A Complete Guide to the Practice o Meditation

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Ram Dass made his mark on the world by teaching the path of the heart and promoting service in the areas of social consciousness and care for the dying. When Ram Dass first went to India in 1967, he was still Dr. Richard Alpert, an eminent Harvard psychologist and psychedelic pioneer with Dr.Timothy Leary. In India, he met his guru, Neem Karoli Ba...ba, affectionately known as Maharajji, who gave Ram Dass his name, which means "servant of God." On his return from India Ram Dass became a pivotal influence in our culture with the publication of “Be Here Now”. In fact those words have become a catch phrase in people’s lives for the last 40 years. With the publication in 2011 of “Be Love Now” Ram Dass completed his trilogy that began with “Be Here Now” in 1970 and continued with “Still Here” in 2004. His newest book is “Polishing The Mirror: How to Live From Your Spiritual Heart.” Ram Dass now makes his home in Maui and teaches world wide through his website RamDass.org and continues the work of Neem Karoli Baba through the Love Serve Remember Foundation. More

How can we hold onto our identities more lightly?

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When you take birth, you are extremely vulnerable. You’re at the whim of all the forces around you, so what you develop through socialization are techniques for your own survival as a separate entity. That survival comes from creating boundaries so that you don’t just get wiped out. Those boundaries as a little person, as a child, are enlarged by being a member of your family, where you have allies, and are now a part of a group. It becomes, “I have people that are gonna help me. We’ve agreed to help one another.” You know, not all the time, but I’m thinking more in physical proximity than in a psychological sense.


So we grow up feeling that our identity groups gives us power, while it’s also securing our separateness. You can see this within the bigger system of nation-states where there are these huge egos. What’s very interesting historically at the moment we’re living in, is that the sometimes multicultural economic structures are becoming more powerful than the nation-states. The nation-states are in deep doodoo economically, and the industries are doing great. So that the reference to, “I am an American,” while it’s great, is no longer absolute salvation for you, because there’s a whole other ball game playing here.


Now, the more insecure people get, the more they’re frightened by existing conditions.

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How can we use our expanding set of opportunities in society to awaken?

How can we use our expanding set of opportunities in society to awaken?

You have been given a great luxury in this society. You don’t have a fixed identity that you’re locked into, because of caste or because of economics or because of anything. You’re free to ask the question, “What do I want to do?” At first, what people do is they say, “Oh, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna…” and then after a while, you realize that perhaps what the game is about is listening and tuning into who you are on a deeper level, and what this birth is about, and your work of life.

Most people in most societies in the history of the world have never had that option to ask, “What do I want to do?” They’ve gone through their life with the feeling of, “If only I didn’t have this, I could be free.” Then you are free, and now it has to come from a different place in you…how to find the way in your life and you go through the period of, “What do I want? What do I desire?” and then you begin to see the kind of hollowness of it. It doesn’t quite resonate deeply enough in your being.

A lot of very wealthy people in this society, that’s where they live; desperately wanting to have something that will justify their existence.

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What is required in our spiritual journey besides the desire to open?

What is required in our spiritual journey besides the desire to open?

I was raised by a Jewish middle class woman, my mother, who was very busy being just that, very concerned with propriety, and the appropriate food and the way to raise her children and I reacted as an appropriately neurotic Jewish son. And then my mother died and I met my guru, Maharaji. He spoke about my mother and he said, “You know, she’s a great saint.” At the moment that he said that, my entire conception of her shifted and I saw the few moments when she and I had met as spiritual entities, and suddenly the whole way we had interacted as mother and son in this particular round fell into the background, a reversal.

Your daily life is full of this and that, it’s full of pulls and pushes, it’s full of clinging of mind. You are literally at the mercy of your senses and your thoughts. And those senses and thoughts just keep recreating your mold or model or view of the reality.


It keeps reassuring you that you’ve got it all pegged, that’s just the way it is. But every one of you had moments when you broke through, as if you stuck your nose through the veil and you saw that wasn’t who you were at all. But then because most of you had no context in which to put it, you pulled back out of fear. You reassured yourself that the world was the way it was and you referred to those experiences as hallucinations, “I went crazy, it was far out,” as something discontinuous with your daily life.

