Why is it so important to come to terms with aging?

I remember when I became irrelevant.

I mean, you can walk down certain streets in any city and you’re either a potential, a competitor, or irrelevant. I became a walking lamp post after awhile. It was incredible because people look right through you, they don’t even see you. At first I got all uptight about it and I’d wear my hair spread all over my head and do all these things. Get tighter suits and diet and everything so I’d be somebody, but then it’s a new moment, and you realize that’s the way it is.

So I’ll tell you that if you’re caught in the culture’s models about youth, the amount of suffering with age is incredible. In that sense, this culture is a very cruel culture, and the bizarre situation is that as the demographic changes, and the baby boomers come along and get old, what you have is an aging society and a youth mythology, and that slowly starts to bend as the whole scene changes, because the money and the power changes.

The attraction to youth is deeper than even a cultural thing. I mean, it’s all those things, but the emotional identity that denigrates non-youth can be lifted, that doesn’t have to exist, and what I realized many years ago was I went into training to be a kind of elder, or social philosopher, or find a role that would be comfortable as I became irrelevant in the youth market. Now I’ve seen in interviewing old people that the minute you cling to something that was a moment ago, you suffer. You suffer when you have your face lifted to be who you wish you were then, for a little longer, because you know it’s temporary.

The minute you pit yourself against nature, the minute you pit yourself with your mind against change, you are asking for suffering. Now the question is, “Can you exist in a society in which everybody is suffering about it, and you are not?” You see that? In order to do that, you have to become conscious of that being the case.

I can enjoy the beauty of youth. I think the body is beautiful, and I love it. I want to touch it, and look at it, and enjoy it, and as my body changes, I think, “Ah-so, new moment,” and realize that now I will be in different relationships with people, and it takes me a long time to just not wish I were that, but as I look now, I am so much happier than I was then. I’ll tell you, the amount of free time I have because I’m no longer so obsessed with sexuality is… well, I can’t even tell you.

Old is another label trap. You’re just a being and you got a new situation, a new dimension. It’s really interesting when I go into a room with somebody, perhaps somebody with AIDS who is dying, it’s easy to see how the society, the culture, the economics, everything traps that person in that identity, and if my mind isn’t reactive to that identity, and not trapped in denying it, then I’m not caught in it and we can actually come together.

We come together, and the person can come up for air, and then suddenly there’s just the two of us beings hanging out in the universe, and time and death and life are all in entirely different relationship to one another.

The whole thing relaxes, and there’s laughter, and there’s joy, and there’s tenderness, and there’s presence, and there’s all of that, and boy, have I learned about all these things. I see it all depends in my mind. That’s why I work so hard on myself to not get trapped in labels, youth, age, sex… any of them.

-Ram Dass

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