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Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing and Dying

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More than thirty years ago, an entire generation sought a new way of life, looking for fulfillment and meaning in a way no one had before. Leaving his teaching job at Harvard, Ram Dass embodied the role of spiritual seeker, showing others how to find peace within themselves in one of the greatest spiritual classics of the twentieth century, the two-million-copy bestseller . As many of that generation enter the autumn of their years, the big questions of peace and of purpose have returned demanding answers. And once again, Ram Dass blazes a new trail, inviting all to join him on the next stage of the journey.

206 pages, Paperback

First published April 27, 2000

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About the author

Ram Dass

149 books1,739 followers
Ram Dass (Richard Alpert), was one of America's most beloved spiritual figures, making his mark on the world giving teachings and promoting loving service, harmonious business practices, and conscious care for the dying. His spirit has been a guiding light for four generations, carrying millions along on the journey, helping free them from their bonds as he has worked his way through his own.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 139 reviews
Profile Image for Martha Love.
Author 4 books258 followers
December 22, 2015
Ram Dass is such an engaging writer and this book is a must for anyone dealing with debilitating illness and aging or for seniors who are beginning to feel or become curious about the onset of aging. And of course any age person can gain from his profound wisdom. As in "Be Here Now", he directs our consciousness in "Still Here" to the present moment and guides us through a conscious approach to aging (and dying) and as you read it you notice that it just really makes you feel better about yourself, living in a constantly changing world, dying, and the aging process. It is funny too and as you laugh at his descriptions of his own life experiences, you realize that you are really having a grand laugh at yourself.

Reading his book is a great way to sit quietly with yourself, as the reading of it feels like a meditation in it self. Reading this book relieves and quiets your worrying mind by putting words to familiar human experience that have perhaps not previously been as speech ripe in your mind as they are as you read his writing. I felt such peace as I read it. Still Here is on my Christmas list to gift many of my friends and family.

Martha Love,
author of What's Behind Your Belly Button? A Psychological Perspective of the Intelligence of Human Nature and Gut Instinct and
Increasing Intuitional Intelligence: How the Awareness of Instinctual Gut Feelings Fosters Human Learning, Intuition, and Longevity
Profile Image for Emily.
142 reviews47 followers
April 7, 2018
I laughed aloud and then lapsed into a contemplative silence when I recently encountered a church sign which read, "Ten out of ten people die. Are you ready?"

After reading Ram Dass' Still Here, I'm ready.

With gentleness and compassion, spiritual pioneer and stroke survivor Ram Dass guides readers in an exploration of two much maligned - yet inevitable - human undertakings, aging and dying. The wisdom he shares is simple and profound: Yes, we are our bodies, but we are also infinitely more.

As we age, Ram Dass reminds us, the focus of our lives gradually shifts from activity to stillness - a sometimes frightening prospect for a society that places such enormous emphasis on productivity and accomplishment, not to mention the physical beauty, good health, and independence which youth often swaps for old age.

Grounded by his own human experience and illuminated by years of spiritual study and practice, Ram Dass' insights invite us to begin stripping away the layers of fear surrounding our own inevitable futures. In doing so, we find that aging is just as beautiful, just as much a blessing, just as much an opportunity for growth, as the youth we often cling to.
Profile Image for Karen.
832 reviews121 followers
August 24, 2014
Ram Dass has been in the consciousness-raising business since the 1960s, and he uses his self-awareness in the wake of a stroke to meditate on the topics (as flagged in the subtitle) of aging, changing and dying.

He turns ideas about disability, frailty, decay, pain, dependence, and other "bad" consequences associated with aging and turns them over and over and over in the rock-tumbler of his mind, producing beautiful objects for our consideration. His book testifies to the power that our attitudes have for framing our experience.

One of my favorite passages occurs in the final pages. Dass describes the importance of leading people--leading ourselves--towards healing rather than curing. A person experiencing the hard changes of aging can learn to accept and even embrace their "next chapter" and find peace, wisdom and even joy in these hard moments. Because he had a stroke, he has some direct experience with reframing a very difficult series of events that led to dramatic changes.

For anyone struggling to move through the next chapter of their aging process, I highly recommend this book. Dass serves (in his own words) as an advanced scout, finding a path to peace and mapping it for others to follow. I usually just read library books, but I will probably find a used copy online to keep at the house so that I can loan it to others and so that I can inhabit his attitude of peaceful acceptance as I move through various age-related changes.
Profile Image for Magdelanye.
1,608 reviews192 followers
July 28, 2019
I don't have to renounce my humanity in order to be spiritual....I can be both witness and participant, both eternal spirit and aging body....That's not just a new role, it's a new state of being. p7

From respectable professor to guru freak of the dropout nation;from the intellectual fringe and back, Ram Das has established himself over the decades as a beloved teacher who boldly overturned the barrier between eastern and western mysticism. This makes him an ideal guide for the final trip, with his 'curriculum of conscious aging' for those of us still 'trapped in time and desire'.

