Rummaging around the used section in the basement of City Lights bookstore in San Francisco a couple of decades ago, I found my first copy of Ram Dass’s infamous manifesto, Be Here Now. I was totally broke but bought it anyway, grateful I found a used copy.
It was old and tattered then, it’s even more so today.
I’m holding it now and it still has the smell no iPad will ever emulate.
I pulled it out because I just bought my kid a one way ticket to leave home for good soon and I’m working my practice in a big way, cherishing this moment with her and not ruining it by dwelling in the deep ache that’s headed my way.
I bought a second copy, again at City Lights, 15 years later and owned it for less than an hour because a Buddhist Monk and I sat in Washington Park reading it aloud to each other and then promptly forgot it on our park bench. We weren’t concerned, instead we just practiced the simple wisdom the book gave us and were grateful for the time we had with it and hoped whomever came across it got something too.
I’ve seen revised and updated editions, they aren’t like the original.
After Ram had his stroke, I sent him some money, more money than I could afford at the time. As I wrote the check I remember specifically thinking I had the ability to go make more money and he no longer did so I added a zero. Of course, I didn’t know then that he would indeed cary on his sacred work and continue to be a rare and shinning light in the world… he has now written two sequels to Be Here Now, the first is Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying (2000), and the second is Be Love Now: The Path of the Heart (2011).
Be Here Now, even just the title itself, was revolutionary thought at the time. Now it’s on bumper stickers, coffee mugs and Facebook, but back then it was a radical concept. In his words I can feel the influence of Vietnam and the 60’s and the desire for peace jumping out from each page.
Since Ram, many have carried the torch.
It’s said a thousand ways, the words are different and the approach changes.. but the intention is in tact. Ask anybody who’s ever almost died, who’s survived something. They will tell you all about the sacredness of being here now.
My all time favorite lines from Ram is one of his most simple: “when you are already in Detroit, you don’t have to take a bus to get there”. This simple wisdom saved my ass a thousand times from my inbred desire to be where I’m not, to always be achieving and striving and building more verses cherishing the present and acknowledging the blessings surrounding me.
A few years ago I had a goal that I worked around the clock for nearly two years to achieve. I could taste it I wanted it so bad. Nothing could get in my way, I was so focused and determined I was unstoppable. I’ll never, ever forget how hollow and empty the goal felt upon achievement and I went into a deep funk. Soon after, I flipped open Be Here Now and read “our plans never turn out as tasty as reality”.
That was my simple truth, 100%.
The two years achieving that goal were remarkable and beautiful and had nothing to do with the goal itself. Wish I had noticed more, but I learned this too:
“It is important to expect nothing, to take every experience, including negative ones, as merely steps on the path, and to proceed.”
20 years since my first introduction, I find even more sacredness within Be Here Now… it’s feels more relevant today than when it was first written:
“As we grow in consciousness, there will be more compassion and more love, and then the barriers between people, between religions, between nations will begin to fall. yes, we have to beat down the separateness.”
Today, I recommit. How about you?