The Final Stage of Life...
I walked into the forest to contemplate all that it means to be in the place of sagehood. Not that I'm there yet, but I do hope to be and I honor those that are now. To live a long life gives such a broad perspective of our human experience. So many adventures, relationships, challenges and rewards. Dreams realized, some forgotten, others never coming to fruition.
A final conversation with my Mother before she passed suddenly at the age 79 held a very strong message for me. She shared her disappoint of not quite living the life she desired. Her story did not live up to her expectations. Although she had a loving family, lots of friends, a beautiful home, and what seemed to be good health, there was something that left her feeling not quite complete. And then she died. That was in 2004 and ever since then I have been asking myself the question, "Am I living the life I desire?"
My answer is an emphatic YES, though there are those moments in the wee hours of the morn when I, too, question my life. A touch of anxiety appears, momentarily filling me with doubt and self-criticism. It is in those moment that I am thankful for my practice of meditation, prayer and movement to shake me out of those feelings of fear and back into a state of love.
How about you? Do you question your journey? Are you living up to your own expectations? Do you trust your decisions? Are there moments when you find yourself facing this demons of doubt? Will you find yourself at peace as you face the end of your life?
These deeper questions beckon to be answered, especially as one enters the 4th stage of life. Reaching the age of 75 and on into the 100's for some, is known in Yoga Philosophy as the Renunciate. It is the age of wisdom.
Known as Sannyasa ashrama in Sanskrit, this stage is available to only a few. In pursuit of self-realization, the elder is best served by detaching from active involvement in worldly endeavors in order to focus on spiritual practices. Whatever the practice, the intention is to bring peace to, and acceptance of, both life and death.
The Vedic world view explains that mankind is unified with nature, that science and philosophy merge. No longer having political, professional, or social engagements, there is a further shift towards being an elder teacher of spiritual knowledge. During this stage of Sagehood, the individual offers wisdom and kindness, taking up roles as mentors who guide the younger generations. They represent a source of wisdom the following generations can tap into if they are wise enough to do so.
This fourth stage of life also consists of preparing for death and the next life, or seeking to be liberated from the cycle of birth and death all together. We are seeking Moksha or liberation and naturally lose interest in outer affairs.
This stage is strongly dominated by Vata Dosha. That’s why elder people often get dehydrated bodies, dry skin, brittle bones, poor digestion, and all kind of pains and aches and show such Vata characteristics as forgetfulness and fear. Drink lots of water to avoid such imbalances.
Aging is a natural process of life. It begins the moment we are born. Strangely enough, most of us live under the illusion that we and our loved ones will never become old. When old age arrives, we are often unprepared.
The natural order becomes reversed. The young help to care for the old. Those who need to be taken care of for the first time have a hard time accepting that they need help. This condition is a product of our culture that does everything it can to conceal the loss of youth. Confronting this reality is the beginning of a healthy relationship to life, aging and death.
Do not despise death, but be well content with it,
since this too is one of those things which nature wills...
As thou waitest for the time when the child
shall fall out of thy mother’s womb,
so be ready for the time when thy soul
shall fall out of this envelope.
~ Marcus Aurelius Antoninus