It is a paradox of mindful living that without having embraced our past, we cannot let it go. p117

When you've felt enough ecstasy, you're not going to cling to structures....The soul is not located in my body, nor is it limited to my body....Awareness goes on....you are not just material....death is just the rapids at a bend in the river. p161

Profile Image for Camille Cusumano.
Author 18 books25 followers
December 26, 2014
Sit down, I have something to tell you: You are going to die. Everyone and everything you know and love is going to die. Death is a given. What's that? You say you already knew that? Then why are we all acting as if death is not a reality? Why are you not living life to the fullest? Why are you not seizing this very moment? And what does it mean to seize the moment? What does it really mean to be happy? Ram Dass is not the first to give us the unvarnished truth about our mortal bodies and the material world. But he is one who has devoted his life to compassion and wisdom and living a meaningful life. His book is full of wisdom. He wrote this book after a debilitating stroke. Read it - before you die.
Profile Image for RevDrJude.
Author 7 books91 followers
October 27, 2010
A beautiful book. I had seen him in person give a talk in Hawaii 20 years ago now when he was talking about service. At that time in his life he was taking care of his aging parents. In Still Here he has a stroke and has to learn about the importance of letting others serve you when you need it. I was there when I had a broken back. It is very challenging to receive help graciously when you desperately need it. This should be required reading for anyone in the business of serving others.
Profile Image for Yvonne Flint.
233 reviews2 followers
December 17, 2016
This wise man is still lighting the way with an open heart and generosity of spirit. Having looked my mortality in the eye, adjusting to a changed and changing body, this book affirms my journey and inspires me to service.
Profile Image for Milly Cohen.
1,025 reviews268 followers
March 28, 2020
Una belleza de libro.
Recién descubro a Ram Dass, ahora que recién muere.
Me mata cómo escribe, su sencillez, su honestidad y su humor.
Me hace reír y llorar.
Y entender muchas cosas.

Sé que ha escrito libros aun más importantes que éste pero me encanta su manera de mirar la vida luego de su apoplegía, quería leerlo en este estadío, y bajo ninguna sustancia. Y encontré una espiritualidad muy humana e impresionante.

Ahora que andamos encerrados, me resuena mucho esto:

No necesito planear cada minuto de mi día; los pájaros no tienen horarios ¿verdad?


Gracias Ram Dass

Y gracias Salo, hijo, por presentármelo.
Profile Image for Preili Pipar.
529 reviews9 followers
July 19, 2019
Selle raamatu osas olid mul väga kõrged ootused, kuid kahjuks ei vastanud raamat neile.
Nimelt peaks raamat selgitama või aitama harmooniliselt kohaneda vananemisega kui ka kuidas leppida surelikkusega. Sellist asja nagu polnud. Pigem oli autori jutustus, mida ta on elus saavutanud ning siis kui sai insuldi, et kuidas ta kõik pidi ümber vaatama. Ja kasutas sealjuures kõiki vaimseid tehnikaid, mida ta aastaid oli ašramis õppinud. No tore on, aga mis kasu minu sellest on, kui ma ei ole midagi sellist õppinud. Ainuke asjalik soovitus või millest sain aru, oli mediteerimine ehk kohalolu õppimine. See peaks siis kuidagimoodi leevendama ja aitama.
Profile Image for David.
227 reviews29 followers
April 21, 2017
Ram Dass is an American spiritual teacher well-known for his bestselling 1971 book Be Here Now, as well as his personal and professional relationships with Timothy Leary at Harvard University in the 1960s, his travels to India and relationship with his guru Neem Karoli Baba, and for founding the charitable organizations Seva Foundation and Hanuman Foundation. He wrote the book Still Here: Embraced Aging, Changing, and Dying after experiencing a stroke in 1997.

The book covers many topics (mostly related to aging and dying) that a person may encounter on their spiritual path. As we age, many things change with our physical bodies and minds, as well as our roles in society. However, Ram Dass attempts to point out that there is another level of being—the Soul level, which is experiencing reality through a human body while simultaneously being untethered to it.

A section discussing changes with our minds—due to the aging process—introduces the concept of mindfulness practice and covers several mentally-related common fears of aging: senility, loneliness, embarrassment, powerlessness, loss of role and meaning, and depression. Following that, Ram Dass gives some advice for facing those fears head on.

The next section covers bodily changes that occur due to aging, such as discontent with body image, low energy, focusing on a list of physical woes, the difference between healing and curing, working with pain, and disease.

Following the discussion on the body, Ram Dass explains how our societal roles change and shift during the aging process, how to live in the present moment, learning to die, and the effects (both positive and negative) that a stroke had on his life.

