Guided Meditation Library
Step onto the path, embrace your practice with these guided meditations and mantras from Ram Dass.
"Meditation provides a deeper appreciation of the interrelatedness of all things and the part each person plays. The simple rules of this game are honesty with yourself about where you are in your life and learning to listen to hear how it is. Meditation is a way of listening more deeply, so you hear from a deeper space, exactly how it is. Meditation will help you quiet your mind, enhance your ability to be insightful and understanding and give you a sense of inner peace.
If you meditate regularly, even when you don’t feel like it, you will make great gains, for it will allow you to see how your thoughts impose limits on you. Your resistances to meditation are your mental prisons in miniature.
A fellow satsang member asked Maharajji how to meditate, he said, “Meditate like Christ.” I said, “Maharajji, how did Christ meditate?” He became very quiet and closed his eyes. After a few minutes, he had a blissful expression on his face and a tear trickled down his cheek. He opened his eyes and said, “He lost himself in love.”
- Ram Dass
Ram Dass Guided Meditations
Ram Dass leads a guided meditation centered on noticing what you are directly experiencing in the moment, and simply letting it all just be as it is.
"There’s nowhere to go, there’s nothing to accomplish, there’s no merit. It’s just this, just this."
- Ram Dass
What I would like to invite you to do is to sit as straight as you can. We're going to meditate for about 10 minutes. For some of you, that will be a new experience. For some of you, even the term meditation is an alien term. It's part of the balancing we're trying to do between getting out in the market place and cultivating the inner quiet space.
So first, just get here. Just breathe gently and sit with what you're experiencing at this moment. If you're experience tiredness, let yourself be tired. If you're feeling hot or cold, if you're feeling the seat under you, the sounds outside -- don't push anything away, just be with what is.
But keep coming back to what you are directly experiencing in this moment. If your mind takes you on a train of thought, when you notice that, just come back and experience the floor under your feet, or the air on your cheek, or the presence of the person next to you. Letting your mind not hold onto things, but just be. Thoughts arising and passing away.
Noticing which sensations present themselves to you -- the horn, the feeling in your leg, maybe an agitation. Perhaps it's a memory, or it's a judgment about yourself or something else. Just notice it, and be with it. And let it stay or go, as it chooses.
Noticing if the siren comes into your consciousness, let it be there. Don't resist it, don't grab hold of it. It comes and it goes. Notice that what you were noticing as much as two minutes ago is already gone. Thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories, plans -- crossing your awareness like clouds cross the heavens.
Clinging to nothing, just being at rest with what is.
If there is agitation, just notice agitation. Whatever state of mind, whatever feeling, or thought, or sensation, neither clinging to it nor pushing it away. Just coexist with all of it. Just be with it, just as it is. There's nowhere to go, there's nothing to accomplish, there's no merit. It's just this, just this.
Feel the awareness as a vast ground like the sky. And all of the thoughts and sensations and memories and plans and qualities of mind and judging, is clouds that come from who knows where and go who knows where. Identify for a moment with the vast sky. This vast presence. It hears everything, and yet there is no effort. It's not doing anything, it's just being. How little time we acknowledge that in us which is just being.
Ram Dass leads a guided meditation straight to the center, where you can rest in the quietness of your heart. When you look at the universe from that center point, you can begin to see the true nature of existence.
"Let each breath you take bring you deeper into that center. Just into the quiet place, the timeless place, the spaceless space."
- Ram Dass
There is this moment. The sounds, the sensations, feelings. Just this moment.
CS Lewis said you don't see the center because it's all center. So experience the center, starting from your heart, and in concentric circles, including the entire city, all coming out from your heart. All coming into your heart.
Feel the energy of the city at the circumference of the circle, and feel the quietness of the middle of your heart at the center.
Riding close to the center, feel all of the qualities of your personality. Your history and your timeline of coming to this moment, all of it as the little circle around the center. And that all has movement and activity and identity. And yet right in the center of that is the quiet point.
The bus, the sounds in the room, the feelings in the body, they're all part of the circles that go around the center. But in the center there's no coming, no going.
If you still feel caught in thought or agitation, just sigh your way into the center. Just, ahhhhhh. And let each sigh take you closer to that quiet center.
Now move one of your hands in any way you want, but notice the relationship of the moving hand to the quiet center. Feel the stillness of the center at the same as the movement of the hand. And see that the movement of the hand is led by the intention of the mind, but all of that is in the circle around the center, and the center just is. Ahhhhhhhhhh. Sighing your way into the center, to the still, quiet space within.
The universe looked at from the center, from the quietness, is seen as flow, as movement, as energy, as patterns, as comings and goings, as emotions and thoughts, from the eye of the center, the eye of the circle, where thine eye be single.
Now pick one moment in your memory of today. Project yourself into some other moment. It might be at the subway, or the office, or at home. Any one, it doesn't matter which one. And ask yourself, go look there, and see whether or not that person at that moment recognized the center.
Imagine all the moments of today, one after another -- the getting, bathroom, eating, traveling, meetings, all of the moment-to-moment experiences. And then imagine the thread wove through that entire string of experiences, just the flow of conscious presence in the center of the universe, where everything is still.
Thoughts think themselves. Sensations occur. Movement occurs. Relationships happen. And in the middle of it, always, just this.
Let each breath you take bring you deeper into that center. Just into the quiet place, the timeless place, the spaceless space.
And then if you want to, make the leap, appreciate that the center point in the middle of the heart that we talk about as the center of the circle is everywhere. So in the middle of that siren you hear, that is the silent center.
Everywhere you look in the universe, everything's happening, and nothing's happening. It's all changing, and it's all still.
When they say quietness is master of the deed, it is the relationship of that quiet center to the forms around it. It is when you stand at the center of the universe in the silent spaceless space, timeless time, it is with that eye that you are truth. For in the center there is no longing, no hopes, no desires, no fears, nowhere to go, nothing to do. Right in that center.
We listen from that center to hear what part is played. We see from that center, seeing the design and the play and the dance. And every time we get lost in the periphery of the circle, the minute we remember, we are on our way back to the center. The center of the flower. The center of the mandala. The center where past and future fold in on themselves. The center where here and there fold in on themselves.
There's a sound, the sound of Om, that represents all of the sounds folded in on themselves. It is that sound of silence. It is spoken, yet unspoken. Om. Om.
Back Into the Center
Ram Dass guides a meditation meant to help you process the events of daily life that reflect your attractions and aversions. It is a process of digesting life experiences and bringing them back into the center.
"The drama of life is wonderful, it’s intense, you know you’re alive in it. And yet, without that equanimity to balance it, it always has in it fear."
- Ram Dass
A quality of relaxed alertness. No tension, just being present. Allowing all of the sensations, the noise from the street, the noise from your body, all the sensations, the thoughts, to just come and go.
Be aware of your breath. Let it stay in a very natural way, don't intentionally change its rate or it's depth. Be aware of the full breath.
If you'd like to focus somewhere, you can focus in the abdomen, just where the muscle rises and falls with each breath. Let that be the center of your attention, and every time your awareness strays to the sounds on the street or to other thoughts or sensation, the minute you notice your mind has strayed, just notice it, and then very gently come back to the breath.
Now coming to the center of your chest, feel a warmth in the center of your chest as if you were breathing in and out through a set of nostrils in the middle of your chest. And when you breathe in, you breathe in something that is very light and warm. And when you breathe out, you breathe out all of the tensions that gather in the course of a day.
And realize that right in the center of the chest is a place of rest. It's a place of quietness, it's a place that witnesses, that is just present. It's a retreat. It's a place you can go into to be quiet.
And learning how to serve others. We need first to learn how to work with the things that catch, the things to which we have attraction or aversion. So sitting in the middle of your chest, remaining there, just resting there. Bring to mind some significant event that happened to you today. Let yourself go back and remember the event. Maybe that event has some residual excitement or aversion or guilt or sadness or agitation or anger or frustration. Notice the event, and now come back into the center of the chest, breathing in and out. Let the event go.
Now once again, go back to that event, watching the way in which you change from your equanimous, quiet self, as you start to bring that event back into reality. See the way in which that event pulls you out of that present center, how you lose your center to the dance of life. We all do it all the time.
And just keep going back and forth until you have worked with that event enough so that you can think about it without leaving that quiet place in the middle of your being. So you can say about that event, whether it was attractive or aversive, you can say, yes, and that one too. Ah, so.
Try one more event. Let your mind just float over your day, from when you woke up until this moment, and see which events grab you. One will grab you, either it will excite you or you will feel aversion or some deadness, whatever you feel. Or you'll start to think about it very intensely. The minute you find one of those, stop. The fact that it is sitting there with all that valence, or power, is because you haven't digested it back into your center. So when you find such an event, then come back into the middle of your chest, just breathing in and out, find your center. And then from there, look at the event again. And keep floating back and forth, out into the event, back into the center.
Until you can stay in the center and that event can be present, just as part of the fabric of life, without the pull or the push. This is the process of digesting life experiences and bringing them back into the center. This is the value of moments of meditative quiet at the end of the day, when you gather together the strands of the day and bring them back into the center. So that there is continuity in life from that place in the center. From the place in the center you see your own comings and goings, you see your own elations and depressions, you see your own hopes and despair. You see it all, and yet you remain quiet in the midst of it.
And those events which are particularly dramatic or trying or continue over a long time or involve pain in the body or fear about death, those are the ones you work with a little more to keep them connected to your center. But as that center gets stronger and you trust that you have a home inside yourself, a home you can always go to just by sitting down and taking some breaths, working with the breath until you quiet down, coming into the center, and then digesting the days events. Once you're able to do that, then you can begin to digest other people's sufferings and joys, and offer them equanimity when they are lost on the rollercoaster of life.
The drama of life is wonderful, it's intense, you know you're alive in it. And yet, without that equanimity to balance it, it always has in it fear. Only when you have cultivated the equanimity, the space where you are always present quietly, clearly, only then are you able to be with life with love, with openness, with safety, with invulnerability.
A few more breaths into the center. Right to the center of the chest. It is said that God, guru, and self are one in the same thing. For some of you, you have a relationship to God, for others, you have a relationship to a teacher or a guru. For others, you find that place within your own heart, in the middle of your chest. It's all the same.
Just from this place, let a sound emerge. It may be a very quiet sound, or a load sound, just a sound. It might be Om, it might be any sound. Om.
Ram Dass guides you to a place of pure light in the middle of your chest and reminds you that you are this light – your body is just the container. But it is not enough to just see our own light, we need to see that everyone has this light within.
"Anytime of the day, you always can come back to the breath. Bring the breath as if you are breathing out of the middle of the chest, and with each breath brighten the light that sits in the middle."
