LIFE AS A FOREST DWELLER
Are you between the ages of 50 - 75? If so, it's time to slow down.
Oh, I know that sounds challenging for most Americans. After all, some 50-somethings still have children in their home and career demands are at an all time high. You may be feeling pulled between the responsibility of a householder and the innate internal desire to take life down a notch, hit the easy button. and dispense with so much doing in favor of Being. Yep, I hear you.
In fact, now in my 60's, I'm looking into the reality of this next phase for the first time in my own life. Covid has helped as it stopped me (and so many others) in their tracks. What a great opportunity for deep contemplation.
This third phase of life, one of four age-based life stages discussed in Indian texts of the ancient and medieval eras, is that of the Forest Dweller. This late adult phase is called Vanaprastha, or Hermitage, because in ancient times people left their homes and took up a small hermitage just outside the village so that they could live in retirement but still were able to provide help, advice and kind charitable acts as needed.
This is a time for shifting focus towards more inner spiritual practices of meditation, contemplation, and prayer. Relationships with grown children and community are more in the role of a matured mentor. Lifestyle is more simplified, and one may retreat to a quieter place for deeper practices - to the Forest, perhaps.
This stage also marks the transition between Pitta and Vata doshas. Pitta being the firey energy, propels us through transforming our life with family, home, career, and community. Vata, the energy of Air and Ether, supports more creative, spacious endeavors, laightening up. Possibly new movement that expresses one's deeper wisdom and belief about life. We are seeking Dharma, our personal gift and soul purpose in life.
Until this point, many individuals have followed the destined path scripted by society. They were born, grew up, educated, found a job, settled down and started a family. A major turning point during Stage Three arrives once the children begin to leave the nest.
Perhaps for the very first time, the individual starts to ponder the true meaning of their life placing attention upon that which is most important. Patience with time-wasting activities and energy-draining relationships decreases drastically. By decluttering one’s life there is now time to dive into philosophy, or (re-)discover spirituality.
While some develop a profound understanding of human life, others will find themselves in a midlife crisis. The ambition to accomplish ever more never comes to an end. People are so used to constantly striving for more, that they have great trouble with the outlook of slowing down, doing less, and contemplating the deeper relationships with Self and the Universe - God Consciousness.
In the best case scenario, a stronger and wiser individual will emerge out of their resistance to slow down and will gracefully enter the final phase that is especially characterized by wisdom and acceptance. We will explore that final stage next.
Further discussion will take place on my Weekly FB/IG Live: Thoughtful Thursdays The four Ashramas of Life offer us a keen look into our human development. Join me( catch the replay) for a deeper presentation from ancient wisdom for living well today.