I greatly enjoyed this book. Like Be Here Now, it is filled with wisdom and sage advice for spiritual travelers. I would recommend this to anyone interested in stepping further down their own spiritual path, especially those who are currently in the later stages of life. I imagine that Still Here would have a lot to offer the average person that is on the verge of entering the next phase of their Soul journey.
Profile Image for Colleen.
501 reviews30 followers
November 13, 2009
In reading Still Here, I could not help but think that the universe presents us with opportunities to learn, grow, and change, at the precise moment we need it. Sometimes it is via the discovery of a book (like this one) or the ego crushing realizations that we are not in absolute control. For Ram Dass, his opportunity came when he was writing a book on aging, how to embrace it and the changes it brings, including death. He was near completion but having a difficult time with the last chapter. Then came a stroke (where he nearly died himself), and everything he had imagined or experienced from the outside became his own path: illuminated via paralysis, physical pain, the loss of words and the slowing of his speech, and, ultimately, the loss of his independence. The book took on a whole new meaning because he became an "incarnation of wisdom" rather than a "wise elder."
I really appreciated the book's honest approach to this life and these bodies that eventually fade. As Jim Morrison famously sang, "No one here gets out alive." Why deny that? Why also deny that for most illnesses, we are never truly cured, only healed. Our bodies and minds rarely go back to precisely what they were before. His aphasia will likely never fade, nor will he ever play golf or be able to drive again. This need not be soul crushing. Aging, illness, and the changing of roles take away the distractions of our ego and bring us closer to all that is precious in life. "That's the ultimate in healing - "making whole" - because there's no longer anything left out, including the sickness."
With the help of this book, I can see ever more clearly that change (big and small) can be as natural as breathing, something to be embraced and experienced fully rather than feared. Ride the roller coaster, but like a child - with wonder, anticipation, and exhilaration, the cherished help of friends (and good doctors), closing in on the divine.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Bryan.
580 reviews2 followers
April 21, 2018
Still Here was exactly what I hoped it would be, as my second Ram Dass book and one of only a handful of audio books that I've listened to. Though I still zone out sometimes and miss bits and pieces (hence the reason I think I'll be sticking to non-fiction for audio books for now), I think I'm getting better at it! Practice makes perfect I guess, even with audio books.

Within, Ram Dass dives deep into the circumstances surrounding his stroke, as well as the resulting repercussions. He gives practical advice and wisdom on dealing with debilitating situations; like a stroke, sure, but also more general topics like the aging process, becoming old and facing death. Being a younger man, it's not really something that I think about too often (thankfully). Even so I found the book reassuring, and helpful in various small ways. Ram Dass is excellent at revealing alternate perceptions and ways of thinking that are maybe not totally novel, or unheard of, but are worth being reminded of now and then. Ego shedding, soul contact, love. There are themes that run through all of Ram Dass' writings, and they are present here.

I saw that I had a choice; change my mind, or stop living.

Narrated By: Steve Susskind
Profile Image for Denise.
91 reviews
September 4, 2014
I didn't expect to like this book and dreaded reading it. Aging and dying are horrible topics as far as I'm concerned. None the less it is part of our physical existence and once I started I found Ram Dass had a lot to say that I suspected as well as resonated. There's also a lot I'll just have to wait and see about. This is the kind of stuff our elders once modeled and shared. They still do in India for example. Too bad we don't value elder wisdom anymore. Not sure there is much left around here. Seems we are a few generations removed and the next older generation from me is as freaked out about aging and death as we are. Looks like the West got a little to big for its breeches when we got so resistant to acknowledging aging and death.
Profile Image for Belann.
481 reviews
April 17, 2017
Recovering from foot reconstruction has made me rather sedentary to say the least. It has also made me very reflective on life and aging. This book helped me put things in perspective. Dass comments to himself when he is faced with another aging issue: "Ah, this too," or words to that effect. He encourages a mindful acceptance of the changes that come with age. Not that you don't take care of yourself and try to be as well as you can, but you stop resisting the changes which are inevitable. After his stroke, he learned more acutely where the ego ends and the soul begins. I am learning that slowly through this experience as well.
July 9, 2018
Took this book along on a yoga retreat to have something to read in book form because electronics including my beloved kindle weren’t allowed. I am so glad I did. Maybe it was the setting, definitely it was my age (70) but this book has become a permanent resident on my night stand. I have high lighted passages that were meaningful to me at the various times I have picked it up and reread it. Each time there has been something different that resonated with me. And I expect the next time I pick it up. I will find some new personal insight.
Profile Image for Judy Williams.
112 reviews1 follower
October 23, 2014
I am so ready for a really good book, and this was not it. I wanted to read more about how his stroke had informed his life, and there were small bits of that, but mostly a big ego writing a fairly preach-y book.
Profile Image for Kate.
Author 8 books212 followers
July 15, 2019
We all die. What is that about? Ram Dass has the answers. One of my favorite books of all time.
Profile Image for Dennis Littrell.
1,078 reviews43 followers
July 20, 2019
Inspirational, uplifting

Indeed Ram Dass is still here in this moment after a crippling stroke to guide us toward an understanding of our place among our fellows in the world as we grow old. Once he was Richard Alpert, Harvard professor, and then, after turning on and dropping out in the sixties, became Ram Dass, author of the best-selling Be Here Now (1971), the axiom of the title from the ancients of the East thereby becoming a mantra for a generation of flower children.

