In this video podcast, Ram Dass is interviewed by Chris Grosso to discuss why people return to self defeating behaviors and what we can do about it; how to awaken the courage and love inside of us; activating the emotional heart; how to love yourself; levels of consciousness; Donald Trump; how to work with addictions and more.
Chris Grosso is a public speaker, writer, spiritual director of Toivo by Advocacy Unlimited and author of Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality (Beyond Words/Simon & Schuster) and Everything Mind: What I’ve Learned About Hard Knocks, Spiritual Awakening and the Mind-Blowing Truth of it All (Sounds True).
Chris is passionate about his work with people who are in the process of healing or struggling with addictions of all kinds. He speaks and leads groups in detoxes, yoga studios, rehabs, youth centers, 12-step meetings, hospitals, conferences, and festivals worldwide.
In this episode of The Indie Spiritualist Podcast Ram Dass and Chris discuss:
• Why people return to self defeating behaviors and what we can do about it
• How to awaken the courage and love inside of us
• Activating the emotional heart
• How to love yourself
• Levels of consciousness
• Donald Trump
• How to work with addictions
• And more
CG: Why is it that many of us who have tools, who’ve been in recovery, who’ve been on a spiritual path for and work with mantras, meditation, prayer, yoga, and so forth, don’t use them during particularly difficult times?
RD: It’s all in the mind. And your mind gets captivated by drama, or by things in the outside world and we can’t get rid of it, it’s sticky. We’re too identified with the thoughts that are going around the situation, whatever it may be, itself. We need to bring the identification from the thoughts to the watcher of the thoughts and that brings you away from the thoughts. And then you should watch them and your perspective shifts around the thought. You get caught in your mind is the answer.
CG: So when we recognize that we’re caught in our thoughts, in our mind, is there a way we can use this realization to work with the difficult times in our lives—whether it’s drug addiction, loss, abuse, and so on? Can they become a vehicle for awakening the courage and love inside of us?
RD: Pulling back to the witness and the witness is part of the soul, then you’re identified with your soul and that’s freedom. So pulling back. With addiction, you pull back and you witness the addiction, and then you’re identified with the witness watching the addiction. I’m a bhakti yogi and so I use love. Your thought of addiction or other hard times happens in your mind, your head. It feels thick there, but you start in the head with the understanding that you’re aiming for the soul. So you begin repeating the mantra “I am loving awareness” over and over, “I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness.” And as you do this, move your awareness down from your thinking mind, which most of us experience as happening in our heads, down to our heart chakra, continuing to say “I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness.” I breathe in love and breathe out love. I watch all of the thoughts that create the stuff of my mind, and I love everything, love everything I can be aware of. I just love, just love, just love. I love you from my heart-mind.
When you can accept that kind of love, you can give that love. You can give love to all you perceive, all the time. I am loving awareness. You can be aware of your eyes seeing, your ears hearing, your skin feeling, and your mind producing thoughts, thought after thought after thought. Thoughts are seductive, but you don’t have to identify with them. You identify not with the thoughts, but with the awareness of the thoughts. To bring loving awareness to everything you turn your awareness to is to be love. This moment is love.
And then, from that viewpoint, you can look back at your stuckness and you can love your stuckeness because if you don’t love your stuckness, your bruise your heart, you bruise your soul.
CG: Right, so then anything that enters our field of awareness at that point is loved, because it’s experienced from the place of loving-awareness.
RD: Yes, right. Maharajji said to me, “Ram Dass, love everybody.” And I said, “ I can’t do it.” And then he said again, love everybody, but then I realized it had to do with the soul, and not the ego, because the ego judges, but the soul love everybody, because everybody is a soul and a soul loves another soul. Its not that the small, limited, ego “I” loves you, but it’s unconditional love, it comes from the ocean of infinite love.
CG: So, right now, listening to you speak, I feel that my heart is very opened up. Honestly, it almost feels like too much to bear. I’m not over-romanticizing this, but as I was listening to you a moment ago talk about loving-awareness, I felt like I wanted to cry, but not a crying of sadness, but a cry of joy. What is happening in that experience?
RD: I experienced that when Maharajji loved me the way that he did. That love, that feeling of love is something you have wanted and wanted and wanted and here it is, and you cry and say, “I’m crying. I’m feeling at home.” When you contact your soul from your heart, the emotional heart is activated and it becomes unbearable, the emotion, and you leave the emotion behind and then you go into the soul and it’s so much. “I’m home.” You feel like you just have to cry. The crying is not sad, or happy, it’s just crying. I’m home.
CG: So I think a part of that experience for me also comes from the deep-rooted pain I have stored within me because I recognize a part of me in the background doesn’t feel worthy of that love. So how do we learn to authentically forgive ourselves so we may begin to feel worthy of this love?
