It’s my last day at Ram Dass’s house. There’s a little card table set on the balcony outside his room and a chair ready for me. As I sit down, Ram Dass sweeps his arm across the landscape in a gesture of welcome and appreciation.
The balcony outside his room looks out over a rolling expanse of grass, gully, flowering bushes, papaya trees – a beautiful, green vista stretching all the way to the white-capped sea. Clouds shift high above. Mare’s tails are strewn across the blue sky. “Five star view!” I remark, and Ram Dass nods. “Five star,” he smiles.
We sit together in silence. His porridge is untouched, as are the array of pretty glasses filled with medicinal teas and herbal remedies on the tray in front of him. I marvel at his ability to sit for long periods without touching a bite of the yummy food; clearly just being in the silence is more nourishing than eating right now. Ram Dass eats slowly and chews mindfully. A small breakfast can take well over an hour. I settle in happily, sometimes sitting with him until almost lunchtime.
We don’t talk much. Ram Dass’s aphasia (difficulty finding words) comes and goes. This year has been hard for him. When I see him searching for words these days, I remind myself to be as patient as he is. We sit at the table mostly in silence. Outside of a meditation retreat, it’s rare to be with someone without the need to speak. Ram Dass is fine with silence, he doesn’t need me to talk. While he’s been stuck in that wheelchair for 20 years now, he’s not confined to his physical body; his spirit is unbounded, radiant love. This is the heart of Ram Dass’s teaching: we are unlimited beings he calls “souls”. We have the capacity to love every one.
As we sit, quietly appreciating the beauty of this ancient Hawaiian land, there’s a subtle shift as thinking subsides. The view is so clear, inside and out. I see how often the thinking mind forgets to notice our innate, great ability to rest in deep contentment and peace. Too often! this bright field of silent being is undermined by identifying with our thoughts rather than with loving awareness that observes and senses. This morning at breakfast with Ram Dass, we are being together – in the fullness of being present right here with each other in the simple, personal, ordinary, extraordinary hereness and nowness.
PS – There’s a good movie about his teaching, Becoming Nobody, now showing at the Santa Monica Laemmle.