Ram Dass: Soul Land

    —
December 31, 2019

600 Podcasts and Counting…

Subscribe to Insights at the Edge to hear all of Tami’s interviews (transcripts available too!), featuring Eckhart Tolle, Caroline Myss, Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield, Adyashanti, and many more.

Last week, the Sounds True community was saddened to hear of the passing of Ram Dass, one of the great lights of American spiritual inquiry. Born Richard Alpert, Ram Dass (meaning “servant of God”) rose to the forefront of psychedelic exploration and the movement toward Eastern philosophy in the 1960s and ’70s. He wrote the all-time classic Be Here Now in addition to many other published works, including Sounds True’s Walking Each Other Home. This special edition of Insights at the Edge presents an interview between Tami Simon and Ram Dass from 2012. During this conversation, Ram Dass and Tami discuss a deeper exploration of the self and the individual soul. They talk about experiencing the guru Maharaj-ji living on through the bodies and teachings of his students. Finally, Ram Dass considers the everyday experience of the atman—what he calls “the mega soul” beyond all others.(64 minutes)

Photo of ()\

Ram Dass (1931–2019) first went to India in 1967. He was still Dr. Richard Alpert, an already eminent Harvard psychologist and psychedelic pioneer with Dr. Timothy Leary. He continued his psychedelic research until his journey to the East in 1967, driving overland to India, where he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, affectionately known as Maharaj-ji. Maharaj-ji gave him the name, Ram Dass, which means "servant of God." Everything changed then—his intense dharmic life started, and he became a pivotal influence on a culture that has reverberated with the words “be here now” ever since.

Be Here Now, Ram Dass's monumentally influential and seminal book, still stands as the highly readable centerpiece of the Western articulation of Eastern philosophy, and how to live joyously 100 percent of the time in the present, be it luminous or mundane. From a backpackers’ bible in the 1970s, Be Here Now continues to be the instruction manual of choice for generations of spiritual seekers. Fifty years later, it's still part of the timeless present. Being here now is still being here now. Ram Dass's work continues to be a path of teaching and inspiration to so many. His loving spirit has been a guiding light for three generations, carrying millions along on the journey, helping free them from their bonds as he has worked through his own. For more about Ram Dass’s teachings, visit ramdass.org

Author Photo © Kathleen Murphy

Listen to Tami Simon's in-depth audio podcast interviews with Ram Dass:
Walking Each Other Home »
Soul Land »

Also By Author

Ram Dass: Soul Land

Last week, the Sounds True community was saddened to hear of the passing of Ram Dass, one of the great lights of American spiritual inquiry. Born Richard Alpert, Ram Dass (meaning “servant of God”) rose to the forefront of psychedelic exploration and the movement toward Eastern philosophy in the 1960s and ’70s. He wrote the all-time classic Be Here Now in addition to many other published works, including Sounds True’s Walking Each Other Home. This special edition of Insights at the Edge presents an interview between Tami Simon and Ram Dass from 2012. During this conversation, Ram Dass and Tami discuss a deeper exploration of the self and the individual soul. They talk about experiencing the guru Maharaj-ji living on through the bodies and teachings of his students. Finally, Ram Dass considers the everyday experience of the atman—what he calls “the mega soul” beyond all others.(64 minutes)

A Personal Message from Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush

Dying is the most important thing you do in your life. It’s the great frontier for every one of us. And loving is the art of living as a preparation for dying. Allowing ourselves to dissolve into the ocean of love is not just about leaving this body; it is also the route to Oneness and unity with our own inner being, the soul, while we are still here. If you know how to live and to love, you know how to die.

In this book, I talk about what I am learning about death and dying from others and from my getting closer to it. And I talk about what I have learned from being at the bedsides of friends who have died, including how to grieve and how to plan for your own death as a spiritual ceremony. I talk about our fear of death and ways to go beyond that fear so we can be identified with our spiritual selves and live more meaningful lives.

I invited my friend Mirabai Bush into a series of conversations. Mirabai and I share the bond of being together with our guru, Neem Karoli Baba, and over the years, we have taught and traveled and written together. I thought she’d be able to frame the conversations for you, the reader, and also draw in some of what I’ve said in the past about dying, while keeping my current words fresh and immediate. And I wanted to discuss her thoughts on dying as well.

From Mirabai Bush . . .

This is a book about loving and dying and friendship. It is a conversation between old friends, in which we talk about love and death in an intimate setting. I hope we’ve captured Ram Dass’s wisdom, expressed in a new way now that he is 86 and close to death himself.

“It’s about sadhana, spiritual practice, and I want both our voices to be in it,” he said. “I want it to be a conversation.”

“But I need to ask a basic question,” I said.

He nodded.

“Why are we writing this? Who are we writing it for?”

