In the 90’s my friend Morgain and I attended a conference on living consciously. One of the speakers was the acclaimed spiritual teacher Ram Dass. At the time he was writing a book on Conscious Aging and I was looking forward to its publication.
However, a few months later I had heard that he had a severe stroke and wasn’t expected to live. I was saddened by the news, and had pretty much given up on the book.
Many years later I heard he had not only lived but was speaking in Berkeley, CA. Naturally I was delighted and several of us bought tickets to attend. When I saw him in his wheel chair in the hallway I half jokingly asked him when his book on Conscious Aging was coming out. He just looked at me and said May. I was thrilled, and during his speech that night I heard the rest of the story.
Evidently, Ram Dass was lying in bed one morning contemplating on how he would write the last chapter of his book. He was healthy at 65 years old and didn’t feel justified in writing a book about aging since he hadn’t been debilitated as many people are as they get up in years.
While contemplating this, the phone rang. He started to get up to answer the phone but his leg gave way and he fell. When his friend heard his incoherent speech over the phone he called for help, and Ram Dass was rushed to the hospital. He had suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage more commonly known as a stroke!
In his book, Still Here, Ram Dass writes, “Before the stroke, although I was in my 60’s I saw myself as young and powerful, with my MG. golf clubs, surfing, and speaking gigs. Illness had shattered my self-image, and opened the door to a new chapter in my life.”
You see Ram Dass never thought of himself as old until at 62, he went to buy a train ticket and was ask if he wanted a regular ticket or a senior citizen’s ticket. When he realized how he thought of old age as dreadful and constrictive he wondered where these ideas of old age came from.
He writes, “I began to seriously question where my ideas about aging had come from, why being old felt like such a stigma, and whether or not I could transform this process, with all the fears, losses, and uncertainties that came with it, from a necessary evil into an opportunity for spiritual and emotional growth.”
I too am up there in age. Not to the point of being disabled or debilitated but old enough to have had experienced some of the disadvantages and advantages of being elderly. In next month’s blog I would like to share with you some of these experiences, and also some of the insights to aging that others have had.
Until then, no matter how young you are, I encourage you to contemplate the advantages and disadvantages of your own experiences of growing older, and your beliefs about aging.
Love and Peace,
Ram Dass (2000). Still here. Embracing aging, changing, and dying.
New York: Riverhead Books.
Mary Mohs LVN, MA, RYT,