At this time of year, everyone seems to be thinking about Christmas gifts. Today I am thinking about the real gifts we are offered, should we choose to take them.

My beloved teacher, and latterly friend and soul brother, Ram Dass died yesterday. I am sad that I will never see him in the flesh again, but glad that he is freed from the constraints of his body and his soul is soaring.

He lives in my heart and in my way of being in the world, as he does for many others, because he showered us with gifts. These are the most valuable gifts we are given: the example of how to live life well, how to care for others, how to be compassionate, how to be a real human being and not pretend. Above all he showed every day in every way how to love.

Ram Dass was a storyteller, using stories from his life to remind us of the necessary fallibility of being human, and the possibility of truly loving without prejudice. He was also a constant living example of what that means in practice.

I remember one time he told me that he loved his mug of tea, his wheelchair, and me. I laughed and said I didn’t think I could love a mug as much as him – and he said, ‘And when you do, you will really have got love. It is universal, not particular.’

He was a teacher who had a great sense of humour – he loved teasing and being teased, and enjoyed the thought of being a rascal. Life was too important to be taken seriously, to paraphrase a friend of his! It was fun to be around him and he appreciated those who would laugh with him.

And above all he was a human being – being here and now, always present with you, with whatever was going on. He taught me so much about how to be, and that will live on, in me, in others. I don’t need any other gifts – thank you, my beloved Ram Dass…

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