Sunday, January 4, 2015

Still Here: Book Review

Published June 1, 2000.
When I was in my early 40s, I hit the wall after being very achievement oriented. I started practicing yoga and reading zen Buddhist meditations.

During my quest, someone suggested that I read Be Here Now (1971) by Ram Dass. While it was a bit "far out" for me, I did appreciate his alternative views on reality and his focus on consciousness.

The year I turned 50, I discovered his documentary Fierce Grace (2001), which describes the insights he gained and after suffering a stroke in his mid 60s.

Even though a related book was published before his documentary, it took me a few years before I read: Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying. (2000).

Dass actually finished a draft prior to his stroke. However, he revised the manuscript and added a conclusion based on his improved awareness gained from his stroke.  As one of his friends remarked: "You're more human since the stroke than you were before" (p. 70).

The book contains meditations, quotes, anecdotes and interviews.  Dass has spent a lifetime focused on spiritual questing.  I am grateful to learn from his latest task, which he describes as conscious aging.

Here are a few quotes from the first third of the book to whet your appetite.

  • "Healing is not the same as curing, after all; healing does not mean going back to the way things were before, but rather allowing what is now to move  us closer to God" (p. 5).
  • "Getting old isn't easy for a lot of us. Neither is living, neither is dying. We struggle against the inevitable and we all suffer because of it" (p. 6).
  • "In the wisdom mode, we're not processing information, analytically or sequentially. We're standing back and viewing the whole, discerning what matters and what does not, weighing the meaning and depth of things.  This quality of wisdom is rare in our culture" (p. 17). 
  • "Old age offers the opportunity to shift our cares away from the physical toward what cannot be taken away: our wisdom and the love we offer to those around us" (p. 24). 
  • "As we quiet down and move inward with age, we realize how vital it is to use our minds in ways that liberate us from the traps of the past" (p. 34). 
  • "It is the mental tendency to cling that creates anxiety, suffering, and fear, and once we're able to identify what we are attached to--a certain standard of living, say, or a body that does not change--we are able to take the first steps toward freeing ourselves, regardless of the particular difficulty" (p. 41).
I usually just check books out from the library (to save my budget and my shelf space); however, this is a book I ended up buying. I plan on rereading it about every five years.

Our society is so youth obsessed, materialistic, and achievement oriented that I find it necessary to challenge these frameworks with a lot of devotional reading.  Dass offers a great course correction. 



  1. I got several gift cards to bookstores for Christmas. Now I know which books I'll be looking for. Thanks Karen.

  2. Those quotes are great. He is definitely a name from the past, so this is fascinating!

  3. My daughter is into Buddism and lives her life by its philosophies. I've always been interested myself and have read quite a few good books. Awesome post - I'll have to ask her if she read this yet!

  4. This is definitely a book I want to read! I love the quote: "Getting old isn't easy for a lot of us. Neither is living, neither is dying. We struggle against the inevitable and we all suffer because of it" (p. 6). This is so true. Ram Dass has done the deep, inner work and sharing it with the world.