Awake in the World

Awake in the World

Living with Wisdom in the Four Stages of Life

In Western culture, we tend to think of youth as the most important time of life. But in India and the yogic tradition, there are four stages of life and each one holds duties, responsibilities and opportunities. The stages are that of the celibate or student, the householder, the wise elder, and the reunciant, which is also called the sanyasi in Sanskrit. The first stage is devoted to learning the practices and lessons that will guide one’s life. The second stage is the period in age where one focuses on career and family. This stage is considered to occur between the early twenties and about age fifty. From age fifty one enters the stage of the elder wise (hopefully) with experience.


Life’s priorities shift from an outward focus on career and family to an inward focus on satisfying soul desires and inner transformation. This stage is rich with possibilities and opportunities that bring wealth and riches of the spirit. If one begins to dedicate life to spiritual practices and perceive the experience as a spiritual journey with purpose, a whole new way of living that is very satisfying and rewarding opens up. Life becomes rich and expansive as the focus turns to inner creativity and growth. This stage finds one liberated from family obligations and free to pursue those thing which prepare one for death of the body and an elevation of the spiritual self. As a recognition of physical mortality dawns, this becomes a moment to contemplate the enduring aspect of the Self, that which never dies at any time. By coming to live more closely to this understanding and awareness a new vitality dawns and a rebirth occurs that brings new opportunities to the awakened spirit.


The sanyasi stage is the stage of the one who completely renounces the world and turns entirely to spiritual practice. In our modern times, it is hard to live as a monk and a renunciant. We’re called instead to live in the world, but not of the world.

What stage of life are you in?

Bio: Debra Moffitt is author of Awake in the World: 108 Practices to Live a Divinely Inspired Life. A visionary and teacher, she’s devoted to nurturing the spiritual in everyday life. She leads workshops on spiritual practices at the Sophia Institute and other venues in the U.S. and Europe. Her mind/body/spirit articles, essays and stories appear in publications around the globe and were broadcast by BBC World Services Radio. She has spent over fifteen years practicing meditation, working with dreams and doing spiritual practices. Visit her online at

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