We’re all just walking each other homeRam Dass, “Be Here Now”
Ram Dass was “Mom’s thing”. She was really into self-help books and metaphysical stuff and Eastern religion… and basically all things I considered ‘hippie’. I don’t remember anything about Ram Dass clearly, everything was sort of peripheral. I did know that he ‘used to be’ a psychotherapist and that now he was some kind of self-styled guru.
And as a teen and young adult, I spurned it. For whatever reason, I craved convention. And I got it, too. I went to church with friends from the street – 10:15 mass followed by donuts and in the basement afterwards. Convinced my mom to let me get baptized and send me to Catholic high school. She said she was cool with that and I absolutely felt at home. Really, deeply at home in the Church. For years and years. I briefly considered becoming a nun before getting serious about the guy who is now my husband. He was a solid, dependable, conventional guy. He still is, though maybe a little less conventional now. We married in the Church when I was 20 and he a week shy of 22. We welcomed nine children of our making into the world and mourned the premature passing, through miscarriage of six unborn babes. We adopted two kids from Bulgaria in 2015 and we now have another Bulgarian-born son who will be home next summer, after he finishes high school. Brian was ordained almost a decade ago. We’ve lived a life steeped in Catholic faith, done all of the things that ‘good Catholic families’ should do. We taught catechism, were part of the baptism ministry, ladies groups, Knights of Columbus, went on retreats, prayed the rosary as a family every Friday… Really, really lived it to the fullest.
When things got really hard with our two adopted kids, dealing with their extreme trauma and what turned out to be a host of previously undiagnosed disabilities, the Church withdrew. Even turned on us. It was from the parish where Brian served that the first accusation of child neglect came. We were gobsmacked. Our pastor offered to support us with a character letter that never came. Eventually things went from hard to harder, Brian took a leave of absence from ministry. And things went from harder to nearly unbearable. And still the Church was absent, deafeningly silent. We visited other parishes, checked out other rites, looking for community. But still, there was no response, no outreach apart from a token phone call or email whenever his next period of LOA is coming to a close. And it has remained so until today.
The nature of the needs of our disabled kids, my own disabilities, our deep connection and interdependence with the farm, and now the pandemic, have chipped a way at the other available resources for self care. Mass attendance became impossible. Daily prayer became more than dry… painful. I filled what time I could with music and art and books and Netflix. Everything I reached for was hearkening back to a time when I was a young adult, curious about other cultures and systems of beliefs, when I was seeking that convention. Something that felt solid and real. I watched Turkish television, read Rumi and Yunus Emre. I reacquainted myself with India and Persia.
At some point last winter, I took up bellydance as a way to exercise when it was too snowy or too cold to hike the farm. From there, I thought I do a yoga class online. That turned into a daily Sivananda practice which was life giving in every way. And that is when Ram Dass came into my life again. It was a meditation on love or something. Just a short thing. And I remember being transfixed, and then moved to tears. That Boston Brahmin accent with the characteristic 60s style of pronunciation and turn of phrase just embraced me. And then I watched “Going Home”, and then “Becoming Nobody” and then I started listening to “Love, Service, Devotion and the Ultimate Surrender”, and downloaded “Be Here Now”. He drew me in, and in, and in. And I discovered that this Jewish guy turned Eastern mystic was madly, deeply in love with Christ. And that his own guru was likewise. And I thought, ‘yeah, I can hang out with this guy for a while.’ And through the time I’ve spent listening and reading and watching him, he’s re-introduced me to many of my Christian teachers, to the Bible, and to many other holy men and women (in their holiness and in their humanity), and I’m once again experiencing that same feeling of ‘home’ that I experienced at age 10 upon entering a Catholic church for the first time. And I’ve realized that that feeling of home, is none other than God. It is that swirling vortex of love we call Trinity, communicated – to me – through a late, drug-using hippie. Far out.
Ram Dass has met me at a circuit in the spiral of my life. I don’t know if I’m somewhere in the middle, or closer to the end. No matter. I’m right here now. And here, much to my surprise, I see him hanging out with Jesus and a whole lot of other sinners who became saints (some with the BIG S). Walking me home. What a trip.