I feel about Ram Dass the way my mom felt about me. She would always say, “How could anybody not like you?” Yes, she was that kind of mom and I was fortunate to draw her in the mother lottery.

Well, how could anybody not like Ram Dass? He gave so much of himself to help teach so many millions of us all this great spiritual stuff. His combination of wisdom, intelligence, charisma and heart are unmatched, in this writer’s opinion.

Today’s Ram Dass nugget comes courtesy of one of my regular emails sent by his Love Serve Remember Foundation. It says:

In most of our human relationships, we spend much of our time reassuring one another that our costumes of identity are on straight.”

This one really hit me. One, because he’s so right. And two, because it’s such a valuable, seldom perceived observation.

The costumes are our egos

Let’s start by unpacking what Ram Dass means here. In essence, he’s saying that we humans frequently reassure and fortify each other’s costumes of identity (AKA, egos). Examples of this are infinite.

“What? Of course your butt looks great in those jeans. You go girl!”

“Oh my God! A new Porsche 911? It’s gorgeous!”

“You’re now the youngest vice president in company history? Congrats, dude. You are one major stud.”

“Holy cow. A son at Harvard and a daughter at Stanford? Whatever your secret sauce of parenting is, you need to bottle it and sell it!”

“You were too good for him anyway. You deserve better.”

What do all of these statements have in common? They’re said with good intentions by people who consider themselves good friends, siblings, coworkers or what have you.

Building up our egos

You know what else they have in common? They are all about buttressing the recipients’ ego and are therefore not helpful.

I know this might sound crazy to many of you. What’s wrong with congratulating a guy for being promoted to VP? Or a parent who has kids at Harvard and Stanford?

The main problem is that shapely butts, Porsches, job titles and elite colleges do not make people happy.

Which is why I find Ram Dass’s statement so powerful. Because we all do this. We all play by these rules.

We’re just feeding each other fries

But what we’re really doing is feeding French Fries to somebody who loves French Fries. Do they love it when we give them the fries? You bet.

Is it good for them? No. In fact, it’s bad for them. What it does is perpetuate the stranglehold that the world’s collective ego exerts on humanity.

What should we do?

Which leads to the central question: What should we do in these situations? How do we deal with the Harvard/Stanford mom? Or the woman concerned with how her booty looks in her new jeans? Or the new young VP?

The answer is simple and sounds boring, but it isn’t. Because the answer is that we need to give these people the greatest gift any human can bestow on another:

Our presence.

What?! That’s it?

Yes. Just be present with them.

No thoughts. No scheming. No racing mind. Just presence.

I remember in my early days on the spiritual path hearing this and thinking,

“Really? That’s the best thing I can do for another? What about diving in and trying to help them solve their problems? Or giving them some money? Or comforting them?”

But then I kept hearing this more and more and more. From every great spiritual teacher I studied. Eckhart Tolle, Mickey Singer, Ram Dass, Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna, et al.

There’s a Sanskrit word all of you have heard that helps illuminate this concept:


Most people know the surface meaning of namaste, which is a greeting, like “Hello.” Or, “I bow to you.”

But there is a deeper spiritual meaning to the word, which is,

The spirit in me honors the spirit in you.”

We could switch out “spirit” and use God, soul, divine, Atman or, yes, even presence. The point is, it’s about recognizing that we are all bound together at our deepest level. We aren’t separate. We are all one.

And that is what we are doing when we bring our full presence to that woman who wants to look good in her jeans. We are reaching inside and joining our presence with hers, and in doing so, weakening her sense of separateness and strengthening her connection to the divine within her.

Present people center us

That is why people love being around those who are present. Most would have a difficult time expressing why this is, but it’s simple: Present people help us feel centered and connected to something infinitely bigger than little old, separate “me.”

The opposite is also true. Most of us find it unsettling to be around people who are “not there.” When we talk, they don’t listen. They look away, stuck in their heads, swept away by an endless torrent of thoughts and emotions.

The takeaway

So what I take away from Ram Dass’s incisive observation is the need to become aware when we are feeding French Fries to our friends, colleagues and family members. See if we can catch ourselves.

Then slow down. Take a few deep breaths…

And be there.

With them.

In that moment.


Connecting on the deepest level the universe offers us.