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How can we use our hearts as agents for social change?

How can we use our hearts as agents for social change?

In the beginning, when I used to sit by the bed of dying AIDS patients, I’d come to their door in my usual, “Aren’t I holy” disguise to see this person. I was visiting the moribund, you know, but then I realized that I was depriving them of what human hearts can do for one another. So then I became like Superman going into the telephone booth as I grasped the doorknob of their room, galumphing along. Now when I put my hand on their doorknob I immediately become a soul. I start to shift my identity, or perspective in myself, into the soul.

You see, I have learned that you can’t see a soul until you can be one.

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How do you free up your consciousness for people who are suffering?

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People ask me now, “Are you happy these days?” and I say, “Yes, I am. I’m very happy,” and they say, “Oh, that’s good.” Somebody else says, “Are you sad these days?” and I say, “Yeah, I’m sad.” That was a very big one to find out, cause I grew up in a world where in order to be happy, you had to make believe you weren’t sad.

It was a great relief to understand that all the emotions are present in every moment, and somehow they’re present in their unmanifest or imminent form; and then within a moment is something that awakens grief or pain or joy, or preciousness, or humor… you’re just dancing through all the forms of life, and what I saw was that as long as I had aversions, I couldn’t be free, and until I could be free, I couldn’t see anybody else.

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How do you align with your true identity?

How do you align with your true identity?

It was a great moment when I was thrown out of Harvard in 1963. I was the first professor from Harvard in 6,000 years or whatever to have it happen, so I was a really bad guy. I was on the front page of The New York Times. That was good.

So I found myself at a press conference and all the reporters and television people were there to interview me. I felt like a fighter who had just lost the ‘big fight,’ and was now going to sweep the gym for the rest of his life, and they were sort of bidding me goodbye, a fond adieu after having battled Goliath, you know. The problem was that as I stood before the cameras I thought, “I won, I’m right.” That thought was immediately followed by the thinking that that was a psychotic thought. Even I saw the diagnostic categories. When you think something is real that nobody else thinks. The next thought was, “Well, so be it,” because for me to have denied what it was that I had experienced would have left me with a life of total hypocrisy with myself.

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What is an effective process for dealing with the mechanics of your mind?

dealing with the mechanics of your mind

At any time you can look at a thought form and get involved in the content of the thought. In therapy you start to get psycho-dynamic. You can say, “Ok, now I’m gonna look at the mechanics of my mind,” in which case every thought is just another thought. It’s not some special thought or the deepest thought. So I would take the kind of internalized feeling and thought, and I would bring my awareness back to my breath, and then the thought would come again, and I would go back to my breath, and then the thought would come again, and again I would come back to my breath, until eventually I started to appreciate it as just another thought, because at this point I am treating it like that, rather than like it is ‘real’ or ‘solid.’

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Why is it so important to come to terms with aging?

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I remember when I became irrelevant.


I mean, you can walk down certain streets in any city and you’re either a potential, a competitor, or irrelevant. I became a walking lamp post after awhile. It was incredible because people look right through you, they don’t even see you. At first I got all uptight about it and I’d wear my hair spread all over my head and do all these things. Get tighter suits and diet and everything so I’d be somebody, but then it’s a new moment, and you realize that’s the way it is.

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What are some techniques for finding freedom within ourselves?

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I view spiritual practice as the freeing of awareness from identification with anything. That’s a spiritual practice. How that is done is through a wide variety of means. It can be done, for example, in the heart through a devotional practice. In other words, I can bring my mind through to love using some icon, or some being, or some person, and loving it so thoroughly that it frees the mind from all the rest of the stuff. Then I can go into that love so deeply, that I go into the formless love. I go through form into formlessness, and I come to that place of free awareness through love.


For example, I use mala prayer beads. This is a technique for reminding me that you and I are only relatively real. I’m keeping another plane of reality going simultaneously to remind me of the formlessness inherent in the form. In other words, I’m doing a practice while I’m talking to you.


