All of us are attempting to integrate our individual differences and the way we are not individually different – to stretch our awareness so that we embrace all of it, becoming human, which is both divine and animal. It’s both material and not material. We are so busy being caught in our dramas of separateness. And it’s an issue of our own consciousness. It’s not something you’ve gotta wait for somebody else to do. Nothing has to happen. It’s all in you. It’s all already happened.

I remember sitting opposite Trungpa Rinpoche, who was a rascal. He was guiding my meditation and he said, “Well now Ram Dass, we should do this expanding outward. Let’s do it.” And we had a sake bottle and his glass. We looked in each others’ eyes, and after about twenty seconds he said, “Ram Dass, are you trying?” I said, “Yeah, I’m trying.” “No,” he said, “Ram Dass. Don’t try. Just expand outwards.” And you see how you begin to notice all the things your mind does that keeps you from resting in the fullness of that spacious awareness. At that moment you become fascinated, as I say, with what brings you down; with what your mind catches.

And here is where we come to suffering, because what suffering tells you is where the mind is clinging. Now, I am talking about your suffering. I am not talking about somebody else’s suffering. Let’s just deal with us. For me, suffering is telling me where my mind is clinging. If I experience suffering because I am getting old, it’s because I have a model of myself that’s other than what this is. This is what this is, including dying, pain, loss, all of it. The models in our heads about it, and the way we cling to it, is where the root of suffering is. So when you wanna get free badly enough, you begin to experience your own suffering as grace. You don’t ask for it. You don’t say, “Give me suffering,” but when it comes you see it as something that’s showing you a place where you are holding. The place to release.

That doesn’t mean you can do that to another person. You can’t go and say to them, “Suffering? Grace.” You have no moral right to awaken anybody. You couldn’t do it anyway, but you really end up just creating an environment for another human being where if they want to come up for light, they’re welcome to. If they want to awaken to who they are, they’re fine, and if they don’t that’s fine too, because you don’t understand the nature of karma and why they have to be the way they are.

As you awaken to that channel, that plane that says you are a part of everything and everything is a part of you, everybody’s suffering is no longer their suffering. It’s our suffering. It’s not even our suffering, it’s suffering. Don’t even astralize it. It’s the suffering. We are part of the suffering and where there is suffering, and you identify with that suffering, there is a very intuitive responsive that comes out of what you might say, a spontaneous generosity of the heart. It’s the heart that says, “Let me help,” or begins reaching out or embracing or including, and its part of all of us, it’s who we are.

So I am realizing this is all my family, and what do you do when somebody in the family hurts? You do what you can to make them feel better, and if they’re hungry, you feed them, and if they’re blind you help them see, and if they need structures, you help them with structures, and then you get the hell out. You don’t start ripping them off for your own gratification. You just help where the help is really needed to relieve the suffering as well as you can. So for another person, you work to relieve their suffering the way they interpret their suffering. The way you do it for yourself may be entirely different. One person hasn’t eaten in seven days and they’re hungry and you feed them. I may be fasting for nine days and I don’t want you to feed me.

So you find yourself to be fully human with all of these paradoxes. I mean, to acknowledge these planes of reality and live in them full time: we are one and we are separate. Suffering stinks and suffering is grace.

-Ram Dass