Interweaving the spiritual wisdom of Ram Dass and Alan Watts, Ganesh Das explores how to dance through change, getting free of our attachments to let go into love and the eternal now.
Be sure to check out a specially curated podcast featuring words of wisdom from Ram Dass, and legendary, contemporary spiritual teacher, Alan Watts: From Separation to Unity, Intuition and Trust
“The most strongly enforced of all known taboos is the taboo against knowing who or what you really are behind the mask of your apparently separate, independent, and isolated ego.” – Alan Watts
Dancing With Change
Let’s be really honest: Change straight-up sucks sometimes. I was going to intricately and delicately sew together some flowery words about how it’s this amazing opportunity for growth, but let’s just be real: On a human level, change can really rock your world, sideline you, make you feel like a piece of garbage, hopeless, or as if there’s no meaning left. I can’t sit here and pretend change doesn’t suck. Sometimes change is good, but the more we cling, the more it’s going to throw us into a blender, shredding us into a pulpous mush of all our unprocessed hopes and dreams for how we think reality ‘ought to be.’
Thank God, there are beacons–translators of the divine–who can point the way, gently inviting us to awaken from the seriousness behind our desks and phone screens, guiding us back into the thumping beat on the proverbial dance floor of life.
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” – Alan Watts
“You can do it like it’s a great weight on you, or you can do it like a dance.” – Ram Dass
Two of these radiant translators are Ram Dass and Alan Watts–two of the most groundbreaking spiritual catalysts of the past century–both of whom helped spark and propagate spiritual inquiry, consciousness exploration, and Eastern traditions throughout the United States and the world. The seeds these individuals planted continue to be watered, and their fruits will be harvested for manifold generations.
Join Alan Watts eldest daughters, Anne and Joan, on an exploration of their father’s life and teachings, on Ep. 227 of Mindrolling
Enough about how awesome Ram Dass and Alan Watts are for a minute. Let’s get back to the situation at hand: change. It’s everywhere. For real…Just look. You’re made of a bunch of moving cells. Your organs are completely new every decade or so. The Earth is always quaking, flaking, and shaking. Even the toughest mountain is being slowly weathered by the rain and wind; not to mention, since it’s a dense material, it’s actually vibrating, moving at a high velocity.
The hilariously unchanging fact is: You can’t escape change.
Even your personality is always slipping away. I remember when I was young, my Nana asked me if I wanted the new Backstreet Boys CD. Having grown past that phase–now a tough, prepubescent, take-no-shit, Limp Bizkit fan–I told her something along the lines of, “I’m not super into them anymore.” I remember my uncle interjecting, “What? How could you like something before, but then not be into it now?,” to which my grandma queried my adult uncle, “Are you still into Barney? Want to go watch it?”
Somehow in that moment, even at my young age, my grandma helped punctuate the realization that we are not a fixed identity, we are not a static self; rather, we are an amalgamation of constantly changing influences, variables, preferences, characteristics, and vibrations – a proverbial percolating stew of ever-changing ingredients.
“When you get free from certain fixed concepts of the way the world is, you find it is far more subtle, and far more miraculous, than you thought it was.” – Alan Watts
Work past your fixed concept of self with Alan Watts, as he uncovers what we are truly seeking, in On Seeking God from our Awakened Heart Blog
Moving Into The Soul
In this scenario, I find it much more miraculous to be this subtle, flowing ocean of ever-changing waves, rather than being stuck labeled as whatever band I liked the previous year. In that sense, change can be freeing – even if it was just a turn of the pallet to other styles of whatever glossy, sheen, auditory flare MTV was spewing at our generation. This slight freedom from identity, which I felt, helps offer a small taste of the very deep freedom which Ram Dass describes when one inhabits the soul.
“The soul is what looks, not what is looked upon. All the rest–all that is looked upon, all that you can think about, all that you can sense–that is object. In other words, soul is the first level that you are getting into the breakdown of the dualism between subject and object.” – Ram Dass
Ram Dass, here, gets to the heart of the predicament of change. In this example, my uncle tried to skewer me to a fixed identity, but my grandma helped prove that we–as human beings–do change. Even still, basking in this revelation of subtly and nuance, I was mostly happy because I was proud of my new identity, and pretty over my old identity. I was proud that I changed from that, and was now this. What I didn’t realize–at that young age–was that this then becomes that, and the whole cycle of personality revolves again.
The realization of soul points to something much deeper than who we think we are. Since our preferences and personalities are always changing, those cannot be our true self. In the quote above, Ram Dass invites us to move beyond what is being looked at, to begin focusing on where we are looking from. Moving past our sense of personality, and into the witness–into the soul–we begin to move past the dualism of subject-object, and into a place where we dance with change, rather than being attached or averse to it.
Take a psychedelic trip into the selfless soul of Ram Dass, as Dr. Robert Thurman and Raghu Markus explore reality, on Ep. 354 of Mindrolling
Spacesuits & The Great Mystery
Through this lens, one could say that you are a soul–pure loving awareness–and when you incarnate into a sentient body, you are given a set of parameters to live within based on nature and nurture. At a certain point of living within these parameters, you mistake the conditions you are seeing–both externally and internally–for who you are. As Ram Dass and Alan Watts both frequently point out: Who you are isn’t who you think you are. Who you think you are is what is being shined upon; who you really are is the flashlight shining. Ram Dass outlines who you think you are as a spacesuit that you put on in order to incarnate and play within three-dimensional reality.