In this inspiring and eminently readable book, Ram Dass celebrates aging as a time of self-discovery and of selfless service to others. What could be more appropriate for a man who has lived so passionately, who has traveled so widely and learned so much than to share his experience and wisdom with others? And Ram Dass does it well, without sanctimonious posturing or self-serving claptrap, in a prose style that is familiar, warm and sharing, and at times brilliant. Especially beautiful are the passages on pages 141-144 in which he recalls his Jewish home and then a visit to India in 1970. Of course he does remind us of the many friends and note worthies he has met along the way; and, true, he is not adverse to indulging himself a little with reflections about how HE has been of service to the aged, the infirm, and the dying. But this is only right. There is, as we are freed from many of the constraints of society and its shallow proprieties, no place for a false modesty, and if one has done well, one should be pleased with oneself, and like Walt Whitman, celebrate oneself. As a young man, Ram Dass went against the shared "wisdom" of the society that had so well nurtured him and sought his own way, and he found it. He is to be admired and listened to.

His way now is not that of renunciation, as one might expect from the Hindu influence on his life, but a more social orientation. He practices karma yoga, from the Bhagavad Gita in which one finds salvation and freedom through the non-attached performance of one's duties--one's dharma--without expectation, without seeking reward or the fruit of labor.

Ram Dass believes he suffered the stroke through the "fierce grace" of his guru because of this continued "attachment to the Ego" (pp. 200-201). By learning a deeper level of suffering first hand he drew closer to God. As his guru once said, "See? That's the way it works. Suffering does bring you closer to God." He was unable to totally renounce the delusions of this world, the social and political fruits that he loved so much, being such an intensely social person, and so the attachment remained. Now confined to a wheelchair he spends more time "hanging out" with his guru (p. 202), the deceased Maharajji, whom he reveres as a god, which is the way of the guru-devotee relationship. His faith was tested by the stroke, but he came away with his faith intact. He writes in closing the book, "I know now that my faith is unshakeable. That assurance is the highest gift I have received from the stroke..."

I think the most important thing this book does is to inspire us to treat our advancing years with wisdom and dignity, with a sense of self worth and to discard the empty notions found in the noxious and insidious suggestion that growing old is some kind of disease or reason for shame. Instead one embraces the natural changes that are taking place and sees them as a new challenge, full of unique surprises and experiences, and yes, pain and sorrow and loss. It takes a strong and focused person to grow old gracefully. (Growing old is not for the faint of heart!) And finally there is an understanding that death is part of life, its fulfillment to be sure. As Ram Dass writes on page 156, "by allowing the mystery of death...to inform our everyday life, we begin to see things anew." The key word is "inform." Death informs our life and makes it whole. Like Browning's Rabbi Ben Ezra, we might also say, "Grow old along with me!/The best is yet to be"; and in believing that and living it, and knowing that death itself is a great adventure, we are freed.

Ram Dass shares his experience through little stories about inspirational people he has met and how they guided him to an appreciation of what it means to change and grow old. His gentle and uplifting style, emphasizing the spiritual aspects of life, make reading this book a warm and fulfilling experience. Incidentally, the typographical style of the book, with its tinted pages with muted yantra symbols and the light wine/purple color of the letters makes for a very pretty book, pleasingly reminiscent of the wildly decorated, paper bag-colored pages of his best seller from long ago.

--Dennis Littrell, author of “Yoga: Sacred and Profane (Beyond Hatha Yoga)”
Profile Image for YHC.
701 reviews6 followers
January 18, 2018
Such a spiritual journey from Ram Dass to share with us. His idea is very Indian religion. I think it comforts many people who wishes to have afterlife. (i actually accept the possibility that there is no afterlife, I am ok to not have a continuation)
With getting old, having stroke, he actually experienced mental roller coaster. He tried to guide us to transform ourselves to get ready for the fact that we need to die.
I think this book will be perfect for me 5 years ago, but now I have different idea.

...........................parts from book.

