Being With What Is
Expand your perception of the world to include the horrible beauty of decay. Look at decay and see how beautiful it is in its own way. My dear friend Laura Huxley had a collection of beautiful pharmaceutical jars in her kitchen over the sink. She’d taken old beet greens and orange peels and things and put them in water in the jars and let them slowly mold and decay into beautiful formations catching the light. It was decay as art. There is true beauty in that.
There’s horror and beauty in everything. I look at my hand, and it’s decaying. It’s beautiful and horrible at the same moment, and I just live with it. See the beauty and perfection of decay in the world around you and in yourself, and just allow it to be.
There are some unappreciated advantages to aging. The very frailty of age guards its secrets. To many people you become irrelevant, which gives you more time to do inner work. Francis, a resident in a nursing home, wrote to me, “Lack of physical strength keeps me inactive and often silent. They call me senile. Senility is a convenient peg on which to hang nonconformity. A new set of faculties seems to be coming into operation. I seem to be waking to a larger world of wonderment – to catch little glimpses of the immensity and diversity of creation. More than at any other time of my life, I seem to be aware of the beauties of our spinning planet and the sky above. Old age is sharpening my awareness.”
It is interesting to see how aging can work to one’s advantage spiritually. I used to go to Burma to sit in meditation. I’d go into a cell. I’d just sit down – no books, no television, no computers, no one to talk to. I’d just sit and go inward. I’d go into as quiet a place as I could find. Just look at what happens when you get old. You lose your hearing, you lose your sight, you can’t move around so well, you slow down. What an ideal time to meditate. If any message is clear, that’s it. Yet we treat aging as an error or a failing.
That distortion comes from defining ourselves in terms of doing instead of being. But behind all the doings, all the roles, you just are – pure awareness, pure consciousness, pure energy. When you reside fully in the present moment, you are outside of time and space.
Trungpa Rinpoche notes, “Our lives awaken through ordinary magic.” It’s in everyday things that the miraculous happens. If we practice being here now, we develop the sensitivity to perceive and appreciate the daily miracles of our lives.
Excerpt from Polishing the Mirror: How to Live from Your Spiritual Heart, released August 1st.
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Ram Dass, one of America's most beloved spiritual figures, has made his mark on the world by teaching the path of the heart and promoting service in the areas of social consciousness and care for the dying for over forty years. Ram Dass first went to India in 1967 when he was still Dr. Richard Alpert, an eminent Harvard psychologist and psychedelic pioneer with Dr.Timothy Leary.
In India he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, affectionately known as Maharajji, who gave Ram Dass his name, meaning "servant of God." Then everything changed - his intense dharmic life began, and he became a pivotal influence on a culture that has reverberated with the words “Be Here Now” from his iconic book, ever since. Ram Dass has been a guiding light for three generations, carrying millions along the journey, helping to free them from their bonds as he has worked his way through his own.
With the publication in 2011 of Be Love Now Ram Dass completes his trilogy that began with Be Here Now in 1970 and continued with Still Here in 2004. He now makes his home in Maui and teaches world wide through his website RamDass.org and also continues the work of Neem Karoli Baba through his Love Serve Remember Foundation.