The past few months have been extremely busy with the day-to-day tasks of setting up the new house and taking care of my family. My routine suffered and my meditation dwindled; I felt suffocated in the mundane reality and needed to touch a deeper part of myself that temporarily got covered up. I decided to give myself a real gift, a weeklong private retreat in Maui with one of my main spiritual teachers, Ram Dass.
Every day of the retreat, Ram Dass would come to my room and we would share the most profound connection. I noticed a difference from when we met a year ago: his communication was becoming increasingly nonverbal. Last year, I felt we mostly exchanged ideas; this year, I received a soul-to-soul transmission. He would simply look around for five minutes—at the wall, the ceiling, the trees outside.
“Are you teaching me to look at everything with love?” I asked him. “Yes, he answered smiling, as he continued looking around.
Finally, he elaborated on his inner journey: “First you say, ‘I am loving awareness,’ then you drop the ‘I’ and just say ‘loving awareness,’ then you stop saying anything and just feel loving, and finally, you become love.”
Ram Dass gave me so much loving guidance while we were together on that retreat, and I wanted to pay him back for his kindness. The best way I know to do that is to offer food cooked with love. Anything offered with love is pure medicine, as he has taught me. This lesson is from his guru, Maharaji, who used to say, “Love people, feed people.” “I feed people with my books and lectures,” he once shared with me.
One day during the retreat, I decided to take the Maharaji lesson literally and love and feed people. I turned the kitchen upside down. I chopped vegetables while four pots simmered and the Vitamix spun like crazy.
Ram Dass was the first to arrive for dinner. He was nicely dressed as if going to a fancy dinner. My heart beat fast when I thought about how much I loved him and how much I wanted to share my love for him. I felt my own energy elevate and expand and pour right into what I prepared.
After the rest of the guests arrived, I served the first course. It was three multicolored heirloom tomatoes with avocado and shaved cucumber adorned with purple pansy petals and radish micro greens. Honey-mustard dressing glistened in small drops all over the dish. Ram Dass asked as he eyed the pansy petals, “Are they edible?” “Of course, not!” I answered mischievously. “They are just here for decoration. Totally poisonous.” He looked puzzled for a split second, but then his face widened into a smile. He raised his finger at me, “You, you,” he said, as if trying to chastise me. Everybody at the table enjoyed a good laugh.
Next course, a piece of a daikon root carved into the shape of a lotus with umeboshi plum paste in its center and served with dashi broth. As I poured the warm broth over the daikon, the pre-sliced pieces opened up like a beautiful flower floating in the middle of this light broth.
Ram Dass was very quiet while eating the “lotus.” Occasionally, I would hear, “Yum, this dish is particularly good. Yum, yum, yum!”
He turned to me and said, “Anya, this is very good.” “Thank you, Ram Dass,” I said, “I made it with love.” “I know,” he answered, “I can taste it.”
The main dish was brown rice noodles with a freshly made Thai green curry of mixed vegetables and tofu simmered with coconut milk. I asked everyone at the table how much of the main dish they would like. “I want a lot,” Ram Dass said, accenting “a lot.” “I want as much as he is having,” said his friend, “And I want to have double of what they are having,” exclaimed the young and vibrant man who helps Ram Dass around his house.
“I love you guys!” I exclaimed. “The more you eat, the more I love you.” I placed noodles in deep green bowls and poured colorful curried vegetables over it. I placed a bright orange nasturtium flower in the middle of the dish, which made it look like a mandala.
For the next 10 minutes, the table was silent except for slurping and chewing noises. “I can taste the love,” Ram Dass said. “Me too,” his friend agreed. I felt so much love watching everyone at the table.
Then, it was time for dessert. I knew Ram Dass has issues with his blood sugar, so I made a small and not too sweet dessert. Freshly made passion fruit sorbet with litchi and blood orange slices. He looked a bit disappointed when his small, clean bowl was cleared.
There was a silence at the table after we finished eating. It was not the uncomfortable silence like when you don’t know what to say but a very warm and intimate silence like when you can feel each other’s thoughts. Five minutes later, everyone at the table started laughing. “Do you feel it?” I asked Ram Dass. “Feel what?” he responded. “The prabhav,” I said. “The unexplained aftereffect of the food.” “Is that what it is? I feel it!” he exclaimed, his blue eyes shining brightly. I explained further, “It’s the aftereffect of digesting the love in the food. Now, it’s going to all your cells, intoxicating each one.”
I can still feel the long-lasting prabhav of our dinner and the whole retreat. The prabhav is increased love and a deeper connection to my soul. The magic of what Ram Dass was feeding me was not his mind-blowing wise words but was instead his ability to live in his soul. Being with him was like looking at the soul’s mirror, where I can magically see myself and everyone around me as merely souls. The prabhav of the retreat was that it stripped away layers of ego-driven self and I got to see what was always there—a light and effervescent joy of simply being, cooking, and loving.