我们因欲望、依恋、执着而痛苦,因此痛苦能为你指出什么地方有待 改进。痛苦是你放下欲望的动力,放下了欲望,你才能一身轻松。

中风改变了我的自恋。“承受难以承受之痛”时,你会变得麻木; 是“自我”不堪忍受中风才将我推给了灵魂。于是我像换了个人似的:“这 就是我,我是一个灵魂。”从灵魂的角度看待世事是一件再自然不过的 事,这不是服用迷幻药而起的一时感受,而是我的家常便饭。这就是恩 典,恩典就是这么回事。虽然从“自我”的角度来看,中风不是一件好事, 但从灵魂的角度来说,它却是一个学习的大好时机。

虽说我现在更有灵性,但同时也比从前更加人性,这似乎有点自相矛 盾。此前,我时时提防着“自我”的欲念。对修行的人来说,物质世界充满 了诱惑,因而我一直想抛开尘缘。如今有了灵魂上的安全感,尘世又有何 惧?死不可怕,此生中也没有什么好怕的。世事的变化就是这么有意思, 我越是追求人性,越有灵性。

我以前看待自己的 观点非常狭隘。我发现自己一贯所谓的“事实”,不过是我的主观意识,更 有甚者,我还能随心所欲地改变这种认识。不过,只要你能从旁观者的角 度观察这一思维方式,这种困境也许能有所改观。这些年来,在导师和药 剂师的帮助下,再加上练习坐禅和冥想,我巩固了这一认识,在学习怎样 做一个老人的过程中,受益匪浅。

带来痛苦的不是老去这一现象,而是对待这一现象的态度。比如“要 是……就好了”是老年人经常挂在嘴边的一句话。“要是我不住在这儿就好 了,我就能……”“要不是运气不佳,我也能有个幸福的生活。”这种“要 是”的心态实际是对自己的摧残,它让老年人深陷欲望之中,死死揪住虚 幻的东西不放,无法回到现实中来。我们在一天天地老去,失去了许多曾 经拥有的东西,到头来却发现回天乏术。这份“要是”的清单还可以无限制 地列下去,同时,你的无能为力感也会随之增加。
等上了年纪,慢慢地静下心来后,你会发现利用心境解开过去的心结 有多重要。上了年纪让你有幸学习这新的一课,许多退休人士觉得自己太 清闲。但换一个角度看,随着欲望的号角归于沉寂,名利心逐渐淡泊,你 也多了一些独处的时间,可以好好感悟自己意志力。

练习内观时,你会发现自己管不住自己的思绪。如果这是你第一次仔 细观察自己的内心活动,你也许会为自己的��见所闻惊骇不已。你一闭上 眼睛,各种图像、情感和身体上的感受就会蜂拥而至。每每注意到自己的 内心,你会愈发地清醒,能让灵魂进入到自己的身体,让你免予重蹈老习 惯的覆辙。
冥想随时随地都可以做,你可以安静地坐在野外、教堂、寺庙,或者 是仰望天空。不论采取什么方法,在你应对随时到来的烦恼时都大有裨 益。一旦你从冥想中获得了一丝宁静,你就能正视心魔,认清它不过是意 念的产物。这里所说的心魔是对老去一贯的恐惧。

寂寞和独自一人不同。寂寞指的是“自我”层面;独自一人则是心灵上 的一个间隙。你有必要一个人独处,以便有时间去思考,去了解自己。如 果“自我”让你在各色人等和交际场所间疲于奔命,或者为寂寞怨天尤人, 心灵怎能得以觉醒。因此,独处反倒是一个大好的机会。
然而从某种意义上来说,你从来都不是独自一人。不管你身处何地, 觉得有多凄凉,身边都存在有着同样感受的人。你可以从心灵上向他伸出 援手。想一想如果你是这个人,又没有内观练习来解除寂寞的痛苦,会是 怎样的感受。若是你有心减轻他们和自己的痛苦,一股轻松感便会油然而 生。从往日的“自我”中走出的方法之一是同情。同情不是可怜,是真正希 望他人不再痛苦的愿望。一旦你不再顾影自怜,“自我”自然就无力助长你

面对一浪接一浪的悲伤余波,你要么在恐惧的骇浪中自闭,或者偏安 一隅,觉得自己半死不活,要么成天悲悲戚戚,在过去的失败和悔恨中难 以自拔,享受不到现在这一刻的美好。正如索尔·贝娄(Saul Bellow)在他 的巨著《只争朝夕》(Seize The Day)中说的那种人一样:“他们担心自 己只要一天不悲伤,就会一无所有。”
对老去的恐惧和消沉主要集中在失败上。面对失败,你越是不能觉 醒,遭受的痛苦也就越深。记得父亲晚年时一直对过去的失败耿耿于怀, 一时间说的都是些曾经的错误和懊悔,他的认知完全扭曲了,悔恨将他的 功劳和成就一笔购销,最终使得他认定自己的整个人生除了失败还是失 败。万幸��是,这波骇浪最终会过去,去世前,父亲已经能豁达地看待自 己的人生了。

