Part II – Bhava Ram
Bhava Ram is a former network news war correspondent whose career was abruptly ended due to a broken back and failed surgery. Declared permanently disabled, he was heavily medicated and confined to a body brace. Years later came a diagnosis of stage four cancer and prognosis that survival was not possible.
On the brink of death, Ram left western medicine, detoxified from all medications and found mind/body medicine. Through the sciences of Yoga and Ayurveda, Ram healed himself and now devotes his life to helping others reclaim their inherent power to achieve profound self-healing, overcome life’s greatest challenges, find their authentic voices, and manifest their fullest potential.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody. I’m Caryn Hartglass, and we’re back. You’re listening to It’s All About Food on September 3, 2013. I’m really looking forward to this next part of the program. I want to introduce my next guest, Bhava Ram, the author of Warrior Pose. He is a former network news war correspondent whose career was abruptly ended due to a broken back and failed surgery. Declared permanently disabled, he was heavily medicated and confined to a body brace. Years later came a diagnosis of Stage IV cancer and prognosis that survival was not possible. On the brink of death, Ram left Western medicine, detoxified from all medications, and found mind/body medicine through the sciences of Yoga and Ayurveda. Ram healed himself and now devotes his life to helping others reclaim their inherent power to achieve profound self-healing, overcome life’s greatest challenges, find their authentic voices, and manifest their fullest potential. Welcome to It’s All About Food. Thank you for joining me Bhava Ram.
Bhava Ram: Oh Caryn, it is so nice to be here with you and to all of your listeners, and thank you for that nice introduction.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you. You know, I just have a brief little story I—I don’t believe there are coincidences. I believe that we are shown things, and whether we are paying attention or not we will take advantage of what has been put in front of us. And I was at the BenBella anniversary party back in May in Brooklyn, and I was there because one of their authors, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, is a friend of mine, and he had a book out. And your book was there as well. And I had a lot of books that I had taken that day from the book expo here in New York City, and I didn’t need another one. But something told me take this book. Your book was talking to me. And I took it. I took a couple actually. I gave one to my brother, and I read it. And we both really, really loved it. And just so many parts of it spoke to me, and I really wanted to talk to you. And I didn’t know how I would get you on my show. And then I realized at the end of the story you were talking about how one of the things that you did was move to a vegan diet, and I thought, “Well, there’s my food connection; now I can talk to you on this program.” But we don’t have to talk about food. We can talk about so many different things I think. So, thank you for the book.
Bhava Ram: No, thank you. Thank you very much. You know—and food is either medicine or poison according Ayurveda which is the sister science of Yoga. Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that means “the science of life.” And what you put in your body, obviously, creates your body. And if you put junk in you are going to get junk problems. And if you put wholesome, natural, organic, pure foods in your body, you are going to be much better off in just inelegantly simple logic.
Caryn Hartglass: It does make a lot of sense. And yet why is it that so many of us don’t make that connection until it’s too late or almost too late.
Bhava Ram: Well, let me give you my take on that. I believe that food is also what we allow into our minds, and that we have allowed a whole lot of junk food into our minds from the very beginning of our lives when our parents set us down in front of the television set. And we have become a victim of mass media. And we become a victim of all of this notice and all of this drama designed to mesmerize our consciousness. And then periodically punctuate it with showing us stuff that we don’t really need about which there is a lot said that isn’t true in commercial advertising. And our consciousness becomes polluted. And then we make bad decisions to eat these junk foods that are adverse on us. And the images show people vibrant and healthy and in love and with happy lives because they are having this burger and that super-sized cola drink and this other packaged garbage that is actually contributing to the epidemic of obesity and cancer and heart disease and stroke in our country. So we’ve been brainwashed is the short of it by the food that we have chosen to put into our minds through mass media. And that is another important element of healing because when you are in a state of constant mental agitation that we call stress then you will buy things to try to get out of your stress. And that is what mass media is all about. And when you are at a state of deeper presence and relaxation your immune system is energized. You are more present with your life. And you make more conscious choices in that state of mind.
Caryn Hartglass: Now the great thing about your book, Warrior Pose, and I really highly recommend it. I read a lot of books, and I don’t highly recommend them all. But this one is definitely a winner. And I think personal stories really move people the most. I just had another guest on, and we were talking about the economy and all of these billions of dollars we are wasting. And when we talk in the billions, these big numbers, it’s so overwhelming. And it’s not comprehendible. But when we hear an individual story it can be very compelling. And yours is just such an incredible story. And it is inspiring because you really went to hell and came back.
