Wa Yo Yogi

Leanne Kitteridge's adventures in Yoga

Be Here Now 40th Anniversary- Part Two October 18, 2010

” I am loving awareness” – Ram Dass

Day Two of the weekend workshop started with John Friend talking about the significance of numbers, rhythm, patterns and how they are all connected. I was scribbling down notes as fast as I could but to be honest as I try to read them back they are hard to decipher. You see my linguistic tendencies also came out of a need to avoid all algebra and stats classes….Japanese no problem…numbers……hmmm not so good….

I will try to find the highlights that were new to me and that don’t need deep mathematical understanding…

Today was 10/10/ 10. John took the number ten and explained as two 5’s. The flower of Shakti or the goddess’ is the red hibiscus..it has 5 petals. In the vibratory world, the highest vibration is white ( Shiva) and the slowest is red ( Shakti). I have no idea what flower is Shiva’s! So basically the number 5 is the number of life.

The idea was first there is 2, for example Sun and Moon. The energy between these contrary compliments is 3. The number 4 represents the stability that holds them in relation and 5 is the spiral….is the activation of the expansion and contraction of the relationship.

The number 10 is a 1 and 0. It is the creation of the binary rhythm of all life. There was something in there about the binary system creating wave patterns and that things like crystal and silica can resonate these wave patterns and that is why they are used in computers. The 0 also represents in Sanskrit “shunyata” – the void. But that which appears to be empty is completely full. The 1 then represents the sperm and the 0 the egg and from that all creation is born. Something to look up and research yourself when you are surfing the net.

We had a super juicy hip opener practice in which my leg was behind my head and I rolled down and back up but was too scared to stand up- that was pretty far for me already!  That may have been one of the deepest I have ever been in that pose. It also helps we warmed up for an hour towards it!

Ram Dass came back in the afternoon for satsang. Today he told the story of the Hanuman murti ( holy statue) that is currently housed in Taos, New Mexico. Maharaji’s devotee’s would build temples for him all over India. So Ram dass decided as a devotee that they should build a temple in America. The temple would need a murti so he went to Jaipur to the families that been making murtis for generations and found the family that specialized in Hanuman. Now usually Hanuman murtis are with Hanuman kneeling or Hanuman standing.  Ram Dass, recalling the story of Hanuman flying across the ocean to Lanka in the Ramayana carrying Ram’s ring to Sita, decided, since America was across the ocean, the murti should be of a flying Hanuman. Well, the family just looked at Ram Dass in astonishment. No one had ever made a flying Hanuman- how would he stay up? No, they didn’t want to do it.

I am not sure how Ram Dass persuaded them but somehow they agreed to make a marble Hanuman and created a large cape for him to hide the post which supports him in his flying pose. Hanuman then travelled from India to San Francisco where the devotees debated where he should be housed. One of the devotee’s had a farm near Taos so that is where Hanuman came to rest. That location, over the next few years, developed into what is today the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram in Taos, New Mexico.

One of the funny asides that Ram Dass told us is that to bless the murti- to breathe life into it- there must be a ceremony. He laughed as he told us their were two factions: one that  wanted Brahmans and a proper Hindu ceremony and the the others that were stoned and just wanted to climb naked into the crate with Hanuman. I never did find out which faction won out…..

Ram Dass then gave us all a great insight to his personal practice- his “sadana”. He explained he was a Bhakti yogi-a yogi who finds oneness through the path of devotion- and he said ” sadana, in my game- is who you think you are..and who you think you are is mostly based on fear- identifying with the individual “I”.”

He explained this further by saying he thought he was Dr. Richard Albert, he was a Harvard prof, he was a Freudian, he was a ..etc etc…all the titles and labels the individual “I” wants to hold on to. He said the real “I”  is not in the mind but in the heart and in the heart you are awareness.  ” I am loving awareness” – he whispered.” I am loving awareness”.

“You will never find your awareness”, he said,  “you ARE awareness”. “You stay there in your heart”, he explained, “and you stop identifying with all the thoughts.”

“I am loving awareness” is a thought but it is a thought that takes you to a subject not an object. You can’t focus on it because it is no thing, nothing…..it’s cool”.

” Everything I am aware of I love”, Ram Dass said. He talked about loving the wall, loving the room – it was quite funny. He then told a story about how one of his friends called him on it. It went something like this.

“So are you telling me, Ram Dass, that you love everything?”

” Yes”

“You love me?”

“Yes”

“You love that rug?”

“Yes- I love the rug”

“Hmm…”

His friend used to phone him and say, “This is your rug calling….” I just about rolled over laughing!

