I started studying the teachings of Ram Dass a couple of years ago when I saw the amazing documentary Fierce Grace on Netflix, but somehow I never got around to reading the book he’s probably the most well-known for until this year. Be Here Now is part autobiography, part reference material, and part huge long scroll filled with poetry, thoughts, mythology, crazy illustrations and beautiful truths that help you wake up and love your cup-runneth-over life. I liked it so much I send copies to friends and recommend it to strangers.
I used to dread winter coming. I grew up in Michigan, a very cold and snowy place during the winter. So when the days started getting shorter in the fall I knew subzero temperatures and life-threatening patches of black ice were on the way. Then I moved to California and I didn’t have to fear the snow and ice anymore. But my dread of winter stayed with me. There was just something about it getting dark so early in the afternoon that depressed me. I felt this need to withdraw and retreat until spring showed up again.
I also noticed that my writing output seemed to suffer during the end of December, but I blamed it on the holiday madness that erupts every year. I was too busy to think straight, much less push through those difficult last few chapters of my novel.
Whenever the tiniest inkling of a question hits me these days, I find myself reaching for my phone to Google the answer. And I’ve noticed it’s gotten worse over the past few years. My instinct to Google has really ramped up since I have a laptop at home, one at the office, and a smartphone always in my pocket. Sometimes I find the answer quickly (How many Academy Awards has Al Pacino won?) and sometimes I have to search deeper and stumble across information I didn’t even know I was looking for (What does “New Thought” mean?).
But sometimes—particularly with the deep questions—I find a lot of hype and noise, and very little meaningful insight. This is the result of living in a society that has, what feels like, unlimited information at its fingertips. But in reality we’re all still human, and humans have limits. We don’t know everything and we can’t know everything, even if the illusion of believing that we do makes us feel safer.
Writers put a lot of pressure on themselves when it comes to producing. We’re told that successful writers produce at least a couple of novels a year, and in between our big projects, we should always be producing short stories, flash fiction, or blog posts to submit and publish.
Because of this, sometimes we lose sight of one of the most important reasons we write.
Most people don’t pay much attention to their dreams. They seem to be born out of something crazy our brain does when we’re unconscious and not present to supervise our mental activities. But writers aren’t like most people. And we don’t have the luxury of dismissing this rich, frothy mix of layered meaning and symbolism that our minds give us as a gift every night.