A funny thing about me is that I never get to talking about the body. I write beautiful notes on it, but I never talk about it because I don’t believe anything I say. I’ve said these things before but I’m going to keep saying them until I can hear them. Here’s my predicament: I know damn well that as you age your body becomes more fragile in a lot of different ways. It becomes more vulnerable and it starts decaying, corroding, rusting, holding on, etc. I think one of the most horrendous parts about these physical aspects of aging are people’s reactions to them. See, the reasonable thing would be to hear about all of those conditions and then temper your behavior to say, “Well, I may not have spent much time worrying about my body because I was so in my mind and in my heart up until now. But now I have to realign my forces to spend more time dealing with my body because otherwise that’s going to be the first thing that goes in the system, and then I may have a clear mind but no body left. Or it’ll be a drag, or I’ll have to deal with my intestines, and if I don’t want to have to deal with that give years down the line, maybe I should consider changing my diet now. See, this all seems so reasonable! But that isn’t the way I do it.
I think senility takes place a lot in the mind, and is affected by the way you use your mind. I guess what I’m saying is that I would like to be different than I am, but I’m not yet – because if I don’t eat something I really love because somebody tells me it’s not good for me, I end up hating them and myself – and that can’t be good for my health.
I mean, my father and mother went to Europe in 1933 – the first rush of their success in life they took a trip to Europe on the Queen Mary. And dad came home with all these cases of French wines, which was an important thing that an upwardly mobile person would collect. So then he built a wine cellar in the basement of our very small house, with little wine racks where you store the wine horizontally. And so as I was growing up, on Sundays or on holidays we would have a bottle of wine. And my father, one of his favorite things to do was to go down and enjoy his wine cellar. And he’d walk in there and he’d turn the bottles… but it turns out that just being horizontal and getting turned isn’t sufficient, and more and more of the bottles started to taste like vinegar as we opened them. And I see that as a metaphor, just lying horizontally and turning over now and then isn’t going to do it.
A conscious person maintains the temple in which they want to do their emotional and intellectual work. That’s true, that’s wise, and it’s up to you and me as to how we do it and when we do it. All I can say is the sooner you do it, the better, for the long run, if you’re working for quality of life. Even though what you do now will affect you later, I don’t think anyone should make themselves miserable over it.
~Ram Dass, October 1995
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