Now the whole idea of a meditative practice is the process of very simply extricating awareness from the identification with thought and sensation.

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What are the implications of labeling our sexual orientations?

What are the implications of labeling our sexual orientations?

I grew up in a time where I was a closet homosexual. That was what I called myself. I had a girlfriend, and I did the whole double life thing.


I was a psychotherapist in the University Health Services, and they began to see that I was quite successful with people that were easily confused about sexual identity. So pretty soon, they gave me all the homosexual cases. They had no idea about my sexual orientation. I mean, this is in the therapeutic counsel, and at one point a young man who I had met, and who was staying at my apartment, I loaned him my car for the day, which was a rather distinctive car.

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How do we address the lack of environmental awareness?

How do we address the lack of environmental awareness?

Someone asked me if the earth will still be habitable when their three year-old grows up, and is that a part of the cosmic perfection?

More than ever we are awakening to being an integral part of earth’s ecosystem. As inhabitants of this planet we have some responsibility for the nest we live in and maintaining the nest. The same way we clean up our house, we also have to clean up our environment.

Environmental consciousness seems to be happening too slowly. Some people are motivated to keep it from happening. There are economic costs in that awakening — not in the long run, but in the short run – in ways that cause realignment of economic power. People who have that power have a lot of inertia, they want to hold onto it. A company like General Electric may not be ready for dramatic shifts unless they are forced into it because it may change their stockholder dividend.

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What are some tools we can use for positive transformation?

Ram-Dass-What-are-tools-for-positive-transformation

The tools for positive transformation that I’m most aware of are the nature of the human mind, and the nature of the human heart… the quietness of mind and the ability to sit in a place where you’re not in a reactive mode.


In the old days kings used to have elders that didn’t have a line to power, but they would be there, as they were, to keep the space, or keep the vision. There’s just none of that now in the political environment. Talking to my friends in the political world, there’s nobody that’s not reactive, or rather there’s nobody that’s responsive rather than reactive.


Part of what I’ve done is a book on conscious aging, which had to do with the role of elders in a society. This role is known well in Native American cultures. It’s known in many indigenous cultures and other historical cultures. However, because our technology has moved so fast, and we are so focused on knowledge as opposed to wisdom, people become obsolete very quickly. And that obsolescence is throwing out a resource that the society needs. We end up missing the whole model of what to value. It takes an older person to accept the fact that they have a unique curriculum, because our society says that the older person who is valued, is the one that has stayed young. See, because youth is such a focus of the society.


So part of what I see as tools for transformation have to do with honoring what you are as an instrument for transformation – and that has to do with the mind and the heart and the skills.

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How do we optimize our connections to ourselves and to the world?

Ram-Dass-Connections-to-world

I’ve been asked many times whether this is the aquarian age and it’s all just beginning, or if this is armageddon and this is the end, and I have to admit I don’t know.


The way I’ve usually copped out in dealing with it is saying, “Whichever way it goes, my work is the same. My work is to quiet my mind and open my heart and relieve suffering wherever I find it.” That seems to be what my life is about, and it doesn’t matter which it is- it’s the beginning of everything or the end of everything – regardless, that’s still what I gotta do.


I prepare for death… and so from a spiritual point of view, from the point of view of our spiritual evolution, and depending on which way the karma is going to go for the humanity on earth – it’s grist for the mill.

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What is the importance of respecting each other’s differences?

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Back in the early 70’s my audiences were all between 15 and 25 years old. They wore white, they all had flowers in their hair, and they all smiled a lot, and we would meet so that we could review the maps for our inner journeys.


So one night I was lecturing to my constituents, and in the front row was a women about 70 years old with a hat with strawberries and cherries on it. She had a black patent leather bag and a print dress and solid black oxford shoes. I looked at her and thought, “This is not an ‘acid head’, what is she doing here?” I figured somebody brought her for some reason and how bizarre. I started to talk, and talk about these very far out places of the mind and everywhere I went, she’d be going like this (nodding), and I got absolutely obsessed with her, you know. I tried saying different things, and she’d be going along.

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What if we could view death as just another stage of life?

