“Spiritual practices help us move from identifying with the ego to identifying with the soul. Old age does that for you, too. It spiritualizes people naturally.” – Ram Dass
“The most exquisite paradox…as soon as you give it all up, you can have it all. As long as you want power, you can’t have it. The minute you don’t want power, you’ll have more than you ever dreamed possible.” – Ram Dass
Ram Dass died just before Christmas and just after my last blog post. I had barely paid attention to this man all my life, only vaguely remembering him simply as one of the gurus of my young adulthood back in the ’60’s; part of the wave of opening up the drug culture and introducing Eastern spirituality as the foundation of an enlightened life.
Then last year, the mentor who became the foundation of my life as a blogger sent me the 2019 Ram Dass calendar, and as a Christian and a pastor, I became curious about Ram Dass in a whole new way.
I had watched an enlightening program about Ram Dass the year before, made after he had had a devastating stroke which had changed his outward life dramatically. I saw the spirituality of this man and the power of his beliefs to give him what he needed to transcend the radical change that had been visited upon him. He had found peace with his new life, in spite of the changes, losses and sufferings that had surrounded him then.
Advancing age has a way of giving us multiple opportunities for a new life. The kinds of opportunities that come out of things like change – and loss – and suffering. We all know them, do we not? They’re not unique to older age, but they do seem to increase with the increasing years.
How many gatherings of us older folks inevitably includes an “organ recital?” You know…the shared lists of challenging changes that are happening to our physical bodies? Knees, shoulders, eyes, ears, hearts, kidneys, procedures, surgeries… (“Head, shoulders, knees and toes…knees and toes…” Who knew how different that child’s song would sound now?!)
How many conversations do we have about loss: what it’s like to be a widow – or a grieving parent of an adult child – or an expert who can’t find a job at this age – or the craziness of giving up a home for a care facility – or losing the ability to walk without a cane or walker?
How many of us share the very real physical and emotional suffering that arises when we live every day knowing that our independence is at risk? When we discover that the physical strength that we’ve counted on has gone south? When we begin to notice the shades of memory loss?
And how many of us resist it all? How many of us get lost in feeling sorry for ourselves when life becomes difficult and painful? How often do we rail against the injustice of the ways that our lives have changed against our wishes?
Ah, then Ram Dass comes through.
“The resistance to the unpleasant situation is the root of suffering.”
“As long as you have certain desires about how it ought to be you can’t see how it is.”
“…a lot of your emotional suffering is created by your models of how you think the universe should be and your inability to allow it to be as it is.”
“Healing does not mean going back to the way things were before, but rather allowing what is now to move us closer to God.”
So in this new year, this new beginning that we love to embrace, perhaps we can find some wisdom from places where we have not yet ventured.
Let go of our resistance to what is.
Grab hold of the possibilities in what has come to be.
Allow ourselves to move closer to God in our own ways.
Open ourselves to the reality that
are givens in every life.
But our responses are not.
Grace still bats last.
We can choose to find a way to overcome them all.
To move toward a richer – wider – spirituality.
Surrender enough of our inadequate power;
and find The Power that changes it all.
And I’m very okay with that. (Hunh…that last “bold” part looks something like an hourglass…how did that happen?!)