A Complete Guide to the Practice o Meditation

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Ram Dass made his mark on the world by teaching the path of the heart and promoting service in the areas of social consciousness and care for the dying. When Ram Dass first went to India in 1967, he was still Dr. Richard Alpert, an eminent Harvard psychologist and psychedelic pioneer with Dr.Timothy Leary. In India, he met his guru, Neem Karoli Ba...ba, affectionately known as Maharajji, who gave Ram Dass his name, which means "servant of God." On his return from India Ram Dass became a pivotal influence in our culture with the publication of “Be Here Now”. In fact those words have become a catch phrase in people’s lives for the last 40 years. With the publication in 2011 of “Be Love Now” Ram Dass completed his trilogy that began with “Be Here Now” in 1970 and continued with “Still Here” in 2004. His newest book is “Polishing The Mirror: How to Live From Your Spiritual Heart.” Ram Dass now makes his home in Maui and teaches world wide through his website RamDass.org and continues the work of Neem Karoli Baba through the Love Serve Remember Foundation. More

How do you reconcile faith and reason?

angel-in-meditation-picture-id117146656 How do you reconcile faith and reason?

We have come out of a period on the evolutionary journey of us as beings, where man evolved these great frontal lobes and this capacity for rational thought and self-consciousness. And this is, in the Hindu system, what would be called a siddhi or a power. That power can be used in a variety of ways. It can be used in the service of what I call the third chakra, that is, in terms of a man’s control over his environment, which is the way we’ve been doing it, which the rational mind controls. It’s man over nature in the anthropological Florence Kluckhohn differentiations. She talks about societies that are man over nature, societies that are man in nature, and societies that are man under nature. Attachment to the siddhi of the rational mind put man in the group of man over nature.

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How can we consciously stand up to social injustice?

socialinjustice How can we consciously stand up to social injustice?

The wisdom of the game is that you can protest against who you are protesting the minute you can genuinely love them as much as you love yourself.

You may not love their acts, but you better love who’s behind it, and you better see it as another manifestation, because otherwise you’re getting caught up in with ‘them’ in the ‘them-ness.’ As a result, you are getting stuck and then you’ll end up feeling unfulfilled because you’re feeling separate, you’re separating yourself.

The whole act is meant to build upon a feeling of unity that comes from breaking through the separateness.

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How can we reorient ourselves towards the divine?

young-man-meditating-picture-id961344078 How can we reorient ourselves towards the divine?

We all get preoccupied with where we’re not.


I mean, I get letters from people all the time with vivid descriptions of where they’re not. The amount of consciousness they invest in writing the letter to describe where they’re not…but every now and then, I get a letter and all it’s filled with is page after page of, “Ram Ram Ram Ram,” and I read every page. Every page. What else is there to write?

See, the process for those that have a scientific vent, that want it said that way, the process is really nothing other than completely reorganizing your cognitive map, so that you see the entire universe from another place – from your Divine Self.

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How can we raise our children to be ecologically conscious?

ecology children How can we raise our children to be ecologically conscious?
Question: I am the father of a three year old. It appears that, given the current trends, the planet will become uninhabitable before he can live out a normal life span. There will be a lot of suffering if human life on the planet comes to an end. I understand that it is all supposed to be perfect, but how do you view this situation from a cosmic perspective and what should we be doing at this time?

Ram Dass: I think that more than ever we are beginning to awaken to the fact that we are part of an eco-system and that we are entities in that with some responsibility for the nest we live in and the maintenance of the nest. In the same way that we clean up our house, we also have to clean up our environment. That consciousness seems to be slow in happening because the motivation to keep it from happening  — because there are economic costs in that awakening  —  that in the reorganization — not in the long run, but in the short run — there is an economic realignment of power.

