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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.

"There's much more in any given moment than we usually perceive, and that we ourselves are much more than we usually perceive."

Ram Dass
Still Here
, Part 1

Be Here Now was first published in 1971. It recorded the two major experiences I had had during the Sixties: one of them was psilocyben mushrooms, and the other was my guru, Maharajji. Both of them -- mushrooms and Maharajji -- did many things for me, one of which was to give me a familiarity with other planes of consciousness. They showed me that there's much more in any given moment than we usually perceive, and that we ourselves are much more than we usually perceive. When you know that, part of you can stand outside the drama of your life.

There were a number of transformations in Richard Alpert (my name at birth), which were inspired by mushrooms and Maharajji, and the best, I think, is the one that opened my heart and gave me a chance to serve. For me, the way the compassion seemed to express itself was through showing people what I had done, how I had approached my experiences, and so opening avenues for them where their own spirit could emerge. I felt incredibly fortunate because of all the things that had happened to me in the Sixties, and I wanted to spread the grace around. So there were lectures, there were books, there were tapes, and there were videos--a patchwork of different means for sharing my life with people. Gandhi once said, "My life is my message." That's what I aspire to.

As I opened my heart, various forms of suffering in my fellow human beings presented themselves, and I decided to do what I could to help. Prisoners read Be Here Now, and then wrote to me, and through corresponding with them I realized that many people can do deep spiritual work in prison. So I started the Prison Ashram Project.

Then I noticed how frightened we are of death in our culture, and what a lot of suffering that was creating. That was in contrast to what I'd seen in India, which has a much different understanding of death than we do because of their knowledge of the continuation of the soul. I wanted to find ways of sharing that, so I instituted the Dying Project. I started hanging out with people who were dying--including my mother, my father, my stepmother, people with AIDS and cancer, many, many people over the years, whom I've been with as they died. To each of these individuals and situations I brought what I had to share--my acquaintance with other planes of consciousness, and the way that affects how we perceive our living and our dying.

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