Bhava Ram: Well, I can report now as a former journalist that all of the demons that are in Dante’s Inferno happen to be real because most of them came and tore at my flesh and my soul when I went through my darkness. And I would be happy, if you’d like, to read that story.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, absolutely.
Bhava Ram: As you said in your introduction, I was a war correspondent for NBC news. My name was Brad Willis at the time. And I had worked my way up to the network through a variety of small, medium, and large market television stations across the country as they have investigative reporting. And there I was with the network. I came from a fairly middle-class background, and I was in the big leagues. And I felt a little bit intimidated and that the best thing I could do was work longer and harder than anyone else—it caused alpha-male—and that’s what I did. But I had a dark secret. In 1986, I had come out of Afghanistan where I was in the mountains with the mujahedeen freedom fighters during the Soviet occupation. And I took a very rare vacation. I went down to the Bahamas—relaxing in the sun. A big storm came up the final day. I was battening down storm windows and fell of the ledge about 12 to 15 feet and cracked the lowest vertebrae in my back. I technically had a broken back. I knew that if I got off the rocket that my career was on—there were a thousand extremely well qualified and better educated people than me waiting to take my seat on that rocket. I wasn’t about to give that up because journalism was my whole identity. It gave my life it’s meaning. And so I worked for seven years in increasing pain through drug wars in South America, revolutions in El Salvador and Nicaragua, apartheid in Africa, frontlines of the first Gulf War. And finally in 1993, when I was in charge of all Asia for NBC, I was on assignment, and that lowest vertebrae cracked and started to cut into my spinal cord. But for years during that secret I had medicated myself heavier and heavier every day—Vicodin and Valium and Prozac. And I drank harder and harder every night doing anything I could to get away from the scorching pain. And I always told myself, “Get over it. You’ve seen so much suffering around the world—wounded children in wars, innocent victims—your pain doesn’t compare to what you report on. So suck it up and move forward.” But the day it cracked open I could no longer buck it up. I was flown back to America for major back surgery. That back surgery failed, and I ended up in a body brace from my chest down to my thighs. I couldn’t sit up to eat a meal or walk without a cane. Pickled on heaver medication now, of course, and drinking even more each night because not only was I in more physical pain, but the emotional pain was something I couldn’t even face. I couldn’t even acknowledge was there because I had lost my whole identity. I’d lost what I felt was my manhood. I had no capacity to move forward to be a productive human being because I was so disabled. And I became a master over the next several years of self-pity and a master of anger and fear and blaming everything in the world and withdrawing deeper and deeper into my own personal darkness until finally a child came into my life. My little boy Morgan was born. And this was in 1997—just before Christmas. My marriage was very tenuous at the time. I don’t know how anyone could have lived with me. I certainly would have cut and run long ago, but we had this [speaking simultaneously].
Caryn Hartglass: Pain does terrible things to people.
Bhava Ram: It makes you a monster. And I confess to that. And I thought, “Well, I do have an identity. I’m going to be a daddy.” And suddenly I started to perk up a little bit. And three months later I was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer and told to write my will. It was from exposure to depleted uranium used by American forces in the first Gulf War to pierce Iraqi tanks. And, again, I was on the front lines of a lot of those piercings. I got darker and darker, and the only person in my world became that little boy. And two years later, just before the year 2000 as I was very close to my death, he came to me. And finally in his own little two-year-old way—he got it, “Daddy is a mess. He can’t even get up in any way.” And he trembled—he had little tears in his eyes. And he spoke three words to me that changed my life forever, “Get up Daddy.” And Caryn, it hit me in a place in my heart that I didn’t know I had. And for the next several weeks it was this mantra looping in my mind, “Get up Daddy.” But how? I already felt so guilty that I was leaving this little boys life with the cancer and that I was never a whole daddy to begin with. So I decided I would die with dignity—that that’s all I could do. That the drugs had made me such a monster that I had to detoxify and detoxify of all the alcohol. And very quickly, a funny aside of how the mind works, I thought it was okay I was drinking so much. Do you know why?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Bhava Ram: It was expensive wine.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, it was quality.
Bhava Ram: That’s how we can fool ourselves with that.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh gosh, yeah.
