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Ram Dass Maui Retreat: A Return Home

I come back from the Ram Dass’ 5th annual Spring on Maui retreat feeling as if I just got done with a week long ecstasy binge. I have a 100+ degree fever, I am sunburnt, it’s tough to move, everytime my throat tickles it snowballs into a coughing fit, I feel like I can barely keep my eyes open, I have chills so I have to swaddle myself in a blanket at all times-- and you know what? I love it all. I love it all. I have to go back to my dreaded place of employment tomorrow, and I love that too. Getting into the airport yesterday for 24 hours of travel, I realized that I’m going to be that guy who breathes awkwardly deep and loud from now on, and the guy that makes eye contact for way too long. Yeah. That’s where I’m at now, and what a lovely place to Be.

I’m going to be unpacking this trip for a while, but I wanted to get some quick notes down while I’m still fresh in the bhav bubble of the hall of mirrors that was this retreat. The teachers were all outstanding. One of the things that stood out most, pertaining to these teachers was how innately funny they all were. While we were talking about lofty subjects such as emptiness and death, there was rarely a minute long interval where the crowd wasn’t in a roaring upheaval of (sometimes snorting) laughter. The cosmic giggle was Present. Ram Dass, Bob Thurman, Anne Lamott, Krishna Das, Saraswati, Raghu, Parvati, Rameshwar Das, David Nichtern, Duncan Trussell, Pete Holmes, East Forest, and everyone else who presented all encapsulated our hearts and helped us continue to gently return to the theme of the retreat: Emptiness. Bob Thurman especially elucidated this topic for me, waxing hilariously and poetically how emptiness does not mean nothingness, and how nothingness is impossible to experience. The emptiness he talks about is the emptiness of a fixed separate self. Emptiness is relativity, in the sense that everything is inherently interconnected. Being someone who has either spent my life totally scared of nothingness or wishing I could go run away into nothingness, this freed me from my self imposed shackles of fear. As he said in his talk nearing the end, “Life is inherently blissful,” with the lens of truth on of course.

While it may have been the teachers that called us in, the direct transmission seemed to come from the satsang, from the little moments we all spent together, laughing, sharing our journeys, and Remembering whenever we looked into each other’s eyes. If I had a dollar for each time I heard “Have we met before?” or “It feels like I’ve known you forever,” I would have enough money to go to the next retreat. During one of Krishna Das’ mind blowing kirtans, my “new” friend Alex who was on his first retreat looked over at me with so much love in his eyes, then looked around the room with that same love, and said to me, “It’s good to be back with the family.” Yeah, it is. It felt like we were being welcomed back home, graciously being brought back into a lineage we had forgotten about for some 20 or 30 years between our birth and this retreat. The Ram Dass podcasts, and the Krishna Das chants we all so avidly listened to acting as Krishna’s sweet flute in the Rasa Lila, drawing us all into the womb of the jungle to have our own individual dance with God/Love/Fun. Back in our daily habitual lives, we go throughout our normal routines in these seemingly constricting settings, and we close off our hearts, but it's so normal we barely even notice it. Here, each day felt like we were being teased open a little more; a little more open, a little more open, a little more, and then boom, the last day felt as if we were that image of Hanuman ripping open our chests for Ram and Sita. So, now, as I get ready to dive back to my daily routine of the five day, 40 hour work week that was so dreadful, and on one level is still dreadful, I know I can face it with a love and equanimity. I have a story I will share as my next article about my meeting with Duncan Trussell, a lila which fully exemplifies how the things that may seem like grinding frustrations, actually lead us to exactly where we need to be. In the moment though, as some of us go back to our less than savory situations, I would like us all to Remember some words of wisdom from the newly reborn non-dualist Pete Holmes, “The part of you that Notices that you are angry is not angry. The part of you that Notices you are confused is not confused.” Abide in this Loving Awareness and watch the enticing dance around you, and Remember, there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go. You’re right Here. Right Here with the family. As Always, Sending the utmost Love and Gratitude,

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