Be Love Now
The following is excerpted from Be Love Now: The Path of the Heart, recently released by HarperOne.
A human life is a series of experiences. When we have little awareness of our predicament, experiences feed our attachments and condition our desire for more experiences. Our perspective changes when we begin to sense, even momentarily, the unity of all things and our identity with the Self.
We start to see each experience as a teaching to be brought into awareness and loved until we are free from being captivated by the experience. As we begin to awaken, experiences lead to reflection and contemplation. Then as we become more aware, experiences become a fire of purification, a burning ground of the ego, grist for the mill of developing consciousness, food enabling the emerging soul to break free of its bonds.
What is the nature of the mind stuff that keeps us in our egos? Ego attachments may be habits of thought, the residue of experiences, desires we've developed and reinforced or that have been implanted, even unconscious urges and tendencies. Attachments conspire to create this stuck-together bundle of changing thought forms and feelings we label a self, our ego. This sanguine idea of self is just that, an idea, a description of how we're doing at the moment, self-inflated or disappointed, a conglomeration of thoughts, feelings, and concepts that changes all the time. One morning I wake up thinking about enlightenment. The next morning I wake up thinking about world politics and environmental disasters. The next day I'm anxious about getting this book done. These temporal experiences that form our ego are like flickering images of a passing show. Each one seems real at free, one consciousness, the time, but they keep changing.
One of the first steps in getting free of the attachment to this ego idea is to develop a witness. We have thousands and thousands of me's, but there is one me that is separate and watches all the other me's. It's on a different level of consciousness. It's not just another role; it's part of the heart-mind.
This witness is your leverage in the game. The witness me isn't trying to change any of the other me's. It's not an evaluator or a judge; it's not the superego. It doesn't care about anything. It just observes. "Hmmm, there she or he is doing that again." That witness place inside you is your centering device, your rudder.
The witness is part of your soul. It's witnessing your incarnation, this lifetime, from the heart-mind. It's the beginning of discrimination between your soul and your ego, your real Self and your self in the incarnation. Once you begin to live in this witness place, you begin to shift your identification from the roles and thought forms. As you witness yourself, the process becomes more like watching a movie than being the central character in one.
As you begin to dwell in Self-awareness, the old identifications with ego roles begin to just fall away. You shift your identification from the external roles and attachments to internal awareness. It's a being thing, not a doing thing.
You don't do anything. I once asked Dada Mukerjee, one of Maharaj-ji's oldest and closest devotees, how to give up attachments. He said, "Well, you can give things up, or you can wait until they give you up." Dada was a lifelong smoker, and though smoking was definitely not allowed in an ashram environment, Maharaj-ji very lovingly allowed him time and space to drop out of sight for an occasional cigarette. After Maharaj-ji left the body, Dada just stopped smoking.
The ego is based on fear, but the soul is based on love. Maharaj-ji is teaching us about soul. He's acknowledging our souls. As you witness your ego stuff, one way to release it is to constantly offer it into the fire of love in your heart. I am loving awareness.
Another mantra I have used to get into witness awareness and see the ego from the God perspective is: I am a point of sacrificial fire held within the fiery will of God. I received this mantra from Hilda Charlton, a teacher in New York who was a chela, or disciple, of Nityananda, whom you will meet later. She held a weekly class at St. John the Divine in Manhattan that helped countless people keep their spiritual heads above water. In her youth Hilda was a modern dancer. She traveled to India in the 1940s and danced in maharajas' courts to support herself. She was a strong teacher, and this is a fierce mantra to work with. Nityananda, her guru, was a great Shaivite siddha, a realized being who followed Shiva, the destroyer. He was also full of boundless love and compassion.
As you continue with your sadhana, as meditation deepens, you identify less and less with the ego and begin to touch and enter more deeply into the space of love. You begin to experience love toward more and more people and find love in the experiences that come into your field of awareness.
When Maharaj-ji said, "Ram Dass, love everybody," I said, "I can't." That was my ego talking. He said, "Love everybody." He wasn't listening to my ego. In that moment I saw my dying ego and who I was becoming. I looked between him and me and had a vision of a coffin, and my old self was in the coffin. I had to give up. He just wasn't going to honor my ego any longer.