“I want to help readers get rid of their fear of death,” he answered. “So they can be,” a long pause, “identified with their spiritual selves and be ready to die. If you know how to live, you know how to die. This will be a link between my teachings about Maharaj-ji and about death. And people who are living who can see that they are dying each day, that each day is change and dying is the biggest change—it could help them live more meaningful lives.”

After a while, Ram Dass continued, “I’m also thinking about people whose loved one has died, who may live with grief, or guilt and regret, and I’m thinking about those beings who are sitting bedside with the dying . . . this could help them prepare for that role. And people who are dying, who could read this book to help prepare them for dying more consciously, more peacefully, being in the moment.”

Okay, I thought. This will be a good book to write. We’ll be exploring the edge of what we know.

From Ram Dass . . .

I have had aphasia since my stroke 20 years ago. Aphasia impairs a person’s ability to process language but does not affect intelligence. Sometimes I pause for long periods to find a word or figure out how to express a thought in just the right way. I like to say that the stroke gave me the gift of silence.

When I thought about the best way to write a book on dying while having aphasia, I knew it would be important to express these ideas and experiences clearly, subtly, truthfully. I realized that these days I have been expressing what I know best when I am in dialogue with another person—someone who is comfortable with silence and listens for new ideas as they arise. Why not create a book that way?

I like that this format for the book draws you into the room with us, into this conversation that we all need to have. I invite you to watch this video of us talking together, to give you a sense of how our conversations unfolded.

 

https://youtube.com/watch?v=3Tq7kLnYqIs%3Fautoplay%3D1%26utm_source%3Dbronto%26utm_medium%3Demail%26utm_campaign%3DR180831-Dass-Bush%26utm_content%3DA%2BPersonal%2BMessage%2Bfrom%2BRam%2BDass%2Band%2BMirabai%2BBush

 

With love,

Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush

Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush: Walking Each Other Home

Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert) is a world-renowned spiritual teacher and the author of the indispensable classic Be Here Now. Despite suffering a massive stroke that left him with aphasia, Ram Dass continues to write and teach from his home in Maui. His longtime friend Mirabai Bush is the founder of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, and was the one of the co-creators of Google’s Search Inside Yourself program. They have teamed with Sounds True to publish Walking Each Other Home: Conversations on Loving and Dying. In this special episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Ram Dass and Mirabai Bush about changing our society’s dysfunctional relationship to dying, focusing on how to ease fears around the process. They talk about facing a lifetime of regrets and why going into our last moments consciously is so important. Finally, Mirabai leads listeners in a practice designed to help release attachments and comments on why grieving is an important act of love. (63 minutes)

Tami’s Takeaway: Ram Dass, who is now 87 years old, has planned at the time of his death for there to be an open-air funeral in Maui. He has even secured a government license for this to happen. Ever the teacher (even when it comes to his own death), Ram Dass’s intention is to introduce Westerners to teachings from the East—in this case, the value of sitting with a burning corpse while contemplating impermanence and living whole-heartedly. Of course, we don’t need to wait until we are at an open-air funeral to engage in such contemplation. We are each asked to die in some way every day, to let go of an old image of ourselves or an outmoded configuration of some kind. Can we embrace the dying we are going through right now? And in the process, experience our hearts breaking open so that we can live and love fully, without constraint?

You Might Also Enjoy

Gratitude Is a Byproduct of Service

Among the lessons I’ve seen people embrace by performing their microgestures is the true meaning of gratitude. Gratitude has become a big idea in certain circles these days, and a lot has been written about research showing that a focus on gratitude has real benefits for people in terms of their mental and physical well-being.3 This is probably why the practice of gratitude journaling has become so popular. You can even buy gratitude journals at your local bookstore ready for you to fill in the blanks about what makes you feel lucky today.

I have to admit that I have a bit of a bone to pick with the gratitude journalers of the world. It’s not that I disagree with the research or the idea that gratitude can be a powerful force. It’s that I think the idea of gratitude, perhaps because it has become so popular, is too often misunderstood.

I don’t believe that gratitude is about sitting in your room and saying thanks so only your walls can hear you. I don’t believe it’s something that should remain in the pages of a journal. I don’t believe it’s something you can find on a bracelet or in an Instagram quote. These can be good ways to remind yourself to be thankful, but they’re not enough. That’s because gratitude isn’t meant to be passive. “God is a verb,” as Paulo Coelho once said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey about his bestselling book, The Alchemist.4 I believe that gratitude, too, needs to be treated as an action.

In fact, we used to talk about gratitude in terms of giving thanks, which makes it sound so much more active, instead of merely being thankful. Rightly so, because I believe gratitude is something you should do, not something you merely think or feel or write about. This means you can’t just read in the news about the hurricane that devastated a town or the drug problem that plagues a community and feel thankful that you’re removed from it and safe. You can’t just walk by people in need and feel sorry for their suffering and grateful that you’re not in the same position. True gratitude is more than just a feeling. It’s the expression of that feeling through action—the action of serving others. To truly be grateful, you have to act gratefully.

