In order to be able to cultivate awareness of the intuitive heart, you have to finally come to terms with things like suffering and death.
Many of us respond to them with denial, because it’s just too much, and you close the heart to protect yourself, with despair. To that extent you are not able to be with what is, and there’s a part of you that is locked in, closed off from the universe, so you’re saying, “I wanna be everything. We are all one except for that. That’s too horrible. I can’t bear that.” And what the game deals with is bearing the unbearable. “I can’t bear it.” Right, well, here we are. Now what? Explore where, “I can’t bear it” comes from. It’s the idea that “I’ll crack open if my heart breaks.” Well, if your heart doesn’t break you’ll starve to death. That’s your choice. Spiritually starve. That’s your choice.
I’d rather have my heartbreak again and again and again, moment by moment, because then I am alive in the situation. I’m getting fed and I’m feeding and we are together. So that I work with somebody who’s terminally ill, that’s an interesting moment, because the immensity of their suffering can make me pull back to protect myself from the pain of fully getting into what it must be like to be a young woman or a young man dying of AIDS.
I mean, the many levels of suffering in there, of causes of suffering. Social ostracism, opportunistic illness, lack of emotional and economic support, I mean, thousands of things. Loss of dreams, loss of energies, loss, loss, loss, loss, loss. That’s a heavy storyline, and it’s really hard not to get stuck in it. For the person and for you. But if I get stuck in it, if you are the person dying of AIDS, I have just trapped you with my mind in that identity. And you have many identities. A lot of people that are ill often are afraid to tell anybody because they feel that after that everybody would see them just as somebody with cancer, or somebody with AIDS, and they will lose their identity. Well, it’s just another identity, and you’ve gotta be ready to lose them all for it to become interesting. Even the ones you were holding onto thinking that’s who you were. But I go into the room and I can see where my consciousness is immediately by how much I glom onto the storyline and can’t bring my awareness back into the spaciousness that sees it as another story-line and understands the mystery of the universe, ‘cause that’s the way you deal with the suffering.
What you’re saying is, “My rational mind can’t figure out why there’s suffering in the world.” You’re saying, “If my rational mind were God, it wouldn’t make suffering.” But it isn’t! And you don’t even know, ‘cause the rational mind’s a little subsystem, and the game is much more interesting than that, much more interesting.
I mean, I live in a world, and this is hard to hear, I live in a world where, even though I don’t ask for it, I’m not a masochist, but the sufferings that I undergo become the grace of the opportunity to purify. And I can say suffering is grace, and it hurts like hell and it stinks, but it is still grace. It is still grace.
– Ram Dass
6/24/1994 – An Experiment in Awareness, Mile High Church, Denver, CO