And the people that have the power have a lot of inertia. I mean the stockholders of a big company are not ready to do dramatic shifts unless they are forced to do it because it changes the amount of dividends that come. And all of us aren’t quite willing to change our lives that much in the little ways. I mean, we don’t have to make those big guys the bad guys, because we’re all part of that web too. But there is an increasing consciousness now about rain forests, about air, about water, and so on. It is hard to access what the outcome will be.

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How does labeling our experience take us out of the moment?

labeling How does labeling our experience take us out of the moment?

St. John of the Cross said, “All that the imagination can imagine and the understanding it can receive and understand in this life is not, nor can it be, a proximate means of union with God.”

What we have touched or tasted or known through some vehicle or another has been a way of turning ourselves on and getting high. I mean, Eleanor Rigby gets her kicks in some way or other. It may be darning a sock, it may be cooking a bouillabaisse, it may be walking by the ocean, it may be turning on with something – pot or acid, it may be making love – a moment of sexual union. It may be pure service, just serving, just totally, “Not mine, but thy will, oh lord,” in everything you do. Prayer gets you high, singing holy songs gets you high. Everybody’s got a trip to get high. Funny what we are getting to at this stage – we start to say, “Well my trip is better than your trip. You mean you didn’t go surfing man? Oh, you’re nowhere baby.”

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What does it really mean to live in our truth?

wolf What does it really mean to live in our truth?

Knowing you’re God and being God are two different things. I mean intellectually, we all know we’re God – most of us understand that. But the direct experience of merging into it is another matter.

What seems to happen as you evolve spiritually is that the impurities or the things that veil you from being in your deepest truth become more unbearable.

I’m not talking about the judging mind coming up and saying, “I’m bad for it” or, “It’s bad for me.” It’s like if you have a lover, but you’re always separated by some veil from that lover – it becomes unbearable after a while. You just keep wanting to rip the veil apart. I’m so aware in myself, for example, how when I don’t clear my mind, when I don’t extricate myself from identification with my thought forms, my whole life gets thick. I can feel the thickness of it and it’s a sort of dense quality. I end up like I used to be, “It’s all fine, and I can get through life, and it’s all going fine, everybody likes me, and I like everybody, and I’m making money, and I’m doing my life, and I’m getting up and going to bed, and doing good,” but somehow it’s not living truth.

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The Game of Balance and Liberation

monk The Game of Balance and Liberation

There is a story about an old Zen monk who was dying, who had finished everything and was about to get off the wheel. He was just floating away, free and in his pure Buddha-mind, when a thought passed by of a beautiful deer he had once seen in a field. And he held on to that thought for just a second because of its beauty, and immediately he took birth again as a deer. It’s as subtle as that.

It’s like when we begin to see the work that is to be done, and we go to an ashram or a monastery, or we hang out with satsang. We surround ourselves with a community of beings who think the way we think. And then none of the stuff, the really hairy stuff inside ourselves, comes up. It all gets pushed underground. We can sit in a temple or a cave in India and get so holy, so clear and radiant, the light is pouring out of us. But when we come out of that cave, when we leave that supportive structure that worked with our strengths but seldom confronted us with our weaknesses, our old habit patterns tend to reappear, and we come back into the same old games, the games we were sure we had finished with. Because there were uncooked seeds, seeds that sprout again the minute they are stimulated. We can stay in very holy places, and the seeds sit there dormant and uncooked. But there is fear in such individuals, because they know they’re still vulnerable.

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Why is it so important to face our low points on the path?

upsanddowns Why is it so important to face our low points on the path?

We have all been enchanted with getting high and having a free awareness, and so we have tried to repress or deny lows when our awareness once again gets caught in this or that.

We love the illusion of being high but we are afraid of coming down. As your journey proceeds, you realize that you can’t hold on to your highs and deny your lows. Your lows are created by the remaining attachments that blind your awareness. Facing your lows – your anger, loneliness, greed, fears, depressions, and conflicts – is the most productive fire of purification you can find.