It’s a bit like that old philosophical question about whether, if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, did it really fall? By the same token, if you love someone but you never express that love, either verbally or through your actions, can you really call it love? If you’re grateful for what you have but never extend that gratitude to others, then are you truly living a grateful life?

When we mindfully show our appreciation for what we have through the action of serving others, then gratitude is the result. It’s the byproduct of that service, and there’s really no other way to get it. We live in a world that loves shortcuts. If there’s a faster, easier, simpler way to get something done, then we’re all over it. People write about “life hacks” as if they’re going to save us, but some things can’t be hacked. I believe that gratitude is one of them.

In the energy exchange, there’s a dynamic between people made up of living, breathing energy that flows back and forth. When that energy stops moving, it dies. Gratitude has an energy behind it too, but I believe that energy dies, or at least atrophies, when we keep it confined to our thoughts and prayers or the pages of our journal. Even sharing grateful thoughts on social media—which I highly encourage as an antidote to all the complaints and judgments that tend to be put on display—is not the same as allowing our gratitude to inspire us to act on behalf of others. Because it’s so often relegated to contexts like these, gratitude is really in danger of losing its meaning.

I was once in a yoga class that was winding down on a hot day when I witnessed a missed opportunity to really live gratitude. We were all sitting in Lotus Position with the lights dimmed and the door open so the breeze could flow through the studio. Soft music was playing in the background and our hands were pressed together at our hearts as we whispered our “namastes.” Just then a man, who appeared to be suffering from mental illness, walked in through the open door to say hello and ask, “What are you all doing in here?” He was friendly

enough, but the reaction was immediate. The people closest to him scattered while others turned away or shook their heads. No one answered him. I meant to, but I didn’t gather my thoughts quickly enough. The teacher rushed over to tell him to leave, pushing him out the door and closing it behind him.

It was as if everyone in the room had forgotten what they’d been doing right before the man walked in. Yoga classes often end with the students saying namaste as an expression of gratitude for the experience they just had, the teacher who guided them through it, and the fellow students they shared it with. But it’s also generally considered to have spiritual connotations, to be a conscious acknowledgment of another person’s soul, of the divine light that resides in all of us. Some literally translate namaste from Sanskrit to mean: “The light in me acknowledges the light in you.”

I guess my fellow classmates decided that not everyone was worthy of a namaste. I don’t mean to be overly harsh. I get why people were frightened, as they often are by mental illness, or turned off by the disruption when they were in the midst of a peaceful moment. But if we’d all taken a moment to simply notice this man (an act of non-resistance), I think it would have quickly become clear that he meant us no harm. He was just curious and, I think, lonely. It seemed like what he wanted most of all was someone to talk to, and here he’d found a group of people expressing gratitude in a tranquil place. We can perhaps forgive him for thinking we were the kind of people who might be receptive to his attempt to connect.

We live in an amazing time. Being part of the Information Age gives us exposure to all kinds of wisdom and ancient teachings along with all the new. Yoga has been practiced for hundreds of years. Verses on gratitude can be found in the Bible. There is truth and power in these old ways, but let’s make sure we’re getting the most out of them. These ancient concepts should be more than just things you think to yourself or utter on autopilot. If we really want the benefits, we need to learn how to live them.

If you are grateful for something in your life, you have to find a way to put some of that grateful energy back into the world instead of holding onto it. That’s the only way to keep it flowing. That’s the only way gratitude can come back to you. If you have your antenna up while you perform your microgestures, you’ll start to notice the flow and you’ll start to better appreciate when some of it flows back your way.

❤ HEARTWORK

Ask yourself: How can I do more than just think grateful thoughts? How can I act gratefully in the world today?

If you keep a gratitude journal, consider recording not just what you’re thankful for, but the full energy exchange: what you’re grateful for and what you gave gratefully in return.

Notes:

  1. Colby Itkowitz, “The Science Behind Why You Shouldn’t Stop Giving Thanks After Thanksgiving,” The Washington Post (November 24, 2016).
  2. Paulo Coelho, “What if the Universe Conspired in Your Favor?” Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations (August 9, 2017). 

This is an excerpt from Love Without Reason: The Lost Art of Giving a F*ck by LaRayia Gaston.

 

larayia gaston author photoLARAYIA GASTON is a former model, actress, and founder of the nonprofit Lunch On Me, an organization dedicated to bringing organic, healthy food and holistic healing to those experiencing homelessness. She’s also a regular public speaker, podcast guest, and activist. She resides in Los Angeles. For more, visit lunchonme.org.

 

 

 

 

 

love book coverSounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Bookshop

Victory! A Poem

Victory!

By Jeff Foster

 

You don’t have to be the best. 

