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“Aging As Grace for the Soul”

No living person has had a greater ongoing impact on the spirituality of the boomer generation than Baba Ram Dass, aka Richard Alpert.Ram Dass Still HereHis wisdom, courage, and dedication to service have provided a beacon for millions searching for new paradigms of understanding.

On February 19, 1997, Ram Dass suffered a massive stroke in his left cerebral hemisphere. This caused extensive right-side paralysis, expressive aphasia, and other ongoing health problems.

But on the weekend of March 30, 2002, when the writer of this article attended the Prophets Conference in Monterey, California, Baba Ram Dass was there to speak along with people like Barbara Marx Hubbard and Gregg Braden.

Wearing a new hat, this proud, vital, intelligent master, now wheelchair bound, shared his newfound wisdom about aging and how his own disabilities have given him the experiences he needed to further transcend this Earth and make a deeper and more profound connection with God.

“I realized if I had my identity connected with the future, this stroke would have been very hard… very hard… because now I am a “strokee.”

Ram Dass spoke of surrender, letting go of the future, letting go of the past living in the truth of the moment rather than living up to the words he’d said previously or the roles he’d previously lived. His words came out very slowly and deliberately, the spaces between the words penetrating as deeply as the words themselves. The crowd listened to this man who had been their inspiration for decades with a reverence reserved for saints.

“If I am a Soul, then I can see you as Souls… Wow… You see yourselves as your incarnations, you as a Soul took this incarnation to learn something, to learn something about suffering, and about Love…

“In the East, life is preparation for death, so you might as well get ready for change. A death which you will aim for, in which you will be fully present in the moment. Bye-bye, incarnation. Present in the moment. That’s the key in death, it’s the key in life. Giving up time… giving up space.”

Ram Dass made the distinction of “Soul communication” versus “ego communication.” He spoke of his visit to a small village in India and his return to New York City. Although the villagers in India faced economic deprivation, with people dying on the streets, Ram Dass observed that in spite of their hardships they knew that they were Souls. They treated each other as Souls. They had God in their daily life. But when he returned to New York, there in the midst of what, compared to the Indian village, was economic prosperity on a huge scale the people did not treat each other as Souls.

“When I find that when I don’t like somebody or something, I’m really criticizing God. I’m saying that if I were God I would do it differently than that.”

According to Ram Dass, everyone is a Soul who is taking an incarnation. We miss our Soul ness because we’re so busy responding to our incarnations.

He interpreted his stroke as grace for his Soul.

He recalled how, when he was once visiting an AIDS patient, he was giving himself ego points for doing such good works, taking his time to visit the dying. Then he suddenly had the realization of what he was doing, and caught himself. At that point, he looked in the bed and saw another Soul, rather than a dying AIDS patient having a rough incarnation. He was able to separate the being from the incarnation, and he realized that the tough time that the incarnation was having was going to cause that Soul to move closer to God.

In a crucial turning point in his talk, Ram Dass noted that old age for a Soul is different than old age for an ego. Old age for him, he said, is bound to produce some “juicy changes,” and he anticipates death to be the ultimate trip. As you move into “old age,” if you are to experience the nature of your Soul, you have to surrender your thoughts to your intuition you have to surrender your righteousness. And the greatest surrender is to the moment. The deeper you surrender to the moment, the closer you get to the experience of God.

Life, he said, could be looked at as divided into three parts: the ego, the Soul, and God. It’s like three concentric circles, nested within each other. The ego is the first, the Soul is the second, and God is the third.

When we’re younger, the ego tends to predominate. We’re building our futures and we’re building from our past.

As we get older, the Soul becomes more dominant. The future and past are less important. This is one of the reasons that older people tend to have memory lapses, Ram Dass tells us. The Soul is more prevalent, but the memory is more focused on ego concerns, which are less important at this stage of life. Older people, he said, have more of a need for Soul contact with other beings rather than for ego-based relationships.

“If you’ve surrendered your ego and you’re sure you’ve done it, you can have your ego back, because the ego is a plaything of the Soul; because the Soul makes the ego, just as God makes the Soul. These three levels are three planes of consciousness.

“You and I meet in circle number three God. Wouldn’t it be better to meet there in bodies like this? … The game is to play the game of Life but do it as God. … It’s possible for you to identify as circle number three and number two, and your ego games will fly.”

Ram Dass finished his talk to a standing ovation. The room emptied, but a small group gathered around him. He talked with each person individually. Actually, he shared his Soul with each person. I got the idea that he was truly there to love us. And to give us the opportunity to love him.

I remember the feeling as his eyes penetrated mine and mine his, and my heart expanded to greet him in his space before he left the room.

As I write these words, my Soul is recreating the moment of that meeting. My heart is opening and my Soul is once again communing with Ram Dass on the invisible planes.

And I know I had met Ram Dass in the space of forever, where God can only meet God in a body. As he rolled away in his wheelchair, I remembered his comment regarding the AIDS patient: “It’s only an incarnation.”


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