这只是一个心灵转变的过程。也许这种消沉就是圣约翰说的“心灵的 黑夜”。这期间,“自我”先死,灵性后生,最终大彻大悟。
我消沉过一段时间,有着类似的经历。见到玛哈拉时,我觉得自己就 像个失败者。但没过多久,我就将理查德·阿尔伯特这一从前的身份抛到了 身后,踏上了成为拉姆·达斯或上帝仆人的旅程。这一旅程,我一直走到了 今天。
回头想来,我才明白是濒临死亡时的绝望成就了后来发生的一切。消 沉这一负面情绪促使我寻找别的东西。灵性成长这一积极的心态将我救出 了消沉的泥潭。我曾在朋友身上亲眼目睹了类似的过程,他们深陷消沉的 泥潭不过是觉醒的前奏。

虽说美国人大都信教,但仔细想来,美国却根本不是一个崇尚灵性的 国度。诚然,犹太教和基督教崇尚的博爱、勤勉和团结,的确形成了我们 文化的架构和自我形象,但在本质上,这是一个笃信哲学唯物主义 (Philosophical Materialism)的社会。
哲学唯物主义并不是说爱慕钱财,而是指只相信感官所能感觉到的东 西。凡是看不见、听不到、摸不着,或是实验室里检测不到的,唯物主义 就断定它不存在,或者是主观臆想的东西。虽说非物质(超感觉)的事物 可以在宗教里存在,但我们对“日常”现象的理解往往与精神领域脱节。
我们常常拿科学作为底线,用以判定什么是假,什么是真。虽说在追 求灵性的社会中,意识不能衡量意识以外的事物是个人尽皆知的常识,但 当今社会却往往无视感官以外的事物。尽管90%的美国人都自称信这样那 样的宗教,五六十年代末又引进了东方和新时代思潮,但大多数美国人仍 然像个固执的密苏里人[15],“你能证明,我才信”。

科学家说宇宙是由物质和能量组成的。我的西藏朋友格勒活佛对此提 出了异议,他说宇宙是由物质、能量和意识组成的。当你每天都与自己和 别人的意识为伍时,又怎能否认这一说法?你又怎能认为肉体(物质)的 死亡就代表意识的消亡呢?物质和能量不是消灭了,只不过相互转化了而 已。
认为感官之外的一切都不存在的说法,对我们有着广泛的影响,但最 重要的当数我们怎样看待从出生到长大,到老,再到死这一人生轮回。对 靠感官来观察人生的人来说,死亡显然意味着人生的终结。他们认为,在 肉体之外,一切都不存在。对有信仰的人来说,在尘世之外,还有另一个
层次的东西存在,虽说我们现在的活动也许会影响到未来,但身后事仍然 不过是个猜测,对如何看待现世生活并没有多大影响。
照这种唯物主义的观点,人人都是有限的个体,在不断变迁的世界里 等待自己的消亡。在这样的背景下,死亡、疾病和衰老这几位老友一直被 误认为是恐惧的根源也就不足为怪了。如果能敞开胸怀,承认这种思维方 式对你的影响,你也就能跳出这个框框,从一个截然不同的角度来看待老 去这一过程了。
暂且不论公共卫生、人权和经济问题,也不说次大陆的美国化,印度 人对衰老和死亡的形而上观念对我们现时的困境依然有很大的帮助。印度 教从广义的角度来看待人生。印度文化普遍认为人死后灵魂还在。阿特曼 (Atman)[16]就是神,这一认识也是灵魂渴望秉持的。

在物质主义文化中,肉体和长寿是至高无上的。幸得有科技和医药上 的突破,单在本世纪,人均寿命就增长了25岁。下一个世纪会有什么样的 进步,着实叫人难以想象。要是你相信自己仅仅是具肉体,那么让肉体活 着就成了终极目标和理想。
安布鲁斯·比尔斯(Ambrose Bierce)曾说过:“长寿是惧怕死亡的病态 延伸。”但美国人仍然痛苦、执着地走在这条路上。
每一个神话的诞生都有它特定的环境和背景,比如说我们期望长寿。 但神话的改变比世事的变迁慢得多,这就是大部分人口步入老年时,却在 现实中找不到属于自己的位置的原因。不可否认的是,人人都想长生不 老。这让我想起了一位法国妇女的话,她是史上年龄最高的人,有人在她 生日时问她对未来的感想,她的回答是:“非常短暂!”
当然,这些都是旧谈,从前的许多文化都曾追求过长生泉和不死药, 而我也不反对长寿。
长寿为我们的修行提供了一个大好的机会,你这会儿在读这本书,说 明你有时间、有机会培养推动灵性成长的品质。但在审视自己对衰老的态 度时,你首先要问一问自己是否是个以自我为中心的人,其次是“能不能 知足”。
在这个以身心为中心的社会里,多代表的是:时间、经验和财产多多 益善。不过,“多”是否就真的好,什么时候才能知足?

