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