Last week my husband Mark and I watched the Ram Dass memorial service, sponsored by Seva Foundation. Ram Dass was one of its founding members. The footage of the service was made available a year after Ram Dass’ death and included music by Krishna Das and short remembrances by Larry and Girija Brilliant, Wavy Gravy and his wife Jahanara Romney, among others.
This moving tribute led me on memory trips and appreciation for some of the influential people in my life. In the 80s I attended talks and entreaties for us to do good in our community by Ram Dass at a large hall in Oakland over the course of several months. I read his book, “Be Here Now,” and many years later, “Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying.” This book, and free airline tickets that needed to be used before they expired, led to Mark and I attending a short retreat on Maui in 2007. Both of our mothers had died during the previous year, and we thought a retreat with Ram Dass, Sharon Salzberg, and Krishna Das could be healing. And it was. We also got to see the Dali Lama on that trip!
In the 1980s, I read “How Can I Help?” by Ram Dass & Paul Gorman, given to me by my mom. I have referred to this book often in my life and work. I was especially struck by passages about Wavy Gravy and how he used his clown persona to uplift others and create change. I often refer to Wavy as my “hero.” If you haven’t seen the documentary, “Saint Misbehavin’: The Wavy Gravy Movie,” then it’s time do so! I’m grateful for my brother, Robert, who has been a co-conspirator in our appreciation of Wavy Gravy and Ram Dass.
At the memorial service both Larry Brilliant and Jahanara Romney talked about Ram Dass’ impassioned reminders in the early days of starting Seva to “slow down and be here now.” He was the “be” while others, including Jahanara and Brilliant’s boss, Nicole, wanted to get to work and “do” what needed to be done: build a hospital, raise more money now! Brilliant described it as the “clash of the titans.” Ram Dass saying, “Settle in, you are moving too fast. You’re going to lose your soul.” And Nicole shouting back, “What does it matter if I lose my soul if we can eradicate blindness!” And that’s when other board members chanted, “DoBeDoBeDo.”
How do you dobedobedo? For those inclined more to be doers, take time to be, to settle in and reflect. For those of us who lean more to being, how can we be of more service? What might I do to help build a better world? We each must find our own balance of being and doing, which might shift on any given day. An inspiring reminder as we embark on 2021.
Happy New Year and Be Well!