Sorry for repeating myself, but I love Ram Dass. Unconditionally and wholeheartedly. What a beautiful man.
For those who haven’t heard of him, Ram Dass was an American spiritual teacher for roughly fifty years, beginning in the late 1960s until his death in 2019. As Richard Alpert, he partnered with Timothy Leary to study the effects of psychedelics, mostly psilocybin (aka magic mushrooms) and LSD, when both taught at Harvard in the early 1960s.
Their focus was not on the recreational aspect of these drugs, but rather on exploring the limits of human consciousness. For their efforts, they were both summarily fired by Harvard in 1963.
After diving further into psychedelics and consciousness for the next several years, he reached a crossroads: While these substances brought him to deep spiritual states, it was always temporary. He always came back to “normal,” i.e., the state where his ego ran the show.
Ram Dass heads to India
So what did Dick Alpert do about this metaphysical conundrum? Like many Westerners, he went to India, in 1967, in search of substance-less states of higher consciousness.
And he found his path, in the person of Neem Karoli Baba, the guru who renamed him Ram Dass, Sanskrit for ‘servant of God.’ After meeting Baba, Ram Dass devoted the rest of his life to spiritual teaching in some form or another. [For more about Ram Dass and the amazing Neem Karoli Baba, check out these three articles I’ve written featuring them — article 1, article 2, article 3.]
What separated Ram Dass from all the others? In brief, he was better than anyone at conveying to Westerners the deep teachings of yoga in language they not only understood but could absorb.
What separated Ram Dass from the rest
He made it fun. And emotional. And dramatic. Put all that together and the result was scads of Westerners, mostly Americans, absorbing this stuff at the deepest level. And benefitting profoundly.
I include myself among the millions of beneficiaries, as I’m sure many of you do as well. That was the monumental, enduring contribution of Ram Dass.
[By the way, I’d put Mickey Singer number two on that list of teachers whose language and manner most resonate with Westerners.]
And what did the great Ram Dass have to say about stillness? This:
“Be still. The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”
Simple. Powerful. And, most important, true.
Getting quiet inside is the game, as Ram Dass would say. When we’re still, i.e., when the mind becomes quiet, it’s in that silence that we find ourselves.
When he says, “…the more you can hear,” what we’re hearing is us. Eckhart Tolle puts it like this:
“You are never more essentially, more deeply, yourself than when you are still.”
The converse is also the case: What we are NOT is the sum of all the disparate, chattery thoughts flying around our heads. Absorbing the truth of that last sentence, it could be said, is the most important step on the path to liberation.
I’d also add a wrinkle to Ram Dass’s teaching. He says that when we become still, the more we can hear.
It’s about receiving more than hearing
I would change the word hear to receive. Why? To me, hearing connotes an action we partake in. It’s something we do.
But I don’t believe we need to actively do anything after we get quiet. Yoga is much subtler than that.
I say all we need to do, if you want to call it that, is get quiet and sit there. And do nothing other than receive the divine, mysterious nature of our true selves.
The cosmic car radio analogy
We’re like car radios. Our racing thoughts create static that prevents us from hearing the divine music that K Universe-FM 101 is broadcasting to us through the airwaves. When we quiet down, the static is eliminated, allowing that transcendent music to be received by our car radio.
Staying with the music motif, I know I sound like a broken record on this ‘getting quiet inside’ thing. I write about it frequently.
Why? Because it is unbelievably important! To your, and humanity’s, overall well-being.
I hope you’ll get in the game by getting quiet inside. Meditate. Pray. Practice mindfulness. Do breath-work. Whatever stills your mind. Make that your number one priority.
Doing so will allow that divine music from K Universe 101 to make it through, which will blow you and your ego away…