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Ikaria: Siren call, wakeup call, or what?

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Ikaria: Siren call, wakeup call, or what?
Suzanne and Trond relaxing in chairs overlooking the lake in Nova Scotia

Suzanne and Trond on Cape Breton Island, September 2012

Is Ikaria merely my latest sun, tempting the Leo/Icarus I am to fly too close and burn? Ouch! That was the radical conclusion of my friend Ron Blouch after reading I was smitten with a Greek island in my last post. I felt I’d been punched in the stomach or caught with my pants down. (To understand why, you may want to read that post.)

 

Maybe Ron’s right, I thought, maybe I’ve simply leapt into “the grass is greener territory” big-time, to avoid staying stuck where I am. How disturbing, and how silly of me!

 

I sat with Ron’s words and the complex feelings they evoked until more clarity emerged. Others’ comments helped, as you’ll see. But I’m still not certain what my once-in-ten-years pants-on-fire response to the lifestyle of a remote Greek island means for me, and possibly for you as well. So I welcome any insights you may have. Here we go with Round Two.

 

Was Ikaria a siren call* suggesting Ron was spot-on and I should ignore it? Or, as I suspect, was it a wakeup call and therefore something I—and perhaps you—should heed if we’re to live rich, meaningful lives? Since it’s what got me going, here’s some of Ron’s email, to start:

 

(Your love of Ikaria) sounds to me like the desires of Icarus screaming off the page and into our laps…your new, shiny sun, now that the book is being problematical…. You are torn between two worlds. With the same energy that you approached the sun of the book, the siren call of the Island now pulls at you…. Yet as Aleister Crowley said in 8 Lectures on Yoga – “Choose your posture, don’t let go, or the new posture will become the beast that burns you.”

 

There’s truth in all that. I am sometimes disenchanted with my intense year-long posture of being a published author pushing to promote her book. Maybe, as Ron implies, I should just stick with it, hoping a breakthrough comes and is worth it. Or, maybe the call of Ikaria is for a drastic shift to a softer, gentler mode, where trust prevails. I want to know. Because I haven’t given up on the book and would love to believe I can get it further out there without my having to push.

 

Ron’s also right I’m torn between two worlds. One is the lonely, frenzied, sometimes brutal Internet-driven world of book promotion, with its lure of fame and fortune. The other, of course, is the tranquil, neighborly natural world represented by the island that got my attention, where worldly temptations would not be nearly so great. That I’m torn is too true.

 

But on closer examination, there may be a deeper truth or two about why Ikaria screamed off the page and into my lap. One is that I’m at a late stage of life. So, more in a moment about how our different life stages—particularly Ron’s and mine—may figure in. But another truth I touched on last time may also apply. It’s affirmed by Vicki Fox in the comment she left:

 

Suzanne, your blog always expresses more eloquently than I could an inquiry I have been having with myself.  I particularly loved this sentence: “Most of us are longing to live in a profoundly more relaxed and collaborative way than almost all of us do.” That spoke to my heart…

 

While Vicki may be slightly closer to my life stage than Ron’s, she’s still very much in her prime and strives to live a balanced and meaningful life! In a similar vein, my wise younger friend Maurie had this to say about Ikaria and me:

 

Another juicy blog from you!! I say hah to your winding down. I feel excited as I read your words, and the purpose that rises up in me. I, too, am at the place of my journey where I am interested in following my deep impulses, creating a life I truly love! I look forward to seeing what happens next for you!

 

Is one man’s poison another woman’s meat? Vicki’s heart is touched by the simple collective values Ikaria represents to me, and Maurie affirms that to wind down would be to follow a “deep impulse” to “create a life I truly love.” Rather than sticking it out—continuing to push the book, tired and tired of it as I am—the two women see value in shifting out of the intense posture I’ve held. And this is where the stage of life thing comes in, via a model dating back thousands of years to…none other than ancient yogic India.

 

Thanks to Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati (swamij.com) for his concise explanation of the stages:

 

“In the ancient Indian tradition, one planned the years of life in four ashrams or stages, the style of Yoga practiced in each stage chosen to match the circumstances of that stage….The purpose for this life planning is to attain the direct experience of Self-realization, Yoga or enlightenment here, in this world, in this very life. While our lifestyles may have changed since then, the basic idea of these four stages is as sound today as it was then,” he concludes.

 

The first 25 years of life comprise the “Student” stage, “with its focus on healthy, positive training and discipline, learning about spiritual, community, and family life, preferably as a celibate.” Next, from ages 25 to 50 comes the “Householder” stage, a time of “fulfilling worldly interests and duties. It is a time of giving, living, learning, and loving in family and community. Religious or spiritual practices are done in the context of worldly life and service to others.”

 

The last half of life is where it gets really interesting to me, no doubt because that’s where I am. Ages 50-75 is referred to as the “Hermitage” stage. In the Swami’s words, “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 the couple may retreat to a quieter place for deeper practices.”