- Ram Dass
Just bringing your awareness to being here this moment -- the sounds, the sensations in the body, the thoughts arising and passing away.
Being aware of the breath, in its natural rhythms.
Coming to the middle of your chest. Start to focus right in the middle of the chest, as if you were breathing in and out of the point in the middle of the chest.
Let the breath make the place in the middle of the chest soft and warm and liquid and light. Soft, soft. If you feel hardness or coldness in the chest, soften it, warm it with the breath. Just allowing the sweetness of the heart.
Soft. Sweet. Flowing. Light. A quality of radiance coming from your own heart.
Softening. Lightening. And now, using your imagination, just imagine that everybody in this room has exactly that same place in the middle of the heart. A place of light. A place that is liquid, that is soft, that is radiant, that is warm.
All of us the same in that way, and yet so different in all that surrounds that heart. If you knew that in every human being there was that quality of spirit and truth, and that's what you focused on when you met another person, how different it would be.
Now expand to all of the people that you came upon today in the subways, on the streets, in meetings, in offices, in bed, at the dinner table, at newsstands, wherever you went today, and think of each of those people as another point of light, as a container containing an essence, a quality of softness, of caring, of warmth, of light.
Think of the people you've interacted with today and think of how often, how frequently or infrequently, you remembered the light that is in the center of the container. It's as if the body is the holder of the light, and often the holder or the container is so opaque that you can't see the light. And people keep saying to you, I am the container. When you remember, you say to them, "No, you're the light." And they say, "No, I'm the container."
But now look at yourself through today. How often did you remember today that light that is the center of your being? How often were you quiet enough, or was there a pause long enough, for you to remember? Because unless you can see your own light, how can you truly see another's? For it takes a light to know a light.
Who did you meet today? Did you meet partners or children or parents or business people or people asking for money or social workers or kids or troublemakers or politicians or newspaper vendors? Is that who you met? Or did you meet the light in all its various ways of being contained?
Anytime of the day, you always can come back to the breath. Bring the breath as if you are breathing out of the middle of the chest, and with each breath brighten the light that sits in the middle. Soften. Warm. Brighten. Let the light shine.
Om. Om. Let a sound rise from that point of light. Om. Om.
Nectar of the Living Spirit
Ram Dass invites you to breathe the ambrosia of the living spirit into your heart, and become a transmitter of that living spirit in order to touch those who are suffering.
"At each stage of the journey up the mountain, you must accept your responsibility for being an instrument for the transmission of what you receive."
- Ram Dass
Breathing very gently now, in and out of the chest, just as if you had nostrils right in the middle of your chest.
Imagine that you and I are immersed here in the subtlest mist, soma, ambrosia, nectar. The eye that is the sun that is the captive that is the lover, is that which you breathe into your heart; the living spirit. Slow, deep breath. Draw that mist into your being. Breath the oxygen through your nose, and in through the hole in the middle of your chest draw that nectar. Let it pour through your body. And let it's light, and it's sweetness, and it's softness, loosen all of the tension, all of the fear, all of the separateness, all of the confusion, all of the doubt, anger, self pity. And on the out-breath, each time, just let go of all that stuff. Just breathe it out through your heart and fill again with more of the nectar of presence of the living spirit.
With each breath, let your own being, your body, your personality, your mind, your heart, become more light, and more seemingly made of the same stuff as that which you have been breathing in through your heart. And every part that is heavy or tight, just breathe it out. Some things will be so tight in there that you'll see you're really not ready to let them go yet, you still want to have them hang around for a while. Don't blame yourself, just notice it. And breathe out what's ready to be let go of; don't make believe your karma is that of another, honor your own.
Now let's imagine that you and I are as light as we're going to get for this evening, we're close to being transmitters of living spirit. And now, as you breathe in, draw that mist which comes into you because of your acknowledgement of its existence. And then send mist out with the out-breath, but attach to it a thought-form, and direct it towards those beings who suffer. So that the mist goes out from you directed like a beam of light that surrounds a suffering being with light, with presence, with peace.
Perhaps the being that comes into your mind is suffering physically; malnutrition, illness, physical danger. Perhaps that being is suffering psychologically; depression, self pity, loneliness, torture, imprisonment unfairly. Perhaps that being is suffering spiritually, experience the pain of the separation from God. Let your breath be directed with your thought towards those beings you bring to mind who suffer. They may be embodied or not. They may be people you know directly, or not. At each stage of the journey up the mountain, you must accept your responsibility for being an instrument for the transmission of what you receive. If the beacon does not become brighter, why the lessons? I am your life, but if you will not name me, seal up your souls with tears and never blame me.
I can only wish you through this meditation, and wish for myself, that we can remember more and more often so that our every breath becomes a transmission of light, of love, of peace, of presence. That our soul is open, not sealed with tears. And that everybody who we touch is enlightened by that touch.
Ram Dass leads a meditation where you are breathing out through the top of your head, bouncing back and forth between form and formless, the one and the many. From this place, you can open your heart to all beings and experience just how much you do love this universe.
"There is no form, it’s God manifest. It’s the unspoken, it’s the void. It’s the one."
- Ram Dass
At this moment, just focus in the middle of your chest.
Imagine there's an opening in the middle of your chest. And that even though you're breathing in and out of your nose or your mouth necessary oxygen, etcetera, with each in breath in through this hole in your chest, you are drawing something very subtle, not even on the physical plane. It's been called soma, it's been called elixir, it's been called ambrosia, it's been called Pran, it's been called living spirit. Think of it as a very fine mist. With each breath, draw it into the middle of your chest, and let it pour through your body, to the extremities, to the tips of your fingers, to the tips of your toes, through your torso, your head.
And then in the out-breath, when you're breathing out through the center of your chest, any stuff in you that is keeping you from being with the universe -- the tensions, the fears, the negativity, the doubt, the grudges, the anger, the loneliness, the self pity -- breathe it out, just breathe out, let it go on the out-breath. And then fill once again with this healing, very fine mist, and let it pour through your body. As it pours through your body, let it dislodge the tensions that may have settled in your back, or in your stomach. The heavy thoughts, thoughts of paranoia, feelings of inadequacy, of doubt, the judging mind, just let it all be loosened, dislodged. And on the out breath, breathe it out. Make the breath slow and deep. And keep that imagery very strongly in mind, that you're drawing in a very fine mist, filling your being, and then releasing all of the stuff you don't need to be in the spirit.
If there's a great sadness in you, just let it go. Breathe it out, you don't need it. If there's anger, hurt. If you've been hurt, if you have pain. Don't demand that it go away, you might breathe it out and you'll still feel sadness, it may be such a deep reservoir of sadness. But what you can let go of, let go of. And then fill with this very fine healing mist.
Now rest quietly with your eyes closed and just listen to me for a moment. Imagine now that out before you is all of the universe of form, all of the world as you see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, and know it, including yourself. And now imagine that at the top of the head, you also have a hole, an opening, and that above your head is the formless out of which form comes. There is no form, it's God manifest. It's the unspoken, it's the void. It's the one.
Now, you will breathe in through your chest when I tell you, suggest you do. Just listen now, drawing the universe into your heart, the middle of your chest, and you will breathe out through the top of your head, going out with your breath, go up with your breath and go back into the formless. And then on the next in breath, draw the formless down into your heart, and then with the out-breath, breathe it out through your heart and recreate the forms which are spirit made manifest. Then with the in-breath, draw it back into your heart, breathe out through the top of your head going up until you're resting above your head, then draw the breath in, come back down into your heart, and then manifest out into the world. So it's in, up, out, down, in, out. Do that for a few minutes now. Start very slow, deep breathing, so you keep going between form and formless, between the one and the many.
Keeping your eyes closed, remain resting in the middle of your chest and listen to me for one moment longer. Now that you have released what you can of those things which keep you from being a pure instrument for the transmission of spirit, and that you have learned to draw the spirit through you, you will find yourself in situation after situation where, when you look out at the world, you see suffering. Maybe it's somebody you love that's suffering. The suffering might physical, it might be psychological, it might be spiritual. It might be somebody that's a political prisoner, somebody that's starving or dying of cancer, or just lost in depression, or caught with drugs, or caught in a painful violence.
Whoever comes to mind, bring their image before you, standing or sitting or being out in front. With your breath, go up above your head, letting yourself go out through the top of your head. Again, bring that fine mist, that spirit, down through the top of your head, the formless, down into your heart. And then on the out breath, send it out, keeping that being in mind. And with your mind, imaging surrounding that being with light that is peace, that is healing, that is love, that is spacious. Then go back up into the formless until that is just pouring through your heart and out and surrounding that being or those beings.
If there is anybody towards whom you feel anger, that you would like to find the deeper space, bring that person before you. And through this light, or this love, see that being in a deeper way. Let your heart open in this process.
Keep going back up into the formless where you are the one, and then come back and allow the spirit to come through you to manifest as a healing force.
And the thought is not that I demand this person be healed of their suffering, but rather, if it be in the way of things, let there be healing. Not my, but thy will.
And if it is you that is suffering and in pain, imagine yourself standing or sitting before yourself, and surround that being with that same golden light of love, of peace, of space, of compassion.
Open your heart a little wider. What more can you do for the world than become a conduit for the living spirit to be manifest?
Experience just how much you actually do love the universe. All the forms coming before your eye. As you go back into the one and come back into the many, see how precious all the forms are.
Okay, now just come back and rest in your heart. Open your eyes and relax, stretch. Mmmm.
Resting in Love
Ram Dass guides a meditation around softening the sharp edges of life and resting in love. You can learn to live life with a heart that is wide open.
"Open your heart just a bit more. Come on out and play. I’m right here in love."
- Ram Dass
Just resting in your own being. Aware of all the body sensations, sounds. No trying, no trying. Just being, just being.
Take in a deep breath, and as you let it out, just let go of all that kind of agitated, confused, worried feeling that you're separate from something. Just let it go, and just come into a deeper sense of being. An appreciation from within of all of the qualities of your being, just the way they are.
Imagine, at this moment, that you are just the way you are, and you are totally loved. Feel what that feels like. Not for how you wish you were or might become, but just the way it is. You are loved, you are allowed, you are acknowledged.
As if the music were saying, I love you. And every protest you put up saying, that if you really knew who I was, how could you love me? And the music is saying, I know who you are, and I love you.
Now bring to mind other beings with whom you are close, or interact in relationship. And see them with that same single eye that looks through the veils and sees another being of love manifesting. For it is the heart of God that touches your heart, and that it is your heart that touches another's heart.
