“Remember: Be Here Now”
For some of our generation, coming of age during the 1960’s and into the mid ‘70‘s created huge shifts in our thinking and our way of life. We chose to do things differently than our parents, rejecting the values of their more traditional culture. We were a part, in some measure, of what became known as the counterculture, challenging nearly every aspect of American life ... the inequality of women and African Americans, and the war in Viet Nam We let our hair grow long and danced with abandonment to rock and roll music. We experimented with drugs (particularly marijuana and psychedelics) and explored free love.
All these “revolutionary” changes made an impact on our generation, whether viewed from afar or deeply immersed in that era of transformation. When the Beatles, at the height of their popularity in1968 traveled to India to find something all their fame and fortune could not give them, like peace of mind, we took note and this too influenced our way of thinking about what was important.
Recently, I was reminded of those turbulent times when I listened to Clara Bingham, author of “Witness to the Revolution” as she chronicled all that happened in just one year, the period between August 1969 and September 1970. She shared in great detail much of the political history, brought forth through interviews, research and “being there” as a witness. You may recall some of the highlights of that year....the trial of the Chicago Eight, the My Lai massacre, the first efforts to publish the Pentagon Papers, the Altamonte festival. Also to be remembered was the rise of the Weather Underground. the invasion of Cambodia, Kent State, and the bombing of the Army Math Research Center in Madison, Wis.
And then there was Woodstock. It was one big year, for sure.
At the end of her hour-long lecture, Clara Bingham mentioned that, obviously, not everyone was part of the radical political movement. Instead some of us were making our own political statement by changing our lives, mostly through the influences of Eastern philosophy and humanistic psychology.
I was first exposed to my teacher, Ram Dass, soon after he returned from India. Formerly known as Dr. Richard Alpert, he had been an esteemed professor of psychology who, with his good friend Timothy Leary, was fired from Harvard University for their research projects involving psychedelic drugs. in 1967 the now unemployed Alpert traveled to India where he ultimately met the man who would become his guru, Neem Karoli Baba.
Through listening to the Ram Dass’ audio tapes and seeing him several times in Boston, I learned of his life-altering spiritual transformation. In 1971 he first published “Remember: Be Here Now”. The book sold for a mere $3.33, with some of the proceeds going to charity. Although the price has gone up a bit, it is still in print, having sold over 2 million copies. “Remember Be here Now” has been called the “counterculture bible” and seminal to the era, but to this day it continues to influence spiritual seekers of all ages.
Whether seen as “a bible,” or merely an interesting look at what “the hippies” were about, the message (forty-five years later), is still relevant for boomers and those beyond. However, anyone who is curious and wanting to explore the secrets of the East, and a yogic way of life, will find much of value in the book.
As the name implies, be here now is about being present and in the moment, rather than in reliving the past or jumping into the future, or doing too many things at one time. Our aging boomer generation especially needs to be mindful and aware of where the body is in space, so we can stay balanced and on our feet. Part of continuing to grow and evolve into the best version of our selves requires we stay conscious of our thoughts, of our feelings, our words and our deeds. But, also there are the more mundane and practical reasons for mindfulness... like remembering, where oh where did we put those keys?