Ram Dass and Marty Lehrer: The teacher meets the teacher
Each of us finds his unique vehicle for sharing with others his bit of wisdom. —Ram Dass, Be Here Now
We were tickled that Marty Lehrer, Kai Chi Do Instructor from New York, got to spend some time with Ram Dass in Hawaii a few months ago. I love this picture. He is such a beautiful soul, and so is Marty. Can’t you just see the glow? Marty being with Ram Dass feels like a kind of circle to us, complete and perfect.
Ram Dass was my first spiritual teacher. It began for me when I was 15 years old. My older brother’s girlfriend wrote a brief note to me, in the back of one of my spiral notebooks. It said, “When you feel like you’re starting to lose, read Be Here Now.” Well, I was feeling like I was losing a lot.
When I bought the book, by Ram Dass, and looked at it, I thought, “This can’t be it.” (Anyone who has ever seen the book will understand this. It’s sort of a free association illustrated guide to Divine consciousness, wrapped in the story of Ram Dass’s own spiritual journey). I put it aside, but picked it up again months later. I thought I should just try reading it.
I was depressed and didn’t feel any clear sense of purpose. I felt separate from everything and alone. I’d tried drugs and alcohol a few times, and they hadn’t helped. I’d get a brief high or just check out. And sometimes, coming down was even further down than I’d been before the hit or pill or drink. And beside that, alcohol made me nauseous. And yes, I was in therapy – family and individual. And I couldn’t see that it was helping very much. I still wanted to escape. Escape my parents, my school, my neighborhood. Escape my limitations – The ones I blamed outside me, and the ones I couldn’t see and didn’t know how to name, inside.
In Be Here Now I read about Ram Dass’s personal explorations of spirituality and mysticism, yoga and meditation. I loved his insights about human foibles, his honesty about his own, and his passionate and flamboyant declarations of love for a God that wasn’t Jewish or Christian or Hindu or Muslim or Buddhist, but was all of these. I learned about energy pathways, chakras, and states of consciousness.
And I started to consider that my own thoughts might be a vehicle for change. Drugs and alcohol had been like filters and fog. I didn’t want to just change the way things looked – I wanted to change reality.
So I started trying to teach myself how to meditate. Be Here Now was my instructional manual. Ram Dass shared the mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum. He said it means, “The All is a jewel that blooms in my heart.” I didn’t understand it, but I just trusted the words and focused my mind on them while I watched the sensation of my breath at the tip of my nose.
I kept returning my thoughts to the mantra, until the mantra was the only thought.
This was different than prayer. I wasn’t calling on something outside me. I was evoking something within me. Letting the words carry me deeper and deeper inside. And then I disappeared.
There was no “I”. There was no separation between me and everything else. There was no mantra. No thought. There was only One Luminous Unlimited Consciousness, One Big Thing. Not having awareness, but being awareness. I knew, in that moment, that it wasn’t my skin, or my body, that created a boundary between me and everything else. It was my mind, my way of seeing life. And for the first time in my life, I believed in God. Not a God that judges us like eyes in the sky, but a God that exists in all things, that contains all things. And every part contains the whole – the All that blooms like a jewel in my heart.
Ram Dass had said that the word Namaste mean, “I honor the place in you where the Universe resides. I honor the place in you where if you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, there is only One of us.”
In that moment, I knew the One inside me. And finally, my reality changed.
That’s why I love Marty’s tattoo and I love that it’s part of this photo. Marty, Ram Dass, and Om. I can feel it – There’s only One of us.