Ram Dass told us when he is looking at the world from his soul he finds the world beautiful and lovable. When you love the whole world, including yourself, you merge into a sea of love. There is no action, he explained, love isn’t action, it’s just merging. You don’t have to act. He then took a moment and looked around the room and smiled, ” this room is full of love”.

He then went back to the previous days talk of “being” and “doing”. He explained the difference between the Atman and the Jiva-atman- the One and the embodied soul. Maharaji was the Atman, on that plane, and Ram Dass was the jiva-atman. Seeing Oneness and being Oneness is a difference of spiritual planes of existence, he explained, and it takes Grace to get over that hump. He said that was interesting because people say they feel so loved when I am with him but he didn’t do anything. Wow- he thought- Grace is here- I got some of that. You get pure enough, he said, and then you wait for Grace.

John had a beautiful offering when he said that Ramakrishna had a saying about preparing your boat the best you can and then waiting for the winds of Grace. ” The waves will take you to the shore” John said quoting Rumi.

Feeling small, Ram Dass said, is a thought. Insecurity is a thought. Atman is so big- I am so small. The ego tells you that you cannot be him ( Maharaji). It’s still a thought- it’s who you think you are. You gotta be somebody before you’re nobody……

We seem, to me, that we have to shed the layers all over again to get back to that one original Atman…and  that is a part of the game- the sadana as Ram Dass put it- that we all have.

We then had a Q and A session with some interesting stuff coming up. We had the typical psychedelic questions- every time I am with Ram Dass this comes up- and he was good natured about it. He really nailed it when someone asked about getting to that plane of the Atman through drugs and Ram Dass said- ” it get’s you into the room but you can’t stay. All those guys [that took psychedelics] were nothing like Maharaji. He could stay in the room.” I then asked about Maharaji’s lineage as many teachers came from lineages ( ie. Nityananda, Baba Muktananda, Gurumai…) Apparently Maharaji was from a village near Agra but his beginnings are not well known. He was actually married with three children which I found surprising. According to his children he was a very good father- made all the marriage arrangements for his daughters etc. Then we had the most shocking thing occur- John started asking Ram Dass about his family. Family?? I thought….

Well,  apparently a man in his 50’s contacted Ram Dass because he looked so much like him and guess what…it was Ram Dass’ biological son! They just found each other this spring and this man has children so Ram Dass is actually a grandfather. When John said “How wonderful!” Ram Dass looked at him and said ” Why is it wonderful?” It really was one of the first times I saw John kind of at a loss for a moment. Ram Dass was really just making a point that love goes beyond blood and genealogy and that in the heart it doesn’t really change anything. I think he does secretly find it wonderful though! Wow-  I really didn’t see my question going in that direction. Quite the unexpected revelation!

John asked Ram Dass if he wanted to leave the young teachers with a message and this is what he responded:

” God is within you. We have to go inside rather than outside…what you want is what you already have.”


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Day 3 – Ram Dass and John Friend Intensive Maui September 28, 2009

The Bhakti yogi Hanuman

The Bhakti yogi Hanuman

The theme of day three, the last day of the intensive, was ” Faith, Devotion and Grace”. We covered the last 6  chapters of the Gita- except for chapter 15. (Don’t ask) It was really the emphasis of the Bhakti path or devotional path of yoga which was contained in the last chapters of the Gita.

The Bhakti path is not really unfamiliar to us in the West as the worship of Christ is a bhakti path. Many people worship God but the figure of Christ as the embodiment of God and his attributes makes it easier for us to understand than the disembodied divine spirit. As we are manifested in physical form it is hard for us to understand and conceive that which is beyond form and so we take manifested objects and our love for them is what triggers our love and understanding of the universal. We need form or a name in order to have that opening.

I often think of my Dad that is no longer alive and my love for him takes me straight into that place where abstract thought cannot take me. My love for him teaches me about devotion. It takes the absolute realm of the universal and manifests it into something that I can understand. Love is in relationship. You need to love something to understand love- you can’t understand love from a book or from a lecture- it is experienced in relationship.

John asked us all to write down what was the secret of the Gita that Krishna gave to Arjuna- the highest teaching. This is what I wrote, ” That God is in everything and everything is in us. Knowing this, live skillfully with love in your heart”. It is amazing that it takes 18 chapters to get that but you know how we are…..Arjuna keeps asking and doubting and Krishna has to keep explaining and going into more detail….I am wondering if Krishna was a wife….hmm.

