Academics at Fort Lewis College

From social work to soul work: Alumnus grows from aiding aging spiritual teacher

From social work to soul work: Alumnus grows from aiding aging spiritual teacher

When Lucian Davis set out to major in Sociology at Fort Lewis College, he had no idea that his path would lead to caring for his lifelong hero. But thanks to an extended line of heartfelt connections, that’s exactly what Davis (Sociology & Human Services, ’13) is doing now.

Davis works as a caregiver in Maui. He explains that his work is comparable in many ways to any other caregiver’s. “I live in this house with my guy,” he says. “The heart of the job is physical assistance. Other than that, it’s facilitating the happenings of his life. Taking care of the land here. Taking care of guests. He’s a spiritual celebrity, so people come to visit.”

That last part is where Davis’ role is unique and uniquely meaningful: He works with Ram Dass, the American spiritual teacher who wrote the renowned and influential 1971 book Be Here Now.

“Ram Dass was a hero of mine growing up,” says Davis. “He lives his life in a way that I admire.”

Ram Dass, born Richard Alpert, started his career in academia before traveling to India in the late 1960s. There, he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba. It was this guru who gave him the name Ram Dass, which means “servant of God.” He has written more than a dozen books, most of which explore spiritual methods and practices.

In 1997, Ram Dass experienced a near-fatal stroke. This event paralyzed the right side of his body and left him with expressive aphasia, which limits his ability to speak. Now 85, he continues to offer teachings online as well as bi-annual retreats—and Davis’s daily work helps enable that continued inspiration.

A fortuitous chain of events led Davis to this position. His mother moved to Maui, and during his breaks from FLC, he attended a Sufi camp on the island. There, he befriended a young man who was then caring for none other than Ram Dass.

“It totally blew me away that he worked with Ram Dass,” Davis recalls. “I said to him, if you ever need somebody else out there, I would love to do that.”

Over the next three years, Davis graduated from FLC and worked as a guide with Open Sky Wilderness Therapy in Durango, assisting young adults struggling with difficult challenges and life circumstances.

Then his friend left his caregiver position with Ram Dass in 2015, and he brought Davis into the role. For him, the transition to life in Hawaii was simple. He already had a network of friends and family on Maui, and he was familiar with the island from his regular visits. “It was easy like that,” Davis says.

The rest, as they say, is history—although to Davis, it is less history and more the current point on his lifelong path.

Working with Ram Dass has altered how he understands the trajectory of his life and his career.

“It’s made the boundary between the career path and spiritual path invisible,” Davis explains. “There really is only one path, and it’s not actually possible not to be on the path. There’s times here when I’m frustrated, or I’m having a bad day, and I’m sick, and finding balance is my hard work. Here I am, living in an ashram, living in a temple, and it is spiritual. Right now, my career path is my spiritual path.”

Working with Ram Dass is not only spiritual for Davis; it offers him more grounded growth, as well. “The word I would use is demystifying,” he says. “To live with somebody in the field of mystical understanding and to work inside the engine and see how it’s oiled, how it runs, and how it doesn’t run, makes him more human and more accessible. He’s just a normal person.”

The work is clearly meaningful on both mystical and mundane levels. Yet Davis also acknowledges that working for a high-profile person, who receives high-profile visitors, comes with its own professional pressures.

“The standards are high, for sure,” he says. “People have these incredible, beautiful experiences here, and I have to be able to integrate with that vibration as I’m doing things like making tea for them, or doing the dishes, or cleaning the carpets.”

Ultimately, Davis is able to excel at all the facets of his work because of his understanding of the human element. He credits some of this understanding to his time at FLC, particularly the relationships he built with his professors.

“Some relationships transcend the boundaries of the student-teacher roles,” he says. “Being a student wasn’t really what was important. What was more important was the fact that I was a person. And their being a teacher wasn’t as important as them being a person.”

“On a deeper level,” Davis says, “what’s most rewarding is developing a relationship with God, or with mystery, or myself—an encouraged relationship of development with the greater purpose of things, of being. On this path, that comes through developing a relationship from my heart.”

He carried this ability to connect as humans into his service-oriented time at Open Sky and caregiving in Hawaii. He says his primary purpose is to meet other people where they are as individuals.

“Showing up. That’s the work of life,” he says. “What quality do I want to show up with?”

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