Work with the breath, in and out, right in the middle of your chest. Let it soften and form the sweetest, most gentle flow. Each breath opening your heart just a little bit more. If there's sadness, let the sadness come out. If there's joy, let the joy bubble over. If there's a quiet, deep space of love, let it rest in its deep silence.
Resting in love. Resting in love. Softer. Just a bit softer. Open your heart just a bit more. Come on out and play. I'm right here in love. A little bit more. Let's be together in love. Not later, right now. Each breath. Soft, so sweet. Nothing to do about it.
All the sharp edges have become soft.
Finally, even as the heart is this open, yet becomes more and more open, you learn that you can live life, right in the middle of the marketplace, with your heart this open. Buffeted and pushed and shoved and treated violently, the compassion in your heart allows the beloved all the forms of action. Maharajji said a mother is so much like God because she's so forgiving, her love doesn't waver. And finally, you are the mother of the universe, and everybody you look upon is your child.
The Heart Cave
Ram Dass guides you straight into your heart cave – it is a place beyond all forms and limits, a place for letting go. He then leads a Metta, or LovingKindness, meditation, and closes the session with a mantra.
"See meditation as a way of coming home to the quietness of the deepest part of your heart. The cave of silence, in which everything is heard, sensed. Thoughts arise and pass away. But none of it tarnishes the pure silence of the inner heart cave."
- Ram Dass
Maharajji said bring your mind to one point and you will know God. This morning we will continue with the samadhi, or concentration on the breath.
In Mahamudra practice it is said that when the mind gazes into the mind itself, the train of discursive and conceptual thought ends and supreme enlightenment is gained.
The first step to the mind looking into itself can be bringing the mind to one point and keeping it there. This process must be done very gently with the mind. The mind must remain soft, subtle, buoyant, light. So with firm seat, with head, neck, and back straight, bring the awareness to the breath. The two points of focus are either the breath at the tip of the nose -- right inside the tip of the nose, you'll notice that on the in-breath you feel the air touching the inside of the nostril, the out-breath similarly. One is cool, one is warm. If you are focusing on the breath at the tip of the nose you do not follow the breath into the body or out into the air. Just be like a gatekeeper, noticing the comings and goings of the breath. When you are following the breath at the tip of the nose it may help to mentally note at the early stages, breathing in, breathing out, breathing in, breathing out.
The other option is to notice the rising and falling in the abdomen. You can feel the place right in the middle of the abdomen that with each rising, each inhalation rises, with each exhalation falls. With each inhalation you can mentally note, rising, with each exhalation you can mentally note, falling.
After you have explored each of them for a moment or two, choose one for the remainder of this meditation session and stay with it.
The awareness, or mind, will be carried off many times to sensations, hearing, smelling, touching, tasting, seeing, or to thoughts. Develop an easy yet vigilant manner, and each time the mind wanders, as soon as you notice it wander, as soon as you notice it begin to wander, note it, and then very gently but firmly return home to the breathing in, breathing out, or to the rising and falling.
As your mind begins to concentrations, many old Samskaras will rise to the surface. Perhaps it will be greed or lust or anger or agitation or laziness or doubt. Just notice them. Don't feed them, just notice them. Don't judge them, just notice them. And once again, gently return to the breath with firm resolve.
Note each breath precisely, noting the spaces between the inhalation and the exhalation, the space between the exhalation and the inhalation.
If you experience pain or discomfort in your body, note it and return to the breath. If it persists after several notings and returns, make the pain your primary object. Keep your awareness with the pain, noting it precisely. If after some time it does not dissolve in the presence of your awareness, move the body gently, but note the process, don't break the continuity of awareness. Note the intention to move the body, note the moving of the body, note the settling of the body. And then once again, return the awareness to the breathing in, breathing out, or to the rising and falling.
Just as from a distance a row of ants in seen as a solid line, but up close you see that it is one ant following another, so as you become more precise in the observation of your breath. You will see that the in-breath is made up of thousands of tiny moments of awareness, following one upon the other, and so with the out-breath.
Keep the awareness gently riding on the breath, like riding on a wind, on a breeze.
Thoughts and sensations, arising one after another, and passing away like leaves floating down a stream. You sit by the stream and focus on a brightly colored pebble right below this water. Into your vision come leaves, pass across your vision, and continue on out of your vision. The brightly colored pebble is like your breath, a place for your awareness to rest tranquilly.
Within the subtlest whisper of the breath, passing at the tip of the nostrils, or rising and falling in the abdomen, is contained the mystery.
See meditation as a way of coming home to the quietness of the deepest part of your heart. The cave of silence, in which everything is heard, sensed. Thoughts arise and pass away. But none of it tarnishes the pure silence of the inner heart cave.
As each sensation arises, note it. Each moment noting just where your awareness moves, not trying to bring it back to any place. Letting it float from sense door to sense door, from thought to thought, but adding the awareness of the process of the movement, all done as you sit quietly. Tranquilly. Cultivating equanimity in the middle of the heart cave.
A bird. A movement. A sensation in the body. A thought. All same. Just images written on the walls of the cave that appear and a moment later disappear, like paintings in the sand the ocean washes away a moment later.
Each sensation, each thought, note it, one after the other, but always remaining quiet. This quiet being, your most ancient self. This quiet being has watched a succession of moments, has watched a succession of days and years and lifetimes, has watched bodies come and bodies go. The joys and tribulations come and go, pleasures and pains come and go.
Who dwells in that heart cave has no form, no limit. Who dwells in that heart cave is beyond time, beyond space.
Note there is just a series of sensations and thoughts, one after the other, arising and passing away. Other than that, where are you?
Each time you experience yourself as something or somebody, just notice that it's another thought or sensation drifting across the walls of the cave, and return to the spacious, formless, timeless essence.
Nothing to cling to. Keep loosening your hold, letting the familiar float by, seeing that just behind all of the forms, images, memories, plans, sounds, sights, tastes, touches, smells, just behind all of those, permeating, yet not being colored by them… you are.
Are all these sensations and thoughts inside of you or outside of you? If there is no form or limit to who you are, they are both inside of you and outside of you. I am in everything, everything is in me.
Now we will do the first steps of what is called Metta meditation, or LovingKindness meditation. You will bring before your mind's eye the image of someone towards whom you feel love. And then repeat silently each of these phrases. May you be free from danger. May you be free from all mental suffering. May you be free from all physical suffering. May you know ease of wellbeing, that is may you have it easy to stay alive and keep your life together. May you have ease of wellbeing.
Now bring before your mind's eye, a being towards whom you feel neutral. Maybe someone you just remember having passed on the street, or someone in the group towards who you have no strong feelings one way or the other. Keep them focused before you and repeat. May you be free from danger. May you be free from all mental suffering. May you be free from all physical suffering. May you know ease of wellbeing.
Now bring before your mind's eye someone whom you may have some difficulty in opening your heart to or keeping your heart open about. Perhaps someone who's hurt you or hurt people you love. May you be free from danger. May you be free from all mental suffering. May you be free from all physical suffering. May you know ease of wellbeing.
And finally imagine all beings, all beings spreading out around you as far as the eye can see. Myriads of beings. Beings on earth now. Beings on other planes, the Deva Lokis, hungry spirits. All the beings of present, past, and future. All being everywhere. The vast myriad of beings. May you all be free of danger. May you all be free from mental suffering. May you all be free from physical suffering. May you all know ease of wellbeing.
For a few minutes now we are going to do a mantra together. You can move and be comfortable. The mantra is Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha. It's a Tibetan mantra. It means, in once loose translation, gone, gone, gone beyond, gone beyond even the concept of beyond, to the enlightened one who has done this feat, honor. You can imagine that the inner part of yourself, your true and highest self, is beyond all concepts, all ideas. You can imagine that being as yourself, or the Buddha, or the Christ, or Ram, any form that is comfortable for you. Or just your mind going beyond concept. Gate, gone. Gate, gone. Paragate, gone beyond. Parasamgate, gone beyond even beyond. Bodhi, that one that is enlightened. Svaha, honor. Listen to the intonation, and as you feel comfortable with it, join in. It's done on one breath.
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha. Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha. Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha. Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha. Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha. Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha. Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha. Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha. Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha. Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha.
Ram Dass guides a meditation where you are interpenetrated with the guru – a being of total light, love, and compassion. From this place, you can start to experience more and more of the universe as within you.
"Wherever you think you go, whoever you think you are, whatever you think you think, guru is. Guru is."
- Ram Dass
Let us use this time together and this incredible spiritual energy that this sharing we're doing at this moment is tuning us into. To allow us all to get a little closer to the guru that is within all beings. Try to find a comfortable place where you can be with your head, neck, and chest in a straight line. You could be lying flat down, or you could be sitting up.
Imagine a Buddha like being now. A being sitting cross-legged on a lotus. A being made of pure light. A being of absolute calm, compassion, peace. Imagine that being in front of you. Imagine that being at about eye level in the distance.
Now imagine a broad highway of blue light, that stretches from that being to your heart. And then experience that being very, very gently, floating in the lotus position on the lotus. Floating closer and closer. So much light. So much love. So much compassion.
Let that being come inside until it resides in your very heart. Feel that being sitting inside.
Now let that guru increase in size until its body just conforms with your body. So where your leg is, the guru's leg; your shoulder, the guru's shoulder; your head, the guru's head.
Now feel what it feels like to be interpenetrated with a being of total compassion. The compassion to see the entire universe. Fully, with all its polarities. Without attachment, no attachment. Allowing it to be, not demanding it be anything other than it is. Seeing it all in its utter perfection.
Now feel what it feels like what it feels like to be interpenetrated with a being of pure light. Experience yourself as pure light. Feel the light emanating from deep within, and coming out through all of your of your pores. Pouring out through your eyes and all of your orifices, and from the ends of your toes and from your fingertips.
Now, feel what it feels like to be interpenetrated with a being of pure love. Be love. Be love. Feel that love emanating from every part of your being.
Now feel what it feels like to be interpenetrated with a being of total consciousness. Pure consciousness. Let every part of your being be conscious.
Now with your eyes closed, start to experience this body of light, of compassion, of love, of consciousness, growing in size. Start to experience more and more of the universe as within you. Everything you can think of, say, Tat Tvam Asi, I am that too.
And when you've moved out in space, in all directions, until there is no space you can conceive of that you aren't, now move in time. Backwards. Everything you can think about in history. Tat Tvam Asi, I am that too.
Now, future. All possibilities you could imagine, bring them all within yourself. Bathe all of the future, and all of the past, and all of the present, and all of there, and all of here, with self-illuminating radiance. With compassion. See within yourself all the polarities, all the goods and all the evils. All the beauties and all the uglinesses. All the yin and all the yang.
And now, of course, you include me, and I include you. So in this place there is only one of us. And this voice, and this air, is part of what we are. And within us, all of the laws of the universe are reflected in all of the forms.
And if I am it all, then the word "I" has no more meaning, because there is no not I. And so there is no I. Here and now, there is only is-ness. Just being.
The planets move. The heart beats. All of the laws are manifested in all of the forms of the universe.
Now we can look within ourself. We can see the separate entities, who we thought we were before we started this meditation. Find that entity, who you thought you were. Examine it, with some curiosity, as you would any other phenomenon in nature. Examine its dance in life. Look at all the problems it thinks it has. And the plans it has. Look at its desires. Desires it has because it doesn't realize, Tat Tvam Asi, that it is already everything. Look at all its fears. Look at all of this with the absolute compassion that you are now.
Now look into that being, who you thought you were, look inside that being, way, way inside it of it, and see who you now know yourself to be. The entire universe.
Now ever so gently start to re-experience your body, your physical body. The body in which you are dwelling at this moment. You're now re-entering this incarnation. Starting from your toes, let your consciousness move up the body until it reaches the crown of your head.
Now ever so gently, come back into the personality you have incarnated into in this birth. But at the same moment you're re-entering into your separateness, keep in mind, keep in pure mind, keep in the identity with the guru. Back into your senses, thoughts, all part of the incarnation.
And now, as we proceed on through the pages of the book of our lives, let's remember that in our heart sits our guru. Guru, god, and self are one. Wherever you think you go, whoever you think you are, whatever you think you think, guru is. Guru is.
Whoever you meet, in her, in him, resides guru. Wherever you look, whatever you see, all guru. Now, and always. Om.
Reflections on Suffering
Ram Dass leads you through a series of reflections on suffering – suffering in this world, suffering others have caused us, suffering we have caused others. How do you find balance in the horrible beauty of the natural world?
"What grace that we can even touch the possibility of seeing through the vale, what incredible grace."
- Ram Dass
Just developing that part of you that is very quiet, that is just witnessing the phenomena that arise at each sense door, and the phenomena of thoughts that come and go. Just let your awareness wander. If you hear the river, note the hearing of the river. Then you might some sensation in your foot; notice that. And then a thought may come up about the future or the past; notice that.
Keep cultivating that which notices the sensations and the thoughts. You're cultivating the witness that witnesses phenomena as they arise, exist, and pass away.
Now let arise into your awareness thoughts that concern some way in which you personally have experienced suffering. Just let the thought arise in your mind. Keep your witness strong. How do I suffer? What suffering has there been in my life? Let yourself into it just a little, it will awaken a lot of thoughts that are feeling like emotions.
Perhaps your suffering is around illness. Perhaps it's around loneliness and separateness. Perhaps it's around addictions, obsessions. Perhaps it's around shame or loathing towards your acts or your fantasies or qualities of your body or personality. Perhaps your suffering has been around the suffering of loved ones, or the death of loved ones. Perhaps the suffering is rooted in doubt and confusion. Perhaps the suffering is connected with anger, grudges, vindictiveness, unforgivingness, the tightness that that creates. Perhaps your suffering arises out of your seeing the unfairness in the world, to yourself and to others -- the unfairness in prisons, the unfairness of political systems, the unfairness that the Native Americans suffer, or the have-nots of the world. Perhaps your suffering is because the threat of destruction that is inherent within the bomb, the nuclear bomb, or the destruction that is going on to the earth, to the forests, to the oceans. Perhaps your sadness is because of the illnesses that others are suffering, such as AIDS, cancer. Perhaps your sadness is because of things unfulfilled in your life, dreams that never came to fruition. We all have them. We all have a lot of these.
Notice the relation between the witness of that sadness and that suffering inside yourself, and the sadness and suffering itself. Notice that as you get closer into the suffering how bad you feel. And at the same moment, retain the witness that sees the suffering as part of the human condition.
Stay right at the line between where your sufferings take you over on one end, and where you become the impersonal witness on the other. Stay right on the cusp between those two points. Can you see the way in which this suffering is contributing to your growth and your awakening? Just stay with it a little bit.
Get a little deeper into the suffering. Just feel the longings and the frustrations, the pain, the tightness of the body, the closed-ness, the self consciousness. You're working towards the point where you can be fully in the suffering and fully in the witness at the same moment. Pushing away nothing, clinging to nothing.
Is there a way you can see the deepest sufferings in your life as vehicles for growth? Look back over some of the sufferings of your life. Can you see the relationship between them and you now?
If your sufferings are sufferings because of what has been done to you by others, wittingly or unwittingly, by the universe, by God, are you clinging to the resentment and the anger? Is it making you tight and separate? Or is there a quality of forgiveness, of understanding about how it all is? Can you bring to mind anybody who has cut you off, who has done injustice? Can you feel how painful it is to keep them out of your heart? Can you touch them with an appreciation of the fact that we are fellow beings, often lost and often creating suffering? Can you touch another person with the warmth of forgiveness? I forgive you. Ahhh. I forgive you.
Can't you see that holding on to resentment and anger and unforgivingness, how it starves you? Can you bring that person into your mind's eye and see that being as a soul who was caught, and who's actions create suffering in others? When you say, "I forgive you," it's just acknowledging the other being's soul instead of identifying them with their actions. Your actions are good or bad, but you are just like me, another being seeking light.
Maybe your suffering is because you have acted in a way that has hurt others, and others feel resentment towards you. And you have increased someone else's separateness, isolation, and paranoia, and it hurts deeply. Imagine that person before you, and witness the part of you that acted in that way, and how you got caught in the unfolding of your karma. "I ask your forgiveness if I have made your journey more difficult. However I have hurt or injured you, whatever confusion or fear of mind I may have caused you, I ask your forgiveness." And then, allow yourself to feel forgiven. Allow yourself to let go. Receive it, draw it into your heart.
"However I have caused you pain in the heart in the past, through my anger, through my lust, through my fear, through my ignorance, my blindness, my confusion, however I have caused you pain, I ask that you let me back into your heart. I ask your forgiveness." And allow yourself to be forgiven.
Now gently turn and face yourself. How often we put ourselves out of our own hearts. Calling to yourself by your first name inside your own mind, "I forgive you. I invite you back into my heart."
Feel all the ways you have closed yourself off from yourself, the way in which you have been angry or judging, felt yourself to be insufficient, ugly, evil, inadequate, the ways in which you have isolated and push yourself away, denigrated yourself. Can you let yourself back into the wholeness of the universe? Can you allow yourself to be just the way you are, and appreciate how delicate, how difficult, subtle, how profound is the journey of the experiences of life?
"I forgive you. I let you back into my heart. I forgive you, you fear. I forgive you, your addictions. I forgive you, your weakness. I forgive you, your anger. I forgive you, your separateness. I forgive you, your pettiness and your petulance. I forgive you, your judgments."
Can you acknowledge your humanity just as it is? We all have it. We all have it. I am. I am just as I am. I exist. This is the stuff to work with. It's the holdings that cause the suffering. It's the judging that makes it, "I'm not enough the way I am, if only I were different it would be alright." You allow a tree to be a tree, a rock to be a rock, but you can't allow yourself to be yourself, just as you are.
"I forgive you, I bring you back into my heart. I allow myself to exist. I allow myself to be one of the faces of the beloved. I am beloved. I am the beloved."
Can you see the beauty in all of it? Just as it is? Can you see the way in which your clinging to judgements about yourself cuts you off from others? How you're afraid that the truth of your being will not be acceptable to other human beings? And so we suffer alone, rather than risk the truth, the truth that would show us that all of have these seeds of suffering, all of us.
If you cannot accept yourself and your own beauty, how will you see another's? Such mercy we must have towards ourselves, such a difficult journey it is. How much we have been closed off and frightened. We've tried so hard to come out of it, and we've felt so trapped, many of us. We've got to be gentle with ourselves, so gentle.
It is in the patterns of dark and light, in the shadows and the brightness, it's in the blending and the balancing that the beauty lies. The horrible beauty of nature. And our minds and our senses and our histories are all part of nature. Can you not allow nature to manifest? Can you not appreciate yourself as an evolving, awakening awareness, just beginning to sense the sunlight, to taste of the possibility?
Gently rest in the breath. So soft. The breath, a cave. The softness of the in-breath and the out-breath. The place of equanimity.
May I, through the work on myself, become an instrument for the relief of suffering in all beings. May I, through the work on myself, become an instrument for the relief of suffering of all beings.
Breathing in, breathing out.
What grace that we can even touch the possibility of seeing through the vale, what incredible grace.
In the middle of your heart space is the point that is loving awareness. Ram Dass guides you to this point, helping you rest in what you truly are – loving awareness.
"In each of us is a finger of the hand of loving awareness. Loving awareness is in everybody. Everybody is in loving awareness."
- Ram Dass
Concentrate on your breath. In, out. In, out. Maybe the tip of the nose will be the place where you'll do that.
Now, keep that concentration. Bring it to the middle of your heart space. And that point is loving awareness.
And that loving awareness is you. It's the real you. For you are awareness.
Now, you can be aware of your eyes and what they see. You can be aware of your ears and what they hear; your skin feels. You can be aware of your mind and the river of thoughts that come out of your mind. Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts.
Some of those thoughts are positive, some are negative. Some are about you, and about others. Some of them are judging thoughts. But you will stay identified with loving awareness in your heart, in the heart center.
I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness.
Awareness is not a thing. We can label it, but it is not the words.
You are loving awareness. So is Christ. So is Krishna. So is Buddha. So is Maharajji. They are loving awareness, and so are you. One loving awareness. One loving awareness.
In each of us is a finger of the hand of loving awareness. Loving awareness is in everybody. Everybody is in loving awareness.
War and disagreement and states and… that's the games. That's the games we play. Yet we are loving awareness.
We are individuals, but we're not. We are the whole thing. We are all god. You are an individual, and you are part of the whole.
Loving awareness. When you finally get to be, be loving awareness, be loving awareness.
Be. Be. We're all beings together. One consciousness.
We are Satsang. We are those who seek the truth. Seek the truth.
Beyond Space and Time
Ram Dass leads a meditation experience called visualization, where you imagine the guru that is within expands in size until you are beyond space, time, and thought. Experience the truth that this being is your true self.
"It’s as if light were pouring forth from this being, from every cell. Just looking at this being, you experience the peace that emanates from it."
- Ram Dass
My name is Ram Dass, and I'd like to share with you a meditation experience. And there are many forms of meditation, one of which is what is called visualization, a set of visual images that one imagines. Before starting this visualization meditation, find a comfortable seat. You could lie flat. What would be useful is if your head, neck, and chest were in a straight line.