不过,如果能接受哲学唯物主义之外的事物存在,也就是类似于赫胥 黎(Aldous Huxley)所谓的“长青哲学”(Perennial philosophy),你便能 从一个全然不同的角度来看待老去这一过程。

与其劳神费力地为自己虚构一个新的“角色”,你倒不如这么问问自 己:身为老年人,我该如何在这个世界上传播自己的智慧。展现了自己的 智慧,你可以在参与和隐退之间找到一个令自己满意的平衡点,同时你也 要记住,虽说你肩负着社会的责任,但你还应该通过冥想静下心来,借此 加深自己的认识,为死亡之旅做好准备。

老年人的心中并存着两种价值观:一是希望在别人的眼里是一副朝气 蓬勃、自信满满的形象;其次是卸掉身上的重任,过上安闲、宁静的生 活。尽管这种内心的转变在别人看来有点不妥,是个有待解决、令人担忧 的问题(我怎么了?我以前就是这么好动)。但这不过是老去的一个正常 形象,不是痴心妄想,也不是逃避外面的世界,而是源于大限来时的深 沉,是反省人生的愿望。
我们需要创造这样的机会,需要时间想一想我是谁、处在什么地位、 这有什么意义。探索其中的奥妙、反思人生的意义是一种深切的感受,慢 下你的脚步是把握这一机会的唯一途径。
一些寻求灵性的人经常写信给我,说这是条寂寞的路,他们身处穷乡 僻壤,周围少有人能理解自己的感受。他们在寻找团契,寻找一些团体, 希望和志趣相投的人探讨与老去相关的话题,如死亡的秘密,怎样清醒地 面对身体、社会和心理这类问题。社团帮你改变观念,同道中人帮你始终 不偏离常轨,提醒你别迷失了方向的时候,可以说是人生一大幸事。有明 了之人相伴,不仅能坚定你的意志,还可以抵制有损老年人智慧的社会风 气。
在寻求智慧的道路上,你要寻找一切机会与他人交流,如若不然,你 要想方设法保持与外界的联系。书就是一种很好的媒介。以往的那些日子 里,我长年在外奔波,身边并不是总有志同道合的人相伴,于是我把《道 德经》和《法句经》(Dhammapada)当作修行的挚友和命根子,一直带 在身边。我还有一位好友的祖母是位基督教科学派��员。虽说她是个俗 人,但这些年来,她一直坚持一天不落地朗读经文。家人担心,等年事渐 高后,她可能因此不肯接受正规的治疗,但她用修行来保持清醒的头脑似 乎非常开心。
与外界的关系渐渐由“外在”转向“内心”后,我们卸去了肩头的责任, 转而关注心的交流,看重与家人、朋友和社会的关系。虽然你仍活跃在社 交场上,但你也不会忘记老年是一个回顾和反省的时刻。卸去肩头的重 任,抛开呼风唤雨的权力,你可以不用理会“自我”的叫嚣,关注匆匆而过
的分分秒秒。了解了这一点,你会在一方平和、安详、静谧的空间和芸芸 众生的爱中创造一段全新的生活,觉得自己的生活比以往更加丰富、多 彩。

临终一刻并不是非要改变自己。死就死了,无所谓好坏,也无所谓聪 明或无知。人到了抛开功名利禄的那一刻,越是早点醒悟过来,越能早做 准备,了却过去的恩怨,无牵无挂、不带一丝遗憾地合上双眼。由于没人 知道死神什么时候会降临,因此你才要时刻锻炼这一认知。安下心来静 坐,想象气流通过呼吸从身体里进进出出,你才知道这一呼一吸是多么的 脆弱——随时都有可能停止。这一认知不是让你成天忧心忡忡,而是要你 保持清醒和敏感。
学习临终时保持清醒、坦然地面对死神这一课,我们不妨先来看看伟 人们是如何面对死亡的。甘地在花园中遇刺后,到死口中还念着“拉姆”, 因为他一生都在呼唤着上帝的名讳。我的导师玛哈拉临终时念诵的是“Om Jai Jagdish Hare”(荣耀归我主)。一位日本禅宗大师圆寂前,有人提醒他 写一首葬魂诗,于是他提笔写道:“生如此,死如此,有诗无诗,何足挂 齿?”落笔后不久他就圆寂了。

