Picture in your mind-India, 1970. Young Americans in the prime of life have arrived in droves to a foreign land with hopes of finding a guru who will give their lives meaning.
At one particular ashram is a guru named Neem Karoli Baba (also known as Maharaj-ji). One of the “kids” who stumbled onto him was Richard Alpert, a former Harvard professor who coincidentally had just been doing a lot of acid with colleague Timothy Leary. Well, for Richard (now Ram Dass) the acid wasn’t enough, which was why he came to India to find the real answers. And apparently he did.
So one day at the ashram Ram Dass was pissed off. Not only at everyone in the camp but also at himself. I can only imagine that living on a diet of bland lentil stew and being in close quarters with a bunch of hippies with hang ups was not an easy thing to do.
So all the students were sitting around their guru eating (lentil stew), when Ram Dass showed up late. He was still pissed. Maharaj-ji sensed his frustration and said kindly, “Ram Dass, come join us…remember love everyone and tell the truth.”
Well, I’m guessing Maharaj-ji’s words just pissed him off more. Not liking how he felt towards his friends, Ram Dass took a deep breath and began slicing an apple.
He knew serving food in anger was like feeding people poison, so he slowly went from person to person serving them apples, looking deeply in their eyes, until he felt love for each and every one of them. And it worked! After serving them all he felt a sense of calm and peace and was no longer angry. Just handing out apple slices changed his whole state of mind!
Fast forward to 2016 (yesterday!). Now it’s me who’s pissed. Like Ram Dass…I was feeling mad at everyone, especially myself. My life seems to be riddled with heart wrenching conflict and I was having trouble seeing any way out.
That morning Polishing the Mirror by Ram Dass had arrived in the mail. As these things go I happened to open right to this story of the apples and the guru. The timing was perfect.
Inspired by the tale, I decided to bake. I made cookies, but not like I normally do. As I cracked each egg, scooped out that tiny spoonful of salt, then compacted the brown sugar deep into the measuring cup I breathed and smiled. As I divided the dough onto the cookie sheets I sung along to music, totally in the moment.
When the cookies were done, they looked perfect. I packed them up in little containers and delivered them to the important people in my life.
As I handed them out I allowed myself to feel unconditional love to the recipients—that same love that Ram Dass felt towards all his potentially annoying hippie friends.
Love everyone. Tell the truth.
I love this notion. I hope to devote my life to these words, but, I’m no fool. I promise you, some days it will not be easy, because people make me mad! They really do. No one sees things the way I do. Their goals, their motives seem diametrically opposed to mine..and quite frankly sometimes they’re just plain ridiculous!
But…but! I love them. Because between the space of “you and I” is “US”. And sure, it’s cheesy and hippie-dippy but WE are one. That gap we feel between us is only imaginary. It’s a construct we have all created. When we look deeply at one and other, down to the core, we see only love.
I can’t fix people…I can’t change them…and on some days I can’t even understand them, but I can love them and in that process of truly loving others, I am truly loving myself….and the world. You can’t feel one without the other.
So maybe next time you’re making food for your friends or family or even just handing a beer to a friend, think of those words: “Love everyone. Tell the truth,” and see what happens.
Let me know what happens. I’d love to hear your stories.
P.S. Happy Valentine’s Day!!