What stage of life are you experiencing today?
If you have lived on this Earth for 50 years or more, then you, my dear, are a Forest Dweller.
If you have spun around the sun for more than 75 years, then a Sage you are!
For those that are newer to this earthly realm, you may be exploring your first 25 years as the Student.
If you are making your mark by building your home, your career, your family, the role of the Householder is yours.
These are the stages of life defined by the Yoga philosophy known as the Four Ashramas Through in-depth observations of our human condition, the ancients have done a fine job at defining how we can best navigate life on Earth. Are you listening?
The word ashram in Sanskrit literally means “place of spiritual shelter.” The framework of the four stages allows for comfort and clarity as spirituality is developed throughout life. While they were traditionally discussed as lasting approximately 25 years, for those seeking a life of 100+ years, the duration of the Ashramas will vary with the individual. The purpose of acknowledging these four ashramas is to attain the direct experience of awakening to your fullest potential in this world, in this very life. Some call this awakening, enlightenment.
Let’s shed some light on what this means for you today.
THE STUDENT (Brahmacharya)
Childhood to early adulthood is the developmental stage of life. This is time of learning and the discipline that goes with it. We observe other people’s behavior and imitate their actions. This helps us to pick up important abilities and skills. At this time, we are seeking Kama or enjoyment, gaining experience about the world around us.
THE HOUSEHOLDER (Grishasta)
This second stage is all about developing our individuality, earning a livelihood and eventually raising a family of our own. Grihasta marks the stage during which we pick up a great number of responsibilities fulfilling worldly interests and duties that support the other three ashramas. It also brings with it the many adventures and exciting explorations of life.
FOREST DWELLER (Vanaprashtha)
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.
THE SAGE ( Sannyasa)
During this stage of Sagehood, the individual offers wisdom and benevolence, taking up new 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.
What does this mean to you today? What practices can you put into action to support these developmental stages through your lifetime?
No matter how many birthdays you have celebrated, we can nourish all of these roles that we play at any time for they can be interwoven in a very complementary way. They can also cause suffering if we do not attend to them.
Because each stage has much insight to offer for living a comfortable and content life today, I’d like to dive in deep to each one over the next four weeks.
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This year I've been living smack dab in the middle of the forest of northern California embracing my Forest Dweller role in life. This late adult phase is also known as 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 and advice. I’m far from retiring, yet there is a definite shift in the rhythms of daily life and my desire to share the deeper teachings of Yoga, Ayurveda and Plant Wisdom.
I have simplified my days to allow more space for my own spiritual practices and to more clearly share with you the ancient wisdom that helps us all live well today.
May we continue sharing this path of transformation.
Blessings to you this day,