Call and Response Ep. 40 Dark Night of the Soul, Gratitude and the Renaissance of Psychedelics
Q: So Ram Das talks a lot about how, as you awaken or you go on this spiritual journey, the passions of life kind of start to fall away, and for me, personally, it can be such a release some days when I look out and I see people that this is it and that car is it and doing this and winning is it and I kind of see through it, and then there are days when I just want to go back to sleep because I want to be lost in it. It’s so hard sometimes, I mean just to, I don’t know, everybody’s going bowling as Ram Das says in his talks and you don’t want to bowl anymore. It’s just like, “I can take it or leave it.” Are we just supposed to get to that point where the highs are gone, the lows are gone and we’re just here? Now?
“On this path, those moments of darkness, all that energy fuels the longing to be free, fuels the longing to connect more deeply with what we want to connect with. It’s a good thing, ultimately. It’s a dark night of the soul but there’s a morning right after the night.” – Krishna Das
Q: Can you just talk a little bit about the dark night of the soul.
Q: I know. So Ram Das talks a lot about how, as you awaken or you go on this spiritual journey, the passions of life kind of start to fall away, and for me, personally, it can be such a release some days when I look out and I see people that this is it and that car is it and doing this and winning is it and I kind of see through it, and then there are days when I just want to go back to sleep because I want to be lost in it. It’s so hard sometimes, I mean just to, I don’t know, everybody’s going bowling as Ram Das says in his talks and you don’t want to bowl anymore. It’s just like, “I can take it or leave it.” Are we just supposed to get to that point where the highs are gone, the lows are gone and we’re just here? Now? Just kidding.
KD: Like, be here now, you mean? Oh, wow, I never thought of that. Yes and no, of course. Dryness of heart is not something that’s useful, so when shit doesn’t work for you anymore, you can start to feel very dry and very disconnected from life and very, you know, you can really feel like, isolated from things and cut off. So, that’s not useful. That’s neurosis, essentially. But the problem is that we’re so used to trying to squeeze water from a stone that everything we see, we try to squeeze and bring out pleasure from it. It’s very hard to break that habit so that when it’s not working for whatever reason, the hands are still going like this but there’s nothing there, you know? That’s why there has to kind of, that’s why, when you have a practice that you’ve been doing for awhile and you recognize that you understand that you’re not supposed to be, it’s not about how you feel. How you feel is irrelevant. You do the practice. If it makes you feel a certain way and you’re still doing the practice in that moment, that feeling becomes the object of awareness and you come back from being lost in how good this feels, then you can also extend that to how bad this feels. You get lost in that. And the more you’re used to letting go, the more you’ve trained yourself not to be identified so strongly with the experience, you come back naturally a little quicker. So it doesn’t feel dry. The dryness is that you still wish there was something coming from that stone, which there isn’t. But when you become aware of that, see, you have to get used to, so what I was saying, It’s not easy. It takes time to cultivate that motion of letting go. So, Sri Ramakrishna was a very very great saint who lived in India in the 1800s and he talked about the way the practice of the repetition of the Name works, for instance. There are other practices, of course. But this one… and he said, every repetition of the name is a seed that gets planted in your mind stream, so to speak, in your heart stream in your life. And just like the seed of a huge tree carries that whole tree in a tiny little seed, that potential, that energy, that whatever it is, it’s all in that little seed of a huge oak tree. So, these seeds get planted through the repetition of the Name. He said, every single repetition of one of these names is a seed, ok? Just take it or leave it. It’s a seed. So, that gets planted. You planted it through the repetition of the Name. So, he said, some of these seeds might get caught by the wind and blown miles and miles and get stuck on the roof of an old house in the jungle. And in those days, the tiles on some of those roofs were baked in the sun, not necessarily in a kiln, and so the seeds of the repetition of the Name get stuck between these tiles and then, over rain and snow and wind and seasons changing, the tiles start to break down. Ok? And then, the seeds, the roots from the seeds start to grow. And the roots grow and grow and grow and they destroy the roof of the house. And they keep growing. And they wind up destroying the whole house. Ramakrishna says that house is who you think you are. So, it’s gonna happen. You plant the seeds and you live your life. But what’s being dissolved is your… so that house was built, right? There was just space before and then somebody built a house, and those walls and roof of the house separated the inside from the outside, like who you think you are and who everybody else thinks they are in the room. There’s all these little houses here. They say the repetition of the Name gradually destroys that temporary sense of separateness. It’s just temporary because that house was built for certain reasons. There were causes and conditions that built the house. You needed to protect yourself from the rain and the sun. You had a family you wanted to protect from the tigers and the elephants so you built a house. Through the repetition of the Name, you’re liberated from that sense of separateness and you’re opened up into everything. You’ve become one with the whole universe. The space, and even, the trick is that even when the house was there, the space inside was not different than the space outside. So, the space inside of me is not different than the space inside of you and the space inside of which we’re all living. When the walls come down, we’re everywhere. It’s not, we’ve lost nothing. We’ve gained the whole universe. You don’t disappear. You get here. So, that’s the fruit of practice. And you notice, Ramakrishna doesn’t say, “Oh when you’re practicing it’ll feel like this or that or one thing or another.” Why? Because it’s irrelevant. When you’re repeating the Name, the only thing that’s relevant is the Name. Anything you’re thinking, feeling, remembering, dreaming about, wanting, not wanting, blah blah blah blah blah… let it go. Come back. Until there’s no letting go because there’s nothing to let go of and you’re here all the time. Nowhere. Nothing grabs you. Thoughts will continue to come. They’ll float through like birds. They won’t grab you. You’ll still be here even when thoughts are thinking. You won’t be thinking them. They’ll be there to think, like “I’d better go to work.” Ok. Something like that. But you don’t identify with it. It doesn’t, that glomming, the glue is gone.