诚如普鲁斯特所言,如果不距死神一臂之遥,你则既看不透生活,更 无法醒悟。只有死亡和爱才能让你放下执念,揭示灵魂和我们之间的界 限。

Profile Image for Melita Rusule.
10 reviews
February 13, 2022
Perhaps not the easiest topic to read about and normally wouldn't choose this particular topic to educate myself about, but picked up firstly this book because of the author and I was sure that any of his written book will be enlightening to read.
Stereotypically this theme would feel dark or in some ways heavy to understand, but happened exactly the opposite. I broke so many stigmas that I even didn't realise that was there in me, and by facing this topic even if I am only late 20's, was so valuable to see the spectrum of the "being" and "living". Somehow I managed to release some unnecessary stress factors that I had whenever life feels too fast and to remind myself what actually are my values. And those are being here and now. To be present and to enjoy every possible moment while I am physically in this body of mine.
Ram Dass has a special spot in between those that inspires me.
February 29, 2020
What an impossible subject to tackle. I appreciate the insights and analogies in this book, but still feel incredibly uneasy and terrified - not that that’s Dass’ goal or motivation, but I can definitely appreciate and aim for his level of acceptance and understanding.
Profile Image for Maestro.
7 reviews
June 4, 2021
Dear friend,

Please know as you pass by
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now so you will be.
Prepare yourself to follow me.
Profile Image for William Berry.
Author 2 books5 followers
September 1, 2016
I purchased this book because of the title. I had read “Be Here Now” (see the review here: http://www.wmberry.com/reviews/review...) and, though it was a bit bizarre, I recommended it. I also said in that recommendation, I should probably read some more of his current work. So this title fit the bill.

It took me about 9 months to read the book. I read many in between starting and finishing it, and generally felt it just didn’t grab me the way the others did (two Zen books, a Buddhist book, a text on dreaming, a Yalom novel, a book on mindfulness, another book on training your mind, and a book on relationships). Perhaps the subject matter (aging and death) hit a bit too close to home, and I’m not as comfortable with the topics as I think I am. Or perhaps some of the more “spiritual” (as in realities beyond this one) turned me off. Or maybe I just found it too Pollyannaish.

Though it took me a while, and despite the reasons given for such above, there are many very good points and ideas in the book. The book is about accepting aging and death, and meeting it gracefully (something I’m doing less with aging than I expected, but hope to do very well with death). There are usable and viable suggestions for this, and Ram Dass uses the wisdom gained from meditation, psychedelics, and personal experiences with loved one’s death, other’s and his own illness, and his aging, to assist the reader in confronting his own pending issues. Despite the turn-offs I experienced with the book, I still believe it a beneficial read.
Profile Image for Steve Woods.
618 reviews55 followers
October 29, 2014
Ram Dass has written here an amazing book. He has had an amazing life; a searcher from the days of his expulsion from Harvard for his experimentation with psychedelics to his becoming one of the most important spiritual teachers of Eastern practice in the West. His influence has been great, but in this book his direct honesty in describing an approach to aging and his own personal experience "where the rubber meets the road" is startling. This book is a must read for anyone approaching, as I am the "twilight Years", with all its challenges and what Ram Dass would certainly put as its joys. He knows what he is talking about having suffered a debilitating stroke while writing this book. In his adjustments to his new circumstances he has demonstrated what so many "gurus" do not, that he lives what he puts forward as a spiritual life.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
61 reviews1 follower
June 18, 2008
the first time I wrote this review, I put it in the wrong place on the website...in the comments section, instead of the my review place.................

I love this book. I've never read Ram Dass prior to this book. But I'm going to go back and reads some others he's written. The book is about health aging on your own terms, cultural norms, wisdom and keeping that joy and spirit one's had during their 'young' life. It's for anyone to read. The younger readers will gain quite a bit of knowledge into what lies ahead, as will the 'older' readers among us. I

I usually get my books from the library (SF has the best library system!!). Then I go buy the ones I really want to read over again.

This is one I'm going to purchase.


Profile Image for David.
256 reviews
April 14, 2014
Recommended by a Baha'i friend who has practiced meditation for years. I suffered a serious back injury in February 2014, required surgery and weeks of rehab.
Ram Dass is right on with current problems associated with aging, life-changing events, and the authentic awareness of spiritual healing.

I read the book in support of a term paper I wrote for the Wilmette Institute course on Buddhism. Dass brings the historical Hindu and Buddhist practices into the 21st Century practices associated with social action, opposition to extremes of prejudice and injustice. I practice in the context of spiritual dimensions of interfaith dialogue, and sustainability in community development of human and natural resources.

I went on to read Dass's latest book, Polishing the Mirror.
Profile Image for Andrew.
72 reviews20 followers
August 13, 2015
Ever since my brother's death I've had the urge to learn about various theories and myths on the process of death. This is a book on aging. A good deal is stories, advice, and commentary on getting older, all of which I think would be helpful for most people and not just the aged. I appreciate the author's openness and humility in these. There's some embarrassing and unflattering stories of himself and he maintains a cheerful air in telling them and in drawing lessons from them. Towards the end there is a lengthy chapter on death - preparing for it and undergoing it. Ram Dass has sat bedside for numerous people as they were dying and those stories are especially moving. While I enjoyed the whole book, this last section is exactly what I was looking for.
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