I think all of us are learning how to listen. We’re training ourselves to listen more and more deeply. When you listen more and more deeply you hear the totality of what the situation is. You begin to see what it is that’s clouding your ability to hear clearly and you work on those things, so that you can hear more and more clearly ‘just what is’, and ‘just what is’ includes what your needs are, what your capacities are, and what your uniqueness is. It also includes what the situation is, what the opportunities are, what the culture is, what the expectations are, and what your old models are.

It’s not done linearly and analytically, where you say, “I’ll make this list – it’s all this and this.” Instead, there’s a quietness in which you experience the Gestalt of the whole ball game, and your mind is, for the most part, quite empty while this is going on. It’s not like you’re thinking your way through it. The answer is… like when you ask me a question, you’ll notice that I’m silent for a moment. During that time, I’m not thinking up the answer… although most people think I must be thinking up the answer. In fact, what I’m doing is going back into my breath and emptying, because in the emptiness, I can hear more clearly what the total situation is and out of that will come a response that will be more appropriate than if I try to think my way out of it.

So there will be awkward situations, where when you experience totality, you will act in a way that will be in opposition to the cultural expectations, and the heavens will fall on you, and there’ll be judgement. But if you are rooted in the deepest truth of your moment, then you are standing on as strong a ground as you have.

You are listening as well as you can to the universe, and often you will see that when things start to happen a certain way, your mind will focus in on that because you’re looking for patterns, which we call ‘synchronicity’. Often you will just get caught in your desire to find a pattern that will give you an external validation for what you’re doing. You just end up using the universe again to do it to yourself. So stay with your truth from moment to moment, and get the clues wherever you can. I mean, I’ll open up the Chuang and read something when I have a question, and if it doesn’t feel good, I say, “Well, that was interesting,” and I close it. If it feels like what I wanted to do anyway, I say, “Ohhh, wow, synchronicity!” And I do it, so I’ve learned that I’m a complete phony anyway, so I might as well just honor it and get on with it.


-Ram Dass



Photo by Nathan Rivers Chesky