As you keep giving up the habits that hold you back from loving, the ego's fear of letting go dissolves in the love. From the ego's vantage point you surrender into love. From the soul's vantage point you are coming home, the boundaries of separation are fading, and the two are becoming one. As you begin to enter into Oneness and to become love, instead of perceiving from your ego, you're perceiving from your soul. You are shifting your identification from ego to soul. You don't kill your ego; you kill your identification with your ego. As you dissolve into love, your ego fades. You're not thinking about loving; you're just being love, radiating like the sun. That last step requires Grace.
I Am Loving Awareness
I have a practice in which I say to myself, I am loving awareness. To begin, I focus my attention in the middle of my chest, on the heart-mind. I may take a few deep breaths into my diaphragm to help me identify with it. I breathe in love and breathe out love. I watch all of the thoughts that create the stuff of my mind, and I love everything, love everything I can be aware of. I just love, just love, just love.
I love you. No matter how rotten you are, I love you because you are part of the manifestation of God. In that heart-mind I'm not Richard Alpert, I'm not Ram Dass-those are both roles. I look at those roles from that deeper "I." In the heart-mind I'm not identified with my roles. They're like costumes or uniforms hanging in a closet. "I am a reader," "I am a father," "I am a yogi," "I am a man," "I am a driver"-those are all roles.
All I am is loving awareness. I am loving awareness. It means that wherever I look, anything that touches my awareness will be loved by me. That loving awareness is the most fundamental "I." Loving awareness witnesses the incarnation from a plane of consciousness different from the plane that we live on as egos, though it completely contains and interpenetrates everyday experience.
When I wake up in the morning, I'm aware of the air, the fan on my ceiling, I've got to love them. I am loving awareness. But if I'm an ego, I'm judging everything as it relates to my own survival. The air might give me a cold that will turn into pneumonia. I'm always afraid of something in the world that I have to defend myself against. If I'm identified with my ego, the ego is frightened silly, because the ego knows that it's going to end at death. But if I merge with love, there's nothing to be afraid of. Love neutralizes fear.
Awareness and love, loving awareness, is the soul. This practice of I am loving awareness turns you inward toward the soul. If you dive deep enough into your soul, you will come to God. In Greek it's called agape, God love. Martin Luther King, Jr., said about this agape, this higher love: "It's an overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative . . . the love of God operating in the human heart."
It's the love Maharaj-ji spreads around, the unconditional love. He loves you just because, just because. Spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless. He's not going to love you because you're an achiever or a devotee or a yogi, or because you're on the path. He loves you just because. Can you accept it? Can you accept unconditional love?
When you can accept that kind of love, you can give that love. You can give love to all you perceive, all the time. I am loving awareness. You can be aware of your eyes seeing, your ears hearing, your skin feeling, and your mind producing thoughts, thought after thought after thought. Thoughts are terribly seductive, but you don't have to identify with them. You identify not with the thoughts, but with the awareness of the thoughts. To bring loving awareness to everything you turn your awareness to is to be love. This moment is love. I am loving awareness.
If you put out love, then you immerse yourself in the sea of love. You don't put out love in order to get back love. It's not a transaction. You just become a beacon of love for those around you. That's what Maharaj-ji is. Then from the moment you wake until the moment you go to sleep, and maybe in dreams too, you're in a loving environment.
Try using I am loving awareness to become aware of your thought forms and to practice not identifying with them. Then you can identify with your soul, not your fears and anxieties. Once you identify with your spiritual being, you can't help but be love.
It's simple. I start with the fact that I'm aware, and then I love everything. But that's all in the mind, that's a thought, and loving awareness is not a thought. Or if it's a thought, it's pointing to a place that's not a thought. It's pointing at a state of being the way the concept of emptiness is pointing at emptiness, which is really fullness.
Souls love. That's what souls do. Egos don't, but souls do. Become a soul, look around, and you'll be amazed-all the beings around you are souls. Be one, see one.
When many people have this heart connection, then we will know that we are all one, we human beings all over the planet. We will be one. One love.
And don't leave out the animals, and trees, and clouds, and galaxies-it's all one. It's one energy. It comes through in individual ways, but it's one energy. You can call it energy, or you can call it love. I like to look at a tree and see that it's love. Don't you?
Join Ram Dass, Chant Master Krishna Das and respected meditation teacher, Sharon Salzberg in a live Internet workshop, "Open Your Heart in Paradise Retreat," December 17th -19th, broadcast to your living room from Maui, Hawaii. A percentage of the proceeds benefit the Love Serve Remember Foundation.
This article was written by Ram Dass with Rameshwar Das.
Reprinted with Permission of HarperCollins. Copyright ©2010 by Love Serve Remember Foundation. All Rights Reserved.