Bhava Ram: So, I went into a rehab hospital in the San Diego area where I lived and detoxed cold turkey. And over those many nights that is when all those demons of Dante’s Inferno came to me. And at the end I had no idea what I was going to do. I was truly dazed and confused and in even worse pain because I wasn’t on morphine and Vicodin and Prozac and Valium and Ritalin and blah, blah any longer. And they came to me like a lifeline and said they had just started an experimental pain clinic. They couldn’t help me with cancer, but maybe the pain. Ancient Eastern modalities with modern Western holistic methods—I didn’t understand. I said, “Yes, I’m in.” The very first day I went into biofeedback where they hooked up to electrodes to take your skin temperature, your brain waves that better out your heart rate. And they play you a guided meditation. And this voice took me to a place of relaxation that I didn’t know was possible. I had never been that relaxed in my life. And I could feel my inner chemistry change. And some lights went on inside of me. I can take charge of whatever healing capacity I might have. I have to play a role. And—.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s a great feeling actually when you realize that you are a part of it.
Bhava Ram: It’s an empowerment.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Bhava Ram: And I’ve started to move towards that. I went back to the hotel near this pain center—near this scripts hospital where I was staying. And I ordered the book of this person, Dr. Emmett Miller, a book called Deep Healing and had it Federal Expressed and began devouring it and doing all of these mind/body practices. One of the very first chapters, I felt like Dr. Miller wrote with me in mind that said, “You have to get over yourself. You have to let go of all the self-pity and the self-doubt and step up.” And that spoke to me very deeply. And I started to step up. And a month into it they started me on Yoga. I had never done Yoga in my life. The old, cynical, jaded, war correspondent would have guffawed at such an idea. And the minute I walked into the Yoga room I had the second epiphany after the “Get up Daddy.” I knew—I knew I was going to heal myself.
Caryn Hartglass: I know that feeling.
Bhava Ram: If I would have told Brad Willis, the journalist that, he would have laughed me out of the room. And I went back to the hotel, I ordered Yoga books, and I stopped everything else I was doing at the pain center and I started—except for going to the therapeutic Yoga classes and then back in my hotel room doing these practices—hours and hours and hours a day and reading and studying. But just a few weeks later the pain center closed because insurance companies wouldn’t reimburse the hospital for the patient care. One of the people in the program with me committed suicide. Two others went back to drugs. And I went home and built a yoga room in my house. And I practiced 12 to 16 hours a day—only crawling out of my cave to make my little boy breakfast. I would start at 3:00 in the morning. And then I would take him to preschool, I’d crawl back in my cave, pick him up, crawl back in my cave, and so forth. And it wasn’t just Yoga postures. Most of us think of Yoga as the postures you might do at a Yoga studio or at a spa or a gym. That is a very important part of Yoga, but it is only one of many, many aspects. My Yoga was massive fasting, visualization, meditating, looking into my soul, finding that power inside of me, pure organic veganism—I called that my organic chemotherapy.
Caryn Hartglass: I love that.
Bhava Ram: Changing my life whole and changing, as I said before, what you put into your mind as food—I eliminated all mass media from my life. I eliminated all stressful aspects. I was sort of like an animal that crawls into a cave to heal—this intuitive smitten. And two years later I was 85 pounds lighter because I had ballooned up in that body brace still eating and drinking like a war correspondent but laying on the couch all day feeling sorry for myself. And I lost 85 pounds. And I healed myself of cancer. And I still have a broken back, and I have no back pain. I still practice every day as a result of that. I’m not up at three in the morning anymore. I get up before sunrise every morning still, and moreover I feel called, as you also said in the introduction, I feel called to share this power we all have. I’m no miracle story. I am not a special person in any way. My message is that if someone is dark and confused and doped up and drunk as I was can do this—don’t tell yourself you can’t. We all have this great power. And we have this magnificent science of holistic living called Yoga and Ayurveda. It really offers a template of how to get there. So, that’s what I now devote my life to.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, I’m applauding here. Bravo. Bravo, Bhava. But I do think you’re a special person, and you have a very, very strong spirit. And as war correspondent, you brought yourself to places that most people would not go to. And you saw so many things and just went to—just put yourself in all kinds of dangerous situations, and you did it with an intense focus. So you had, I think, there was a shift somehow in your direction, but you used all of the qualities that you had to ultimately heal yourself—the intensity, the focus—once you knew what direction you had to go in. But listening to your story, the shift occurred when your son said, “Get up Daddy.” And, to me, that was love—love speaking and you let it inside you. And that was like what needed to light your candle or your fire or fuel everything to go in the direction to heal yourself.
