Ram Dass unknowingly took a page from Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water when he related what it’s like toward the end of the spiritual path.
What do I mean by ‘the end of the spiritual path’? It’s the state we reach when we’ve quieted our minds and let go of our attachments, also known as letting go of ourselves. Or our egos.
A less ‘woo-wooey’ way of putting it would be letting go of all the garbage we’ve held onto that has prevented us from achieving sustained happiness.
Mickey Singer related in a talk last week how Ram Dass described that awakened state. Ram Dass said:
“It’s like I’m standing on the bridge and there’s turmoil in the water below me. Every once in a while, a spray comes up, and I can feel it. And my mind says, ‘You know, I used to live down there. I used to be in that.’”
How beautiful and cool is that?
Most of humanity is trapped in the roiling waters of our egos. Those waters thrash us around like clothes in a washing machine. It’s destabilizing and prevents us from holding our center.
What is the substance of these roiling waters?
-You call someone and two days later they still haven’t called you back.
-Your friend’s kid wins an award that you believe should have gone to your kid.
-Your wife gets a little too comfy and giggly talking to a guy friend of yours at a party.
All of these manifest as little swirls of water in our lower selves. They’re disturbances.
What doing the work yields
But what happens when you put in the kind of inner work Ram Dass did? Doing the daily sadhana of, as he called it, chopping wood and carrying water.
Meditating every day. For years on end. And letting go.
Like when your friend’s kid wins the award, you notice the disturbed swirl of water forming and you lean away. You don’t dive into it by thinking, “That is bullshit! Hank totally deserved to win that!”
Don’t touch it!
No. You don’t get involved with the feeling. You don’t touch it, as Mickey Singer teaches. You just relax around the disturbed feeling and let it pass…like a cloud in the sky.
You do this every day. In multitudes of situations. Every month. Every year. For decades, if that’s what it takes.
Making it to the bridge
And then, you find yourself on the bridge, where you are now an observer of the maelstrom of ego water rather than a prisoner of it. Those waters no longer envelop you to the point that you can’t see anything else, like your conscious, true self, because you have liberated that true self.
And every now and then a spray of water reaches you on the bridge. And you feel it.
For Ram Dass, maybe that light spray came in the form of a crazy person in the audience flipping out on him. Or his father calling him Rum Dumb (which he did). Or hitting a red light when he was late for an appointment.
The difference for him was that in all those cases, the strength of the effect was a mere wisp of water he could barely feel.
But he, like any of us who get there, must have felt tremendous ease and relief knowing that he ‘used to live down there,’ but no longer did.
Extricating ourselves from the agitated waters of our lower selves is the central work of our lives. That work involves getting quiet inside and letting go of ourselves.
It’s hard work. But with enough commitment and persistence, we’ll rise up from our egoic whirlpool and stand on that bridge.
And experience life from a place of peace and ease…