RD: You have to love yourself. The foundation of all of this work is loving yourself, loving yourself as a soul. The judging mind in your head that says, “I’m no good. I’ve done evil things.” That’s all in your mind, but when you step back from that and go to the heart, to the soul, you find love because the soul loves itself, and the soul is what you really are. Not your ego. Your ego is a dream. It’s maya.
CG: I know a lot of people, particularly the younger generation, have a problem with the word “soul,” and the idea of God. Some people are just very cynical towards the whole idea and tend to lean away from God, or the idea of being a “soul”. What would you say to those who struggle with these concepts, who don’t believe in a “soul” so to speak?
RD: The problem is that the word “soul” has so many meaning in this culture. I’d tell them all of it is words and you can get to realization from many paths, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and so on. These paths have different methods. I am an atheist in the sense that I don’t believe in anything, because belief is all in the mind. Belief is not faith. Belief is in the mind. Faith is in the heart. So I would say, go into your imagination and you can imagine a God, or soul, and feel that love, because they want love. And their caught in their conceptual mind, which keeps them from this love.
CG: So go into the feeling experience?
CG: I want to read a quote from a talk you gave at the1989 Summer Retreats – The Listening Heart – Selfhood: Spirit and Personality (Q&A): “There are many stages of the process of transformation. There is a stage where you feel something in you that is behind your social façade and your social relationships to people. You feel a somebody-ness which we call ‘soul’. Like you feel an entity. Then as you get deeper into the transformative work, that thing starts to dissolve. There’s no self; there’s no one. Then you see that there are just processes going on. There’s nobody there; there’s just these processes going on. And then the question is, how do you incorporate that understanding into existence? How do you live with no continuity?”1 So can you talk about how we incorporate that understanding into our existence?
RD: Living life is one level of consciousness and the soul is one level of consciousness and the One is another level of consciousness and if you continue to go from your soul to the one, you’re starting the vehicle of your soul. It’s like diving into the ocean. You’re on the shore and you leave your shoes behind and your “self” behind and go diving into the ocean, and in the ocean you are a wave and your wave is a part of the ocean. It’s a separate wave—this is a subtle understanding—but the One will have no difficulty in life because the One shows a panorama of your whole life and then incarnations from the past. Understanding the karma of your soul and I’m experiencing this life to learn things which will erase the karma. But that’s perspective. You’ve got to shift perspective. I was with Maharajji and I would go from one plane of consciousness to another and he was always there, at all of them. He was the One, so that’s what’s in store for us.
CG: So I saw a picture of your puja table recently and you have an updated picture on there of Donald Trump. The timing o my seeing that picture was funny as I’d just been thinking about compassion and cultivating greater compassion for others. So how do we cultivate sincere authentic compassion for others in a way that is very real?
RD: Well, let’s use Mr. Trump as an example. We’ve had trouble with Mr. Trump. The only thing we have to work with is his present incarnation, but if our perspective changed, there is a soul who has a terrible incarnation this time around. And having compassion in our hearts for that soul, for that incarnation, is another way of looking at it. I have compassion for the soul that has karma that has led to his current incarnation. Poor soul. Poor, poor, poor soul. He’s going to have his comeuppance.
CG: Do you have any advice for the younger generation, those who’ve struggled with various forms of pain and suffering and their lives, who are just stepping onto the spiritual path and may have some cynicism towards it?
RD: The stepping-stones for this journey are within each of us. Don’t look outside for gratification, look inside. Inside is your Guru, your God, whatever names you’d like to use. Your strength is all your intuition, your voice from within. And if you can’ trust that, where are you? Your strength is not in your thinking mind but rather, your Spirit. That has immeasurable strength. You might find yourself in a predicament in your life, and all you have to do is go within, go inside. I had a stroke, which affected my brain. And I just went inside to save myself. I have a Guru. You have a Guru too. Not in India. It’s a guide, a companion in your life, and he’ll remind you what you are and guide you back inside. You can only this being only within. He comes into your imagination, which is where he’ll meet you. Your imagination is healthy, just go into it.
CG: So I have one final question. I’ve personally struggled with drugs and alcohol in my life, and much of the work I do is with people who’ve struggled with drugs and alcohol, or depression, self-cutting, and other various self-destructive behaviors. And I know so many people, myself included, who change their lives for the better, for a while, but then return to these self destructive patterns, even knowing full well that they will not result in anything good. So is there something we can do to protect ourselves from returning to these self-defeating behaviors?
RD: Stay in the present moment. You were just saying, “going back to those things.” You and I are in the present. I don’t feel you right now as an alcoholic, but if you’re stuck in the past, you do. Your brain is back there. So now you are somebody who’s had those experiences and you’re stuck in the past. Don’t even think about the past. You have a model and the past is creeping up and then you focus on it. The past is the past. I know that there are traumatic things in the past, but you are a new person every moment. Just now. Just now. Just now. Just now. Ahhh. Addictions are a manifestation from karma. But now, in this moment, you’re a new person. The soul has no addictions except the one addiction to go to God. If you’ve gotten into your soul, you are free of addictions. Go into your soul and be free.