First, relax a little bit. Let's focus on the various parts of your body. And when you do, bring your attention to that part of the body, and then intentionally relax. First, your feet. Relax your feet. Your ankles. Calves of your legs. Knees. Relax your thighs. Your buttox. Your pelvic area and your hips, relax them. Just loosen. Your stomach, relax. The small of your back. The upper part of your back. Deep relaxation. Starting with your fingers. Your hands. Your wrists. Your forearm. Elbow. Upper arm. Relax. Shoulders. Relax. Neck. Move it gently. Relax your neck. Your face. Your mouth. Move it a little and relax it. Your nose. Your eyes. Your cheek bones. Forehead. The rest of your head. Three slow, deep breaths, and with the out-breath, relax more deeply.
Now imagine, right in the middle of your chest, in the right hand corner of where your heart is, a tiny figure, about the size of your thumb, a being who is sitting on top of a lotus flower, sitting cross-legged. As you look at this tiny being, sitting within your chest, you are aware of its radiance. It's as if light were pouring forth from this being, from every cell. Just looking at this being, you experience the peace that emanates from it. Its equanimity. And you experience it as a being of compassion, of love, of wisdom.
Now let this being begin to expand. Growing large until its head just fills your head. It moves its arm 'til they just fill your arms; it's torso just fills your torso; its legs fill your legs. It's as if your skin contained within it this other being, this being of radiance, of peace, of love, of compassion, great wisdom. Now you and this being begin to expand in size. Larger and larger. Until the room in which you have been sitting or lying is now just barely big enough to contain you. Your head is to the ceiling. You sit on the floor, but continue to grow in size until your head is to the top of the building in which the room is, and you sit at the foundations of the building.
Once again you expand. Now your head rises up to the heavens. Until the entire community in which the building is located is within you, and you are sitting deeper in the earth. Feel your hugeness. Feel your identity with this being of perfect equanimity, of the deepest love, of the most profound wisdom, of such total compassion, a being that is vibrating with energy.
Again you begin to expand and grow. Now your head is up among the planets and you are sitting in space. The earth is within your belly. All of the surface phenomena of the earth, the winds and the storms, the tides, the life processes, the birth, the growth, the decay, the tensions, the violence, the tenderness, all of it is all within you. The mountains, the rivers, the trees, the oceans -- all within you. You sit out in space.
Now continue to grow until this universe, and all universes, are within you. This galaxy and all galaxies. All possibilities of form. Everything you can think of or imagine is with you. You have become so vast there is only one. Any you are it. And in your vastness comes wisdom, for everything that is knowable within the universe is already within you. There is a compassion inherent in this oneness, for everything is as it must be. And it is all understood, for it is all within you. You allow it all to be. Space. You are the ancient one. You are the eternal one. Here there is only one.
Now let us go one step further. Let the boundaries of this one become permeable. Start to break up until the form, even of this one, disappears. And that which is beyond all form, even of one, and you, merge. Beyond space. Beyond time. Beyond thought. Now out of this vast space, recreate the ancient one out of yourself containing the universe, with boundary. Feel the boundaries of your vast body, your arms and legs and torso and head, within it the entire universe of everything you can see or hear or smell or taste or feel or think or imagine.
Very gently, start to reduce in size. Come down until your head is among the planets and you sit in space and the earth is within your belly. Peaceful. Compassionate. Loving. Wise. Perfect equanimity. Reduce in size until the building you're in is contained with your body. And once again, until your head is at the top of the room. Stop for a moment, in your still huge size. Look within yourself and see the tiny being that sits or lies within this room that is who you thought you were. See this person's life, the fears, the hopes, the memories, the plans, see its story. Look up this tiny being with compassion, with love, with an appreciated of its predicament. In your mind's eye, imagine touching this being on the head and giving it your blessing. The blessing that this being may come to know who it really is.
Now, once again, reduce in size from your head being at the top of the room back into the body that you're identified with when we started the meditation. Still your skin contains this perfect being, radiant, luminous, so peaceful, so compassionate, so loving. And now let this being reduce in size until it is once again the size of a thumb, sitting upon a lotus flower in the middle of your chest, light pouring from its every cell, perfect. This being dwells within your heart always. You need only acknowledge it in order to meet it again.
And as you quiet your mind and open your heart, you will come to realize that in truth, this being is none other than your true self. Beyond external teachers and methods and exercises, what you need sits on the lotus flower in the middle of your heart, knowing everything, being everything. The entire universe, the ancient one, is within you. And when you have ceased to be who you think you are, you allow yourself to become what you in truth are. None other than this being of total light, total compassion, absolute love, the deepest wisdom.
Now, when you feel like it, you can open your eyes and return to your life, to your storyline, to your dance, refreshed, awakened, a new awareness, a new sense of the depth of your own being. May you be in peace in all ways.
Alchemy of the Heart
Ram Dass shares a meditation of the heart. He guides you through the process of bathing yourself in liquid love, dislodging all of the sadness and loneliness from your heart, and ultimately becoming an instrument for the transmission of light, love, and peace.
"Your every breath has become a remembrance of your part in the divine song of life."
- Ram Dass
My name is Ram Dass, and I would like to share with you a meditation of the heart. Before we begin to work with the heart, let's relax. Find a comfortable position, either lying flat or sitting. It would be good if your head, neck, and chest were in a straight line. Move your body until it's comfortable.
Now starting with the feet, bring your awareness to each part of your body and relax that part. First your feet, your toes, your ankles. The calves of your legs, your thighs, your buttocks. Pelvis, relax. Relax your stomach, the small of your back, the upper part of your back. Chest. Hands. Arms. The lower part, relax. The upper part. Shoulders. Relax your neck, move it around a little bit. Now the face. Bring your awareness to your face. Relax your mouth, your nose, cheeks, eyes, forehead, the rest of your head. Survey your body. If there is any part of your body that is not relaxed, bring your awareness to it and proceed to relax it.
Now let's begin. Bring your awareness to the middle of your chest. Imagine that there is a hole in the middle of your chest through which you were breathing, as if there were nostrils or a nostril there. So you're breathing in and out through the center of your chest. Close your eyes.
Now imagine that standing before you is a being. Perhaps it's some being whom you have always identified with perfection. Perfection of wisdom, of compassion, and of love. Imagine that between this being's heart and your heart there is a connection, a pipeline, and it enters right at the hole in the middle of your chest. And with each in-breath, you draw from that being, from that reservoir of love, into yourself. And as the love pours into your chest, it is like a liquid. It fills you. It pours through your entire body, up through the top of your head.
Inside of you are the residues of so many experiences. Some of these resides are beautiful, loving, harmonious. They are harmonious with the love that is pouring into you. But others of these residual bits leftover from the experiences of your life are harsh, are negative. They're things like frustration, anger, inadequacy, loneliness, unworthiness, self pity. Let this liquid love that is pouring into you with the in-breath wash through you and dislodge these little tensions that hold on, all of the sadness and the loneliness. We all have it. Let it be dislodged. And as you breath out, let those things pour out of you and offer them. Give them up. Let them go. And this being who stands before you is capable of taking them and not being hurt by them. Taking them and converting, transforming them into more love and more light.
Let your breath be slow and deep. In the in-breath, filled with this liquid love. Let it pour through you, cleaning, scraping, dislodging, loosening. On the out-breath, let all of the impurities, all of the past failures, the fears, the anger, the frustration, all of it, let it pour out, just give it up. Let it go. And then in the space, once again, breathe in deeply and fill with pure, clear, light love.
Go deeper. Look for all the things that you've been holding on to that keep you from becoming a being of love, a being of light, a being of compassion. Let them go, wash them out.
Now that you have let go of those things which keep you from knowing your own true beauty and light and love, let us move to the second part of this meditation in which you begin to acknowledge that you are an instrument for the transmission of love, of light, and of peace to others who suffer. In the same way, draw in, fill from the source, from this being who is before you. Fill with this moist liquid love. Let it pour through you. Now, with the out-breath, send a similar love out of your chest and direct it with your thought to beings who suffer, whether their suffering is physical suffering, psychological suffering, or spiritual suffering.
With your mind, take that liquid flow that is pouring out of your chest on the out-breath, and attach to it thoughts of peace and love, and surround those beings with those thought forms. If there are particular beings who you know, who are in pain of one sort or another, bring them into your mind and surround them with a golden light, the out-breath of love. Bathe them in the love that pours out of your hard. If there are beings towards whom you feel ill will, bring them to mind and see the separateness of their actions from their soul. Focus on their soul and touch it with your love. Realize if that other person has done things that have been harmful, how difficult it is for that soul to live within a personality and a body that creates suffering for others, and bless that soul that it may find its way to light.
So now, with every breath, you fill with love from the source and you pour it out to all beings who suffer. Gentle. Relaxed. Moist. Flowing. Your every breath has become a remembrance of your part in the divine song of life.
When you feel that you are clear and that the flow is unimpeded as it pours into, out of you, you can begin to experiment with yet another stage of this process. As you meet people who are suffering, but who are eager to give up their suffering, you will be able to draw that suffering into yourself with an in-breath. And as it comes into you it will be transformed into love, light, pure liquid energy. And you'll send it out to that person or to the world as pure love. You will not take from people suffering that they are not ready to give up, just that which they are eager to offer in truth.
There is yet one more way in which we can work with this exercise of meditating upon the breath and the heart. Once you are strong in this process, the flow that goes in and out of your heart can begin to absorb everything in the universe into yourself. Before you is all of it. The beauty and the suffering, all the forms of the universe, all the patternings of energy. With the in-breath, it's as if they were all rushing back into you. And as they enter into your chest, they turn back into the pure liquid energy out of which they were created. And in the out-breath, you breath out that living, liquid love back into all forms in the universe, so your very existence becomes a vehicle for metamorphosis, for changing that which is dark into that which is light, for changing that which is lost in suffering into that which is filled with the spirit.
With the in-breath, drink the world. With the out-breath, you bring the living spirit to earth. Then you have taken your true place in the universe as an agent of transformation, a representative of transformation, a representative of god. You have become the breath of god, transforming matter into spirit. Then, everywhere you look, no matter how filled with sadness, suffering, the pain of life, you will see the beauty of the living spirit, for it will pour forth from you and you will create the universe anew each time. This meditation is the true alchemy of the heart.
When you're ready, open your eyes and proceed with your daily life, activities. But at any time, whether working or playing or resting, sitting on a subway or bus, whenever, for one moment, focus on the middle of your chest and let the heart alchemy work once again through you.
