Access the Course: The Yoga of Heartfulness 4-Week Course • Ram Dass
This week Ram Dass said, "Now, in a way, the only time that you start to cry for God is when all of your worldly fascinations start to pall or fall away a little bit. It’s only when it starts to…what St. John of the Cross talks about as the dark night of the soul. When the world starts to turn into sort of emptiness. When you’re doing it all, but it’s not amounting to a hill of beans. Then, then, you are ready to start to be with God. But as long as you’ve got your playthings to play with, it’s like when Jesus said, “As a child, you do child things, and then later you put them away.”
Have you had these moments? Moments when you knew your playthings were just that? And they no longer worked? And the only thing left was to turn to God?
Some might call it “bottom.” Others might call it “a dark night of the soul,” an “ego death,” or annihilation.
If you have had these experiences, how did they eventually help you open your heart more?
Again, please share- not as therapy - but as a way of normalizing these experiences and recognizing their hidden grace.
Having a dark night experience like that, without the awareness of God - not knowing why old joys suddenly seem empty and nothing around seems to give you any fulfillment… a lot of people probably have to reckon that’s just clinical depression. Having been down that road a bit myself, I can say that it was the inevitable outcome of living a life chasing sensual pleasure and neglecting love and spirit. The dark night is incredible Grace, without it some may spend their entire life on that mindless path.
These days I find myself still engaging with the playthings, but more so with the intention to remain connected to the people around me - and always being mindful of their true nature. Are they distractions from God, or part of the amazing life God laid out before us? Or somehow both? If we enjoy them while mindfully severing the tendrils of attachment that sprout from that enjoyment, can we still be good sadhu’s?
I don’t remember which podcast, but I remember Ram Dass saying something like, “ask yourself before buying, engaging with, or wanting…will this make me happy?” And now I say that all the time and find most things don’t or won’t make me happy. My “playthings” are changing a bit, mostly from things to spending moments/time with animals, others, reading, or listening. I’m finding though, that while engaging with others in these conversations, there is often a limited or no connection in some way. Which really helps me to appreciate the sangha or satsang of this fellowship, and the one I’ve been Zooming in on in the Bay Area. There is an immediate safety there, moments where “explaining” isn’t necessary. I like the satsang “plaything”…it does make me happy.
Also on the Be Here Now Guest Network podcast, Ep. 104, John Lockley beautifully explains Hungry Ghosts and the lack of grounding to the Earth/Ancestors in our humanity. Humans are rarely content, constantly wanting (I can only speak for what I witness in the U.S.). We’re cut off from our spirituality. I think about the “Amazon delivery” train that is rolling down the track bringing goods after goods to our door. This coupled with climate change seems to be out of control…a collision at some point. I hope that the collision wakes us up to our spirit, and we put these playthings to rest.
I think I’m in one of those chapters right now, actually. The career I’ve been steeped in and devoted to for my entire life has lost its magic a bit and I’m currently taking some space from it to recalibrate and see where I land. Additionally, personal health and friendship issues have taken a physical and emotional toll on me. Perspectives and priorities have shifted. It’s been a few years of much heartbreak, confusion, and big change.
Recently, I’ve been focusing on expanding into all this change rather than contracting and resisting it. I feel more hopeful and optimistic that these changes are happening for me, rather than to me, even though they can feel disorienting and painful. The surrender and acceptance is helping me open my heart. I’m working on embracing this chapter of unknowns as full of endless possibilities.
I’ve had a number of these ‘dark nights of the soul,’ and no doubt there will be more along the path. This IS the path. And yet each time those dark circumstances have spurred me to expand and take perspective. To loosen my grasp on what/who I think I am, and the expectations I place on myself and those around me. And to be gentler with myself when I realize I’m still clinging to old wounds rather than doing the excavation (practising the honesty and clear heartedness) that will lead to healing from the inside out.
Many of these moments have had to do with familial or friendship change and disintegration, and I have had to look at how attached I am to people or myself behaving in a certain way to fit my ideals. Sometimes when I am so deep in poor me-ing it, I get that wonderful slap upside the third eye with the purple lotus that shows me it’s my perspective or attitude that is keeping me stuck in suffering. Yup, Ram Dass – I can only work on myself.
