Sannyasa: The Fourth Stage of Life

Cherie Hanson
4 min readOct 12, 2022

Awareness of the movements, chapters, seasons, and acts of life are distinctly different when viewed from a distance of age.

The contained existence in my childhood through grade school to high school was controlled, enforced, and structured. Those who lived before me had stories, egregores, and trauma-marked cells that surfaced in my own biological blueprint. That era, the abraiding of intersecting cultures wearing away to a single smooth surface of belief, I see as almost cult-like. We believed what we were taught to believe.

My arrival on the earth was the year that WW II ceased. I shot out into a time of rabid hunger for growth. The depression reduced choices for my grandparents and in the childhood of my own parents. But NOW we were like the starving crowds let loose in a field of food. The norm was for us to gorge ourselves.

We paid close attention to what our neighbors had newly purchased. The fins on our cars grew to sci-fi proportions. We were propelled into competitive hedonism. My father bought the first TV set in our neighborhood. There was a cache´, an undisputable sense of status that a family could achieve instantaneously.

One could move ahead of the pack. One could be the house that people pointed to as they drove past. The Thunderbird in the driveway; the TV antenna reaching out beyond the roof to outer space; the books lining the bookshelf on hypnosis, self-improvement, some with bright pictures of modernist houses insistently and rebelliously sleek; the lounge chair covered in orange fabric in the living room that was impossible to sit upon no matter how one contorted the body, all signaled patriotic dedication to consumerism.

And so as I moved through my life, I watched the carefully cultivating craving. If only…. if only I could get good grades. If only I could graduate from university. If only I could earn a master’s. If only I could find a husband, a house, and have children. Always, always moving toward a goal whose dopamine hit of pleasure disappeared as soon as it was achieved. It was decades of crawling through the sand to arrive at a mirage.

I watched as the cultural imprint caused people to balloon from an average size of 6 to size 16. I watched as the slavish pursuit of power, pleasure, and fame became currency.

Today, our striving for clout on social media is like showing a membership card to an exclusive club. I am acceptable to myself because I…