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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 started to look at the social institutions in the world around me, to see whether the spiritual tack I was taking might be commensurate with social action."

Ram Dass, Still Here, Part 2

I started to look at the social institutions in the world around me, to see whether the spiritual tack I was taking might be commensurate with social action. A couple of friends were starting the Seva Foundation, and invited me to join them to work with doctors and activists, doing work in India, Nepal, and Guatemala, and with American Indians and in the inner cities of America. Other friends had wondered how business, which is the institution which has the most power in our society, might become more informed by spiritual Awareness and started the Social Venture Network. They are compassionate businesspeople who invited me to work together with them. I joined the board of Creating Our Future, which was an organization for teenagers who wanted to inform their lives with spirit. These organizations were trying to prevent suffering in areas in which I felt a personal connection. For some people, it's world hunger, or literacy. For me it was seeking spiritual answers to many of our problems.

My interest in aging came from a personal direction: I was getting older -- and so were the baby boomers, who were fast approaching fifty. In this youth-oriented culture, aging is a profound source of suffering, and that is what I was responding to when I decided to turn my attention to conscious aging workshops, and to writing this book.

One evening in February 1997, I was in bed at home in Marin Country, contemplating how to end this book. I'd been working on the manuscript for the past eighteen months, weaving together material from personal experience and from talks I'd given around the country on conscious aging, but somehow the book's conclusion had eluded me. Lying there in the dark, I wondered why what I'd written seemed so incomplete, not quite rounded, grounded, or whole. I tried to imagine what life would be like if I were very old--not an active person of sixty-five, traveling the world incessantly as a teacher and speaker, caught up in my public role--but as someone of ninety, say, with failing sight and failing limbs. I fantasized how that old man would think, how he'd move and speak and hear, what desires he might have as he slowly surveyed the world. I was trying to feel my way into oldness. I was thoroughly enjoying this fantasy when the phone rang. In the process of my fantasy, I'd noticed that my leg seemed to have fallen asleep. As I got up to answer the phone, my leg gave way under me and I fell to the floor. In my mind, the fall was still part of my "old-man fantasy." I didn't realize that my leg was no longer working because I'd had a stroke.

I reached for my phone, on the table near my bed.

"R. D.? Are you there?"

I heard the voice of an old friend in Santa Fe. When I didn't respond coherently, he asked, "Are you sick?" I suppose I still didn't answer, so he said, "If you can't speak, tap on the phone. Tap once for yes and twice for no." When he asked whether I wanted help, I tapped "no" over and over again.

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