Growing older happens naturally, but growing up consciously is in our hands. Are we aging gracefully?
When we age gracefully, the outer beauty of youth will be replaced with the inner beauty of wisdom, peace and contentment in life. To attain such a gracious old age, we have to keep higher aspirations and the long view of life in mind. With this vision, we must make wise and careful choices throughout our lives.
In Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the third habit states, Put First Things First. This habit explains that we must take time to work on our long-term, high-priority goals. Dr. Covey explains that if we don’t work on our important long-term goals, unimportant and meaningless activities crowd them out.
High-priority goals could be focusing on our health, relationships, finances, and personal development.
Spirituality tells us that our highest priority goal is to gain true and permanent happiness through the rediscovery of our innate divine nature. All the other goals should be seen as steppingstones to achieving our spiritual goal.
The Four Stages of Life
To achieve a gracious old age and our ultimate of spiritual unfoldment, what is the ideal way of living?
Vedanta, the spiritual science of life tells us that there are four stages of life: Student, Householder, Retiree and Renunciate.
To make it easy to visualize, let’s say that we live an average of 100 years. Loosely, the first 25 years are the Student stage; the next 25 to 50 years are the Householder stage; age 50 to 75 is the Retiree stage, and the Renunciate stage of life is from age 75 to 100 years.
In the Student stage, the main focus is learning. This is the time to acquire a foundation of knowledge that is important for everyday living and worldly success. Also, this is when children are taught spiritual knowledge and given an understanding of the goal of life. They also learn values and self-discipline so as to build a strong foundation of good moral character.
In the Householder stage, people likely get married, grow their families, careers and finances. These goals are to be achieved through right and noble means. Householders are encouraged to give to worthwhile causes, and serve society with the knowledge and wealth they have gained. Although this is the busiest stage and there is little time for spiritual pursuits, they are reminded to do what little they can and not forget the ultimate goal of growing spiritually and attaining a gracious old age.
In the Retiree stage of life, the children of the householders grow up and move away, and careers begin to wind down. There are lesser responsibilities, and so gradually, there is more time. This freed-up time is to be channeled to pursuing the spiritual goals taught in childhood such as spiritual studies and meditation.
In the Renunciate phase of life, worldly activities die down completely, and there are no more duties to family or society. All these are renounced. This is the time to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to our spiritual unfoldment. Reading spiritual literature, quiet reflection, prayer and meditation are the main focus.
It is in meditation that we will finally be able to rediscover our true spiritual nature within and gain the highest happiness in life.
Living a spiritual view of life
If we prepare ourselves for such a gracious old age, this can be the most joyful stage of our lives. With no more hankering after the world and a sense of contentment within, our golden years would bring us great blessings and true fulfillment in life.
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