RamDass_deathasstageoflife

My mother died in very early February of 1967, and I was at her hospital bedside. I had been sitting there quietly while she was sort of resting, I was just being spacious and aware, and noticing what was happening. As the relatives, doctors, and nurses came into the hospital room, one woman came in and said, “The doctors just told me there’s a new medication that we think will help,” and I just listened to the cheery tone of the nurse, realizing my mother was being surrounded by a conspiracy of denial.


At one point after this, when nobody was in the room, my mother turned to me and she said, “Rich, I think I’m gonna die,” and I said, “Yeah, I think so too.”

Can you imagine what that must have been for her to have somebody just affirming what she knew, but couldn’t get anybody in the whole situation to validate for her?


She asked, “What do you think it’s gonna be like, Rich?”

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“If you think you are free, you can’t escape…”

RamDass_Escape

You realize as you start to come into awareness that you are experiencing other things as if you are them, rather than in a dualistic way, as if you are separate from them. Prior to experiencing that plane of existence, when you’re still seeing it as separate, you experience things like sympathy, kindness, pity, caring, however these are all dualistic concepts, and the term compassion is something else all together.


The term compassion manifests when you come to the plane where you see everything is all part of one thing. You start to ask, “Well whose suffering is it anyway? Whose helping is it anyway?” And the whole idea that, “I’ll help you,” is seen as nonsense. It’s like the left hand is caught, and the right hand pulls it out and the left hand turns to the right and says, “Thank you!” It doesn’t work that way, because they’re both part of the same body. Who are you thanking? You’re thanking yourself, so that on that plane, you realize it’s not ‘her’ suffering, or ‘his’ suffering, or ‘their’ suffering. It’s one level, you go up, and it’s ‘OUR’ suffering.

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What is the power of the breath?

What is the power of the breath?

The idea behind following the breath is that you have this web of thoughts which you are working with at the same time. They are these models that underlie our behavior and there is also the “stuff” of our experience. What this technique does is to take one thought and ask your awareness to stay with that thought, and thus extricate yourself from identification with all the other thoughts. It’s very simple.

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How does your reaction to change affect your life experience?

How does your reaction to change affect your life experience?

At this moment, you and I are living in an information age. We are living through shifts in the meta-structures of the game that are very profound. We haven’t even begun to grow into it.

Our mythology is so based on our previous ages and consciousness, that we haven’t even understood it yet. I mean, we’re just beginning the dance of understanding what it means when we have a collective unconsciousness, when we have information moving at the rate it is. We’re still getting overloaded trying to collect it. But it’s obvious – you can’t collect it.

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How do you honor your identity as a member of an ecosystem?

How do you honor your identity as a member of an ecosystem?

The quieter you become inside, the more you will pull back a little and remove yourself from the reactive mode that you are in. We all are in reactive modes with each other; I mean, we all have these incredible stories to play out. The quieter we become inside, the more we get established in that witness or the soul.


As you develop this quiet place inside from which you see the unfolding of your life story, you begin to understand how your ego identity is made up of your participation in the web, in a kind of horizontal web that involves your roles and all of your reference groups. They help define your identity.

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Why does spiritual awakening require a shift in our priorities?

Why does spiritual awakening require a shift in our priorities?

Fear is what excites the adrenaline. Just look at the daily news. Look at what’s on it. Look at what’s there. Love doesn’t sell, no matter how hard you try. It doesn’t sell. People can’t slow down enough to taste it. Folks go out and see the stars and it slows you down but how many times do you even do that? How many times do you go in and turn on the lights and you turn on the television or turn on something instead?


You turn on, and you tune in, and you drop out, but what you drop out of is the deeper truth and drop into a linear storyline.


Now if you see the nature of this metaphysics that we’re talking about, about ego and the different levels of self.. Ego, and soul, and awareness, or god, or whatever… If you see those then you begin to see what the nature of your curriculum as a soul is, that having taken birth on earth, the work is to awaken out of the karmic illusions that you keep creating, and you draw your awareness back through whatever practices you use to do that.

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30 Simple Ways to Create Balance and Connection

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