As I engage in this inquiry, what I am discovering more and more is just how much compassion Spirit has for me. And sometimes when I cry out for God, there are tears of gratitude and humility. Just yesterday I was practising my morning japa, and this big pause happened where my heart just burst open, and all that came was this overflowing love for all my teachers in this lineage… which I reckon includes you all. It’s strange to write this, but as others have said before me, this sangha is perhaps one of the few places where such vulnerability could be received with understanding. Thank you for reading.
Thank you so much for this beautiful reflection. It comforts me
I’ve had moments like this. Each time, I am brought further along the path.
Pain is what drove me to seek spiritual connection.
First my husband left me with our four month old infant, a devastating and life-altering event. At that time I turned to the church I’d been brought up in, the Episcopal church. I also began meditating.
The church ultimately was not direct enough, while loneliness and chronic mild depression felt like Spirit was the only path to tread. I read Rolling Thunder by Doug Boyd and was drawn to Native American spirituality. That deepened my connection with the land, and brought me much closer to God.
Continued challenges led me to the work of Paul Ferrini, author of Love Without Conditions. In that work I learned for the first time how to begin to love myself. The path was clearly laid out.
My daughter returned from India recommending Krishna Das and I started chanting. KD led me to Ram Dass’ teachings. Now I meditate, do japa, chant, walk a labyrinth… something every day.
Having experienced all of these different teachings I can say that It’s all the same stuff. Jesus, Maharaji, all the great saints from so many traditions — they all teach the same thing — Love and Being in the Heart. “All roads lead to the center.”
Over and over I have learned that the only thing left is to turn to God.
And then, as KD says: “You have to do some practice.”
Yes, the Dark Night is pure Grace. Without it I would not have sought God/Creator/Jesus/Maharaji.
Yes, Spirit has compassion and our task is to recognize and accept it … to bring compassion to ourselves.
Ooooh yes. I’ve heard it be called ‘the fruitful darkness’ and that speaks deeply to my heart. It can be a darkness, but from, for me, always comes such heartfelt change.
I think of when I had my first child, moved from my family/friends, and began a new life very quickly. I started to slip into heavy postpartum depression, and it just began overtaking everything.
I knew I didn’t want to be paralyzed in the dark again ( I’ve struggled with depression in my past) and just prayed. I prayed a lot. I meditated, whatever you want to call it. But numbing out and vices and all those worldly things I turned to did NOTHING. They simply made it worse. They were nothing more than childish things that were unamusing and couldn’t distract me any longer.
It led me into a deeper yoga practice through kundalini and mantra, even mala for a while.
So much started to simply shed away on its own. Like a snake shedding a skin, i just need to move through a very tight spot between rocks to help pull it off.
It was a ‘blessing in disguise’ truly. Because when I’m in the deepest trench of shadow, it seems like there is no edge to grab onto, but I forget that it’s not as deep as I think it is.
Just another mind trip. Like Ram Dass said in one of last weeks lectures, ‘it’s like someone being scared of a rope because they think it’s a snake, then someone comes up and tells them it’s just a rope and they aren’t scared anymore’.
He’s been that person to remind me that it is just a rope, just another head trip.
Re: Like a snake shedding a skin, i just need to move through a very tight spot between rocks to help pull it off.
Tayler - this is such an evocative image! Going through transformation can really feel like this. Thank you.
I am currently in the midst of this darkness, again. What is interesting and different is I can see my own growth. I am no longer reaching or considering my old ways of coping. Instead I am reaching for practice through meditation, journaling, self care and spending time in nature. I take comfort in my progress. Even though I am struggling, I remind myself to be easy on myself.
I think for me ultimately what has helped me in the past is connection and openness with other people about how I feel, and where I am. By giving a voice to my experience and seeking connection I am usually able to move through it and start to open again, feel my heart crack open just a little.
For some reason my mind always wants to say “but you can think your way out of this” which is just a trap but I get lost in this cycle of trying to solve my depression or circumstances by thinking my way out, and that has never worked.
I turned to the habit of closing down my heart after my breakup , I kind of suppressed the pain and assumed that I’m not worthy of love and affection.It indeed led me to a string of usage and addiction to dating apps or whatever gave me a sense of peace or attention.
