American spiritual teacher Ram Dass was born Richard Alpert in 1931 to well-to-do New England parents. As a professor of psychology at Harvard University in the 1960s, he and fellow Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary pioneered research in the use of psychedelic drugs. After the two were fired in 1963, they toured the country giving lectures on the potential of psychedelics for exploring inner realms of consciousness. In 1967 Alpert traveled to India in search of spiritual insight less fleeting than what he’d experienced with psychedelics, and he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, who gave him the name Ram Dass, which means “servant of God.” Soon after his return to the U.S., Ram Dass wrote his seminal book Be Here Now, a kind of countercultural bible that translates Eastern philosophy into language meaningful to Westerners. He founded the charitable organizations Seva Foundation and Hanuman Foundation and continues to teach via live webcasts and retreats in his home state of Hawaii. The following is from Grist for the Mill, by Ram Dass with Stephen Levine. Copyright 1976 © by Ram Dass and Stephen Levine. Reprinted with permission from Love Serve Remember Foundation. (www.ramdass.org)
Sit straight, so your head, neck, and chest are in a straight line. Start by focusing in your heart area, in the middle of your chest, where the Hridayam, the spiritual heart, is located. With your mouth closed breathe in and out of your chest, focusing on your heart as if you were breathing in and out through your heart. Breathe deeply.
Because of the purity of our seeking, many incredibly high beings are present, and with them comes a great deal of the spiritual substance out of which all form derives. You could imagine that substance as a golden mist which fills the air. With every breath, don’t just breathe in air; imagine you are pulling into you this golden substance. Fill with it; let it pour through your entire body.
Breathe in the energy of the universe, the Shakti of the universe. Breathe in the breath of God. Let it fill your whole body. Each time you breathe out, breathe out all of the things in you that keep you from knowing your true self; breathe out all of the separateness, all of the feelings of unworthiness, all the self-pity, all the attachment to your pain, whether it’s physical or psychological. Breathe out anger and doubt and greed and lust and confusion. Breathe in God’s breath and breathe out all of the impediments that keep you from knowing God. Let the breath be the transformation. Now let the golden mist that has poured into your being focus in the middle of your chest; let it take form as a tiny being, the size of a thumb, sitting on a lotus flower right in the middle of your heart. Notice its equanimity, the radiance that makes it bright with a light that comes from within. Use your imagination. And as you look upon this being, become aware that it is radiating light. See the light pouring out of its every pore. As you meditate upon it, experience the deep peace that is emanating from this being. Feel, as you look upon this being, that it is a being of great wisdom. It’s sitting quietly, silently, perfectly poised. Feel its compassion and its love. Let yourself be filled with its love.
Now, slowly let that tiny being grow in size until it has filled your body so its head just fills the space of your head, its torso, your torso, its arms, your arms, its legs, your legs. So that now in the skin of your body sits this being, a being of infinite wisdom, a being of the deepest compassion, a being who is bathed in bliss, self-effulgent bliss, a being of light, of perfect tranquillity. Let this being in your skin begin to grow in size. Experience yourself growing until . . . all of the beings gathered within this room are within your body. All of the sounds, even the sound of my voice, are coming from inside you. Feel your vastness, your peace, your equanimity.
Continue to grow. Your head goes up into the sky, blueness all about, until all of your town, your environment, is within you. Look inside and experience the human condition; see the loneliness, the joy, the caring, the violence, the paranoia, the love of a mother for her child, sickness, fear of death — see it all. Realize that it is all within you. Look upon it with compassion, with caring, and, at the same moment, with equanimity, feeling the light pouring through your being, inward and outward.
Now grow still larger; feel your vastness increasing until your head is among the planets and you are sitting in the middle of this galaxy, the earth lying deep within your belly. All of humankind lies within you. Feel the turmoil and the longing. Feel the beauty. Sit in this universe, silent, huge, peaceful, compassionate, loving. Let all of the creations of human beings’ minds be within you; look upon them with compassion.
Continue to grow until not only this galaxy but every galaxy is within you, until everything you can conceive of is within you. All of it inside you. You are the only one. Feel your aloneness, your silence, your peace. No other beings here, all of the planes of consciousness are within you.
You are the Ancient One. Everything that ever was, is, or will be is part of the dance of your being. You are all of the universe, and so you have Infinite Wisdom; you appreciate all of the feelings of the universe, so you have Infinite Compassion. Let the boundaries of your being disintegrate now, and merge yourself into that which is beyond form, and sit for a moment in the formless, beyond compassion, beyond love, beyond God. . . . Let it all be, perfectly.
Now very gently, very slowly, let the form of the boundaries of your vast being, the One, be reestablished. You are vast, you are silent, all is within you. Come back from beyond the One and slowly come down in size, come down through the universes into this universe, until your head is once again among the planets and the earth is within you. Until your head is once again in the heavens and the cities are within you.
Come down in size until your head is at the top of this room. Stop here for a moment. From this place, look down into the room and find the being who you thought you were when you began this meditation. Look at that being, bringing to bear all of your love and compassion. See the journey of that being as it is living out this incarnation; see its plight, its fears, its doubts, its connection. See all the things it clings to which keep it from being free. See how close it is to knowing who it is. Look within that being and see the purity of its soul.
At this moment reach down from your vast height and very gently, very delicately, with your mind, place your hand on the head of this being, and bestow upon it your blessing, a blessing that in this very life, it may fully know itself. At this moment you are that which blesses and that which is being blessed. Experience both simultaneously.
Come down in size now until you are back into the body which you thought you were when you began. You are still flesh surrounding a being of radiance, of wisdom that comes from being that vast One, of the compassion that comes from being in tune with the truth, and of a love for all things. Feel the love and peace pouring out of you. Use the light that is coming through you now for transmitting that energy, that blessing, to all beings everywhere. Become a lighthouse and send peace and love to all those who suffer.
Think of all the people who you have felt less than love for; look to their souls and surround them with light, with love and peace at this moment. Let go of the anger and the judgment. And then send the light of love and peace out to people who are ill, who are lonely, who are afraid, who have lost their way. Share your blessings, because only when you give can you continue to receive. And you will find that no matter how much you give, you will receive tenfold. As you go on this spiritual journey, you must accept the responsibility to share what you receive, for that is part of the harmony of God, that you become an instrument for the manifestation of the will of God.
Now let the radiant perfect being once again assume its diminutive form, the size of a thumb, sitting upon a lotus flower in your heart, in your spiritual heart in the middle of your chest, radiant with light, peaceful, immensely compassionate. This being is love, this being is wisdom. This is the inner Guru, this is the being within you who always knows. This is the being who you meet through your deeper and deeper intuition when you’ve gone beyond your mind. This is the being who is the flow of the universe, the tiny form of the entire universe that exists within you. At any time you need only sit and quiet your mind, and you will hear this being guiding you home. When you have finished this journey, you will have disappeared into this being, surrendered, merged, and then you will recognize that God, the Guru, and self are one.