Finding Wisdom in Stillness
What is wisdom and where do we find it?
We are often more comfortable seeking knowledge or information than wisdom. Our culture appears to value knowing and being informed more than it does becoming wise.
It can be easy for us to assume we need to grow old in order to gain wisdom. We like to think experience automatically teaches us about being wise.
Some of us try to learn how to be wise from other people. We read books written by people we believe to be wise. Some of us attend workshops and conferences presented by people we think are wise. We may listen to sermons or other talks we hope contain wise teaching.
It can take a long time before we recognize whether an idea is wise. We may realize something which seems wise at first is actually simple or foolish.
Most of us have a difficult time appreciating whether we ourselves are wise. It is a challenge for us to be objective about how wise we are in our own thinking.
Some people would say we can be wise about other people but enlightened about ourselves.
How do we gain wisdom? Where do we go to find and understand it? What is it about being wise which attracts our attention?
Can we discern whether we are being wise or foolish while there is still enough time to make a difference?
The place I go to find wisdom most often is listening to sacred stillness.
It may seem ironic to seek wise counsel in stillness. In my experience discerning what is wise is less about analyzing options and more about reflecting. It is a more contemplative pursuit than gaining information.
What are some effective ways we can sort out what is wise?
Wisdom Within Sacred Stillness
One aspect of a contemplative practice of listening to sacred stillness is taking time to breathe.
We are not listening the way we would to someone reading a story. It is not about remembering every word or even being caught up in the narrative.
Listening to sacred stillness is more like sitting in the sun and allowing life to happen within us. We are not working to organize and categorize or even remember what has happened to us. Our relationship to the life around us and within us is more accepting, more calm.
Our practice is not about squeezing every drop of insight from the world around us. We intend to allow everything to fall into place, not to force it to fit where we want it to go.
We begin to listen believing there is wisdom in the stillness around us and within us.
Our minds tend to be more active in their pursuit of wisdom. They approach this pursuit as an effort to subdue and assimilate wisdom, to make it our own.
It is important for us to appreciate wisdom is not something to be acquired. We are not trying to amass a collection of wise sayings, but to learn something we share.
There is wisdom in sacred stillness. As we practice listening we become more adept, wiser listeners.
We are not memorizing answers so we can pass an objective test. Our practice is not about getting other people to appreciate how wise we have become. There is no checklist or wisdom hall of fame we are hoping to accomplish.
Listening to sacred stillness helps us become wise as we relate to other people and enlightened about ourselves.
Each time we listen to stillness wisdom flows into and through us.
What is Wisdom?
One dictionary says it is the capacity to judge rightly in matters of life and conduct.
The ancient Greeks considered it to be an important virtue. The Greek word for wisdom is translated into the name Sophia.
I often find it in some of the most unexpected places.
More and more I find it as I reflect on what I have experienced. My search for wisdom is not about adding to my store of facts or experience, but about the time I spend in stillness.
Most of us receive more than enough information each day. We do not find wisdom in accumulating even more. It comes from how we listen, how we process what we hear.
Wisdom is not about knowing more or experiencing more. It becomes our own as we put it into practice.
We demonstrate we have gained and accepted it, it has become ours, when it changes how we live. We know we are becoming wise when it shapes what we do.
Wisdom we do not put into practice is no more than a good idea. We know we have found it when we can see how it helps us live differently.
Everyday Ways to Find Wisdom
We do not usually need more ideas, more emotional experiences, more strength to find it. Sometimes new stimulation makes it more challenging to find.
I have come to see becoming wise not as something we pursue, but part of the fabric of our world. We are not on a quest to find it is hidden somewhere. What we seek is all around us.
When I need to find wisdom it helps me to step out of my regular routines. Sometimes I go to the beach or the mountains or the woods. There are times when it helps to stop in the middle of everyday life and listen for wisdom.
It is not a wild animal to be found and put into a cage. We find wisdom and listen to what it has to tell us.
As we take time to pause and listen we find it within ourselves and the word around us. It is not necessarily about blinding flashes of insight. It comes to us one drop at a time, setting our hearts on fire.
When will we find wisdom in stillness today?
How will we find wisdom which will change the way we live this week?
[Image by LaLina]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He has served as an assistant district attorney, an associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.