Ram Dass leads a Southern Buddhist meditation called Anapana, which is designed to bring you into the here and now through the breath.
"All the sounds, everything that comes into your ears, just notice it as another thought and come back to your breath. There is nothing you need to think about now other than breathing in, breathing out, or rising and falling."
- Ram Dass
This meditation is drawn from Theravada, or southern Buddhism. It's called Anapana and it is just bringing you to right here and it is done through the breath. So it is common to everyone in this room at this moment. Of all of our individual differences, we are all breathing in, breathing out. This process is one that is like, if you can imagine a flower and the center of the flower and then the petals coming out of the flower. And the center is called your primary object in meditation and the petals are all the thoughts that keep coming out from that center.
In this case our primary object of meditation is our breath. We will focus on our breath going in and our breath coming out. You can do this two ways. One is by focusing on a muscle that is in the solar plexus that every time you breathe in it moves in one direction and every time you breathe out it moves in another direction. Rising, falling, rising, falling. Or you could focus at the tip of the inside of your nose. And as the air goes by you will feel a slight whisper of air on the in breath and as the air goes out you will feel a slight whisper of air on the out breath and you are like a gate keeper at the gate. The cars go in and the cars go out. You don't follow them to see where they go you just notice the breath going in, breathing in, the breath going out, breathing out. So whichever one is easiest for you, pick one now and stay with it for this period of 15 minutes, either the muscle in your solar plexus, that is rising and falling or the air going by the tip of your nose breathing in, breathing out.
Your job in the most gentle possible way is to merely keep your awareness focused on your primary object. Now it is going to wander. Your awareness is going to be grabbed by many thoughts. You'll sit down and you'll say, breathing in, breathing out. And then the thought will come, "this will never work." Now you can either take the thought that this will never work and immediately go off on another train of thought, even though I am giving you instructions you just ignore them, and then the meditation is over. That's okay. Or at some point you'll say "gee, all I was going to do for these 15 minutes was watch my breath and this is another thought, I'll just let it go and I'll go back to my breath." The art is not to get violent with your other thoughts. Don't get guilty because you are thinking them. Don't even try to push them away. Merely very gently again and again bring your awareness back to the primary object of meditation. Let each thought be another petal in the flower. Keep coming back to the center, back to the center, back to the center. So with eyes closed and body straight as is comfortable for you to sit, it's good to keep straight if you can -- your head and neck and chest -- bring your awareness either to the muscle in your abdomen or to the breath passing the tip of your nostrils and notice the breath either rising and falling or breathing in and breathing out.
If your breath gets fast or slow it doesn't matter, just notice it. Don't change it but just notice it. You are merely remaining aware. Any sounds, smells, sensations just let them come and let them go and bring your awareness back to either rising and falling or breathing in and breathing out.
If your mind wanders just notice it and bring it very gently back to breathing in breathing out or rising and falling.
Wherever your mind is now, just notice where it is and very gently bring it back to rising and falling, breathing in, breathing out. If it helps to say those words inside yourself with each breath it is perfectly okay.
All the sounds, everything that comes into your ears, just notice it as another thought and come back to your breath. There is nothing you need to think about now other than breathing in, breathing out or rising and falling.
Notice the shape and form as the breath goes by -- beginning, middle, and end of the in breath, the space, the beginning, middle, and end of the out breath, the space.
If you experience agitation or confusion or boredom or bliss or anything just see it as more thoughts. Notice it and bring your awareness back to rising and falling or breathing in and breathing out.
If you begin to doze take a few deep intentional breaths. Rising and falling or breathing in and breathing out.
All the feelings in your body, the sounds, the sensations, the tastes, the smells, the sights, just notice them coming and going bring your awareness back to the primary object of meditation.
Firm your seat, head straight, rising and falling or breathing in and breathing out.
There are three more minutes left. Use these three minutes consciously. Gently but firmly each time your mind wanders bring it back to rising and falling or breathing in and breathing out.
Be vigilant but gentle. Bring the awareness back to the basic primary object of meditation. Basic attention to the breath.
Presence Prayer and Meditation
Ram Dass leads you into loving awareness. Everything you experience, you love. When doing this practice you will find presence and inner peace.
Ram Dass leads a meditation concentrating on unconditional love and Maharajji's eternal presence.
Ram Dass urges you to offer your insecurities and frustrations to Kali, who lives off of your impurities, to release them into her welcoming hands, so we can allow ourselves to embody beauty in the Divine Spirit.
Ram Dass leads a spacious meditation focused on awareness. Like leaves floating on a river, allow your thoughts and sensations to arise, exist, and move on.
Ram Dass Mantras
Ram Dass leads a meditation using the Heart of Aditya (the sun god) mantra:
Aditya Hridayam Punyam Sarva Shatru Vinashanam
"Loosely translated, it means, ‘As for the being who keeps the sun in the heart, all evil vanishes for life.’ That is, when you remember the Atman, the Buddha, the place in your heart, the being, the inner guru, the light that comes from your own heart, then you no longer live with that which takes people from God, because all you see is God and that which brings you to it. When you do this mantra sometimes, you sit in front of the sun, and you let the sun come into your heart until the warmth in your heart becomes like a thousand suns and the light pours out from you."
- Ram Dass
Ram Dass leads a meditation using the Gate, Gate mantra:
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha
"It’s the mantra designed to move one’s consciousness beyond form into just awareness… It has a lot of subtle translations, there are entire books written about the translation of this, but for our purposes we can think of it as: ‘gone, gone, gone beyond, gone beyond even the concept of beyond, just going out, to that which realizes, to that which knows, has gone beyond.’ Svaha, I offer, I give obeisance, I make an offering. So, to your pure awareness self you offer, you offer yourself into yourself. You can do this with one breath, or two breaths. Just keep having that feeling of going out into the formless, and honoring. Out into the formless and honoring, out into the formless and honoring."
- Ram Dass
Ram Dass leads a six-part round chant using the mantra:
Jubilate Deo Hallelujah
Om Namah Shivaya
Ram Dass leads a meditation using the mantra:
Om Namah Shivaya
"One of Shiva’s consorts is Kali. She is that aspect of the mother that dances over death, and she consumes impurities into herself. Tonight, we are going to consecrate a fire to Kali and offer her our impurities. And we’re going to chant to Shiva. The whole process is one of incredible purification. It deepens, quiets, straightens all of our beings. It takes the emotional qualities of the devotion that we have touched here and turns it into the strength of steel. So that our love, which is Shiva’s love, is quiet, clear, and strong. So that we go into the marketplace with the strength of Shiva, and the tenderness of Krishna. That is what the balance is about."
- Ram Dass
Ram Dass leads a chant of the Praise God mantra:
Praise God for the light within us. Praise God, let love abide
"Let’s shift gears now and just work with the heart. The soft, very soft quality of the heart. And for those of you that have a hard time with the term ‘God,’ just think of it as your pussycat or your inner heart or whatever. It’s just a word describing that which is beyond words… God is the divine mother, God is all of the forms of the formless."
- Ram Dass
Ram Dass leads a meditation using the Sri Ram mantra:
Praise God, let love abide
"This is the mantra of Maharajji, of Hanuman. ‘Sri’ could be translated as honorable or radiant. ‘Ram’ is not Rama, the man, the being; Ram is the absolute, it’s God, it’s a name of God. The game of mantra is most usually the names of God, it’s reciting the names of God. And it’s a way of tuning yourself to the absolute through love, and through honor. This is a devotional practice, this particular mantra. So it’s radiant Ram, radiant absolute, which is beyond radiance but it’s leading you there, radiant absolute. Jai means hail or I acknowledge. Hail, hail, hail. Hail Ram, hail, hail Ram. That’s all it means. The concepts behind it aren’t what it’s about, it’s a feeling quality of an emotional opening and offering and bringing God into your heart, bringing the absolute into your heart."
- Ram Dass
The Power of God
Ram Dass leads a meditation using the Power of God mantra:
The power of God is within me, the grace of God surrounds me
"This is a mantra that you can use whenever you’re frightened about forces affecting you, it’s a mantra that creates like a body of steel going down through your middle, and it creates a shield around you. It’s like a shield, an impenetrable egg around you, if you will. And the mantra is: The power of God is within me, the grace of God surrounds me. You’ve got to feel it as you say it. Just let yourself feel it, as if the power of God pours down into you, as a strong force, like a steel core, and then you’re surrounded by a shield."
- Ram Dass
Ram Dass on Meditation
Ram Dass on Meditation
Approaching Pure Mind
Ram Dass provides some helpful techniques for helping to not get caught up in the never-ending drama of our lives. He talks about cultivating the Witness as a way to come back to the center, while using the stuff of life as a practice.
"I have the intention to become free and I’m using everything in my life to do it. At first you just have practices like meditation or prayer. And then you go to work, or you do your stuff, or whatever. And after a while all of it becomes your practice, every bit of it."
- Ram Dass
I spend a lot of time transmuting forms. I spend a lot of time getting caught in things and then extricating myself. It's a process, it's what my life is about really. Aurabindo, a great Indian saint, said, "The spiritual path is like somebody standing up, taking one step, falling on their face. You get up, you brush yourself off, you look sheepishly at God, you take another step, you fall flat on your face." It's like prostrations all the way to the end.
There are different ways I've worked with getting caught. I mean, in some ways I've made it into a career. Because by being honest about the way I get caught, everybody says, "Yeah right, that's human." It makes everybody reassured. But I also watch the way in which my mind grabs, or when I wake up to the fact that it has grabbed, a process goes into effect. And I've been thinking about that a little bit, I've been thinking about that a little bit and it has to do with intention. That once you have tasted, once you have acknowledged that you have tasted the possibility of freedom, of the heart, of the mind, of awareness, of your soul, of your spirit, it becomes, I mean the negative way of saying it is an obsession. The positive way of saying it is it starts to draw you to itself.
And the more you move towards it, more towards unity, towards being in peace, in joy, in presence, the more you are haunted by your imperfections. Not imperfections in the bad sense, they're just stuff that keeps you from getting on with it. There's another side of this which is interesting, which is that you work and you work and you work to become free of somebody experiencing things, to merge into it all, and then as you get near to it you start to push against it. It's like extending foreplay. It's just pushing against it and against it. Because you don't quite want to merge because the experiences become so blissful.
In the story of the Ramayana, Hanuman is a form of God that comes to Earth in order to serve. And Hanuman serves Ram, which is the name of the formless in that story. Hanuman, because of his devotion to Ram, he can do anything -- he has infinite power. And he does remarkable things. Finally, Ram, who is formless, but is in form as this king, prince -- Hanuman is kneeling before Ram and Ram reaches over to lift him, to merge him into himself. And Hanuman, who is devoted only to doing the work of Ram, at that moment takes everything to push against Ram in order to stay in form, in order to be devoted, in order to keep serving.
