Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying 
Ram Dass
Riverhead Books, 2000
206 pp.; $22.22 (cloth)

With Still Here, Ram Dass has written what is arguably his best book since his countercultural best-sellerBe Here Now. He calls himself and “advance scout” and his scouting has not plumbed the depths of illness, aging, and pain, as well as the joys and fears of death and dying.

Imagining that at sixty-five he was still really too young to write believably about aging—despite long years spent working with Stephen and Ondrea Levine in counseling the dying and in giving workshops nationwide on “conscious aging” –he decided to lie in bed and simulate being ill, decrepit, and very old-aged. Maybe it would help in rewrite his book. But what he got, he says, was a major gift from his guru. “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 seems 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 dall was still part of my ‘old man fantasy.’ I didn’t realize that my lef was no longer working because I’d had a stroke.”

 

Richard Walstrom, Courtesy Riverhead Books. Ram Dass, spiritual pioneer, explores fresh territory in a new book on aging and dying.
Richard Walstrom, Courtesy Riverhead Books. Ram Dass, spiritual pioneer, explores fresh territory in a new book on aging and dying.

Physically, he progressively lost use of his right leg, his elbow, his arm. He also lost the capacity to speak. But in a way, he says, this loss was, ironically, the biggest blessing. While he could conceive of things, he couldn’t find words to clothe the concepts, “like the clothing place was burned out, bombed,” he said. Instead, he found wisdom in silence.

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