 

Yes, yes, yes! This is just where I want to be, whether our actual domicile is here, on Ikaria or wherever. And no wonder Trond keeps saying he longs for “a little house in the woods!” My resonance with this life stage feels authentic, though there is more to be said, I am sure.

 

For now, though, and in the interest of not leaving you hanging, here’s the final phase, for ages 75 to 100—should we live so long. It’s called the “Renunciate” stage (sanyasa in Sanskrit). Here’s the Swami’s version of this old age stage:

 

“The elder person now retreats from active involvement in all worldly goals, seeking only spiritual goals in this final phase. No longer having political, professional, or social engagements, there is a further shift towards being an elder teacher of spiritual knowledge.”

 

Swami J. ends with the following sage words, which I’ll leave you with—after inviting you please to share your perspective, whether short and sweet or long and challenging. Can’t wait!

 

While we are a diverse world of cultures, religions, philosophies, and attitudes, this simple framework of life planning has great value for all of us. Regardless of how we may have lived the stages of life…already behind us, being aware of and committed to the current and later stages of life can bring great comfort and clarity as we progress on the path of Self-realization.”

 

Amen to that, says I, for now.

 

  • The term “siren call,” which comes from Greek mythology means having an irresistible attraction to something dangerous. Ironically, the story involves a Greek island—but of course!

 

Categories: A Writer's Life, Self-Care
  • MaurieA

    I sense I am on a “breadcrumb” journey. Following each one, as they arise from my deep wisdom. Some of them do not lead where I think they are going, but they take me to the next step of my journey and keep me pointing to the bigger dream that I have. The importance is knowing if it’s yours to do or just today’s idea, which you learn from checking in with your body wisdom and from past results. Who knows where following this magical journey to explore Ikaria will take you, but you (and I mean you Suzanne, as I trust your inner knowing) know if it’s yours to follow or not. Sending love! 
    Maurie

    • Suzanne Grenager

      Maurie! I love, love, LOVE your ”breadcrumb journey!” And how right you are that following the emerging crumbs of our deep wisdom can take some surprsing turns. So true, too, that paying attention to the body — what it says right now, and what it’s taught us about our past choices – is the best way ever to keep to a path that’s right for us. Thank you so much for being here to remind us of that and, not least, for your abiding trust in me and my ability to discern my Way.

      Where my strong response to Ikaria may lead me is still a mystery, but there’s no question crumbs have been dropped and a shift in direction is underway. Your trust in your path and your willingness to take courageous risks has long been, and continues to be, a source of great inspiraton to me on my way. Bless you, dear woman, for all that!

  • Mary

    I am reading your words, dear Suzanne, as I sit over the hill from you in my hermitage and you in yours.  You are already there, in the woods, in a farmhouse which is cozy and warm.   I too feel that about my home as I have retreated or gone into hibernation.  I too have slowed down and looking at where to go from here.  The answer is, I am there, it is within me and I do not need to change anythng.  I want to live with more intent and closer to who I am.  Basically just be.  Perhaps watch what comes up within and just pay attention to that with nothing to do and nothing to be.   it is all right here.  

    • Suzanne Grenager

      Dear Mary, it warms my heart to know you are nearby in your hermitage. Indeed you offer me — and all of us — a superb example of living quietly, intentionally and with “nothing to do and nothing to be.” Even so, or perhaps because of that commitment to living simply, you do and you are PLENTY: Your dedicated service to your family and friends, your intricate, gorgoeus Japaense embroidery, and especially your warm welcoming presence whenever we meet, to name but a few ways you shine. Thank you for showing up here to support me, both when I emerge and when I retreat. I am learning from you that, as you so beautifully put it, it is all right here. Now.  

      • Mary P.

        Thank you , thank you, Sue.  Are you familiar with “Raven’s Bread?”  It is a newlestter to support those living in solitude.  You can visit their website at http://www.ravensbreadministries.com  Yours in living simply and quietly, Mary P.   

  • Dagmar Hempele

    Suzanne   What an interesting and timely post to return to- I think this may be my favorite of all your posts. All of my thoughts on this would take hours to transcribe, so I will try to pare it down to a few words. Heart vs Head and what ultimately really matters. When we truly live from our hearts (pure creation)nothing else matters and best of all the other ego-intellect driven stuff (being successful, etc) is effortlessly transformed. I’ll join you on Ikaria, sounds like Heaven on Earth   Love Light  Dagmar

    • Suzanne Grenager

      So glad you spoke up here, dear Dagmar. It made my day to see you enjoyed this post, since I wasn’t sure how well it would resonate with others. I’d love if you were ever moved to share more of your “hours” worth of thoughts on the matters raised. But what you *have* shared is plenty and of great value to me personally.

      I sense myself in the midst of a profound shift, and can use all the inspiration I can get to remember that, as you put it so simply and beautifully, when we live from our hearts — “pure creation!” — everything else is “effortlessly transformed.” These are words I am going to print out and put up. That is the essential truth for me now! Thank you! 

