📖 Day 18 Cookbook Discussion Prompt - DROPPING OUT, COPPING OUT

Welcome to day 18 of our Cookbook for a Sacred Life virtual course!

Today our topic is Dropping out, Copping out.

Ram Dass used to say, “You have to remember your Buddha nature and your social security number.” Many people who enter into a spiritual life try to separate themselves from worldly events, deeming them “unspiritual.” But the Bhagavad Gita tells us that we all must act, and even non-action is a form of action. So how do we engage in this world where so much pain and suffering exists, while remaining in a space of Loving Awareness and identification with our souls?

Ram Dass:

…To be “not caught” means to be unattached. To be unattached does not mean to be uninvolved, it means to be involved “without attachment.”

A conscious being is capable of making as many discriminations among components of the Universe as anyone else (perhaps even more). However, he is not caught in them. Just because you are seeing divine light, experiencing waves of bliss, or conversing with Gods and Goddesses is no reason to not know your zip code. Keeping it together means keeping conscious at all levels - all planes - with no attachment to any of them.

…If a “confrontation" occurs during a protest, what is the result?.. an increase in polarization and distance between the two groups…

Why does the distance increase? Because nobody wants to be “them.” Everyone wants to be “us” and if you meet someone who sees you as “him {her/they}” or “one of them,” that meeting arouses in you all your paranoia and you, in turn, see the other person as “him” or “one of them.”

PROMPT: Share an instance in your life when you felt very polarized in the “Us vs. Them” model. How would that situation have felt different if you brought in more awareness?

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It is hard to write about this without getting caught in my anger :joy: I guess I have some work to do!
I typed out (and then deleted) a long tangent about my hang-ups with the gender binary and the political and interpersonal implications of it. I read through it and realized it was more of an angry rant against the political right than a thoughtful reflection haha.
I truly hope I can get to a place someday where I see people that are actively working to strip basic human rights from others as part of “us” but for now the best I can seem to do is pitty them…
I think it is easier to get to a place of detachment when it isn’t affecting you personally. I remember getting so angry at a boyfriend who wasn’t as angry as I was over Trump’s “grab 'em by the pussy” tape, the election, and subsequent supreme court appointment of Brett Kavanaugh. A few years later I had a hysterectomy (uterus removal) and a few years after that Roe V Wade was overturned. I was horrified and very angry, but I noticed the depth of pain and fear was not the same as when I had a uterus and could be affected personally by the decision. I could take a step back and be calmer about it, which was alarming to me. It was a real wake-up for me to actually feel the difference between having the priviledge of not being personally affected/violated by the decision and not having that priviledge. It made me reflect on how I will never be able to truly know and feel what it is like for a person of color to live in this country, or any other person, and also helped me gain compassion for my ex-boyfriend (and cis-white men in general). He couldn’t feel the ickiness and physical viololation as viscerally as I could back in 2016-2017.


I love learning. Happy to help with anything. But find my line of work to often have limited resources but unlimited expectations.

I find work can often create a polarizing experience for me. Doing more with less. Held accountable for outcomes and expertise that really should be delivered by the rest of the team. As a result, I often feel judged because I am unable to compensate for the team/org/co stalling.

Some of this judgment is my mind, but some of it isn’t. As a contractor, this can be a real risk. Coming onboard to deliver projects but realize the company isn’t ready. I know I can’t control everything, so need to practice stillness and patience more. Less reactivity. Less judgment. Not necessarily improving the situation, but certainly not making it worse…

I’ve been mindful of socially and perceptually constructed realities for years…lol. But haven’t been very skillful in managing the tension between perception and reality. I suppose this is less of a tension and more of a condition that I need to work with. My awareness does not necessarily result in group awareness. I need to be more comfortable with that, and not assuming I’m the one that is more aware…

Awareness clearly isn’t a solution but instead another process/input to work with. This is rarely an explicit object of contemplation or discussion at work. Some are more aware than others, but the tension still exists. Real world consequences, per se.

I suppose, being more inquisitive about what I ‘own’ and what the ‘team’ owns may be useful (in my particular instance). Then practicing awareness and the other capabilities (mindfulness, compassion, stillness, etc.) to help facilitate more skillful outcomes. Alas, if only this was simple :slight_smile:

Watching the news? ha. I try not to. Too…triggering :slight_smile:

I’m mindful of a quote often attributed to the Dalai Lama, that as long as we are engaged in ‘othering’…solutions will seem impossible. This illusion will be a focus of my practice ongoing.


Thanks for sharing. Very relatable.

The levers of personal, interpersonal, local, regional, national, global change are ever fluid. Like trying to hold onto a stream.

