When I started to dive deeper into my being, I began to rest in a place where I simply became an environment for people to run through their projections without my buying into them. When I see people start to talk now it’s very much like the Dr. Strange comic books, where you see the thought bubbles of people, and they go around encasing each other in these bubbles. Each person tells you who they think they are, and who they think you are.
When you walk down the street, the way people look at you and talk to you is outwardly projecting their thoughts about what their reality is. When you have a reality to which you are attached, and they have a reality to which they are attached, you both try to find a mutual way to share a reality. If you don’t have a definition of yourself, and if you are nobody special (not busy being “nobody” by the way, which is somebody) but if you are indeed nobody special, you are just kind of there, their projection comes through and you can feel your whole body shifting into who they think that you are. If you don’t cling to that, it just goes through you like a wind through a sieve, and it changes.
A story that I’ve told many times is that once I went to a party in New York City, and Tim Leary and I had shared a sugar cube of LSD. In those days, you just put the drops in the sugar cube and when we broke it, I apparently got the side that had the drops in it. So when we got to the party, we were about to do an all night radio show on Long John Nebel in New York City. So Tim was sort of leading me around, because we were used to this by now, and this girl was doing sketches of people on the walls of this apartment and asked if she could do me. And I told her “Fine.” And so I sat down there in the state that I was in, and I thought “Who am I? Who is she doing?” And I thought, “Well, I’m a young man looking into the future.” And I just sat there. And she started to sketch me. And I kind of got bored with that model, so I thought “Well, really what I am is an old wise person.” I didn’t change. I mean, I was just sitting there thinking “I am an old wise person.” And she took her eraser and she erased and she put it there. And then I was just sitting there, and I thought “Really, what I am is I am this horny guy and I am going to make it with her.” And I didn’t change anything. This was just a thought, flickering through my mind. And she started erasing and she finally said “I can’t do your face. It’s like putty. It keeps changing.” And I realized that it was all thought forms. And when you look at people from that point of view, in their muscular structure and everything, who they think they are is written so large and so redundantly in everybody, all the time. What they are putting out, in the tone of their voice and everything, is all one big projective system of the mind.
And so when you walk down the street, you are walking through these mind fields, and depending on where you are about yourself determines whether you buy into them. So somebody comes up and says “You are wonderful” and you need to feel wonderful and boy, that locks in. But then you are just left with this mind field, and the game is to leave no footprints. Collect nothing. Leave nothing. Just go through lightly. Lightly. Grab. Let go. Hold on tightly. Let go lightly. So you run through “Oh, you’re wonderful! Ah. Um” and “You’re a real jerk! Um. Ah.”
Just keep letting them run through you. Instead of thinking “I’m a jerk? What do you mean I’m a jerk?” or “I’m wonderful? Yeah! Tell me all about it.” You get to the point where you stop milking those thoughts. You do it until you’re bored with it, and then finally, you do it because you do, because you do it and people react as they react. And you just do it. If you think you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, what you end up doing is you stop, and then after awhile, you see that you really wanted to do it and then you do it all over again, but from a different place. But don’t be hard on yourself because there is an ego trip involved or a rush and you’re milking it. Just notice yourself with poignancy. Be compassionate. You’re a poignant human. And you’ve got all your stuff. You’ve got lust, greed, hatred, ill wills, agitation and doubt. That’s what you are doing here. If you didn’t have those, you wouldn’t be here. That’s who we are. That’s this plane of reality. There are other planes, where others don’t have all those things, and you’ll have plenty of chances for that. So don’t worry. Enjoy this one. Be human. Try being human.
-Ram Dass, The Listening Heart Retreat
June, July, August, 1989