Question: How can I judge myself less harshly and appreciate myself more?
Ram Dass: I think that part of it is observing oneself more impersonally. I often use this image, which I think I have used already, but let me say it again. That when you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying “You’re too this, or I’m too this.” That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are. And, there was a period of time where I used to have a picture of myself on my puja table. Later I had Caspar Weinberger, but earlier on I had me. And people would come and say “My God, what an ego this guy has got. He has got his own picture on his puja table.” But really, what it was, was a chance for me to practice opening my heart to myself. And to appreciate the predicament I am in. I mean I could see the whole incarnation. If I am quiet enough, I can see his story line. I mean history is his story. Or herstory. And herstory is just the story line of our predicament. And it’s finding a place from in yourself where you see the unfolding of law. Dad did this; Mother did this; economics did this; education did this; opportunity did this; drugs did this; Maharajji did this.
All of this cause and effect, previous incarnations. All of this is just an unfolding of a story line. A drama. The Ram Dass story. There he is. How will it come out? How did it come out? And you are just sort of watching this story unfold. It has nothing to do with me. Because I’m not that. That’s just a set of phenomena happening. And when you look at yourself as a set of phenomena, what is to judge? I mean is that flower less than that? It’s just different than that. And you begin to appreciate your uniqueness without it being better or worse. It’s just different. And cultivating an appreciation of uniqueness, rather than preference, is a very good one. It’s just when you get inside identification with your personality that you get into the judging mode, because then you are part of that lawful unfolding. You are not stepping outside of it at all. The witness or the spacious awareness is outside of it. It is another contextual framework.
As you are more quiet inside so that you notice and you can see your own thoughts a little more clearly, you will see your father’s voice and your mother’s voice and all your education principles voices inside your head constantly saying things to you. And you will see that — what Freud calls the Super Ego. You will see that that judge is inside. And you keep giving it power by identifying with it. And you feel yourself at war with yourself. That there is a part of you that is doing it, and there is a part of you that is judging what you are doing. And as you are quieter, you see the dynamics between the Super Ego, the Id, the ego. And you see it all as just phenomena. Because they are phenomena. As a psychologist, I can study those phenomena in another person; why not study it in myself? And part of what drugs did for me, and then mediation did for me, and all the spiritual things is it helps me stand back and get outside of it. To see it for what it is. As just stuff — phenomena.
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