Working with Impulse


Question: Human beings seem to be limited in our ability to express the impulses that stem from deep within ourselves.  Is this limitation inherited through our culture, or is it a basic human limitation?  And if it is, must we always be, as it were, alone with our experience?

Ram Dass: I think our inability to acknowledge our impulse is primarily a socialization process. It’s the process of culture.  And I think that it’s the way in which we get acculturated, so that a society can function, ‘cause society has a hard time when there’s immediate impulse expression for everybody all the time. It needs a certain amount of delay of gratification, a certain amount of control, a certain amount of, actually suppression. Not necessarily repression, but it usually ends up as repression.

It is certainly possible to work with truth in a relationship to get to the point where more and more you are safe in expressing what your impulses are and your truth of your moment.

Truth is one of the vehicles for deepening spiritual awareness through another human being, and if there is a license for that in the relationship, in any relationship – with guru, with friend, with lover, with whatever it is – it is an absolutely optimum way of coming into a liquid spiritual relationship with another person.  But it’s very, very delicate because people feel very vulnerable. They have parts of their mind that are cut off, that the idea that’s been socialized is, “If I show this part of me, I would not be acceptable.” And the ability to risk that, finally you learn how to have your truth available.

It doesn’t mean you have to force your truth on anybody; but if you find somebody else that is willing to enter into a contract of truth with you, then you can share that and you can get closer and closer to the impulses.

It doesn’t mean you have to act on the impulses.  I mean I can say, “I have impulses that have risen in me that I would like to see, you know, you cut into pieces,” if I felt that or, “I’d like to make love with you,” or something like that. And that might not be socially acceptable or might not fit in with your model of reality, but if I feel safe enough, I can share that truth with you.  And as you and I share those truths more and more, then our entrapment in our minds gets less and less, and we are able to allow the awareness to flow back and forth between us, because we’re both looking from the same place at our human condition together.

The repression of impulse is what blocks energy and what keeps other people as “them” rather than “us.” And the idea is to get to the point where you really live with “us,” not with “them.”  Not with “him” or with “her,” but with “us.” And finally, if you’re really doing the yoga part of it, with “I.” There is only an “I” in many forms. Do you hear that?

So truth is one of the exciting vehicles to work with in a relationship. And what I’ve learned is to use my lecturer role to make my truth as available as I possibly could, and what I find is people say to me, “Thank you for being so truthful. It makes it easier for me to be truthful about myself, because you’ve done that.”  And I think well, it’s a cheap price to offer yourself up for that purpose, if that in itself starts to help other people.


– Ram Dass
The Listening Heart: “On Relationships”
From Summer Retreats, 1989


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