Institutional frameworks can help structure, guide, and influence skillful changes but…the process of how these are built is not deterministic. My mind wants results, now. I’ve found advocacy and lobbying fulfilling, but there results often feels elusive. I need to reflect on this more, for sure.


This is a challenging topic to write about for me. Please be careful for your own centered consciousness in reading my post. I appreciate that I am encouraged to share within this privileged practice context.

Interpersonal boundaries that are not communicated fully & clearly seem to cause me the most suffering in feeling very polarized in the “Us vs Them”/“Me vs You”/“Right vs Wrong” dualistic construct. This is likely because I have had a strong egocentric-karmic-conditioned past experience of identifying as a victim within my family as well as in so many social situations. (Fortunately, this is shifting for me as a result of practicing somatic-based nervous system self-regulation and learning about unhealthy attachment styles and early neurodevelopmental gaps that cause chronic dysregulation. There is nothing wrong with me!)

It is not just me who gets caught up in this typical human delusion! It seems that most people aren’t able to communicate fully and clearly about the “issue” of our common human delusion, especially when we are identified with our polarized views (on either side of the duality)—including myself.

Probably because I have degree in Cultural Anthropology, I often think that historical conditioning and survival-oriented epigenetics of xenophobia merged with our ego and group identifications keep us in this “Us vs Them” loop of human delusion from before the Ancient Chinese/Summerian/Egyptian periods where cultures really got going in a more contemporized sense of civilization. I think this is why The Old Testament describes Original Sin, because it notes the culturally relevant breakaway moment from our embodied True Nature into mind-identification/delusion.

Questioning, inquiring, observing, processing, feeling, experimenting with and letting go of these delusive views IS the path of practice, personally and collectively. While ignorant delusion and polarization is typical, it is also the cause of human suffering, because it is an aberration of and separation from the Truth, intrinsic goodness and the adaptability of our True Original Nature.

May I practice returning to center in Absolute Truth.
Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram.


Thanks for sharing.
The process to break ‘free’ of illusions is a conundrum. Boxes within boxes within boxes. The lable of privilege is just another box. Education is another box. The idea of wisdom is another box. Harm is clearly real and needs to be addressed.

I often reflect on whether the mind is ‘wired’ with similar constraints? A buddhist view (i.e., box) is that the mind is born unconditioned. I wonder if this is ‘true’, recognizing the latter term a conditioned construct as well.

It seems (to me) all of our ‘awakened’ models, ideas, and labels are also illusory constructs. Harmful if held too firmly. Evolving constructs. Not static. Not permanent. Wisdom as a process of impermanence. The process of freedom seems just as important as the result. A view I often struggle with.


This is the obstacle I have with selling stuff to people. My first impression with everyone is that I’m the “them.” Now the objective is to get the customer to think I’m “us.” I do this with my tone of voice and ability to explain the message concisely. As long as the person is qualified, the vast majority of “no” I hear is because they don’t understand. The ability to effectively communicate a message while gaining credibility is what determines a successful salesperson. Usually once that us vs them wall has broken down, a steady flow of communication can transpire and we can see what each other’s wants and needs are. The deal is closed, we become one. Cooperation through coming together with effective conversation is a beautiful thing. And money too.


Your use of the language of boxes within boxes reminds me of Charlotte Joko Beck’s useful teaching of The Bigger Container. My closest friend and I have discussed this topic so many times in various contexts in our lives. I’m not sure how to address some of your reflections and questions other than to refer to her particular poignant Zen Dharma understanding/teaching.


To be honest, I feel pretty polarized in “us vs. them” quite often.

For instance the political situation in the US seems to just be peaking in terms of its detachment from any sort of truth, decency, or honesty.

And I definitely perceive one side to be significantly worse than the other. So I am constantly thinking of the people with those political views as “them.”

I put all kinds of people into the “them” category.

If I could truly live from a place of unity consciousness … from a knowing that there is no “us and them” but only “us” … seeing everyone as souls … I would feel a lot more peace in my spirit.

I would like to move toward that.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. :pray:t4:


Yes, I understand the difference, but for me, I think it feels the same. I’m not sure that’s always been so, but it seems so now. There is an organization called Braver Angels which provides a forum for people of opposing views to come together and listen to one another. I moved before becoming more involved with the MN branch. I did a one-on-one interview with a “Red” two different times and that was good. I also listened to a couple of the public kinda debate-like Zooms that were available.

Personally though in relation to privileges, it is very hard to understand how so much injustice survives in this world, and continue to remember that we are all part of the One and inside probably all want the same things. Lots of protesting that I would like to do, lots of signing that I have done, and shaking my head at where it appears our country is going. Thank you for sharing your stories.


It would probably be helpful reading your post if I had a degree in Cultural Anthropology! It sounds though, like we have both come from the same place and journeyed along similar pathways, arriving back where we began (well at least a good start to getting back!). Om Hari Om! Thank you for your Words.


