by Ram Dass: I view spiritual practice as the freeing of awareness from identification with anything…
That’s a spiritual practice. How that is done is through a wide variety of means. It can be done, for example, in the heart through a devotional practice. In other words, I can bring my mind through to love using some icon, or some being, or some person, and loving it so thoroughly that it frees the mind from all the rest of the stuff. Then I can go into that love so deeply, that I go into the formless love. I go through form into formlessness, and I come to that place of free awareness through love.
For example, I use mala prayer beads. This is a technique for reminding me that you and I are only relatively real. I’m keeping another plane of reality going simultaneously to remind me of the formlessness inherent in the form. In other words, I’m doing a practice while I’m talking to you.
Now the whole idea of a meditative practice is the process of very simply extricating awareness from the identification with thought and sensation.
One of the ways to do that is, for example, to pick an object of concentration and focus on that, and let everything else come and go. So let’s say I’m gonna follow my breath, rising and falling, and I’ve done that for decades now, by the way… So I’m rising and falling, rising and falling. Now my awareness can feel that muscle going up and down, that’s really where the focus is.
Then the thought will come into my mind, “This won’t work, what kind of Mickey Mouse thing is this?” or “I’m hungry…” Whatever thought comes in. At that moment, I notice the thought, acknowledge it, and go back to the breath. That’s all, just keep going back. That’s the whole instruction of the game.
Now, there’s different needs for people at different stages of their life, and there are different practices that work. For example, a lot of people are having psycho-dynamic difficulties with their personalities that are so attractive or aversive, and so locked in, that they can’t do spiritual practice yet, or they’re not really appropriate to do, so instead they work with it therapeutically; psychologically.
The predicament is if you’re gonna deal with something therapeutically, it would be useful if the therapist were somebody who was working on themselves and not caught in the drama of their own personality. It would be useful to have like a Buddha as your therapist. In other words, different people take different paths. Some people work with energy, work with kundalini, or breath control. You practice going beyond and coming back. They are all techniques and devices, and it’s going to be different for everyone.