So there are these two kinds of emotional forces I experience. One is an impatience to be free in order to free everybody else, or to be free together or however you want to say it. That's the bodhisattva part of it. And the other part of it is the pushing away of freedom because of the exquisiteness of the taste of approaching freedom. Most people say, "Gee I wish I could be in that position." I'm busy wanting freedom.
But we can work a lot on that journey to freedom just by that intention to become free. And as I've been trying to understand that path, that path is the path in which all of your actions bring you closer to liberation. Not just what you do Sunday morning or when you're sitting on your zafu, or when you're praying to God. But everything. Going to the toilet, and striving and serving and shopping and eating and being neurotic - all of it. But yet, all people doing all things aren't doing karma yoga. But what's the difference? And then I realized it had to do with intention.
Once you see that your life is a set of experiences which you can either experience or witness yourself experiencing it, or ultimately being the experiencer. Now, most people are experiencing their lives. They look at a sunset, they look at a mountain, they do their taxes, whatever. It's a series of experiences, one after another, and there's somebody going, it's like a train going through a tunnel. It's going through a series of experiences.
But it's interesting that when you start to notice your predicament, you will see that in addition to the experiencer and that which is experienced there is a part of your mind that is just noticing the whole thing. Call it a meta game if you will. Call it the part that says, "Ahhhhh! Experiencing!" It's called 'the Witness' by Gurdjieff. It's the part of the mind that is not lost in the drama.
Now just to allay some of the anxiety when I say, "Caught in the drama..." There are stages in the spiritual path. There is a stage where you realize how stuck you are. Gurdjieff says, "If you would be free, the first thing you must realize is you're in prison. If you think you're free no escape is possible." You've got to realize you're trapped. So there's the first experience of how trapped you are. At that point you just want to get out. There's a tendency to push away the stuff that traps you. It's called the Path of Renunciation at times. By pushing it away you get very established in that part of you which is not trapped. But then you see that the final place you are stuck is in your aversion to that which would trap you.
Because what the Buddha said was, "The cause of suffering is attraction and aversion." So your aversion to physical reality, to the human plane, to being on earth, becomes a final trap for you. To become free of it, you've got to turn around and face your aversion. That is you have to embrace your humanity. That is you have to accept life. That is you have to embrace suffering. In that process you rise above the experiencer, and at the same moment you are in the experience.
So you start by being the experiencer, you push it away until you're standing back witnessing it all but separate. And then finally you see that aversion is keeping you stuck and you come back into life and you embrace it into yourself so that you're in it but yet not of it. It's such an interesting sequence. So that when I talk about drama, or the melodrama, it's to help us get free of it the first time. Not that we won't come back into it. Because you can't live life, I mean people say to me, "When you get enlightened, what happens to passion?" And that seems strange to me because it turns out that it's all passion. I mean, where isn't passion?
So I have a few little helpful techniques that I use, I've been reflecting about a couple of them. One of them is the story that I've told many times that somebody told me, that I've read somewhere. The story of the girl who gets pregnant by the fisherman in the village and she doesn't want to admit that it's the fisherman, so she said it was the old monk up on the hill. So when the baby is born the villagers all take the baby and their torches and they go up to the monastery and they beat on the gate. And the monk comes. And they say, "This is your baby, you raise it." And he says, "Ah, so." And he closes the gates and he goes back to his life, with the baby.
Nine years later the woman is dying and she doesn't want to die without confessing that it was the fisherman and not the monk. So she does. And the townspeople all take their torches and they go up to the monastery and they knock at the door. And the monk opens the gate and he's got a nine-year-old child. They say, "There's been a terrible mistake. It's not your child. You don't have to raise it anymore." And he said, "Ah, so." Now that's the witness. "Ah, so." The company you invested in just went into Chapter 11. Ah, so. Your car ran out of oil and you didn't stop in time and you need a whole engine job. Ah, so. Now, see I can keep creating them, but just think how good you are at it.
It's so interesting. I mean I get so caught in my drama. And then in creeps, I've got these few lines I work with like, "Ah, so." Isn't that a delicious one? It really, it really, it's like a nice person to hang out by on a rainy day, you know? Ah, so. It really hurts my back. Ah, so. And then my father had a great one. I really, it's interesting, I've been thinking about where it came from and it came from different places. He had one. As he got older and got more frail, you know, sitting down would be quite an operation. Because he'd let go of the walker and he'd sort of fall into the chair, and he'd sit there. And then he'd say, "There we are."
And you've got to feel the full flavor of it. "There we are, there we are." Get out of the car and close the door. "There we are." Get him into bed. "There we are." Put the food in front of him, and he's talking to himself, "There we are. There we are." At first, that sounded like a need for control, you know. "Well, there we are." You know? "I know where WE are." Because his mind was floating all over the place you know? "Well, I know where I am, I'm in front of a bowl of cereal. There we are." But sometimes he and I would be holding hands, and he was like 89 at that point, we'd just be floating in space together. It was just so sweet. And then out of him would come, "There we are." I thought, "That's from a different place than I thought it was! He's been waiting for me."
That's the experience I have. That people are waiting for me all the time. They're all so far out. I really love it when beings cut through my mind. What I do is I take those parts of my life where I get stuck, I don't take them, they take me. It's gotten to the point now where I so enjoy the lightness of being, the lightness of just delighting in the moment fully. No matter what it's got in it, no matter what it's got in it. That every time I start to get stuck, it's just like I go from air into water, it's like going into a thicker medium. It's like pushing aside something thick. And I think, uh, ah, that awakens me. I think I'm busy thinking I'm somebody doing something. And then I immediately, "Ram Ram Ram," or "Ah, so," or "There we are."
Just something that keeps bringing me back to the center again. The Witness. And it has to do with intention. I have the intention to become free and I'm using everything in my life to do it. At first you just have practices like meditation or prayer. And then you go to work, or you do your stuff, or whatever. And after a while all of it becomes your practice, every bit of it. You tell me something that can't be practiced. Tell me something that you can't convert into becoming one with spirit.
So you keep working on yourself to cultivate the Witness, which becomes, in your way, a gift to everybody around you. Because they come in thinking they're somebody, just like you do most of the time. And you're creating an environment where they can if they want to, but they don't have to.
So intention to awaken, finding the part of your mind that is not caught. Even though immediately after you've noticed it gets caught and then you come back again. The predicament is the clinging of mind. The predicament is that awareness clings to thought. I'll just read you the first paragraph of "Extracting the Quintessence of Accomplishment." And it comes from Dudjom Rinpoche who was an extraordinarily beautiful Tibetan Lama who passed on a few years ago I guess.
"The nature of our mind. The nature of our mind is the nature of absolute reality." Try to think of it now as the sky as opposed to the clouds. "Divested of all conditional and artificial characteristics fabricated by the intellect. This nature, this mind, is established with certainty in awareness. Awareness arises, naked, as the self-originated primordial wisdom. It just is. This awareness cannot be expressed in words, nor shown by examples. It is neither corrupted in samsara nor improved in nirvana. It is neither born nor ceases to be. It is neither liberated nor confused. It is neither existent nor nonexistent. It is neither delimited nor falling to either side. In brief, from the beginning, awareness has never existed as a substantial entity with elaborated characteristics. Its nature is primarily pure, void, vast, and all pervasive."
Now take the stages. You're caught in experience. Then you cultivate the Witness, which is that little part of your mind that sees the rest of it. After a while the witness gets stronger and stronger and stronger until most of the time you are "Ah, so." And even though the dramas of desires, fears, aging, life, crisis, are all coming and going, coming and going, they're all undulating within you, there's a part of you that is strong, that is clear, that is saying, "Ah, so." And then, in this particular technique, you become aware of that in you which is saying, "Ah, so."
And you go through, into pure mind. Which is neither the witness, nor not the witness. It is neither the experience, nor not the experience. It's not looking, but it knows everything because it is everything. I am describing to you a very disciplined technique of using the mind to beat the mind. Stand back from experience into the witness, not denying the experience, this isn't dissociation, this isn't a defense mechanism. Stand back so that you're feeling the pain of it all and at the same moment, seeing it. And when you're resting in the awareness, the seeing of it broadly, then you start to note the seer. The witness.
And there's a flick that occurs. And no longer are you experiencing the universe, the universe just is. It includes you but it's nothing special. It's really the process of dying as a separate entity into pure mind. And the moment you do that, a moment later you're fully there as a separate entity but you're also not there as a separate entity. It's all there all at once. You're a star and you're also the heavens.
Ram Dass on Meditation
Awareness in Meditation
Ram Dass reflects on the very precise stages of awareness that occur in the practice of following the breath. As your focus and precision increase, the deeper and deeper you’ll go.
"Pretty soon the awareness is riding the breath so closely that finally you’ll go to points where there’s just the breath breathing itself."
- Ram Dass
There are a set of very precisely enunciated stages that one goes through in the specific practice of following the breath, either at the abdomen or at the end of the nose. At the beginning, one is witnessing the breath as if one were up here witnessing the breath down here. As the awareness focuses more and more precisely into the breath, that awareness that is looking at the breath starts to shift. It's no longer necessarily here.
You arrive at a stage where, first of all, you notice what's happening to you is that when you start to focus on the breath, the mind, the awareness, keeps wandering to this or that. After you persist for some period of time, you arrive at what's called neighborhood concentration. Where the awareness settles in on the breath and it can't get away. Every time it starts to think about anything else, it gets pulled back to the breath, and then it stays right on the breath. Then it starts to penetrate more and more deeply into the actual phenomena of the breath itself.
From a distance, a row of ants looks like a rope. When you get up close, you see it's a row of ants. It's the same with following the breath. You begin to see that it's made up of a thousand discrete phenomena. It's as if your awareness starts to pull back from the usual time-space parameters by which you're defining reality, and you get into a much more precise way of appreciating the phenomena around you.
certain point, which is where you begin to see what's called the nama and the rupa separating. That is, you see the breath and then you see the mind come out and organize it. It's like I hold up this hand and you see the hand. But if you could separate the nama and the rupa, you would see that momentary thing that occurs when I go like this. You see a phenomenon; your mind does something, then goes out, grabs that, and turns it into a hand. Do you understand that? And that starts to separate. You begin to see the way in which the mind is constantly imposing structural forms on the universe of perceptual stimuli.
