I have never had the pleasure of meeting Ram Dass in person. When I was 13, my parents sent me to yoga and meditation classes because they thought I had insomnia and it would help. (What they didn’t know was that I was desperately bored in school and reading science fiction books by flashlight all night!) But the classes took, and I started reading more about the traditions surrounding meditation and yoga. My father, a Unitarian Universalist minister, had an extensive library on world religions and various philosophical/spiritual traditions, so I had a lot to read in my own attic on the ranks of utility shelving that housed the thousands of books in my dad’s library!
I also started sitting in satsang with the devotees of Maharajji, in Montpelier, VT (almost all of whom were associated with the UU church!). I never took this group very seriously, as I found more centeredness in my yoga/meditation teacher, and my modern dance teacher. The satsang was practicing in near isolation, and with not much experience.
My father had a copy of Be Here Now on his desk in his office, and I picked it up one day. I was very arts-oriented, as well as heavily into the sciences and social sciences. The story of Ram Dass, and the nearly animated book, resonated with me. I remember thinking it was pretty wild that my dad had this book living on his desk in the white-clapboard fussy New England church. I approached the book different ways at different times, working my way through it, puzzling through particular bits, showing pieces off to friends and asking their thoughts, using it for “bibliomancy” (opening to a random page, and assuming that’s your lesson for the moment).
Many miles passed, 33 years along. I have studied with the Kagyu Buddhists and many other groups. I have been a yoga therapist and helped people who experimented with things they couldn’t handle, like taking kundalini yoga classes thinking they were like aerobics (context-less and without possible disruptive consequences), I have danced with neo-pagans, and studied Ken Wilber, but mostly I’ve been engaged for 30 years in helping at the intersection of computer technology and social issues, as a profession and a jnana path of sorts.
Recently, an old friend said he thought that of all the people he’d ever spoken to, Ram Dass would perhaps best understand the work I am doing now. I’ve recently started a company that helps people get some of the benefits of meditation through a computer game environment. The day after that, I ran into Ram Dass’s Twitter account (very funky). Today, at a used bookstore, I ran into an old copy of Be Here Now, a bit dog-eared, and it followed me home. I’ve started to re-read the book. Amazing how different a book it is at 50 than at 17, yet very fresh and fun! I thought, someone should do a flash animation of this book, and animate it as I have always seen it in my mind’s eye, cascading and dancing on the page. Maybe they already have? So I plugged in “ram dass be here now multimedia” into Google—and here I am! The modern version of bibliomancy: plug a search into Google and assume that the page that comes up is your lesson for the day. ;)