“When I was born I donned a spacesuit for living on this plane. It was this body, and it had a steering mechanism, which is my pre-frontal lobe and all the brain that helps with coordinating. It’s just like those who go to the moon and learn to use their spacesuit – how to grab and lift things. You learn how to do that, and then you get rewarded with little stars, kisses and all kinds of things when you learn how to use your spacesuit. You get so good at it that you can’t differentiate yourself from your spacesuit.” – Ram Dass (from Becoming Nobody)
Sometimes when we identify too much with our spacesuit, we lose the magic of life. We’ve traded the great mystery of existence for a fixed, static, frozen view of a reality that is anything but stagnant. Too much identification with our spacesuit can be a very lonely, closed-off existence, where instead of being part of nature, we feel separate from nature. This kind of ego-centric view leads to depression, narcism, and cynicism; and is one of the main reasons we are in such turmoil ecologically, racially, economically, and spiritually on this planet. Alan Watts explains how this vantage point is in total contradiction to the natural order of things, along with man’s place in it.
“This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man and all other living organisms in the sciences. We do not ‘come into’ this world; we ‘come out’ of it, like leaves from a tree. As the ocean ‘waves;’ the universe ‘peoples.’ Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated egos inside bags of skin.” – Alan Watts
Take a deep dive with your spacesuit, excavate the outer edges of Self, and discover the emptiness of being, on Ep. 66 of Here and Now
The Eternal Now
Becoming aware of our spacesuits, our ever-changing bodies and personalities, and their reactions to the constant change of the world, how can we actively begin to inhabit the soul? If the goal is to abide where the flashlight is shining from, rather than what it is shining on, is there a methodology for moving past nature’s naturally dancing algorithms of maya, this layered net of illusion and projection we are consistently stuck in?
While each tradition has their own practices to help bring seekers into the seat of the soul–the place of loving witness–Ram Dass and Alan Watts, in their vast and ranging spiritual inquiries into myriad traditions, condensed their findings into into a very simple, direct, and practical message: Get into the Now; Be in the Eternal Now; Be Here Now.
“Life exists only at this very moment, and in this moment it is infinite and eternal, for the present moment is infinitely small; before we can measure it, it has gone, and yet it exists forever.” – Alan Watts
How, then, do we get into this Eternal Now? Isn’t it always right here? How could you ever be away from the present moment if its always happening? Indeed, it is always present, but the real question is: Are you present? Reality is always just a thought away – if you’re busy thinking, you’re caught up in your mind. Don’t worry; though, Ram Dass, through his psychic spelunking, helped identify a safety exit – a subtle pathway you can take from the neurotic tentacles of the mind, and down into the intrepid, loving, safety of your spiritual heart.
“The thinking mind is what is busy. You have to stay in your heart; you have to be in your heart…be in your heart. The rest is up here in your head, where you are doing, doing, doing.” – Ram Dass
Uncover the stories behind the revolutionary life of Ram Dass. Join Ramesh and Raghu for insight into the new book, Being Ram Dass, on Ep. 174 of Here & Now
The heart–beyond the mind–is the authenticator of reality. While the mind is caught in the mirrored halls of it’s own projections; the heart sees with eyes unclouded. Beyond the discrimination of the unchecked mind, the spiritual heart lays indwelling in each of us, ready to awaken, open, and share. While there are many methods which can work to move us from the head to the heart, there is no one key formula which unlocks this boundless space of compassionate presence – it’s always going to be a little different for everyone.
“There is no formula for generating the authentic warmth of love. It cannot be copied. You cannot talk yourself into it or rouse it by straining at the emotions or by dedicating yourself solemnly to the service of mankind.” – Alan Watts
For Ram Dass, he had touched this heart space before on many psychedelic journeys, but it wasn’t until he had a crucial catalyzing experience in India with his guru, Maharajji, that this deep, loving presence had a lasting stay in the core of his being. He still had many human moments, but through consistently reengaging this presence through practice, he was able to begin riding the waves of change from a less-attached, less personally-afflicted perspective.
“What has changed is that before, my neuroses were these huge, big things that were very frightening, and they took me over… And now they’re sort of like ‘little shmoos.’ They’re little, friendly beings, and I invite them in for tea.” – Ram Dass
Enjoy a journey through Ram Dass’ delectable neuroses, as he invites them in for tea, changing big mountains into little shmoos, on Ep. 16 of Here and Now
Nowhere to Go…Might As Well Dance
As changes big and small inevitably flow through the wavepool of transition that is life, will they rock you? Will you get thrashed? Or will you remember the divine grace of the loving emptiness inherent in the heart of all reality? If we’re being real…probably both. The spiritual journey isn’t about pretending things are great. It’s about honoring where you are at and working on extricating yourself from the projections which keep you from realizing who you are. It isn’t this giant mountain to climb. It’s a matter of presence; and that starts right here.
“There is nowhere to go & there is nothing to do.” – Ram Dass
Maybe life isn’t this big journey afterall… Could it be that the entire journey you thought you were on was always just a story up in your mind? Were we taking this whole thing too seriously the whole time? If there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go, but you’re still here embodied – according to Alan Watts…you might as well dance!
“We thought of life by analogy with a journey, with a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at the end, and the thing was to get to that end – success or whatever it is, or maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along; it was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.” – Alan Watts
…Watching Yourself Go By
Indeed, these two translators-of-the-divine have done it again. Anytime you find yourself being swung around like a pendulum on the turbulent winds of change, remember that these great wisdom teachers are always present to help us untie our mind-knots, and fully open into our hearts. If you find yourself thrashing on the high-waters of change, take a note from Ram Dass and Alan Watts: Pull yourself up, dry yourself off, and always remember:
“You are standing on a bridge watching yourself go by.” – Ram Dass