So, that dryness comes from not really being through with stuff. Who is, anyway? Right? We’re all here. So, you don’t want to judge yourself for that. You don’t want to put yourself down. You don’t want to evaluate. That’s all thinking. But we do it so much that we think that it’s necessary. “We should be thinking.” Not necessary. Except, you know, at certain times you have to kind of think. But those times disappear gradually and then thinking just happens when it’s supposed to. But, the dryness, you know… I don’t know if that really qualifies as the dark night of the soul. It can get darker than that. But, on this path, those moments of darkness, all that energy fuels the longing to be free, fuels the longing to connect more deeply with what we want to connect with. It’s a good thing, ultimately. It’s a dark night of the soul but there’s a morning right after the night.
Q: It’s not just one night, dark night of the soul, it could be months, years?
KD: Yeah it’s not a human, not a physical day. It could take you lifetimes. But what it does is it fuels the longing to be free. It is an intensification of the recognition of the fact that nothing you’ve done has worked, which is a good recognition to have. I’m sorry. It’s gotta come. So, yeah.
Q: Hi, first of all thank you for taking my question. I appreciate it. I didn’t, really, the only reason why I wanted to speak was just to thank you personally, just because, like, your music has helped me so much and that’s why I’m here and I never thought in a million that I’d get a chance to sit here and actually speak with you. So, thank you so much for your music, especially, Pilgrim Heart. I absolutely love that album. I spent a few years in Peru working with indigenous healers in the Amazon and yeah, it got really dark at times and then sometimes I work with ayahuasca, I don’t know if, I’m sure you’ve heard of it.
KD: Yeah. I’ve heard of it.
Q: Sometimes after a ceremony, I just put on your music and it would lift me.
KD: While you were puking your guts out.
Q: So thank you. You’ve helped me through some pretty hard times.
KD: You’re welcome. Music to puke by. Wonderful. Thank you.
Q: So, also, ok, so I figured I might as well have a question or two. One, I don’t know if the SDM… does that name ring a bell?
KD: Yeah, yeah. Surya Das.
Q: Yeah, so he’s a friend of mine.
KD: Yeah, I’ve known him since 1968.
Q: Yeah. So, he came down to see me when I was in Peru and he chanted during ceremony and what came out was just so beautiful. Just, the energy and just the, the vibration and I just wanted to ask you, in your chants, because, you know, a lot of healers are trained to visualize when you’re chanting, do you retrain to visualize at all?
KD: I wasn’t trained shit.
Q: Ok. Because I wasn’t sure, because also I study medical chi-gong and I’m learning a lot about distance healing.
KD: Then you were trained to shit.
Q: But you’re taught to visualize when you’re working.
KD: Yeah. Not me. I just sing. I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.
Q: Well, whatever you’re doing its amazing. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. And its wonderful to be here and its wonderful to see you.
KD: Next, thank you.
Q: Just a quick question, all this talk about Ram Das and acid and ayahuasca, and you know there’s…
KD: Sooner or later, we always get to this, I know.
Q: There’s all this renaissance in psychedelics and Michael Pollan’s book came out
Q: I was wondering, did they have a role in your spiritual growth?
KD: Oh, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for psychedelics, there’s no question. At least, in my mind, that’s the way it looks. I took peyote between my junior and senior year of high school. A friend of mine had come back from the Southwest with some peyote buttons, which is mescaline, essentially, and absolutely changed my life. I took it, after I finished puking, I just went “oh… this is what it is.” There was no doubt in my mind that what I was seeing was a deeper reality than Long Island in the 60s.
Q: So then, I guess my question then around that is, so there’s a renaissance, people seem to really be into it, somehow that’s going to lead to spirituality, but obviously, you know, you cite a Guru. What do you see is a proper role or what place do they play in all this?
