Wednesday, August 4, 2010


note: the following blog post will be split into 6 installments, of which this is the third, and each will be posted in roughly 2 day intervals beginning August 1st 2010. your comments are welcome below. As always, click the pictures to expand them if you like.

see the first installment here
see the second installment here

Monday begins with a swim with Ram Dass.

We take a long drive over to another part of the Island, and then get to the beach where we'll be swimming. Ram Dass had a severe stoke in - I think - 1997, and so he's confined to use of a wheelchair. He can however, swim. He uses a life preserver, and gets around pretty well in the water. This is the first time I'll be seeing him.

All sorts of devotees and followers are there to join us, maybe 40 in all, and he has a few assistants who cheerfully and unselfishly help him along (not just today, but in all endeavors). Photographers - with professional looking equipment - are on the scene photographing everything. Here he comes down to the beach in what looks like a kind of recumbent bike, made out of plastic:

Group shot -- Ram Dass is sitting on the bike:

As we go for the swim, people are throwing flowers into the water around him. I understand this takes place at every swim. At this point I have nothing much to say to him, so I don't interact.

I mean, what am I gonna say anyway?

"What's with that airline food?"
"Uh...Did you see Letterman had stupid pet tricks last night"?
"I hear Brittany Spears is working on a new album...!"

I guess I'll keep workin' on it....

There are people throwing around what looks like a lemon (forgot what it's called) like a ball, but they never pass to me. Boy, this feels like grade school all over again! The only difference is now I realize how unhelpful my ego trip is…who cares if they don't throw it to me, as long as I don't? I don't even know what the thing's called for cryin' out loud...

OK, maybe I do feel a tad neglected.

I tag along with the group, but it's hard to fit in. Ram Dass does look at me a couple of times and we exchange smiles. We get to a ball in the water tethered to the seabed for navigational purposes, and when we reach the marker he excitedly exclaims "Oh Buoy! Oh Buoy!", about 5 or 6 times. I'm later told affectionally by Saraswati that he makes that joke every week. Hmm.

He swims every Monday it seems, although today's contingent is a little bigger than usual. Their names are Ravi Das, Balaram - names like that...hard to remember names. A man with a friendly face gives me some sunscreen. He looks like he should be named 'Fred', but his name is 'Gopal'. I would later find out he's an attorney. Some of these folks answer to no other names, and some are called by English language names in their normal lives. Balaram, for example, is also Peter. There are lawyers, photographers, producers - it runs the gamut of professions. All are likable on first meeting. They share a kind of personal depth, it seems.

Many of them also speak with regular regional accents, and have mannerisms from their places of origin (like Long Island for example). It's pretty funny and kind of endearing to learn this.

As we're leaving the beach, Alecia and I are to go pick up our third occupant of 'Cannery Row" at the airport. The group however, is going to lunch, so I just encourage her to go along with them. I'm impressed by how she kind of wants to accompany me to the airport for moral support, but with some convincing I get her to go along with the lunch crowd. Afterwards I hear it was great. I go to the airport to pick up Rosemary.

Rosemary reminds me a lot of my sister (albeit with - let's call it - a new age twist). She's about the same age, and is a very nice woman with numerous stories of her life's experiences and is an artist. She paints with a giant brush. She's also a teacher, and has lots of experience with things like face reading. She tells me that I have issues with my mother (OK, got one), diagnosed by a crease in the skin between my eyebrows, and that the creases near my earlobes indicate that I have a good "bullshit detector". I think that's right too (about the detector, I'll have to take her word about the creases). She tells me I should write a letter to my mom (mom's passed) and then I'll be in a relationship. I might try that…

Rosemary talking to the groom in Ram Dass' great room, the day of rehearsal:

Well, Alecia is a force, and when she got up earlier that morning she went into action, telling the innkeeper - John - that we need to rearrange our room so that we can accommodate this new person. She has so much energy when she tells me her plan. I love it!...and Alecia's ideas about rearranging do make more sense, but John - seeing more work for himself - cops out quickly, and tells us that we can use the empty adjacent room free of charge. So Rosemary sets up in there and we head out to the rehearsal.

This is good.

The wedding is to be held at Ram Dass's house, and we are a group of a select few who Saraswati has invited to come to the rehearsal. Ram Dass is asleep when we arrive (his condition is challenging), and Saraswati encourages his helpers to let him sleep, but soon he appears, determined to be a part of as much as he can. We're out in the backyard when suddenly the chair lift makes a loud mechanical sound and he descends from the upstairs. I'm slightly amused as I notice it feels a little like "The Wizard of Oz" to me, when the wizard is behind the curtain. Helpers run over to receive him and help him navigate to the spot where he will sit. He will be performing the ceremony, and he wrote a lot of the text, and wants to make sure it's done well.

