My Jack Russel-Chihuahua puppy, Nugget, is sleeping on my lap. We adopted him three days ago. I’m petting his soft fur and soaking in his loving calmness. He is in a moment of peaceful, safe rest — innocent bliss. Sadness washes over me. I put human emotions on my dog: Does his mom miss him? Does he miss his sisters and his mom? Does he miss the kennel techs?
I remember my neighbor telling me several years ago when I was having trouble with my other rescue dog, Juno, that dogs live only in the present moment.
“Stop feeling sorry for her, Aimée — you’re not helping anything by doing that.”
Nugget knows how to Be Here Now.
Introducing Baba Ram Dass
Ram Dass was a well-known spiritual leader, born Dr. Richard Alpert, in Boston, Massachusetts on April 6, 1931. He was greatly influenced by the spiritual Buddhist teachers of the eastern world. He passed away on December 22, 2019, at age 88 in Maui, Hawaii.
What does Nugget have to do with Baba Ram Dass? The spiritual teacher’s most famous book (among many) is called Be Here Now. In this book, he emphasized being completely present in every moment of our lives.
Presence is something dogs have figured out. Although they may carry internalized trauma, they know when they are safe and can be here now more easily than most humans.
As we witness a cultural lack of compassion and empathy in 2020, from many Americans in particular, it is a worthy endeavor to explore the teachings of Ram Dass.
In the 2018 Netflix documentary Ram Dass, Going Home we are gifted with Baba Ram Dass’ reflections towards the end of his life.
The documentary was filmed after he experienced a debilitating stroke on February 19, 1997, which left his right side paralyzed and his ability to speak impaired. He was 66 years old.
The slow cadence of Ram Dass’s post-stroke speech invites the viewer to slow down and listen to his words of wisdom. He addresses his stroke by saying:
In this culture, dependency is a no-no. The stroke showed me dependency…My guru (Maharj-ji) told me that the stroke would be grace. — Baba Ram Dass
Ram Dass reminds us that part of being human is needing and accepting help from others.
Ram Dass Began Introducing Eastern Philosophy to the West in the Late 1960s
Dr. Dinesh Sharma sums up Ram Dass’ multi-faceted role as a spiritual leader and academic as well as his part in bringing “India’s spiritual traditions” and their influences to America.
As a psychologist, Richard Alpert played a pivotal role in the psychedelic movement of the sixties, lecturing on psychedelics at numerous college campuses across the country. A generation “turned on, tuned in, and dropped out” with psychedelics, providing the inner fuel for a turbulent era of social change, sexual liberation, and political unrest. In 1963, as psychedelics began to have a major influence on the culture, Alpert gained the distinction of being the first professor fired from Harvard in the 20th century. His predecessor in the previous century was Ralph Waldo Emerson.”
To many, Ram Dass was an authentic voice to trust. He had a sense of humor and a sense of purpose. In Being Here Now, Ram Dass reflects:
Your mantra is I am loving awareness. Identify with loving awareness… Make friends with change… Death is change. Just another one…And once you’ve started to spiritually awaken, you perceive your own suffering and start to work with it as a vehicle for awakening. — Baba Ram Dass
Takeaway: Loving Awareness
It is striking how pertinent Baba Ram Dass’s words are in the year 2020 as Covid-19 makes its way around the globe and the response is so strikingly different from one country to another.
When will Americans embrace these words?
What did you learn in this life? Considerable joy. All is one. One consciousness and that’s the way in which the world could right itself. Start with your peace, your love, your compassion, and go from there. — Baba Ram Dass
Ram Dass, Going Home concludes with a close-up of 17 colorfully clad people, including Ram Dass, swimming in the ocean looking like one beautiful organism. We hear Ram Dass say: “Let’s all walk each other home.”
It is time for a collective awakening in America — one that embraces empathy, compassion, and loving awareness as powerful catalysts for positive change.
To do so will be a welcome and innovative step towards the progress of humanity in western culture.