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If you look at the models we have for successful aging, we find people that stay young and at 230 years old are still playing tennis.

Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with playing tennis over a hundred, I think it’s superb, I mean, blessings to you. However, to make that the model seems to me to have some massive denial in it. It really does.

I’ll take it even further to just push the idea. When the body starts to break down, to treat those changes as only pathology and not as the conditions for work on consciousness, seems to me to be blowing a hell of an opportunity. It seems to me that your life offers you a set of circumstances to work with, and everybody’s got them. You scratch the surface of everybody in the room and there is suffering in everybody, a little bit here, a little bit there. Once you see what your curriculum is, that stuff becomes grist for the mill, that becomes the stuff you work with, through which you become aware.

That’s the souls way of working with the ego storyline. The soul is using the melodrama and storylines of the ego as its own vehicle for working out its karma.

Now the question is, where is your identity? Is your identity with ego or with soul? Then of course we’ve got identity as awareness, and I’ll tell you that until you figure out that you fulfill all the planes while remaining attached to none of them, you don’t even begin to understand what freedom feels like, because freedom isn’t pushing away any plane of consciousness.

When I was taking care of my dad, I realized after he died what an incredible teaching that had been for me, what a gift I had received. First I had come back into the family. I had come back, and honoring my father in this way, that was part of my incarnation, to honor my father. That’s the way. He took care of me when I was a baby, and now I was taking care of him. But also, it was the completion of some work with us, and he went from being one personality to another, and his personality changed, we met in new ways, and we met in newer ways, and we just came up until we were just being together.

I saw that when I had completed that, when dad died and I completed the estate and all that stuff, that I had honored that component of my incarnation, and honoring didn’t mean holding onto it or grabbing it or pushing it away. I saw that back in the sixties, when I turned on and I got so high, I said, “My family doesn’t understand. I can’t hang out with them, they bring me down. I’ve gotta go do my own trip, for the benefit of all beings… you understand.”

Finally I had to understand that to honor my incarnation meant to honor the systems of which I am a part, and it’s led me much more to be involved in politics, much more to be involved in social issues, much more to be involved in philanthropic stuff, and health issues, and so on.

Not out of any “goody goody” attitude either. After a while it’s like you’re settling into a hot tub. You’re settling into your dharma. You’re settling into your way of life. Somebody comes up to me and says, “I love to meditate. I’d love to do spiritual work, but I have these kids.” You hear something wrong in that? I mean, “I could run a marathon if I didn’t have arthritis.”

Now, where is the suffering in there? Partly of course, in having arthritis, but also the suffering is in the tension created by having the desire of “I could be happy if I were doing this, although the conditions aren’t allowing for it.”

-Ram Dass

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