This man is impressive! As challenging as his body situation is, his soul is radiating out like some sort of supersonic prism. His smile has a ferocity to it, and at the same time a softness and compassion which is hard to describe. His countenance radiates a joyful quality, and he laughs easily as they basically 'mark' the ceremony (in other words, go though it nonchalantly for blocking). It's easy to see why people find him so compelling. At the same time he's clearly tired. He soldiers on. At one point our eyes meet, and he seems to be a little surprised to see me there in what is basically the inner circle. I smile at him and he smiles back.

If you don't click another picture, click this one (then click again to expand completely - check the look on his and Saraswati's faces):

The spot where the ceremony would take place is on a hillside by the sea, with lovely views of the ocean. Idyllic:

I'm surprised to find that Krishna Das, who as I mentioned is the rock star of the group (from a musician perspective that is) is going to be singing at Saraswati's wedding! How lovely. This really is a happening - thank God I came! As I said in an earlier post, I had a feeling that this would be a very, very special event. KD and I have a nice little chat, which puts me more at ease. I've been feeling a little intimidated by him whenever I encounter him. I think he might be trying to help me with that.

The remaining part of the evening we go to the rehearsal dinner, which was at a pizza joint called "Flatbreads". Man, keeping my simple carbohydrate intake down has proved challenging! Alecia, Rosemary and I sit at the 'kid's table'. The inner circle is all at the other one. Occasionally, someone comes over to talk to us. We're definitely integrating in fits and starts here.

Grown up table:

'Kid's' table (with a couple of visiting grown ups in background):

fits and starts...



Furry Murray said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Furry Murray said...

Love it, Reed! Good pix. Thank you for your courage to share. I really appreciate all your thoughts and resolutions. Group dynamics are a trip. I share the outsider stuff, but deep down i know that it's another manifestation of "maya."

Look forward to the next installment.

Saraswati said...

Such sweet pictures Reed.
Can you remember what was said that Ram Dass and I were laughing so hard? It does truly capture such a sweet moment.

You know, perspective is so interesting. I honestly felt that the nine friends who came to the wedding for ME fit in with everyone beautifully. I couldn't believe how nicely it all went.

Ram Dass' satsang has very interesting coexisting elements: on one hand this is a group of people who have known each other for 40+ years, while meeting their guru in the body- almost unheard of for most people. So needless to say they are very tight and very bonded. And yes, while there is a sense of 'inner circle' for sure, at the same time they are all conscious, open-hearted people.

Over the arc of the 3 days I would say we all got pretty comfortable with each other. After all, relationship takes time.

Im really happy with that.

And there is deep wisdom in Rosemary's letter-writing advice. Very sweet. I hope you do it.


Reed Robins said...

Hi Saraswati.

Actually, we couldn't hear a lot of your conversation very well. What I could tell was the incredible energy that the 3 of you had, and so I started snapping a lot of pictures trying to get that exact moment, which I think was captured pretty well with that one.

About the group, I hope you realize that this part of the post is written in a spirit of humor.

Truthfully, I agree that it was a beautiful fit. Regarding that group, I can't imagine being so profoundly touched that I'd be moved to do all this writing about the experience if not for the effect that their warmth and consciousness had on me. I feel like it's a gesture of healing my emotional flotsam and jetsam to try and look at what was going on in my head as unflinchingly as I can, which is why I'm looking at that in the writing. I could pretend like my fears and insecurities don't exist, but that's the weak way out.

I appreciate your words of support though. I realize that my perspective is not reality, it's just a perspective.

Reed Robins said...


I would say that the big regret for me of my time there is that I never got centered and grounded enough to say with any real gravitas - to Ram Dass - what a special thing this time was for me, while being able to acknowledge to him what an important role he was playing for me. Although I did speak to him with that intention, I was so mired in the difficulties in my head I have mentioned that I don't feel I stepped up to the task.

More on this in a future post.

Knowing him, he might have gotten it through osmosis, but what a joy it would have been to get connected in a conversation…

Saraswati said...

Life is very unsatisfying....

I guess you will have to go back and see him again!

and by the way, who says you're in charge of everything anyway? It's not like you can make connective moments manifest.

Everything is just right as it is.
Thats what I think.
Doesn't mean it always feels good.

Anonymous said...

I am impatient. just let me know when you put the whole thing up. This is like watching a series that cuts off at a nice spot then you have to wait a whole week for the next one:-)


Reed Robins said...

You're the best Saraswati!

Thanks for your words and wisdom.

Robert said...

Reed! It's great how you relate this so openly and with your personal insights from the field and as witness from the bleachers. So rich...makes me want to cherish my own experiences more dearly. Looking forward to hearing more.