This is as relevant now in 2023, as it was in 1971 when Ram Dass published Be Here Now. How do I stand firm in my beliefs and work for a cause I believe in and not contribute to more polarization? One way that I’ve felt caught in “Us Vs Them” is if someone says something I dont agree with politically. I have gotten better in realizing sometimes its better not to even engage, they have their belief, I have mine, and thats just what it is. Am I really going to convince them by engaging? Other times, I am reactive and angry and can lash out. My mind goes to Thich Nhat Hanh. He had some very strong beliefs, and lived them, embodied them. Even just looking at a picture of the guy, he’s equanimous, serene and calm. He gave off that energy just as Ram Dass radiated loving awareness. Thich also spent his life helping to make the world a better place. Thats who I want to emulate.

The idea of making sure when you work for a cause you arent creating more polarization is a very important point. That really resonates. If I am angrily going down the street, very mad, furrowed brow, clenched teeth, saying “Peace Now, End the war!”, I can absolutely see what sort of karma, vibes or energy that gives off, and its the polar opposite of peace. I absolutely have done that in the past. I havent been a protest guy in a long time, but the next time I did, I plan on being mindful and conscious of what Ram Dass said. Ram Dass in later years would go to protests carrying a sign saying “Love Everyone and Tell the Truth”. Making myself peaceful and calm and non reactive is the best way for me personally to cause outer peace and harmony. Krishna Das is often asked by parents or teachers how you can introduce kids to these ideas, or chanting or spirituality. He says, the best way to do so is to live a peaceful life, to model it, and your kids will then have a map. As Thich said, “peace in oneself, peace in the world”. He also has that beautiful poem Call Me By My True Names, and in typical Thich fashion, models being compassionate for all, even those we disagree with.

Seeing the other side, the other side of the aisle, as souls, seems a worthwhile activity to engage in for me. I have some beliefs that have remained for decades, other views have evolved, or completely flipped. I thought I knew my stance on some issues as a teen, now, years later, my stances on those same issues, has changed or flipped. Even the issues that have remained important for me throughout, I’m older, wiser, have more experience. I dont think of things the same way I did when I was 14 years old. That also makes it easier, at least at times, for me to understand people who I disagree with on issues, because I have been on both sides. Things are complex, multifaceted, and if you take a look at any of the Holy Books Ram Dass has mentioned in this course, the people in those books dealt with the same issues we all do currently, there was war, violence, disagreement, greed, hatred, all of it. Realizing I have alot to learn in general, and humans as a species have alot to learn, treating people with kindness and love and respect. This has also involved me taking a page from Ram Dass and putting figures on my puja table that get me caught in Us Vs Them polarity and trying to love them as best I can. Im not there yet.

Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein have both discussed similarly to what Ram Dass mentioned in the renunciation part of the course, that even if you were to move to a monastery, you may have a disagreement with a fellow monk. Joseph Goldstein mentioned trying to meditate at a monastery and hearing construction next door. We are so bound to one another, so interconnected and at the moment, I dont have the resources to move to a farm off the grid and grow my own food etc… So I have to be able to interact with, talk with, have as coworkers, friends and even family, folks who we dont see eye to eye on things. Thats the work. Can I donate, petition, call my representatives, and stand firm, while balancing not creating more polarization, while also balancing seeing those who disagree as souls etc… Its a balancing act, and its one I hope to try. That person saying that political thing I disagree with can I look at their picture on my puja table and love this person and create space for them to drop their role and become a soul along with me? Its the work of a lifetime, but I will try. I dont want to create more suffering or polarization in the world. Our world is as divided, polarized, as its ever been. The country cant agree on seemingly anything. This is why this aspect of Be Here Now has become my most favorite, because it doesnt feel dated in the slightest, he could be talking about now just as much as Vietnam War era politics. Important and essential stuff.


“Smiling is the most basic kind of peace work.” On my tea bag just now after essentially hearing the same thing earlier this morning from Allaudin Murshid Allaudin Ottinger Allaudin Ottinger | Spotify, and then from Ram Dass! Needed to share that here as well to help me remember peace is the only way to achieve peace.

It was hard reading, listening to Ram Dass say that “even if you have to go to VietNam and die doing it…” really brings it back to what I have been hearing over and over these past Covid years: Peace within me Ajeet Kaur - Peace [Official Music Video] - YouTube brings peace around me and so many variations on that theme.

My entire life up until maybe the past years has been spent in some kind of polarization and it would be difficult to imagine my life without those experiences. Recently, I was in a relationship with a man who was so opposite to most of my worldly beliefs but so dear to my spiritual self that I was able to just let him have his beliefs and me mine. It did not work out, but that had nothing to do with our outward polarization.

