Tag Archives: mysticism

“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?

talking about spiritual experiences

a while ago evan asked the question how do we talk about our spiritual experience? we had a little discussion about that here.

what still remains to be done, however, is for me to actually tell you about my spiritual experiences. let me offer up two stories, and then perhaps you will contribute one of yours, too. let me also, once again, repeat my now almost broken record: spirituality is what you define it to be (maybe this post helps clarify that a bit)

whenever i try to remember my first intense spiritual experience, there is one glimpse that i come up with. “glimpse”, come to think of it, may not be such a bad word to describe certain types of spiritual experiences generally; it’s a little blip that quickly passes through the retina of our consciousness and then it’s gone – but it leaves a lasting impression, a sort of afterimage that never really goes away.

i don’t even know what the occasion was, all i remember is walking on the dirt road that led from my grandparents’ house to the dairy farmer, maybe to pick up our daily can of milk, and all of a sudden the thought struck me how much i wanted my best friend, who was jewish, to convert to my lutheran faith. knowing me, you might find that strange; i espouse quite a radical multifaith view here, as you know. even at the age nine that this happened, i was already well aware of ecumenic ideas because they were important to my grandparents (my grandfather was a lutheran minister). what was going on, i think, was not so much that i felt that her (unpracticed) faith was wrong and mine right; the force of this experience had more to do with the love for my friend and the great spiritual nourishment i received; i wanted to share this with her, i wanted to “break bread”. even now as i write this, i have tears streaming down my face. i am very grateful that my friend and i, after nearly 50 years of knowing each other, are still close. (and no, she hasn’t converted, and that’s just fine with me.)

fast forward to now, a few weeks ago. once again, i was out for a walk. either at the outset or some time during the beginning of the walk, i intentionally wanted to move into a keen awareness of the sacred. i let myself drift this way and that, letting my feet follow whatever path seemed the right one. i decided to walk down the block where years ago i had had a glimpse of reality, a minute or two of kensho. it was very different now: the street was not as everyday-familiar as it had been when i had lived at the end of that block; it was night in late fall, not a sunny summer afternoon.

i consciously pulled myself away from wanting to experience kensho again, just wanted to expose myself to – i don’t know what. there was just a sense of wanting to open up to something “there”, and wanting to be as open as possible to whatever, maybe nothing. this desire in itself was strong and expansive. then i remembered one of my favourite city magick exercises: to walk along a street, trying to connect with the life of everything you encounter along the way. this here is not just a bunch of walls with windows cut into it, it’s a living, breathing house with real people in it who fight and read newspapers and laugh and put on pajamas. and this here is not just a green something but a plant with a history from seed to tree, a living being that craves sunlight and rain, good soil and clean air. somehow, from this it was natural to turn to the energy of everything around me. i walked along the block, saying to myself, with ever increasing delight, “house energy, wet leaf energy, loud car energy, rain drop energy, rock energy, maple tree energy, sidewalk energy, siren energy …” i felt – full.

…. hard to come up with anything else to say after this …