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Lions Roar : November 2018
IN THE AFTERNOON, we meet over tea. Ram Dass says, “When I am afraid of something, I come up as close to it as possible, and I notice my resistance. I allow myself to just notice the resistance, because the resistance intensifies the fear— there’s no doubt about it. Get as close to the fear as you can, noticing the boundaries of it, just being with it, seeing it as it is. Don’t grab, don’t push it away, just notice.” I remember that just after my mother had stopped smok- ing—which she had done for fifty years—she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Soon after that, she started smoking again. She figured she was dying, so she might as well enjoy her life. She hid it from the family, but of course we knew—we could smell the smoke. I tell this to Ram Dass. “I was so distressed,” I say. “How could she do that? So I asked Stephen Levine, author of A Year to Live, what I should do. He said, ‘Buy a carton of Philip Morris and give it to her.”’ Ram Dass laughs. He gets it right away. I say, “That was impossible for me. I could not do it. It was too horrible.” “But Stephen was right,” Ram Dass says. “Yes. By actually buying the cigarettes, I got closer to my fears and saw what they were. I saw my judgments and desire to con- trol and my denial around her death.” I go on to say, “Krishna Das says that going on the Auschwitz retreats with Bernie Glass- man helped him bring fear close. He sat there, just bearing witness to his fears of other people and difficult life situations, Bring Fear Close As long as you think vulnerability is weakness, you’re going to be afraid. MIRABAI BUSH and RAM DASS on the kind of vulnerability that’s actually strength. Below: Mirabai Bush and spiritual icon Ram Dass at his home in Hawaii, where they had the conversations that became Walking Each Other Home. PHOTOSBYKATHLEENDASSIMAMURPHY