In this excerpt from The Only Dance There Is, Ram Dass writes about increasing our consciousness and working on ourselves through social action.
Now does working on yourself have anything to do with whether you protest, march, drop out, drop in? No, it has nothing whatsoever to do with that, because at any moment you are consciousness involved in a nature package. That nature package includes your heredity, your environment, all of your personality characteristics, all of the opportunities that exist at this moment, all of your attitudes, all of your predispositions – the whole package. That package is functioning under the laws of karma or the laws of the universe. In other words, that package is unfolding. It’s just lawfully working itself out. As you get more conscious, however, every act you perform increases the amount of consciousness in the universe, because the act itself conveys the consciousness. In other words, I could tell you the greatest truths of the world but if I don’t understand them inside, forget it, because all I’m doing is taking it from there and giving it to there and I’m not giving you the key that allows you to use it, which is the “faith” in it, which I can only convey through my own success in whatever I’m doing.
So, then with all of that said, it’s quite apparent that as you work on yourself, on your consciousness, you continue to do whatever dance you’re doing or that dance evolves. As you are conscious, you begin to see how the acts you perform can become more and more optimum to the conditions. That is, when you’re about to change a law in the country you begin to understand the way the whole system works as you stand back one bit, and you see what the optimum act you can do is, and you go and perform, and you perform it totally without the emotional attachment to that act, but with an awareness of how that act works in the whole system. You hear what I’m saying? In other words, it’s the ability to sometimes have delay of gratification, if you will, the ability to stand back, to do what is the more optimum response. Sometimes it’s the immediate thing to do. In other words, a parent may or may not slap the child. The parent may or may not be emotionally involved in slapping the child. The parent may or may not understand totally how many ramifications are involved in slapping the child. These are all different places which they can work at.
So finally the general rule applies to all action no matter whether you tell me that the world is going to end tomorrow or in five years or ten years or the bad guys win or the good guys win, or it’s all up to me, or we’ve got to get together and do something. All of that leads me to the same response: I will work on myself, since the work on myself is going to be the highest thing I can do for it all, since I understand that as man up-levels his own consciousness, he sees more creative solutions to the problems that he’s confronting. Therefore, it always feeds back to the same place. But working on myself is just like this. This is social action at the moment. And yet this social action is totally without attachment. I can’t be concerned with whether you can know this or not. I can only do what I do because the minute I’m concerned, I’m caught. The minute I’m caught I can only catch you.
– Ram Dass, excerpt from The Only Dance There Is