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Astrologically, I had come to see the cycles of Saturn as markers of the Four Ashramas or Vedic stages of life. During the first Saturn cycle we are learning, studying and developing our skills, so this stage of life is somewhat similar to the brahmacharya stage of life. From our first Saturn Return, around age twenty nine, we begin to engage fully in our householder life, raising children and contributing to society. This corresponds to grihast ashrama. As we come to our second Saturn Return, at age fifty eight, we are confronted by the journey of aging. With children grown, it's time to look towards retirement, which for the Vedas does not mean golf and cruises but rather a life of contemplation, vanprasth ashrama. And if we live until our third Saturn return at age eighty seven it is surely time to leave the world behind as we look to eternal realities: final renunciation or sannyas beckons.
My studies of Spriritual Eldering with Reb Zalman Schachter only served to re-inforce this perspective. The elder years are for contemplation and the cultivation of the inner life.
Of course, in my own case, cultivation of the inner life began from as early as I can remember. I do recall 'inventing' meditation as a teenager, and I say inventing because there was nobody in my provincial East Anglian town to point the way, so I came up with my own methods, later to find they were Zen meditation! And during my first Saturn Return, I committed to the Vanprastha life!
So what did Lord Shani have up his sleeve for the second Saturn Return? The first surprise came when our second year students in Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula refused to leave school. These dedicated students, with no financial aid and a very demanding programme, wouldn't leave school because they did not see fifteen hundred hours as enough education to be a 'real doctor'! As a result, the year of Saturn Return found me creating and inaugurating a four year Ayurveda programme with depth of training similar to that of Doctors in other health fields. This of course led to more credit hours for me to teach each week and more new classes to prepare. And just in case I didn't get the message, this year also saw me elected to the Board of NAMA, the National Ayurvedic Medical Association. And on a reassuring note, I had a heart scan which showed, unusually at my age, no calcification at all in the coronary arteries. A new definition of 'young at heart' and a vindication of Ayurvedic diet!
At the very age when one might expect that I would be looking forward to retirement, second Saturn Return brought much greater levels of engagement that I have known before. I'm committing to spend this third trip around Saturn's orbit fully involved in teaching and developing Ayurveda. Of course, life brings many unexpected twists and turns. I might become too physically or cognitively impaired, or too involved in care-giving, to continue this course of action for whole Saturn Cycle. I might die....at any time, for nobody knows when Death will come. Or climate-change-related chaos might throw all plans into disarray. I do not know what actors wait in the wings to thicken the plot of my life. But this I do know: Saturn has invited me to an ever-deeper commitment to teaching and passing on the wisdom of Ayurveda--and I have heeded the call.