As your connection with the spirit deepens, you might even choose to seek out those things that bring your attachments to the surface, so that you might confront them and free your awareness from them.

It’s a tricky business – playing with fire. You must feel your own way, unless you have a guide to say when to go and when to stop. If you don’t have a guide, trust your own judgment. For example, if anger still traps your awareness, you might put yourself in a situation which usually elicit anger and then attempt to maintain clear awareness.

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How can we release attachment to the rational mind?

rationalmind How can we release attachment to the rational mind?

To facilitate the exploration of the mind it is helpful to understand the various levels of reality, to examine the perceptual fields that different beings have, to see what different realities look like.

It is well known that motivation affects our perceptions. We don’t necessarily see things as they are we see them as we are. If a pickpocket meets a Saint, all he sees are his pockets. Thaddeus Golas, in The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment said, “You never have to change what you see, only the way you see it.”

Gurdjieff, the Russian philosopher, noted, “If you think you’re free and you don’t know you are in prison – you can’t escape.” Gurdjieff sees us as being in prison – a prison of the mind.

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What are the stages of the journey towards the Living Spirit?

spiritualjourney What are the stages of the journey towards the Living Spirit?

Welcome! It’s so graceful to share the journey. We’ve been on the journey a long time together. We’ve gone through a lot of stages.

And just as in any journey, some people have dropped along the way, have had enough for this round. Others have been waiting for us to catch up. The journey passes through the seven valleys, the seven kingdoms, the chakras, the planes of consciousness, the degrees of faith. Often we only know we’ve been in a certain place when we pass beyond it, because when we’re in it, we don’t have the perspective to know, because we’re only being. But as the journey progresses, less and less do you need to know. When the faith is strong enough, it is sufficient just to be.

It’s a journey towards simplicity, towards quietness, towards a kind of joy that is not in time. It’s a journey out of time, leaving behind every model we have had of who we think we are.


It involves a transformation of our beings so that our thinking mind becomes our servant rather than our master. It’s a journey that has taken us from primary identification with our body, through identification with our psyche, on to an identification with our souls, then to an identification with God, and ultimately beyond identification.

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What are the qualities of a true Guru?

sadhu-holy-man-with-dreads-picture-id167313838 What are the qualities of a true Guru?

All beings are involved in an evolutionary journey. In the course of history, and far into pre-recorded history, beings have been getting lost in the illusion, and awakening out of it.

Some beings have finished their work and have awakened out of illusion, the illusion that is involved in birth after birth, not only on the physical plane, but on every other plane as well. When these free beings finally emerge from the illusion through grace, through the help of other beings who have escaped, they are faced with a choice. That choice is whether to merge back into God, or to resist that merging and remain in form on one plane or another; either to take birth again on the physical plane or to make their substance condense on a lower astral plane in order to do ‘work’ for the relief of suffering of other beings.

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How does embodying our own truth facilitate freedom for all?

thoughtful-man-drinking-coffee-by-the-window-picture-id856908578 How does embodying our own truth facilitate freedom for all?

The question is about the balance between inner work (work on yourself) and outer work. I’ll tell you, each person has got to intuitively trust themselves about where they are and what they can handle. If you look at a lot of social activism, you will find many people who are deeply entrapped in righteousness and anger.

And they will guilt trip you continually for not doing more. And if you say, “I’m going to go home and meditate,” they look at you like you’re killing little children. You’ve got to have incredible strength, and you feel like some kind of a viper for saying, “I’m going to take the afternoon off to go swimming.” I was in New York working with the homeless. And I’m so good. I am so good. Seva is good and I’m good. And we do good things. And it’s all wonderful.

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What does it mean to ‘Be Here Now’?

indian-surfer-girl-meditating-in-lotus-pose-picture-id916562190 What does it mean to ‘Be Here Now’?

I kept hoping to get esoteric teachings from Maharaji, but when I asked, “How can I become enlightened?” he said things like, “Love everybody, serve everybody, and remember God,” or “Feed people.”

When I asked, “How can I know God?” Maharaji said, “The best form to worship God is in all forms. God is in everything.” These simple teachings, to love, serve, and remember, became the guideposts for my life.



Maharaji read people’s thoughts, but beyond that, he knew their hearts. That blew my mind. In my own case, he opened my heart because I saw that he knew everything there was to know about me, even my darkest and most shameful faults, and he still loved me unconditionally. From that moment, all I wanted was to share that love.

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How can we support one another on our spiritual journey?

flying-birds-over-background-landscape-with-orange-sky-picture-id623784082 How can we support one another on our spiritual journey?

“The wild geese do not intend to cast their reflection and the water has no mind to receive their image.”

That was the first message I got from the first fortune cookie I opened when I returned from India. That seems like a fitting contract for these writings, and perhaps the full implications of that contract will become clear as we continue.

What I’d like to do is to present a model to you, and the specific model is my own life experience. That’s really all I have to offer to you – of my own experiences. I would like to clarify the reason for doing this.  It is not my expectation, or my hope, that any of you necessarily would undergo the particular journey that I am pursuing. I am not proselytizing for Ashtanga yoga.

But we in the West are faced with a very interesting predicament through a variety of circumstances, some of which are built into the culture like changes in communication media and so on. Some of them are the result of the chemicals that have appeared and been widely used – psychedelics.

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How can we uplevel our life by reframing desire?

temple-on-the-water-in-india-picture-id489477538 How can we uplevel our life by reframing desire?

In the course of my own journey, I have seen a clear sequence relating to my desires. This sequence has run for over 30 years…

If nothing else, I’ve learned patience and to stop counting how soon I’d get enlightened. I used to expect it would be any day. Then I thought it would be any lifetime. Now I no longer know whether I’m enlightened or not, and I don’t care because the process goes on inevitably and irrevocably. But the sequence is clear.

At first when I tasted of the possibility that the universe was not as I thought it was, that I was not who I thought I was, I craved to enter into the realms of consciousness where there was a broader terrain. And I was drawn very powerfully to paths that had a renunciation base. These paths were based on the understanding that the pulls of the world were so strong that it was necessary to extricate oneself from these pulls by pushing away. The seduction of the gratification of desires was so powerful that one couldn’t do one’s work in the presence of these desires.

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Ram Dass on the Power of Silence

profile-portrait-of-young-attractive-yogi-woman-picture-id840155556 Ram Dass on the Power of Silence

Just play with the silence for a moment.

Instead of using it as expectancy, waiting for something to happen, flip it just slightly and just be in it. Are you really here or are you just waiting for the next thing? It’s interesting to see where we are in relation to times; whether we’re always just between what just happened and what happened next, or whether we can just be here now.

So, let’s just find our way here to be together. If you’re feeling agitated, just notice the agitation. If you’re warm, be warm. If you’re cold, be cold. If you’re overly full, be overly full. Be it, whatever it is, but put it all in the context of a quiet space, because there’s a secret in that, and it’s worth playing with it.

That there’s a place that we can be inside of ourselves, inside of the universe, in which and from which we can appreciate the delight in life. Where we can still have equanimity, and quality of presence, and the quietness of peace.


It’s something I’ve been cultivating for 45 years now. Just imagine a mandala or a flower and think about the center of the flower and then all the petals that come out from the center and think of the center of the flower as absolutely still, and think of all of the petals as moving, and energy, and change, but the center is still.

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Using the Personality as a Vehicle for Beauty and Growth

four-season-tree-photo-manipulation-magical-nature-picture-id531535355 Using the Personality as a Vehicle for Beauty and Growth

Question: I have noticed that, as I’ve progressed on this pathway, I’ve picked up a lot of rules and regulations. And in picking up the rules and regulations of should and shouldn’t, my personality has taken the brunt of it. And this personality, for me, has become like a whipping post, my inner tyrant. And so what I wanted to ask you was, how can this personality, being that this is an aspect of self, be a vehicle for beauty, something to be endeared and worked with, rather than the experience of constant obstacle?

