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Excerpted from Still Here by Ram Dass. Copyright 2000 by Ram Dass. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 


"I'm happy to say that having gone through what some would view as the worst, it's not so bad after all."

Ram Dass, Still Here, Part 4

My guru once said to a visitor complaining about her suffering, "I love suffering. It brings me so close to God." In this same way, I've learned that the incidents associated with aging--including this stroke--can be used for our spiritual healing, provided we learn to see through new eyes.

Although my outward life has been radically altered, I don't see myself as a stroke victim. I see myself as a Soul who's watching "him" experience the aftermath of this cerebral hemorrhage. Having accepted my predicament, I'm much happier than I was before. This troubles some of the people around me. They have told me that I should fight to walk again, but I don't know if I wanted to walk. I'm sitting--that's where I am. I'm peaceful like this and I am grateful to the people who care for me. Why is this wrong? Though I can now stand and move around with a walker, I've grown to love my wheelchair (I call it my swan boat) and being wheeled about by people who care. They carry Chinese emperors and Indian maharajas on palanquins; in other cultures, it's a symbol of honor and power to be carried and wheeled. I don't believe it's all-important to be what our culture calls "optimal."

Before the stroke I wrote a great deal about the terrible things that can happen in aging, and how to cope with them. Now I'm happy to say that having gone through what some would view as the worst, it's not so bad after all.

Getting old isn't easy for a lot of us. Neither is living, neither is dying. We struggle against the inevitable and we all suffer because of it. We have to find another way to look at the whole process of being born, growing old, changing, and dying, some kind of perspective that might allow us to deal with what we perceive as big obstacles without having to be dragged through the drama. It really helps to understand that we have something-that we are something-which is unchangeable, beautiful, completely aware, and continues no matter what. Knowing this doesn't solve everything--this is what I encountered and told about in Be Here Now, and I've still had my share of suffering. But the perspective of the soul can help a lot with the little things, and it is my hope that you'll be able to take from this book some joy in being "still here."

Recently, a friend said to me, "You're more human since the stroke than you were before." This touched me profoundly. What a gift the stroke has given me, to finally learn that I don't have to renounce my humanity in order to be spiritual--that I can be both witness and participant, both eternal spirit and aging body. The book's ending, which had eluded me, is now finally clear. The stroke has given me a new perspective to share about aging, a perspective that says, "Don't be a wise elder, be an incarnation of wisdom." That changes the whole nature of the game. That's not just a new role, it's a new state of being. It's the real thing. At nearly seventy, surrounded by people who care for and love me, I'm still learning to be here now.

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