A few days ago, a great spirit died. Thousands of us, if not millions, have been touched by the wisdom of Ram Dass. He was an American (Richard Alpert) until he came upon a Hindu spiritual master and became his devotée.
Ram Dass spoke many words in his life. Here are my favourites:
When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.
The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying ‘You are too this, or I’m too this.’ That judgment mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.
Jo and I have been in Senegal for eleven days. It’s the longest he’s ever been away from his dear wife Lydia and he’s missed her so much. Yesterday Lydia, Lore, Baziel and Marie-paule (Lydia’s mom) awoke at 5:00 am so they could catch their late morning flight from Brussels, Belgium to Dakar, Senegal. The loved ones would be reunited by 11:00 pm. So many different trees would come together in the darkness of the Toubacouta night.
At 10:10 we heard a honk. Jo jumped up. So did Moustapha. I was a bit slower but we all were drawn towards the arrivals pulling up in the van. The headlights blocked all else but a moment later there was Lydia’s smile in the front passenger seat. Tired faces spilled out of the vehicle, still full of the sweetness of connection. There were many soft hugs.
After we had unloaded the van of luggage and food, we all sat together, some on padded seats and some on the arms of chairs. Here we were: Jo, Ousmane, Baziel, Fatou, Ansou, Marie-paule, Lydia, Lore, Ali, Moustapha and me. Plus the little one Nima asleep in her bed. We were young and old, male and female, black and white, shy and outgoing. From three countries, speaking French, Flemish, Warlof and English. I looked around at all the trees – the curves of their trunks, the fluttering of their leaves, the colours of their bark. Our forest contained it all.
Each of us had their place
Each of us brought a uniqueness into the world
Each of us mattered