On Sundays I Reflect.
I didn’t drink alcohol this week.
"Tonight we lost one of history’s most prominent thinkers, Richard Alpert aka Ram Dass. This man embodied love, which could not be more important in a time full or apathy, hate and indifference. Our world is so divided over so many things but there are profound experiences that transcend any of those differences. Love might be the most significant concept to which we all relate.
My childhood was especially challenging for me emotionally. I struggled to fit in to a box that I didn’t want to be confined to. I often found myself in conflict with my mother, whom I considered overbearing. She was always looking out for my best interest of course but sometimes it came off as being a bit over concerned. It was rare that we saw eye to eye, and many of our conversations became arguments quickly.
When I got to college, I was exploring the town of Bloomington, Indiana with my mom. I wish I could recall which book store we stumbled into but I suspect it was Dharma Rick’s Emporium, a character that will surface later in the story regardless of if he sold me my first copy of "Be Here Now." Admittedly it was a gift from my mom, who suggested the book specifically knowing how much I was struggling at the time. She told me she saw him speak, after reading his book when it came out. It looked up my alley so I accepted her gift and set it aside in my dorm room.
I was too busy hustling, partying and getting drunk to give the book any attention, until it became a shortcut I could use for my honors course “Foundations of Recreation and Leisure.” I attended a twice weekly large lecture by Ruth Russel, the published expert on Recreation and Leisure. Once a week I participated in a small discussion with my professor and half a dozen other students, which established my “honors” credentials. The discussion section culminated in a roughly ten page book report on a book from her provided list or any book that we could make an argument for it’s relevance to our class.
Obviously I chose the primarily picture illustrated book my mother had given me for this project. It was easy to persuade my professor it pertained to our subject matter and much more difficult to digest and explore in a ten page essay. As I read the first part of the book, Ram Dass’ personal biography, my entire perception of the world changed drastically.
I had experimented with psychedelics in high school and I felt an immediate connection to that element of the author’s experience. I was also drawn to the idea of “letting go” through those experiences, and the book seemed to turn into a guide for doing just that. I’ve spent a lot of my life putting my energy into the past and future. Wondering “what if” gave me anxiety about both, which ultimately led to alternatives to my desired outcome. I let my expectations determine my feelings, which let me down often when expectations were set too high.
Everybody who has ever known me has known I march to the beat of my own drum. I often tap my hands or feet rhythmically and I’m usually whistling. The book “Be Here Now” helped me to embrace who I am, rather than resist. It’s something I practice to this day, and it’s one of life’s greatest challenges. I’ve often relied on external validation. I would consider that to be one of my greatest flaws. It’s scary to trust in ourselves, but so important.
So then one day Dharma Rick walks into Volta Glass Studio where I was apprenticing for Huffy through an experience I’ve referred to as my greatest manifestation. I told everyone I would win the 420 raffle, but I did not know I would meet the artists and be invited to apprentice that same day. April 20th, 2010 was the day my whole life became what it is now, when I was first given the opportunity to approach glass. It was not the first day I melted glass but the day that it became my reality.
So this Dharma Rick guy comes in with a Be Here Now shirt on. When I tell him what a fan I am he tells me, “it glows in the dark too!” He had printed these shirts himself and literally took the shirt off his back to give me as a gift. It immediately became my favorite shirt, as iconic in my small college town as the scooter I zipped around town on.
At some point I began inscribing the inside cover of the books and gifting them to people. I gave one to my college girlfriend, one to a frat brother who dropped out because of drug and gambling addiction, and many others to significant people in my life at any opportunity I could. I was buying 3-5 at a time on Amazon and circulating them among my community.
Eventually I met some people connected directly to RD and decided I would go to Hawaii to meet him. He was not in good health and I knew my time was limited. A few times I almost booked a flight to Hawaii to just go for it. I had loose assurance I would make it to him if I went, but I feared going and not being welcomed or not getting in touch. Not buying that ticket is one of my only regrets in life. I couldn’t afford it and still can’t. One time I put out a post online asking someone to buy enough glass that I could afford to go. I never felt like I could afford it and I continued to put every penny I had (and many I didn’t have) into my business and my art.
I let fear hold me back and I’m embarrassed. One time there was a $49 deal I missed. One time the price dropped to $320 when I said I would buy the flight if it went under $300. It was obviously not meant to be.
In a time of such violence and hate, his message is more important than ever. That message of love is so much more important than my egotistical self serving drive to meet the man that gave me my whole life.
Ultimately I think that’s why I never went. It was never about him or the message. It was all about me. After he had made such a significant impact on my life, I wanted to reciprocate that. I wanted to meet him so I could feel a connection and so I could tell people about the experience of meeting him. I wanted to ask him so many questions and expected him to give me answers. Tonight I weep for the first time in ages. I’m full of sadness. I shouldn’t be. I should be grateful to be exactly where I am. Here and Now. I spent so much of my life trying to be anywhere besides for here and now. I used psychedelics in an attempt to escape the reality we participate in, because I’m not happy with the way things are. Now I accept things for what they are and spend my life trying to make them the way I want things to be. I practice embracing the present every day, for it does not come naturally.
Resistance is futile. It’s all the same trip. I spent so much energy and time looking for an answer and that’s all I got. Let go, I told myself. Let go, the experiences told me. Letting go is the hardest part.
I’m so grateful for what you shared with us. Thank you for everything. I’ll miss you forever."
I wrote that essay the night Ram Dass passed away. I’ve been reflecting on his teachings all week. I’ve been blowing glass almost every day. I got on my snowboard a few times and would have ridden more if we got snow or if my shoulder and neck weren’t bothering me for the last few weeks.
We’ve been working non-stop up here. On Christmas Day I stayed at the studio until after 2am with J. Cost working on the announcement of our show the Vail Cup Collectors Club. We’ve been selling tickets for that in between cup sales and t-shirt sales. I’ve never shipped as many packages as I am this holiday season and it feels like the brand is really gaining traction. Having J. Cost’s help has made it possible for me to be on the torch building up some inventory of my own for the show.
The next month until our show is going to be intense as we prepare. Sorry if I'm tunnel visioned even more than usual. I’ll make sure to get my laps in at Vail so I have at least a few hours of my life to myself away from work. I keep my phone on airplane mode while I’m on the hill so I can focus on the moment and Be Here Now.
I’m so grateful for all of your support.
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