As you're focusing and the precision increases, the phenomena, like a simple in-breath, goes from being a little tiny thing to getting bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. What's happening is your awareness is getting more and more precise. It's going in and in and in and in. To tell you how far and how precise it gets, this is just a mind-boggling image. The rate at which you think is estimated at ten to the twenty-third, which is one trillion thoughts per blink of an eye. It's so fast. And that's the way you keep all this reality together. The way in which you keep sitting up, you're orienting, you're aware of the fact that you're a somebody. You're hearing my voice, you're interpreting it, your hands are somewhere. All that's going on at once. Millions of things, trillions, happening continually. And you're organizing them all and keeping it together. I mean, the brain is quite an extraordinary computer. Were you to make a facsimile of the brain, it would cover the face of the earth, even with microchips. That's how extraordinary it is.
Buddha, in his meditation, got so precise that as he got in deeper and deeper, he began to see the separate thought mind moments, the separate moments, the trillion per blink of an eye, arising, existing, falling away. Arising, existing, falling away. Arising, existing, falling away. As he went in more and more precisely than that, now you realize what that means. You've got that one. He began to see that between the falling away of one and the rising of the next one, there was a space. So it was rising, existing, falling away, space. Rising, existing, falling away, space. As he went in and in, the spaces got bigger and bigger.
For example, your body is made up of some 98% or so of space. There's very little stuff in it; it's all space. It just gives you the illusion of solidity because of the way the whole thing is put together. So Buddha went in and these spaces started to grow and grow and grow, until his awareness, instead of being grabbed by his thoughts, went into the space between two thoughts. At that moment, the thread of consciousness ceased to exist, and Buddha entered into nirvana, the state of cessation of the mind; it's called chitta vritti nirodha in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali--the cessation of the turning of the wheel of the mind, silencing of the modifications of the mind. You go behind the thought and then at that point you aren't. It's called the void, yet it's not empty. It is the un-manifest universe; it hasn't yet manifested. It's the imminent universe. You come back from that, and a moment later you come back into thought, and you feel a sense of completeness and fullness. At that moment you weren't, but it was alright, wasn't it? That's the part of enlightenment that is so mind-boggling. That's why who you think you are never gets enlightened. You understand? As Trungpa Rinpoche said, "Enlightenment is the ego's ultimate disappointment."
So you start out by meditating on the breath. At some point you realize that the holding of the awareness here is just one experiential thing that shifts. Pretty soon the awareness is riding the breath so closely that finally you'll go to points where there's just the breath breathing itself. In other words, the Witness is only a stage. This is a really hard one to talk about. The Witness is one part of the mind observing another part of the mind. There is a certain stage where you are quiet enough, where the Witness turns in on itself and you witness the Witness witnessing the phenomena. You see the Witness is but another phenomenon.
And when you complete that twist, you end up in the void place, where there is nobody looking and yet everything is. But there's no see-er anymore. So there's no experience. In other words, you have transcended dualism, but yet it's all there, including you. And then you're like a tree or a river; you're not self-conscious. You're not saying, "Hey, I'm a tree. I'm an oak." You're just oak-ness. You're just human-ness. And then you're just a phenomena happening. Do you hear that distinction?
When do you know if you're making a mistake? The thought that I'm making a mistake is just another thought; go back to your breath. See that constant thought when you're meditating, you're saying, "Am I doing it right? I'm not doing it right, the breath isn't natural. I don't know, everybody else seems like they're meditating and I'm here screwing around. I wonder when breakfast is going to be? My knee hurts." There are a thousand phenomena coming to the mind. What you need is that training of consciousness and the teacher that constantly says, "Bring your awareness back to the rising and the falling of the breath; just note the rising and the falling." The ego is so clever. It's constantly judging. "Am I doing this right" is just another ego foil. So just do the practice. It's like in Zen they say, "Just sit. Cut the stuff, just sit."
What happens is that you begin to see the thoughts arising, existing, falling away, arising, existing, falling away. Now, at one point, your awareness focuses on just the arising. You're not yet seeing the existing and passing away. You're still seeing the universe as solid, but it looks like it's all being created. It's like Christ saying, "Look, I am making all things new." It's as if everywhere you look, it just came into existence right then. I mean, where were you when I was looking over there? Did you exist? Are you over there or not? My god, you're here, and you just came into existence. But are you there? You could tell me they're there, but I don't know that. Ah, there they are.
In a way, if I could get fresh enough I would see you as being created at that moment. Then there's a stage where you look and you see everything as existing as if it's always existed and nothing's changing ever because you're at the point where you're seeing the existing, not the rising or the falling away. Then there's a stage where you're noticing the falling away. Everything looks like it's decaying and dying and falling away. That's where it gets really scary; a lot of people can't handle that one. There's a lot of despair in that one. People say, "I can't stand the horror of it, I see the decay." Like there are people here who see the decay of earth and the decay of the universe, that is a certain perceptual vantage point. Others see it's all changing. Others see it's all being new. Others see nothing exists at all. It's where they're looking at the points of the sequence.
But that is the sequence. Not to be stuck in any of them. To just keep seeing the flow. They're all there, nothing is there. You don't want to stand anywhere. Yeah, awareness is not aware of itself. Exactly. Not self-conscious, just awareness. In that sense, the entire universe is awareness. It's not self-consciously aware, it's just awareness
Ram Dass on Meditation
Mechanics of the Mind
Ram Dass explores dealing with the mechanics of thoughts rather than the actual content of the thoughts themselves. He talks about how it can be helpful to combine a meditation practice with working with a therapist.
"I’d rather have you sit down and follow your breath.The breath has no content to it at all. It’s just the breath."
- Ram Dass
What I hear in what you're saying is that the darkness, which I assume is the nature of the constellation of mind, that's what's creating the darkness, is familiar, and even though it's not pleasant, it's safe in the sense that it doesn't threaten who you are. It's a low-risk situation. When you come out, there's risk; there's risk to a deep place of your own sense of safety, and you feel very vulnerable, if you come out. Sometimes, it's better to stay with the shadow. I think you arrive at a deep enough understanding of the nature of your predicament to realize that protecting yourself from that vulnerability is no longer worth it. There's a shift in balance that occurs. I watch people that say, "I'm not gonna come out. I'm not gonna come out. I'm gonna stay in."
"Fine, stay in." I even say, "Go in deeper. Go in. Really nurture it. Go into your room, close your door, get under your blankets." I'm not talking literally, but I'm talking within their shadow work. And then at some point, it just isn't worth it anymore. I mean, I watch people over the years, I'm talking ten years,and I say, "Instead of trying to get out of the shadow, the dark, which I think reinforces the shadow actually, reinforces the reality of it, is better to just do your practices."
See, if somebody says, "I'm having these terrible thoughts, and I don't know why. Would you help me understand why?"
I'd say, "I'd rather have you sit down and follow your breath.The breath has no content to it at all. It's just the breath." Better they strengthen the centering, the quieting, the presence, and then rather than keep strengthening the problem, which keeps being reinforced when you work on it, and that's a very delicate question, because I don't want to undercut times when it's really appropriate to work on problems as content, but for the most part, the focusing on the content of thoughts is, to me, a last strategy. It is a much better strategy to focus on the mechanics of thought, rather than the content of thought. Do you hear that distinction? Because that's a very, very critical distinction. Like if I'm caught in a lot of thoughts about a relationship, about this, and about that; now I can go to a therapist, and the therapist will say, "Let's talk about your childhood and where did it come from?" That's content, we're dealing with the content of the thoughts.
Or I can just see these as more thoughts, "They're just thoughts!" Put them in the category of thoughts, not what they're about -- they're just thoughts. And what is my major game in meditation is to extricate awareness from identification with thought or with clinging to thought. So in order to do that, you go into a meditation practice, which in some cases might be taking one thought, like following the breath, and using it to free me from the clingings of other thoughts. So I'll start to follow the breath, and up will come, "What am I gonna do about that relationship?" See, thought appears, and I hear the teacher say, "Return to your breath". I go back to breathing in, breathing out. Then another one comes and says, "God, my life is a mess!" Now at that point, you can leave, call a therapist, go and say, "Let's deal with why my life is a mess" or you say, "Okay, go back to the breath. Sure your life's a mess. Go back to the breath." Rising, falling. Rising, falling. Rising, falling.
In other words, you can use the meditative practice to extricate yourself from identification with thoughts, whatever they are, shadowy or not. There are some thoughts that you won't get rid of that way, because they're sort of in a nest or a web of stuff, and then you will approach them in terms of content. But my strategy is to go for the mechanics first, and then go to the content later on, when some content seems ripe to pick off.
Like, I was meditating for 15 years, I think, and then years back, I had been in psychoanalysis and all, and after 15 years of meditation, certain psychological things were clearly not getting…they just hung in there. But my awareness had developed great strength, and at that point, I went into therapy with a Junginian therapist, and for about three months, it was just great stuff. I was just ready to pick off a lot of stuff, and that was about as much as I needed of that round. The more practices you've done, the quicker the working through will be.
See, and the predicament of working through with a therapist is that if the therapist is not awakened to these other realms of reality, the therapist thinks that the content is real. While a spiritual perspective sees the content as relatively real. Do you see the difference? Relatively real has the leverage to free you from it. Real means all you can do is substitute something else for it that's within that domain of that reality. Do you hear that issue? So, it's really important that you look for therapists or that you work with therapists or that you become a therapist who's rooted in these deeper parts of your being.
Ram Dass Articles on Meditations
An Introduction to Meditation
Meditation is basic spiritual practice for quieting the mind and getting in touch with our deeper Self, the spirit. Meditation …
How to Use a Mala
What is a Mala? A mala, is a string of beads. Used to chant the names of God. It’s the …
Meditation and Expectations
When you begin to meditate you may notice changes right away. You may feel less anxious or more alert. You …
Shifting our Perception with Meditation
Though you can start meditation at any time, it’s harder if your life is chaotic, and if you’re feeling paranoid, …
How can we escape the ego prison through meditation?
Initially most people choose to meditate out of curiosity or to relieve psychological pain, increase pleasure, or enhance power. The …
Why is it important to be aware of the breath?
Try these directions for mindfulness of breathing, a basic concentration practice: When you’re ready to meditate, close your eyes and …
Meditation in Action
“Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.” – Shunryu Suzuki The final step …
Finding Clarity in Meditation: Acknowledging Our Defense Mechanisms
The nature of a defense mechanism is that most of it is underground and you’re not even conscious of it. …
Meditation For Anxiety and Stress
17 WAYS TO USE MEDITATION FOR ANXIETY is a step-by-step guide to meditation for anxiety and stress…
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Where would I find information and practices for accessing being in the Witness?