When I’m with another person, it’s very easy for me to be present, or when I’m in a beautiful, stimulating place; but when I’m just by myself, I don’t know where I am – I’m gone a lot of the time. How do I deal with that?
Well, most of the time we’re living in our minds; we’re living in memories, plans, reflections, judgments; the mind is just continually presenting thoughts, and we’re buying them. Then we lose the moment; we’re just off with the thought; we’re not there at all.
I keep training myself so that, like in my little house, dishes have to be done, and when I start to do the dishes, I can feel the difference between when I start to do the dishes and when I finish doing the dishes. When I start to do the dishes, I’m busy ‘I gotta do the dishes, so I can get back to my desk’ or ‘I’ve gotta make that phone call. I’d better do the dishes first’ and then as I start to do the dishes, it’s an interesting experience.
I was at a Benedictine monastery some years back, we couldn’t talk; it was silent, and the only time you ever talked was when you were in line to wash your tin plate; you were standing, and you could sort of whisper, I mean, it was sort of a funny little kind ‘hole’ in the system; it was a loophole; and there was a man in front of me, and he had a brush with the soap on it, and he was washing his tin plate, and I was looking over his shoulder, and I said to him, ‘cause he only had a moment to talk, and I said, ‘How long have you been here?’ and he said, ’17 years’; and there was a quality in the term, 17 years, and the tone of voice he said it in, and that brush going around on that plate that was so profound a moment for me, of a certain kind of surrender, a certain kind of peacefulness, a certain kind of ‘just washing the plate’; and it’s interesting, ‘cause when I pick up the brush and put the soap on it, you know, squirt the Dove or whatever it is, and a little glass, fill it with water, and stick it in, and start to rub the plate, there it is again; and I start out washing the dishes to get done, and by the time I’m done, I’m so ‘high’ from washing the dishes.
My job at the Barre retreat center had always been washing pots, and they come in, and they see me washing pots, and they think, ‘Oh, poor Ram Dass, he’s got this dirty, heavy job’ but I’m just washing these pots, and others have to sit and meditate, and I’m just washing these pots.
So you can take your moments and train yourself to keep coming back in by just doing what you’re doing.
Very often when I’m driving, I’m busy going somewhere, until I think, ‘Where am I?’, just the question, ‘Where am I?’ ‘I’m driving. My hands are on the steering wheel. My foot’s on the accelerator.’ And then going deeper, and the ‘my’ disappears, and there’s just ‘hands’ on the steering wheel and foot on the accelerator, and passing images, and you just keep using everything to come back into the moment.
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