I guess my life would have been different in that there would have been more opportunities for growth through relationship and encounters with those who had opposing beliefs. Also, much less time spent agonizing over “Am I doing enough?” Voting, sharing, helping others be at peace, contributing in whatever way one can to establishing communities we all can survive in regardless of what we believe - perhaps I’d be further along in that goal.


Sounds like a cool organization. That takes guts and courage for both people to do that one on one interview like that. Dialogue and hearing that other person out is definitely something I need to work on and the larger world does as well. If we were with the person from the other side of the issue at a park just talking, eating food, hanging out, I think its likely we’d get along and see as you pointed out the oneness of it all, the Sub Ek of it, and that we have way more alike and have so many things in common.

Social media nowadays, specifically regarding politics, its hard to see the other person as a human being in that situation, to not take it personal. It’s been tougher with COVID, but Meeting face to face, practicing active listening seem so needed.

Jack Kornfield has this amazing practice he does at retreats where he gets two people to face one another, and silently you say “that person is just like me, has had suffering, loss, happiness, sadness, has been misunderstood, at times also has been the one who does the misunderstanding, etc”. And he mentions in that silent 10 minutes or so you have a deep connection now with this person who was a stranger moments before. If only the entire planet could do something like that. Other sides to the issue, agreeing to disagree, letting it go, not engaging, discussing it but using peaceful nonviolent communication, listening just overall in general and calmly discussing these issues seems to have completely gone out the window. Its sad to see, and I can see how I have contributed to it, even if only in a small way. Hope to change that and work on it and embody the energy Ram Dass discussed today. :peace_symbol: :heart:


Are we putting everyone in the US as moving away from any sort of truth, decency, or honesty? Or just some? How are we defining these terms? Who is doing the evaluating? I agree provisionally, but not in absolute terms. It is a problem on my mind lately.

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I wouldn’t put everyone in the U.S. into that category (or any other)… I just mean the overall political climate/tenor right now.

And certainly none of this is absolute. Everything in this realm is relative/subjective.


Thanks for sharing. That’s a great model!

Boxes within boxes as expanding (vs contracting) our comfort zone. Sharon Saltzberg also implicitly references this model in a book published April 11th, and discussed in a current summit. I was thinking of boxes within boxes as a nested series of mental forms and illusions. These can have provisional uses, but do not represent absolute truths.

Discussing perception, ethics, and their results is challenging. Insight is organic and often paradoxical, paradigmatic. Not linear. And needs to be met at least half way by the audience, if not more. It also needs to be timely.

I am often not the right teacher for a given audience, particularly if they are judging me. Change in teacher and vocabulary is not a panacea for resistance, but its a decent starting point.

If someone is resisting, or the idea is to novel, I will apply appreciative inquiry and reflective listening. Explore their side. Follow up accordingly. Align ideas. Build consensus. Generate interest. At least, this is what I would do if I was being mindful…

A few infographics I dug up. Not sure how relevant they might be to discussing dharma with a secular/terrestrial reference. Suppose that will depend on the audience.


This is so so relatable and beautiful Zac. You spoke my heart out🙏thanking you


Recently, I had a conflict with a coworker. After going home that night, I felt so angry – partially at her for how disrespectful she was to me, and partially frustrated with myself for not advocating for myself – I was too shocked by the situation, I just stood there silently. I did my best not to obsess over the situation too much because I wanted to sleep well, but I did vent about the situation to my friend before going to sleep. This coworker was definitely the villain in my mind, and I was too caught in anger to find compassion for her. The next day, when I was calmer, I moved to pity for her – that’s a start! And by night time I felt a mix of pity and compassion for her. I still don’t like her personality, and know that I don’t have to. I’m still working on getting out of pity and into total compassion for her. Now that I reflect on it, I think I’ll try the loving kindness meditation with her in mind.

This situation reminded me of struggles I’ve had with my oldest sister. Growing up was extremely difficult, and I held so much resentment for her for so long. Finally, with my therapist’s help, I found a way to be in total compassion for her… imagining her as a child, and the things she went through that led to her acting the way she does. If I can be in this total compassion for someone who has hurt me so much, then I definitely can for a coworker.


Wow, thank you for sharing Emily. This shift in perspective you had is so eye-opening… as hard as it is to let go of the anger towards people who don’t “get it” or don’t seem to care, this story really helps me have more understanding for them (I too had a cis white male boyfriend who wasn’t angry enough about marginalized group issues for my liking :joy: :roll_eyes: ). And like you said, for the way that I can never truly understand how it feels to be in a marginalized group that I’m not part of. Thank you again for this, I have a feeling your story will come to my mind often. :hearts: