How Ram Dass Inspired Me to Co-Create Willow


Dear Reader,

Ram Dass (Of Blessed Memory), an American spiritual teacher, psychologist, author and one of my sources of inspiration, died on December 22nd, 2019. His teachings inspired me to co-create Willow.

During my 2016 training in community deathcaring, I listened to a Ram Dass lecture on YouTube (Facing Death, Ram Dass Full Lecture 1992).

In this riveting lecture, Ram Dass explained how his path toward personal and spiritual growth involved working on his fear of death. He faced this fear by being around dying people. 

He spoke in detail of being with his stepmother. “At the moment she surrendered [to the cancer] it was like watching an egg breaking. And some being emerged that was so radiantly beautiful, and present, and light, and joyful. It was a being that she—at some deep intuitive level—knew herself to be, but had never been busy being all of her adult life.“

When I heard that story, the words of the woman in the diner in the film, When Harry met Sally, came immediately to mind. “I’ll have what she’s having!” Really! I remember at that moment wanting to have the kind of experience that would render me present to my true self.

Willow uses death as a portal to help you live and love fully now. 
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This was the spark that led to the creation of Willow. I saw that death could be a portal to help all of us become our radiant, beautiful and present selves. But I didn’t want to wait for people to be in their final days to make that happen. Michelle and I believe that whether you have days or decades to live, consciously contemplating your someday, one-day, inevitable death provides a powerful opportunity to wake up before your time’s up.

As we embark on a new year and a new decade, we’re excited to share with you more free tools and other learning resources to help you explore the reality of your mortality. Pragmatic end-of-life planning interwoven with deep and personal exploration, is a pathway that will  support you to prepare for your inevitable death and empower you to “be present to your true self.” 

As Ram Dass so eloquently said at the end of that lecture:

“Death does not have to be treated as an enemy for you to delight in life.  Keeping death present in your consciousness as one of the greatest mysteries and as the moment of incredible transformation imbues this moment with added richness and energy that otherwise is used up in denial.”

With love and light,
Reena (+ Michelle)

What about you?

How has Ram Dass inspired your life or work?

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  • I heard Ram Dass in a conference in NY in 1999. He talked about writing a book about aging gracefully, and felt there was something missing. Then he had a stroke, and realized that he had not understood the role of decline/loss of physical abilities as long as he himself was healthy. He also said that had Jewish Renewal been available when he was seeking a spiritual path, he would have stayed with his religion of origin. On the other hand, he believed that his quest was one of the things that made Jewish Renewal possible.

    • Thank you Judith for sharing this memory. There are so many wonderful things to say about Ram Dass and everything he continues to teach us!

  • I read my sister’s big purple square book, ‘Be Here Now’ by Ram Das when I was 15. I understood completely about being aware of the present moment because that was all there was living in a big farmhouse on hill across from an old cemetary. A friend had told my sister about this transformative book and how the writer had been enlightened in India like the Beatles had in the 60s’. My sister came home with the book, waving it in front of me, teasing me in her older-sibling way. I waited for her to finish it. New books were a big thing in our household, since we no longer had a tv after moving from Tampa, Florida. Luckily we lived only 13 miles from Potsdam, a college town where there were two book stores, one on campus and one on the main drag. It was 1971 and I was living in a remote village at the Adirondak foothills in New York state with my father and older sister. By age 11, I had already questioned the Catholic church after having been clobbered by a nun, so I was questioning organized religon in general and decided never to return to church or catechism class after the incident. My father supported my decision and brought us to a Spiritual church a few times instead. In Hopkinton, NY, our kitchen became the hub for friends to gather to discuss life after death, spirituality, art, and politics…that was when Ram Das’ book first came up. I was curious about Buddhism and meditation and was aware how my own art making and journal writing made me feel. So when I finally opened Ram Das’ book and witnessed his simplistic reminder of living in the now, I realized that was how I felt when I created art, laughed in our kitchen with friends and family or how present I felt walking to the creek with our dogs. I thank Ram Das for being with me during those transformative years as a young adult moving from a city to a small town and realizing that our kitchen was the only place I wanted to be, in that now, surrounded by love. ‘Be Here Now’ was one of my first lessons of self love.

    • Thank you Diane, for this great story of how your life was impacted by Ram Dass. Picturing you in your loving kitchen brings tears (of joy) to my eyes. I too have that purple square book, and you’ve inspired me to give it another read!

  • I was with ram dass during his last retreat in the uk prior to his stroke. I had never met a spiritual teacher who took himself so lightly, with a wonderful, joyful sense of humour and loving presence. On the last day of the retreat he sat cross legged on the lawn from early morning to evening and, at my third attempt, I screwed up courage to speak to him about a crucial relationship decision I had been agonising about. I will never forget the blueness of his eyes or the experience of being profoundly loved which he describes much better in his own experience with Maharishi. His words to me were simple but profoundly liberating. He said. “It doesn’t matter what you decide. You will get what you need anyway”. I still carry His words, his love, and the soul meeting we had, in my heart. It is a precious thing. I need to access it more.

  • That’s so beautiful, Dori, and how fortunate that you had the chance to study with Ram Dass. Thanks for sharing your story and that beautiful sentiment you carry with you. I may just have to borrow that!

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