You don’t have to win. 

You only have to be yourself.

 

You only have to be real. 

And speak from the heart. 

And know that you have the right to see how you see, 

and think how you think, and feel what you feel, 

and desire what you desire.

 

You don’t have to be a success in the eyes of the world 

and you don’t have to be an expert on living.

 

You only have to offer what you offer, 

breathe how you breathe, make mistakes and screw 

up 

and learn to love your stumbling and say the 

wrong thing 

and stop worrying so much about impressing anyone 

because in the end you only have to live with yourself

 

and joy is not given but found in the deepest 

recesses of your being 

so there can be joy in falling and joy in making 

mistakes 

and joy in making a fool of yourself and joy in 

forgetting joy 

and then holding yourself close as you crumble to 

the ground 

and weep out the old dreams.

 

Joy is closeness 

with the one you love: 

You.

 

You don’t have to be the best. 

You really don’t have to win.

 

You only have to remember this intimacy with 

the sky, the nearness of the mountains and feel the sun 

warming your shoulders and the nape of your neck

 

and know that you are alive, 

and that you are a success at being alive, 

and that you have won already, 

and you are victorious already, 

without having to prove 

a damn 

thing.

 

To anyone.

This poem is excerpted from You Were Never Broken: Poems to Save Your Life by Jeff Foster.

 

jeff fosterJeff Foster shares from his own awakened experience a way out of seeking fulfillment in the future and into the acceptance of “all this, here and now.” He studied astrophysics at Cambridge University. Following a period of depression and physical illness, he embarked on an intensive spiritual search that came to an end with the discovery that life itself was what he had always been seeking.

 

 

 

 

 

book cover

Learn More

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop

Relearning to Love Our Body

The Practice of Reconnecting

 

Finish the sentence: “I’ll accept my body . . .” 

For example:

“…when I lose 20 pounds.” 

“…when I have fewer wrinkles.”

“…when I reach orgasm faster.”

 

Determine the emotional experience you want as a result of that. If numerous emotions come to mind, write them all down, and choose one that has the most charge or intensity. 

Then complete the thought with, “As a result I’ll feel . . .”

Examples:

I’ll accept my body when I lose twenty pounds. As a result I’ll feel confident.

I’ll accept my body when I have fewer wrinkles. As a result I’ll feel relaxed.

I’ll accept my body when I reach orgasm faster. As a result I’ll feel sexual.

 

Now cross out the “when/as a result” statements:

I’ll accept my body when I lose 20 pounds. As a result I’ll feel confident.

I’ll accept my body when I have fewer wrinkles. As a result I’ll feel relaxed.

I’ll accept my body when I reach orgasm faster. As a result I’ll feel sexual.

 

Working with one statement at a time, start each morning asking yourself, “How can I have the experience of [desired emotion] today?” You might journal a few ideas to create that feeling in your day.

When we feel the need to change our appearance, it’s not because that’s the ultimate goal. We’re using body modification and alteration as a means to a positive emotional experience. But the means are always the end. As long as we use the mindset of body rejection, that’s the only outcome we’ll ever experience—no matter how much our body changes.

When doing this exercise, please note that words like beautiful or desirable do not describe feelings because they are statements of someone else’s perception of you. What we ultimately want is to feel good in our bodies, not to be judged positively by someone. Whenever we want someone’s positive judgment of our bodies, it’s because we think that’s the way we’re going to feel loved, safe, connected, expressive, or happy. Take the shortcut, and just go straight to creating that feeling in your life now.

Feelings are felt experiences in your body. Here are some examples:

Positive feelings: joyful, grateful, exhilarated, excited, aroused, peaceful, affectionate, inspired, hopeful, renewed, fulfilled, enchanted, delighted, calm, amazed, blissful

Negative feelings: hurt, sad, anxious, timid, angry, irritated, afraid, scared, confused, fatigued, tense, numb, helpless, uncomfortable, embarrassed, ashamed, exhausted, depleted, grief, appalled, shocked

Then there are pseudo-feelings—they’re not real feelings, but reflect your judgment of someone’s behavior or situation. Judgments are not feelings, they are mental ideas.

Pseudo-feelings include: abandoned, betrayed, invalidated, manipulated, misunderstood, disrespected, unseen, provoked, threatened, victimized, ignored.

This is an excerpt from The Invisible Corset: Break Free from Beauty Culture and Embrace Your Radiant Self by Lauren Geertsen.

Lauren Geertsen is a body connection coach who helps women heal their relationship with food and body image. In her previous work as a nutrition consultant, Lauren realized the underlying problem for her clients was distrust of their bodies, which results from wearing the invisible corset. She now helps clients around the world trust their bodies and step into their soul purpose. Her website, empoweredsustenance.com, has supported over 40 million readers with holistic recipes and resources.

 

 

 

 

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | Indiebound

>
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap