Tag Archives: agape

“be love now” by ram dass – annoying or enlightening?

be love now is ram dass’s newest book.  it will be misunderstood by many.  in fact, it – or at least ram dass himself – already has been misunderstood.  “ram dass is a superb writer,” the san francisco chronicle says.  calling ram dass a superb writer is like praising the world’s most lovingly raised organic carrots for their orangeness.  for sure, it’s one characteristic but it’s not the one that’s most important or even relevant.

a characteristic of this book that stands out is how much ram dass talks about his guru, maharaj-ji.  the title of the book is “be love now – the path of the heart.”  so why does ram dass go on and on (and ON!) about his guru?  he mentions i don’t know how many times how his guru was able to read his mind or when he did or didn’t manage to see maharaj-ji in person.  and all those references to indian deities – ram, arjun, and for goodness sake, hanuman the monkey devotee.  this is all very faraway and weird-like stuff.  who in the west really wants to have a guru?  of course there are all these people who are called gurus, or like to call themselves gurus.  “the blogging guru” or “the guru of golf”, etc.  this doesn’t really make the idea of a guru more appealing.

and then …

… then there is all the love that shines through this book, the deep, caring, overarching, limitless love that emanates from ram dass.  if we let this work on us, then everything suddenly has a different meaning.  the going on and on stops being annoying and begins to take on the ever-deepening quality of repeating a mantra or saying the rosary.

like the st. john of the cross that i mentioned last week, ram dass is a mystic, a person who “dwells in the love of god.”  (please, let’s take “god” in the widest sense here.)  this dwelling might be one that we have consciously experienced here and there as a short vacation destination, but most of us do not call it our home (and let’s add a comforting “yet”.)  that means that many of the perspectives are unknown or at least unfamiliar – often uncomfortable – for us.  as a point in fact, i had help writing this article by having someone read the passage below to me for easier typing.  there was much sighing and eye-rolling and sarcastic intonation.

from this strange abode of dwelling in the love of god, ram dass says

i am loving awareness

i have a practice in which i say to myself, “i am loving awareness.”  to begin, i focus my attention in the muddle of my chest, on the heart-mind.  i may take a few deep breaths into my diaphragm to help me identify with it.  i breathe in love and breathe out love.  i watch of all the thoughts the create the stuff of my mind, and i love everything, everything i can be aware of.  i just love, just love, just love.

i love you.  no matter how rotten you are, i love you because you are part of the manifestation of god.  in that heart-mind i’m not richard alpert, i’m not ram dass – those are both roles.  i look at those roles from the deeper “i”.  in the heart-mind i’m not identified with my roles.  they’re like costumes or uniforms (^^^) hanging in my closet.  “i am a reader,” “i am a father,” “i am a yogi,” i am a man,” “i am a driver” – those are all roles.

all i am is loving awareness.  I AM LOVING AWARENESS.  it means that wherever i look, anything that touches my awareness will be loved by me.  that loving awareness is the most fundamental “i”.  loving awareness witnesses the incarnation from a place of consciousness different from the plane that we live on as egos, though it completely contains and interpenetrates everyday experiences.

when i wake up in the morning, i’m aware of the air, the fan on my ceiling, i’ve got to love them,  I AM LOVING AWARENESS.  but if i’m an ego, i’m judging everything as it relates to my own survival.  the air might give me a cold that might turn into pneumonia.  i’m always afraid of something in the world that i have to defend myself against.  if i’m identified with my ego, the ego is frightened silly because the ego knows that it is going to end at death.  but if i merge with love, there is nothing to be afraid of.  love neutralizes fear.

awareness and love, loving awareness, is the soul.  this practice of “i am loving awareness” turns you inward toward the soul.  if you dive deep enough into your soul, you will come to god.  in greek, it’s called agape, god love.  martin luther king jr said about agape, this higher love: “it’s an overflowing love which is pure, spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative.  the love of god operating in a human condition.”

it’s the love maharaj-ji spreads around, the unconditional love.  he loves you just because, just because.  spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless. he’s not going to love you because you are an achiever or a devotee, or a yogi, or because you’re on the path.  he loves you just because.  can you accept it?  can you accept unconditional love?

when you can accept that kind of love, you can give that love.  you can give love to all you perceive, all the time.  i am loving awareness. you can be aware of your eyes seeing, your ears hearing, your skin feeling, and your mind producing thoughts, thought after thought after thought.  thoughts are terribly seductive, but you don’t have to identify with them.  you identify not with the thoughts, but with the awareness of the thoughts.  to bring loving awareness to everything you turn your awareness to is love.  this moment is love.  i am loving awareness.

if you put out love, then you immerse yourself in a sea of love.  you don’t put out love in order to get back love.  it’s not a transaction.  you just become a beacon of love for those around you.  that’s what maharaj-ji is.  then from the moment you wake to the moment you go to sleep, and maybe in dreams, too, you’re in a loving environment.

try using i’m loving awareness to become aware of your thought forms and to practice not identifying with them.  then you can identify with your soul, not your fears or anxieties.  once you identify with your spiritual being, you can’t help but be love.

it’s simple.  i start with the fact that i am aware, and then i love everything.  but that’s all in the mind, that’s a thought, and loving awareness is not a thought.  or if it is a thought, it’s pointing to a place that’s not a thought.  it’s pointing at a state of being, the way the concept of emptiness is pointing at emptiness, which is really fullness.

souls love.  that’s what souls do.  egos don’t, but souls do.  become a soul, look around, you’ll be amazed – all the beings around you are souls.  be one, see one.

when many people have this heart connection, then we will know that we are all one, we human beings all over the planet.  we will be one.  one love.

and don’t leave out the animals, and trees, and clouds, and galaxies – it’s all one.  it’s one energy.  it comes through in individual ways, but it’s one energy.  you can call it energy, or you can call it love.  i like to look at a tree and see that it’s love, don’t you?

mental health camp today!

these are my opening remarks for mental health camp today. if you’re on twitter, you can follow the conference via the hashtag #mhcyvr10.

this is a conference that was conceived and organized in love, excitement and harmony. while we talk about stigma and silence, what is much more interesting to us is to move forward and make the world a better place.

i’m an old hippie, so i have a constitutional right to talk about love and peace and harmony.

to us, mental health camp is more than a conference where people exchange information. it’s an unconference because we have space for people to present impromptu sessions, and because so-called experts and so-called non-experts mingle freely. but it’s more than that.

mental health camp is also about working together in harmony. part of this is because raul and i and the other volunteers just happen to work really well together. when you see raul and me twitter about each other like two love birds, it’s because we just can’t get over how well we work together.

but part of this is very, very intentional. we WANT there to be open, clean and clear communication. we WANT there to be respect. we WANT for trust to unfold itself so that new things can be explored and tension can be seen as productive and exciting, not fear-inducing and creating animosity.

mental health camp is about inclusion. it’s really, really important to us that everyone gets heard, that there is a space for everyone. we were able to include just about every idea and presentation that was proposed to us. the only ones we said no to were proposals that were things like, “10 sure-fire ways to end your depression forever” – there’s lots of other venues for experts to give those kinds of talks.

and over and over again, we kept saying, mental health camp is about taking care of ourselves. i can’t tell you how often raul and i said to each other and to volunteers and presenters that we can’t have mental health camp turn into a stress fest. how absurd that would be! we need to walk our talk.

you can see, then, that mental health camp is about mental health. it’s not called mental illness camp, or depression camp, or stigma camp. a huge part of mental health consists of harmonious co-operation, good communication, respect, trust, inclusion, self care – and love.

it is with love, then, that we break the silence, because love needs to express itself. breaking the silence, setting us free is the theme of this year’s vancouver mental health camp. love does not constrict, that’s why “setting us free” is important.

it is with love that i want to thank our wonderful PR person and media concierge cathy browne for coming up with just the right words to express our theme, and for all the great things she’s doing for us.

it is with love that i thank airdrie, who started this whole thing. airdrie had this idea last year to do a little panel about mental health with herself, tod maffin and myself, at our annual blogging conference, northern voice. well, that little 45-minute panel was the powerful seed for what is now starting to feel like a movement.

this is the 3rd mental health camp in 14 months. there was one in toronto in may, and they will certainly have another one. we know of two other people who have plans to do mental health camps, one in the UK, another one here, specifically for the south asian community, to be run by kulpreet singh. we’ve also heard rumours of places like san francisco wanting to do something like this, right, AJ?

and it is with love and respect and admiration that i want to give you a brief overview over some of the ideas that are being offered to you today.

the topic of breaking the silence, setting us free, is being touched on by many of our presenters. steffi cameron, for example, will talk about “ripping off the scabs”. it’s interesting to think about that image. it’s not exactly rosy and mushy. come to think of it, the idea of “breaking” the silence is also pretty strong. clearly, finding a way through to honest self expression isn’t always easy. and by self expression i mean artistic self expression but more than that – expressing the self. this is who i am.

other people who speak directly to this topic are terra, who did an unforgettable talk about mommy bloggers and mental health last year, as well as catherine omega and steven schwartz. steven schwartz will also talk a bit about mad pride, i think. the mad pride movement goes beyond breaking the silence, it breaks new ground. mad pride, steven tells us, was grown on the success of gay pride. and let’s not forget the commonalities here. being gay was also once something that had stigma attached to it, and look how far we’ve come. there’s lots we can learn here. mad pride is described as “a fun movement that celebrates the human rights and spectacular culture of everyone who is “different,” and isn’t that everyone?”

another group that’s connected to mad pride is gallery gachet. gallery gachet is a collective of artists who paint, draw, sculpt and do all kinds of other neat things and also happen to have run-ins with ill mental health. gallery gachet will be hosting a series of mad pride events starting july 14, and today we have two presentations from artists connected to gallery gachet. one is jay peachy, who will do an interesting live radio event, complete with art therapy. the other event is the showing of the film “crooked beauty” over the lunch hour in the auditorium.