I could see over time that I traveled and chased people around, looking to find that acceptance and love , when all I’ve to do was to look inside and open my heart .
It’s an essential medicine that I need at the time ,as it opened me to my then,terrible state of seeking attachment and validation from others.It did drive me to be complete honest with people in my life and to not take things quite personally.
I no longer judge people or seek too much attention from others.I do have a certain clarity with my life and what I seek in a relationship, I have great genuine conversations with people of similar interests
and there is no chasing or seeking validation from the group or At least I’m aware of the fact that I’m running behind those things.
I can relate to your experience, and I have had a similar path. The freedom that comes from letting go of the need for validation and attachment is incredibly rewarding. I have noticed I have become less judgmental, but more defined and clear about what qualities are important to me in a partner. It is much easier to let people be as they are accepting them and continuing on.
A dark night of the soul that causes one to turn to god
A dark night of the soul=
A deep ego trip= attachment to an identification with self as separate from the oneness = attachment to identification with the physical plane
Turn to god = to challenge an ego trip in order to recognize oneness
Honestly I haven’t had this experience. My experience has been more like I have challenged ego trips and stumbled upon the oneness (god) quite by accident
One major example in my life was the way I grew into body positivity. From childhood I was disabled with beliefs about being ugly and unworthy. Try to imagine that I had 2 children with a man that I never was nude around. My feet too ugly for open shoes, legs too white for shorts, everything… and this inner judgement voice has really nasty outward effects as well.
After much heartache and unhealthy relationships I decided to plunge head first into this attachment and did so by nude figure modeling and (non-sexual) nude performance. In my modeling gigs I deliberately choose non- flattering poses and emphasized personal humiliation. People would say, “you’re so brave” and I would say, “you don’t understand. The last thing I’m feeling right now is bravery. I’m horrified.”
It was maybe a two year process but it shattered all these attachments, submerged me into the well of love and brought all the audience into the hot tub with me until I could no longer see the difference. Many may not call this a turn toward god but this surrendering to the isness cleared much space in my heart that had been occupied by only pain and replaced it with love. A total accident and gift.
So I accidentally (a happy accident) took too much psilocybin and when I have my first ego death and it was one of the best things I did to myself. To watch the world I was so obsessed with dissolve. To crack though the concept of time, the addictions, the things that were holding me down. This wasn’t a fun experience in the moment, it was so difficult for me to look at the “play things.” They were so much of my identity. I was the horse girl, the girl with red hair, the girl with the bulldog, but I was never all of me, and I think in those moments of having nothing to see but me I “became no one.” I came out of the situation filled with equal parts love and fear. Love of the world and the fear of mySelf and my power.
I frequent the dark knight of the soul, so much I should have a loyalty membership. And I think there’s a lot of comfort for me in the grieving, it shows me the love I feel, the love around me. When I lost a pillar in my life someone said you me “there was so much love between hello and goodbye” and it really stuck, the grief is equally as the love and while being sad is required, leaning into that big intimate love gives my heart hope.
Am so glad I tuned in today for this dharma talk with KD, Jackie & Raghu and especially to hang with our community of 150 + people on today. Even tho it was pre-recorded, it was so impactful for me. The topic of Guru Krpa resonates for me…thru hearing the stories of Westerners experiences with Maharajji and chanting with KD & friends, my sense of longing was kindled to the point of erupting into a raging fire… I spent an entire OYHIP weekend chanting and praying to Maharajji, begging him to grant me the Grace of a first hand experience of his unconditional Love that RD et al were always talking about. My prayers were answered in a grand and dramatic manner as my heart burst open and tears gushed forth at the end of night 3 of chanting. Since that time 10 years ago my journey has accelerated, my sense of live connection with Maharajji / Guru / God / Self has intensified & deepened and continues to enrich my life experience. Singing to the Guru, as KD does so Heartfully, is a powerful catalyst for me to Open my heart so wide, tears again gushing forth in Love and Gratitude for this entire life experience. I cried and cried again today when KD sang today and again when he said his closing prayer. I am OK with the crying, even thankful to feel my heart being open and vulnerable. And yet, I wonder, will I ever stop crying for God? Or do I even want to stop?
Honestly…keep the tears flowing! Beautiful sharing…