Celebrating the Stages of Life

Liane Metzler hands

Many philosophies and religions, including Buddhism and Hinduism, have examined the different stages of life to gain more insight and understanding into our individual and shared life experiences. I hope an examination of these stages will garner some insights for you as it has for me.

All the stages of life are unique and important, not just the outwardly productive ones. In our society there are many messages given to us that we are always supposed to be productive, growing, and accumulating stuff. It's impossible. Our later stages of life, where we have the most wisdom to share, are often undervalued by the main stream.

Our first stage is centered around growth, play, imitation, and education. It is from birth to childhood and adolescence. It is during this phase of life that we gain the most ability or power to do, experience, and understand the fundamentals of life. We built the foundation for the lifetime ahead.

The second stage is focused on self-discovery, achievement & adventurousness. It is from adolescence through adulthood. The child has grown into an adult who now has to apply the skills learned throughout the initial stage of life. Depending on when and if one has children, this can be the longest phase in the human life cycle. The young adult has reached a point of greatest independence.

Stage three is one of dedication, contemplation & giving to others. It runs from adulthood through midlife to mature adulthood. What was once a more autonomous lifestyle will often transform into one with many different challenges and responsibilities, among these are family, financial pressures, completing advanced education, holding a job, living on their own and finding a partner.

Often a major turning point during this time of life has arrived once the children begin to leave the nest. The individual is confronted with a new situation where the obligations and responsibilities start to decrease. Many people, up until now, have followed a destined path scripted by society. It’s becomes a stage of deep contemplation, and perhaps for the very first time, the individual starts to ponder the true meaning of their life. Some develop a more profound understanding of human life, with or without the struggles of a midlife crisis. In the best case scenario, a stronger and wiser individual will emerge with greater benevolence.

Stage four is centered on retirement, wisdom & renunciation. It goes from late adulthood to death. Since our society, in general, doesn't adequately regard the importance, worth, and usefulness of this later stage of life, it is important to make sure we are honoring and celebrating it. This time of life presents an amazing opportunity when individuals are most likely to have the time and resources to devote more of themselves to their spiritual development.

This is a time when a large number people make important contributions to society. In many cases, the elderly take up a new role of volunteers and mentors who guide the younger generations. They represent a source of wisdom the following generations can tap into if they are wise enough to do so. It’s also the stage during which preparations are set in place so that the following generation continues the legacy of older generations. It offers all of us the chance to make sure some part of us continues to live on in the world, even when we are long gone. This last stage is one in which we learn the most about how to accept our own mortality and that of those we love.

May we all honor ourselves and our elders.