another presenter speaking about art, among other things, will be michelle clausius, who will be presenting art work by youth who are facing difficulties with homelessness, abuse, addiction and mental illness. covenant house’s blog “on the house” is the vehicle with which this art is expressed, and recently won an award for it.

earlier i talked about inclusion, and one of the things that we’re working towards is to try to include as many aspects as possible of mental health. homelessness is one of them, and another important one is ADD. pete quily is THE indefatigable advocate for attention surplus condition – yes, you heard it right. i love his positive twist, sounds more interesting than attention deficit disorder.

talking about positive – that’s something very important to AJ, also known as depression2.0 on twitter, who will propose the idea of an online game around mental health issues. it’s called escape from bummer island.

sean cranbury will give us a bit of balance and talk about mental health from the perspective of care providers. and i will discuss what i’ve already started here – the importance of focusing on mental health for everyone, because literally, our lives depend on it.

and talking about balance – one of the things we wanted to accomplish in this mental health camp was to give it a strong online component. one thing we’re doing is that we have a number of online moderators. they have the imaginative names of mhcmod1, mhcmod2 and mhcmod3. they will be gentle shepherds for the mental health camp presence on twitter.

the person who has inspired us to do that is amy kiel, also known as @abeeliever on twitter. she is the host of the mental health social media chat that happens on twitter every tuesday, the hashtag is #mhsm. she will be hosting a special mhsm talk today, also on twitter. i am really excited to have a virtual presence here in this real life space. this is something that i think the vancouver social media community is very good at – thanks to people like raul, we are connecting in multiple ways and building true community online and offline.

talking about offline – we have some real life support here. if you feel you need to talk someone, we have a quiet area over there. jael will be there for you, as well as perhaps a few other volunteers who have experience be present to people’s emotional needs. jael is currently studying with katarina halm, who will also give a presentation on that topic. focusing is a technique that incorporates the body’s information with emotional and thought processes. it’s fascinating!

and we’ll end with a bicycle! in a few weeks, michael schratter will start circling the globe with his bicycle. he’s doing that to bring awareness to mental illness. did you know that suicide kills more young men than anything else? michael, and i’m sure all of us, want to put an end to this, and he’ll talk about how he’ll use social media to do that.

and now i want to come back to love. i don’t necessarily mean the mushy stuff, the disney version of love. i mean the greek concept of agape. love that supports, love that revels in the presence and expression of the other, love that passionately wants the best for the other, love that heals, love that is patient, love that is so big it’s hard to describe because it brings a magical quality of goodness to all that it touches.

if we – and by we i mean you and you and you and me and all of us – if we bring these things to mental health camp today, if we bring these things to mental health and mental illness, if we bring these things to the world, then i say, we are doing a fine job.

christmas, love, agape

these days i really seem to enjoy to quote from books.  here’s one i have talked about before: the priority of love: christian charity and social justice, by timothy p. jackson.  let me give you some quotes.

jackson puts the christian virtue of charity in close context of agape.  according to the stanford dictionary of philosophy, “‘agape’ has come, primarily through the christian tradition, to mean the sort of love god has for us persons, as well as our love for god and, by extension, of our love for each other—a kind of brotherly love.”  says jackson, in his often woolly and overly academic yet nevertheless deeply touching way:

agape is beyond all economies of exchange, all questions of desert or contract

one does not determine love to be the universal human good the way one might discover a dime in one’s pocket.  love makes itslef the good by enriching whomever it touches

the love awakened in us by god’s own love has priority in relation to other basic values … it is their necessary source and end

he quotes liberation theologist juan segundo

to love means to lose our autonomy and to become dependent on another … all love is a gamble … it is an act of faith launched into the air, without any precise name or clear content.  it is a belief that love is worthwhile …

then ..

there is a sublime excessiveness to charity manifest in words as diverse as jesus’ sermon on the mount, lincoln’s second inaugural address, and etty hillesum’s letters from the concentration camp

jackson maintains that their charity (and by extension he points to all christian charity, i would assume) is indiscriminate, indomitable egalitarian, “made perfect in weakness” (2 corinthians 12:9) and almost paradoxically expansive.  he also suggests that

because of its chronological priority (loving care is the first thing we must receive as infants), its axiologocal priority (without care individuals do not mature into responsible persons), its lexical priority (without care we have no substantive access to other human goods) and its priority of itself (care’s agenda is to make others caring), agapic love is rightly deemed the first virtue in all contexts.

and of course jackson cites the famous, beautiful words of saint paul in first corinthians 13:4-8

love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  it does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.  it bears all things, believes all things, endures all things.  love never ends.

if the jesus religion (or any religion, for that matter), please don’t throw out these words with the biblical bath water.  while they are written from the point of view of a theologian deeply rooted in christianity, i think they still have something to offer to anyone who thinks about and wants to contribute to good relationships among people, or/and with the divine.

and, what can i say, it’s a fitting post for christmas day 🙂