Ahhh - the most productive stage of life when you truly step in.
Having learned as a student, now is the time to make your mark on the world and put down some roots. You identify your strengths and skills taking on responsibility for others. For most of us in the western world it's all about the house, the spouse, the kids, the dog and the job.
While the first stage primarily focuses on integrating into society, the second stage is all about developing our individuality, earning a livelihood and eventually raising a family of our own. Grihasta is considered the most important ashrama as the industry of the householder goes to support the other three ashramas.
During Grihasta the fiery force of Pitta is highly dominant developing the characteristics of independence, ambition, confidence, and sociability. It also brings with it the many adventures and exciting explorations of life. At best, we completely break free from the dependency upon other people’s approval. Instead of searching for external validation, we learn to approve of ourselves marking the liberation from childhood.
Within this ashrama one utilizes the training, discipline and knowledge gained from the Brahmacharya Ashrama to live a complete life and to enjoy worldly pleasures. The primary obligations of this period are meeting one’s material needs. We are seeking Artha or wealth. The word Artha literally translates as “meaning, sense, goal, purpose or essence.” Artha includes career, activity to make a living, financial security and economic prosperity.
Grihasta marks the stage during which we pick up a great number of responsibilities fulfilling worldly interests and duties, not only for ourselves but for others. Religious or spiritual practices are done in the service to others.
However, if we strive too hard by placing all of our energy on the external world the typical imbalances of Pitta may present themselves as heartburn, acid stomach, ulcers, hemorrhoids, and hypertension, literally burning ourselves out. The Householder’s challenge is to “Live
in the world but allow not the world to live in you.” She must view life as a great teacher and strive towards a spiritual life in the midst of worldly temptations and distractions.
The transition between gaining independence and taking on responsibility can cause challenges in our evolution from one stage to the next. Continuously following where your independence leads can be exciting for a certain period of time. Yet at some point, we all have to learn to let go of youthful endeavors in order to fulfill our responsibilities and true purpose. Some people refuse to limit their explorations and end up running in circles experiencing new things without gaining any significant insights about life.
By integrating our individuality and material needs with the deeper purpose of our life, we begin to understand that not every activity should be pursued just because we can pursue it. We start to realize that many of the activities we’ve enjoyed for so long no longer provide us any significant return. Slowly but surely, we learn to use our independence in a responsive manner. The second stage is accomplished once we realize that we have to be selective about how and where we direct our energy and effort.
Due to the amount of responsibility, especially towards others, an inner reflective yoga practice will best serve the householder in connecting with themselves from the inside out. Whether the movement of an asana practice is active or passive, the mindset toward deep listening and present moment awareness is key to balancing out all the to-do’s that go along with this stage of life. Meditation, though a challenge for a mind that is full of details, can be the best medicine for sustaining a sense of ease in the midst of creative chaos. Allow your personal formal practice to be a time of replenishing your well-springs.
Rest and Self-care are vital.
When you take time to replenish your spirit
it allows you to serve others from the overflow.
You cannot serve from an empty vessel.