We had a rockin’ practice of love in the morning which culminated in hand stand drop over to urdva dhanurasana. I know we did some other cool stuff like a dwi pada with an assist that had our foot in our partner’s back-( I actually adjusted Sjanie’s spine….*pop* ) but we were so blissed out that I forgot. I practiced right beside the Hanuman banner and Maharaji’s picture and it was like Maharaji and the monkey were really digging our practice.

Ram Dass came back for the afternoon and I got brazen enough to ask him to sign my book. As I walked into the room he was in I signaled a bewildered Sjanie and had her grab her book. This is not something Sjanie would normally do, so I kind of cajoled her into it, but I don’t hesitate to say she has no regrets. Ram Dass was very sweet to us and I told him how my daughter loves the monkey ever since we had Satsang with him. He was very pleased about that. Sjanie and I returned to the yoga room with our books clutched to our chests and a little misty trying to soak up Maharaji’s shakti and lookin’ like we just had our favorite movie star autograph our book. Yup- yoga geeks…..

Ram Dass gave the most uplifting and warm talk and he spoke for two hours. He talked about his stroke which was very moving. He said it was like his chapter 11 in the Gita when Krishna reveals himself in the universal form. Before that Arjuna didn’t have faith- he had belief ( which comes from the mind) but he didn’t have faith ( which comes from the heart. When he has his stroke he said he lost faith- he said to Maharaji, ” Hey- did you go out for lunch??? What is THIS?” He was completely depressed in the hospital  and he stared at the picture of Maharaji on the wall. People would come in and say ” How could Maharaji let this happen to you”. It was ” all very sad” he said.

Over time though he started to realize that the stroke wasn’t from Maharaji- it was from nature. It was his karma.  His abilities that he was left with were Maharaji’s Grace. It was fierce Grace, but still Grace. Because Ram Dass had slowed down his audience had to slow down too. His wheel chair and paralysis softened people to him and he was better able to open their hearts. These positive things Maharaji supplied. Maharaji used to say to him, ” I love suffering- it brings me so close to God”.  That’s not saying that suffering is optimal, but isn’t it usually in our darkest times we seek out answers?

Ram Dass explained that devotion cannot be done by intellect. It is done by the heart. A devotee is one whose heart has been opened. He explained that he loved Maharaji and was his devotee but what he really loved was the God within Maharaji. You cannot fall in love with the God in you, your atman, but you can fall in love with the God in someone else.

John had a great quote that went, “ When I don’t know who I am I serve you- when I know who I am I am you.”  It really summerizes the path of the bhakti yogi.

Maharaji used to tell Ram Dass to meditate like Christ. ” Lose yourself in love” he would say. This puzzled Ram Dass so Maharaji showed him and, as Maharaji meditated, tears rolled down his face. Meditation can become like a ritual that is empty of love- this is what Maharaji was trying to explain. Ram Dass said, “You can sing hymns like you are reading the shopping list- but these are the beautiful words of Christ- you need to sing with love”. Ram Dass’ name means servant of God. It also is another name for Hanuman.

This segued into Ram Dass giving us a mini synopsis of the Ramayana. He kept saying he was talking too much and apologizing and we were all ” NO- please, please continue.” His assistant said he hasn’t talked that long to a group since his stroke. His assistant figured our attentiveness was feeding his desire to share. It was so very special.

Ram Dass finished his time with us by telling us his mantra- “ I am loving awareness“.  John sweetly gifted a shawl made from cashmere to Ram Dass and wrapped it around his shoulders. It was so obvious to us that it was like Maharaji’s famous blankets. It all just seemed so right. The perfect way to thank him and honour our time together.

After Ram Dass left,  John took the mantra Ram Dass told us and we used that as our japamala mantra for the afternoon. We also turned our mats and faced one person who we did  a meditation and a partner exercise with. We had to look at them and tell them what we liked about them~ what we saw. It was fun and brought back memories of doing that with Christina Sell many years ago.

We ended the whole day by making a huge circle and taking the whole three days and summarizing it into a few words or a phrase. We went around the circle saying our personal summary. There were some classics. Some of my favorites were, ” Be the loving dude I actually am” ” Love everybody” ” love makes us one” ” Hare Krishna” “Hare Ram” ( back to back no less… ) and “Yum, yum, yum” which is what Ram Dass would say every time he talked about getting to that deepest part of your soul.

I asked Ram Dass only one question during the intensive. I said, “Ram Dass, can faith and love in us awaken it in others?” He emphatically hit his good hand on the arm rest of his wheel chair and said, “YES! Absolutely!” 

My dharma thickens…….