What am I turning toward?
Choice. Choice earned through reflection.
In the Vedas the Ashramas, or stages of life, support an understanding of cycles of growth; integration into community and culture, and the individual process of maturation. From a western perspective, and my work with my father, Dr. Roy Walford, I know that we each have a chronological, a biological, and a psychological age, depending on nature and our lifestyle choices. Turning 60 has been a good time to review my underlying patterns and the chapters of growth in my life. The Ashramas have always helped me group and recognize these patterns.
Here is my abbreviated understanding of the Ashramas, translated through my western yoga mind.
First stage: We imitate, we learn the culture we are born into, and we prepare to stand on our own feet. This phase generally lasts through puberty.
Second stage: We mature, become financially independent, build community, individuate, and cultivate ingenuity. This stage may roll through our forties and even fifties, but generally we have a sense of where we stand and what we want to do by the time we reach the late thirties.
Third stage: We teach, either directly or through example, parenting, supervising. We now appreciate and enjoy life’s little pleasures, reflect upon the choices made that have created the life we now lead, and embrace the values that will sustain us moving forward. I find myself leaning into gratitude, empathy, benevolence and patience. This phase wraps itself around the fifties and sixties, I see myself resting in the middle of this.
Fourth stage: We have the choice to renounce rules, to turn completely toward the eternal and most intimate questions of the value of living. I hope, when I do reach the later part of this stage, that I am able to breathe my last as I did my first, with innocence.
Chronologically, I may have turned sixty, but physically I have almost the same stamina that I had in my forties. I find that I shake a little in the more strenuous yoga poses, and I’m able to hold inversions for much longer then when I was younger. There are always trade-offs.
The most unexpected part of turning sixty is what happened the day before. I realized, and kept saying to myself, “this is the last day that I can say that I am under sixty.” Yes, it is a big deal, and a better deal moving forward! Jai Ho!
Here’s a short video of my doing 54 backbends (half of the sacred 108) on my 60th birthday, plus a little surprise at the end: