polluted oceans reflect the pollution of our inner waters—our disrespect and dishonoring of the emotions and intuitive wisdom of the feminine. The remedy is actually quite simple: conscious communication, love, and connection can help restore this balance. Once we each form a relationship with our elemental allies, our awareness will shift to honoring and protecting, and change the way we relate to the natural world as a whole, just like a connection with any growing relationship. Our future depends on how we tend to the Earth today.

earth is our mirror

 

Working with the Land

When working with the natural world in our healing, we also must cultivate a relationship with the land that supports us where we live. We thrive when we are connected to and work with the land that holds us. Simple ways to do this include:

  • Spend time with the land. Listen to it. Get to know its natural features, its seasonal blossoms and cycles.
  • Research and recognize its indigenous origins. Who lovingly tended to the land before you? How can you honor these people? Are they still active in your community? How can you support them?
  • Join a local land conservation group.
  • Try to source fresh herbs in your community or in the wild, instead of bought in plastic imported to your grocery store. Look for community gardens, farmers markets, CSAs, or even plant them yourself! For dried herbs and plants not native to your bioregion, check out your local apothecary to support small Earth-conscious businesses. Always ask where they get their herbs and if they are sustainably harvested or organic.
  • Plant walks are also a great resource for learning how to spot medicine in the wild so you can forage yourself, and they can also teach you more about what grows near you. Find a local herbalist who you resonate with and support them.


Ways to Further Reciprocate:

  • Talk to the trees like a friend. Ask them for guidance and support and listen with care and respect.
  • Plant trees and flowers. Reforest and replant. Revive our dying plant species.
  • Stop utilizing single use plastic, especially if you have a company that sells products. Our oceans are drowning in plastic and our sea creatures are suffering. We
    are disrupting balance because of our addiction to consumerism. Plastic does not disappear and most of it doesn’t get recycled. You can nowadays find a plastic-free alternative for almost anything you could ever need with a little bit of conscious attention. Do your research and be mindful of your plastic consumption. Choose consciousness over convenience, the larger vision over a quick fix.
  • With everything you take from the Earth or that is made of the Earth, say a simple thank you before using or consuming it.
  • Say intentional prayers and blessings for the Earth and her healing.
  • Withdraw your support from companies and groups that are not in support of the Earth’s health and sacredness— companies that use unsustainably harvested resources or unnecessary plastic, those that engage in unethical farming, and fast fashion.
  • Share with friends and family how to be more eco-conscious. Does your mom recycle? Is your brother still using plastic straws? Does your best friend need an iced coffee served in a plastic cup every day or can they bring their own cup to the coffee shop? Gently offer suggestions to support the Earth whenever you see fit.
  • Support companies that focus on Earth connection and protection. We vote with our dollars and money is energy. Give your energy to those supporting the Earth.

 

This is an excerpt from Tending to the Sacred: Rituals to Connect with Earth, Spirit, and Self by Ashley River Brant.

 

ashley brantAshley River Brant is a multidimensional artist and feminine healer bringing her medicine through as the creator of Soul Tattoo®, a ceremonial intuitive tattooing modality, as well as with film photography, illustration, writing, as the host of Weaving Your Web podcast, and through her online courses. Ashley uses her gifts of mediumship and connections to the loving spirits of the natural world to offer a feminine voice of healing expression for collective transformation in all her work. Ashley’s focus is to assist her clients, and all who are drawn to her work, in awakening to a new wave of feminine power, attuned to the mystery, honoring the creative and intuitive power within us all, and embodying it with grounded presence and purpose, so that we may all heal, open our hearts to the sacred, and align with our authentic expression and soul’s true essence. Ashley will be releasing her first book and first oracle deck with Sounds True in 2021.

 

 

 

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