Bhava Ram: That’s absolutely true, and love is the greatest healing medicine. It is—love is really the essence of whatever any of us might think of as our higher power. And it’s the essence of who we are at the heart level. And we’ve been disassociated from that given a very fast-paced and stressful culture as well. And coming home to that place can be miraculous. Now, I would like to add that if you are eating a whole food, plant based diet—you are being loved by Mother Earth because food is really a love story. And if we are eating the food that was made by the Divine Mother Taurus, there is a tremendous amount of love and natural life in that and natural healing as well.
Caryn Hartglass: I love that. Now, there are many, many people—most people have issues that are keeping them from being the best that they can be. Most people are filled with some sort of self-pity and self-doubt. And it is a very sad thing because it just—it’s hard—it’s hard to get out of that.
Bhava Ram: It is. It is hard to change, but when you start it and you stick with it you learn that it wasn’t as hard as you thought. I think the greatest difficulty is that most of us are fearful of failure. We fear that if we really tried to change our lives that we might not stick with it. And then where will we be? And we don’t want our self-esteem lowered even further. And so it is easier not to try. And then we can rely on a whole host of prescription medications for our acid tummies and things to help us get to sleep at night and things to help us be more romantic etcetera. And we are, again, looking to the external. And all of those things as you know have horrifying side effects. And they don’t really help us. They only mask our symptoms. But when we do take charge of our lives we become empowered. And anyone that is listening to our conversation right now that is in that type of a place, my message is take little steps—loving little steps—because each little step can lead to a small victory. Rather than trying to change everything radically all at once and setting ourselves up for failure and lowered self-esteem again, one little step at a time because healing happens organically and over time. And the other point I’d make is believe in yourself because you do have the power. I’ve had the privilege now of working with, literally, thousands of students and private clients. And I have seen people facing incredibly overwhelming odds against them—psychologically, emotionally, physically, overcome them through these sciences of Yoga and Ayurveda with the proper guidance who have come to, what I call, own their power and live their truth. We all have it. It’s there. We just need help getting there, and we need to have some faith in ourselves. And a power symbol like my little boy and “Get up Daddy” really helps. And I think everyone in their life has someone or something that inspires them to be greater than they are.
Caryn Hartglass: I really believe that. And I thank you for writing this book and for all of the work that you are doing now. So many people need help, but we do need to make the changes ourselves, but it is certainly helpful to have places to go to guide us and get us on the right path.
Bhava Ram: It is. And we all have to remember that to be that person that your soul is calling you to be, you have to change the person you are right now. To be that person you have to change who you are.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, that’s what—when people say, “Let go,” you have to let go of the part that is holding you back.
Bhava Ram: It’s a let go of what’s not working for you. One of the images I like to use is that so many of us are like someone in the desert dragging a ball and chain around one leg through the desert and the sweating and straining and groaning and absolutely miserable, and then the little sage walks up and says, “Excuse me, why are you dragging that ball and chain through the desert of your life?” And the person says, “Well, because it is mine, and it’s locked on my leg. And I have to get somewhere, and so I am pulling it along. And it is hard. And don’t bother me.” And the little sage says, “But, excuse me, it isn’t locked. You can take it off.” And truly, whatever is holding you down—.
Caryn Hartglass: Isn’t locked.
Bhava Ram: Isn’t locked.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Bhava Ram: You can let it go. If it was a splinter in your finger you would pull it out immediately. But how often do we old onto old dramas and create new dramas that just pierce our heart and cause us pain and we don’t pluck it out or let it go? Well, you can let it go.
Caryn Hartglass: There you go—you can.
Bhava Ram: And sometimes you might have to let it go again and again and again, every day, a hundred times a day, but stay with it, and it will work.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, thank you for joining me in this half hour. I know most people have issues. And if you need inspiration to solve your problems, Warrior Pose is a great read, and you will be inspired and given a path to follow to heal yourself. It is really a great, great story. And I am so glad that you had a happy ending.
Bhava Ram: I’m glad to be alive, and I’m glad to be on your show. Thank you so much for having me.
Caryn Hartglass: Thank you. All the best. I’m Caryn Hartglass. That’s the end of the show It’s All About Food. Visit me at ResponsibleEatingAndLiving.com. That’s my website. And remember, have a delicious week. Bye.
Transcribed by: Maggie Christiansen, 9/29/2013, www.transcriptsforyou.com