Becoming a Forest Dweller

I have been trying to get used to the name and function of the word “crone”. Failing to really wrap my heart around it. I understand the the three stages…maiden, mother crone of the Celtic model. Obviously, I am not the first two. And if you call me crone, I won’t be offended. But it doesn’t quite fit. Not just me either, It doesn’t fit anyone my age. Recently, I cam across another model called Aging Gracefully by Deborah Willoughby in my Yoga International magazine.

 Here I quote and summarize a bit of her article.

‘Four Stages of Life
The yoga tradition offers a completely different script, one rich with possibility. In this version, the play of life unfolds in a graceful arc from birth to death, becoming more nuanced and rewarding as it moves toward the denouement—perfect fulfillment, not “mere oblivion.” Here we play four distinct roles as the drama of life unfolds: student, householder, forest dweller, and renunciate.

During the student years—childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood—our primary task is acquiring the knowledge and skills we will need to make our way in the world. We draw on these attainments when we become householders, immersing ourselves in the rush and roar of life as we go about earning a living, raising a family, and doing our civic duty.

In our modern script, the third act—retirement—defines us in terms of what we’ve left behind instead of what lies ahead. Up through our late 50s and into our 60s, our energy has been mainly focused on tangible achievements: earning a degree, building a career, raising children, acquiring property, perhaps making a name for ourselves. Now, as these familiar identities and activities fall away, we find ourselves without a clear, purposeful direction.”


“In the script written by the yoga tradition the direction is clear. The student and householder phases of life are a prelude to the ultimate achievement—freeing our attention from outward preoccupations and bringing it to rest at the core of our being. Here, in the third stage of life, we have the privilege of stepping away from the external identities that so easily become all-consuming. By the time we’re approaching our 60s, we’ve lived amidst the rush and roar of life long enough to recognize the outer world is, in the words of Alistair Shearer, “a place of limited charm, a realm hedged in by restrictions and forever being eroded by transience.”


In the traditional culture that gave rise to yoga this was called the forest-dweller stage, not because people literally retreated to the woods (although some did), but because, recognizing the transient nature of external achievements, they withdrew from these pursuits to strengthen their connection with the deeper dimensions of their own being. Theirs was a civilization—stretching back beyond 2000 BCE—deeply immersed in the natural world. The full span of life was 100 years. Read the latest studies on the lifestyle that promotes longevity and you’ll understand why. They ate a plant-centered diet of locally grown organic foods. They walked everywhere. Their households were multi-generational and their communities were woven together in a robust web of interdependence. But above all, they had a vibrant sense of the meaning and purpose of life.”

There is much to this article. I am busy exploring it. You should try it out too. Join me in being a Forest Dweller?

It just sounds right.

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