KD: It’s different for everybody. I don’t think there’s one rule for anybody. It’s different. If you feel that you really want to take some drug like that, knock yourself out, so to speak. Who’s going to tell you what to do? Maharajji Himself called it the ‘yogi medicine’, you know? And He took it twice. Ram Das gave it to Him twice. The first time was the very first time Ram Das met Him, and He took three or four hits, and He said to Ram Das, Ram Das didn’t, Ram Das went to India the first time with a bunch of acid because he knew it had changed his life but he didn’t know what it was, so he went to find that, he thought maybe somebody in India will know what it is. So, he went around giving it to people, chai wallahs, you know, rickshaw wallahs, you know, storekeepers, anybody who wanted some, got some. And nobody, some people liked it, some people didn’t, but they all went… oh. So then he’s sitting in front of Maharajji the first time and Maharajji said, “You have some medicine?” So Ram Das thought He meant, like, an asprin or something, so he takes out a bottle of asprin. He said, “Nay nay, the yogi medicine.” Yogi medicine? He must mean acid, so he said, “Yeah?” And He said, “Give it to me.” So, He put His hand out like this, and there were like, three or four tabs of acid, each one strong enough to put a horse on the moon. Maharajji threw them all in His mouth. And they sat around all day, nothing happened. It was the same. No difference whatsoever. That was really powerful for Ram Das. I mean, it wasn’t the most powerful, the most powerful thing was the love that He felt from Maharajji, but the next day this happened and then he went, jeeze, you know, He’s beyond acid. Which was a big thing because it changed his life completely, right? Ok, so then Ram Das came back a couple of years later and this time he came, I was traveling with him and we came to see Maharajji at one point and we were sitting there. Now, when he came back from India the first time, he told the story I just told you, right? But people were saying to him, “Oh, come on, he must have thrown it over his shoulder. He didn’t take it. Nobody could take that much acid.” And even though Ram Das believed it, there was just a little bit of doubt, you know? I mean, really… but in the back of his mind, there was a little bit of doubt. He never said anything to anybody, but, so there we were, two years later sitting with Maharajji, and Maharajji says, “When you were in India last time, did you give me medicine?” “Yes.” “Did I take it?” “Yes.” “Got some more?” Yes.” “Give it to me.” Ram Das put his hand out like this with four hits of Owley acid. Unbelievable. Maharajji went like this, I swear to you, I was sitting right there, He goes like this… four times, and then, after a couple of minutes, He goes, “can I drink water? Cold water? Hot water?” And then after a couple of minutes, He takes His blanket and He pulls it up over His head like this, and then He goes… Ram Das turned purple and he thought, “Oh my god, I’ve killed my Guru. He knew I had some doubts and He wanted to prove He could do it, now I’ve killed my Guru, what’s going to happen?” You know? The minute he thought that, Maharajji just stopped and said, “Yogis have known about this for thousands of years. It used to grow up in the Kulu Valley, and He said something very interesting, “A yogi would go and He would, He would do, He would do essentially ashtanga yoga. He would, he would do yama and niyama and then he would calm the body, calm the breath, he would bring the mind to one point and then he would take the medicine and go through the door.” He said, “For a yogi, no poison can affect him.” And that was it. The rest of the day was just like any other day. He was completely beyond those things, which was inconceivable to us. So, but He said, somebody, once, “A person should take this when his mind is quiet and he’s in a cool place.” And not overheat. But, He called it the yogi medicine. He said, “It’s good for beginners.” So, you have to, you know, whatever, knock yourself out. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t. It’s up to you. Whether it’s going to change your karmas, who knows? Some people don’t have good experiences. Some people hang on and its scary, whatever. Some people open up. For me, it was like getting away from my mother and into playland. I would play with my dog in the snow for hours and hours. I just was so happy, just playing, that’s all. It was really wonderful, really liberated me from my stuff I hated. All that hard, nasty, dark stuff, hated myself and anger and all that, it just lifted me out of all that. And it showed me there must be something underneath all this stuff, something else.
And Maharajji told this one guy, his father came to India, you know? Maharajji told him, “Take him to Benares,” which is this incredible city on the banks of the Ganga, where they have a burning ghat where they burn all the bodies, you know? He said, “take him to Benares and give him acid. Give him the yogi medicine.” So, he took his father to Benares and gave him, the guy had a trip that changed his life. He turned from a very uptight advertising executive. He bought a farm and horses, invited everybody to come stay. But, you know, it’s up to you.
Ultimately, one has to deal with one’s self and one has to, has to learn to trust one’s own heart. Whatever it is. You have nobody who knows better than you. Somebody can tell you what they think you should do, you could agree with them, ok, but you’re agreeing with them. You’re trusting that.
Sometimes it leads you into a lot of suffering.
Sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes you have to learn hard lessons about how to find what you want and a lot of the times, it’s about recognizing that you’ve found something you didn’t want. So, you have to come back. The whole spiritual path, whole life is about one thing, learning to trust your own heart every day, all day. It’s very hard to do because nobody tells us about that. Nobody. Our parents didn’t know, their parents didn’t know, their parents didn’t know. How could we know. If we know at all, it’s from the karmas we brought into this life coming to fruition right now. So, whatever’s going to help you, experiment. See. Or don’t. Whatever.
But also see what your motivations are for doing something that you don’t know what its going to be. A wild card. Why would you do that?
Can’t deal with this moment? What’s your problem? You need some self awareness about these things and what your motives are. There’s nowhere you can go where you’re not going to be, no matter how much acid you take. It just might look a little different. It might be scary. It might not be. You don’t know. So what’s your motive for taking a shot like that? I don’t know, but hopefully you will. Ok.
Remember to vaporize after we sing.