  • Mary

    What a rich post. There is so much wisdom in recognizing and affirming the different stages of life. With youth culture being dominant – Facebook etc – we can easily get caught up in stages that are not our own and meanwhile neglect our own needs, at least I feel that way about myself at times.

    • Suzanne Grenager

      (NOTE: This is a different Mary from the one ”over the hill”:) 

      Thank you for acknowledging your own neglect of your needs, dear Mary. And, boy, have you have hit the nail on (my) head, with your words about getting erroneously caught up in activities suited to life stages not our own. Facebook is the perfect example for me — something I’ve felt I needed to do to keep up and get attention for my book and work. But hard as I’ve tried, it’s not been a good fit with who I am now, much less the deeper relationships with self and others that I mean to stand for in my life and work. Bless you for your very helpful insight. May I take heart from it to keep letting go of what doesn’t serve my needs as an elder, a mentor and a scribe. 

  • Ron

    I have – finally! – had time to sit and properly read Suzanne’s richly written post. It was an honor to be included in the public dialogue as someone whose thoughts were worth mentioning.

    In the several years that I have had the privilege to know both Suzanne and her husband I have discovered that they are both not only delightful people but are truly courageous adventurers immersed deeply in the game of life. I have frequently said things to Suzanne as we have discussed our visions of the paths that we are on – intersecting through both our mutual love of yoga and my lovely wife who has been a long time friend of hers – that have caused others to disconnect or run away in upset and fear. My path is an unusual one. My truths have been hard earned and sometimes not easy. Yet Suzanne has played along all the while understanding that our dialogue has been educational and mind expanding for both of us. Knowing her has been a privilege.

    So what to do when she publicly asks us to comment on her vision of abiding peace in an idyllic setting? All asked after many months of soul searching here on the blog concerning the life she is leading regarding her book? I chose to simply, privately, with more than a little fear and trepidation tell her that which was screaming off of the page at me. Shouting me down as I read each word. Standing starkly in relief from the perspective of my own life when my own versions of Ikaria called and I listened to their alluring, enchanting song and headed off in yet another new direction rather than asking my first mate to lash me to the mast and force me to hear the call, remain in place, and survive intact.  

    In reading her response to my comments above I was struck by two things. First, I felt that my call to finish the project she started was presented in an “us versus them” approach however subtle or, in my reading, not so subtle. I love Vicki Fox. What an amazing woman. But between Suzanne, Vicki and Suzanne’s presentation of Maurie I find myself a singular masculine voice being aggressively put in opposition to the gently supportive ladies. I re-read the post several times just to make sure I wasn’t imagining it. I don’t think I am. 

    “Is one man’s poison another woman’s meat?”

    Hmmmm.

    Secondly, as in the previous blog post that originated this dialogue, something once again jumped off of the page:

    “For now, though, and in the interest of not leaving you hanging, here’s the final phase, for ages 75 to 100—should we live so long. It’s called the “Renunciate” stage (sanyasa in Sanskrit).”

    Our Indian friends have a fine model for living and a time tested and honorable life path proscribed for them by their culture. (Yes, proscribed.) However the problem lies in the fact that two years ago, at age (29) Suzanne chose to take on a task that was more properly ensconced right here:

    Next, from ages 25 to 50 comes the “Householder” stage, a time of “fulfilling worldly interests and duties. It is a time of giving, living, learning, and loving in family and community. Religious or spiritual practices are done in the context of worldly life and service to others.”

    I say kudos to you for starting something so life affirming and exciting when many others are choosing to wind down. I was happy and excited for you as you began your journey. I remain happy for you as you encounter the opposition – both internal and otherwise – that brings transformation. I finally, once again, and as lovingly as I can, continue to suggest that the way out is the way through, not the way of escape. The choice was made to embark on this late-in-life change in path, the path of a younger person in the world of India but oh-so-common in this amazing country that is America.

    Suzanne, you once, without knowing you did it, gave me three words that changed how I live. I’ll repeat them back to you. “Choose your choice”. Play it out. Enjoy each and every second of the process. Love the engagement with that which makes no sense. Figure it out. Move on once the process is done -not in the middle. That you don’t know what the end of the process looks like is unimportant, I think. 

    Ikaria, I believe, lies smack dab in the center of your book. Not in Greece. Much love,

    Ron

    • Suzanne Grenager

      Thank you, Ron, for your generous acknowledgement of me, of Trond and of my inadvertently life-changing three little words. I recognize the considerable effort you put into observing and sharing your insights about my journey – and especially the risk you took to be so honest about what you saw. The book journey I undertook at a late stage of  life is more than I bargained for, for sure. And, thanks in part to your brave, challenging words, I am clear now that what I want to do going forward is surrender my will as best I can, trusting my heart and gut to show me what’s best. So I hope you will accept my invitation to agree to disagree. With love and blessings, Suzanne

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