Ram Dass: As you begin to acknowledge a plane of consciousness in which the personality is real, you begin to develop a perspective which allows you the space to appreciate the beauty of the personality and to delight in it. At this point the personality becomes just like a flower or a tree. I mean, it’s something so preciously beautiful because it’s a form of nature. It’s a form that is coming out of all kinds of socialization processes; it’s coming out of experiences, it’s a quality of the way in which emotion and intellect and body and all these things come together.

It’s the dance of the interrelationship of forms with each other, all the relationship stuff that is involved with personality. It all turns extremely beautiful when you have a perspective about it.

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The challenge of aging in an anti-aging culture…

mature-woman-on-beach-looking-into-horizon-picture-id486858785 The challenge of aging in an anti-aging culture…

When I went to India five years ago, somebody came up to me and said, “Ram Dass, you’re looking so much older!” Now try that on in this culture. You’d think, “Oh my God, I didn’t get enough sun. I’d better do something – lift, tuck, push, smile more, look healthier, get radiant, take vitamins, get exercise.” I mean, you’re mind just runs the gamut of these things when somebody would say a horrible thing like that, but then I heard the tone with which he was saying it, and he was saying it with respect.

Like, “Wow, you’ve made it! Like, you’re an elder and somebody that can be listened to. You’re somebody that can be respected.”

Now, if you think aging is bad, try dying. There’s this culture’s obsession with issues of death, with capital punishment, with abortion, with inner city violence, with guns, with war, and I think there is a kind of moral crisis.

When I came back from India, I came back armed, if you will, with the fact that there were many more people who held different views of the process of dying. Now I have to for a moment go back to what had happened to me in 1961. I had gone from being a Western social scientist over the edge into another way of understanding reality, experientially, not intellectually, and without getting into all the politics of this issue and all the moral aspects of the issue, this was the result of me taking psilocybin mushrooms.

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Memento Mori – An Excerpt from “Walking Each Other Home”

silhouette-a-man-sitting-relaxing-under-full-moon-at-night-picture-id62513019_20181004-132246_1 Memento Mori – An Excerpt from “Walking Each Other Home”

Ram Dass has talked about how our culture supports the fear and denial of death in many ways, from our glorification of youth in the media to embalming practices that make the dead person appear to be still alive. We are discouraged from looking at the bare bones, as it were, of mortality. My mother told us not to talk about “unpleasant things.”

Dying most often takes place in hospitals or nursing homes, removed from the natural life of the family. Hardly anyone is simply honest about it, including many doctors, who often consider death a failure in their job of ensuring health and survival even though they know we will all someday be broken and unfixable. At a retreat for medical professionals in 1989, Ram Dass spoke about this:




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Jack Kornfield and Ram Dass on Learning to Trust and Love

monk-and-tow-boy-student-at-golden-buddha-statue-makhabucha-day-way-picture-id917774308 Jack Kornfield and Ram Dass on Learning to Trust and Love

Jack Kornfield: I’ve found myself attracted to spiritual practice from very early, going off to be a monk, because I needed it desperately for one reason or another, for my own pain and suffering. Some connection with the life of renunciation and detachment. I loved it. Then when I came back from the first period of five years in Asia, of practice and study, once I became involved back in the world, in graduate school and relationships and so forth, I discovered that I could love a lot of people in my meditation, but it was a whole lot harder to love the person I was living with.

Or if I was in a somewhat protected environment of the monastery, where our relationships were governed formally by the vows and so forth, that helped me, and there was a great sense of emptiness. It was very, very still. So I found, just for my own life, I found myself working my way down the chakras. Some people kind of try to work themselves up, but for me it was from my mind first, then down.

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