Wisdom Lives in Stillness
What is wisdom and where do we go to find it? How do we search for it? It is true wisdom lives in stillness?
We find looking for knowledge or information easier than for wisdom. Our culture seems to value being informed and knowing things more than becoming wise.
Some of us assume we need to grow old in order to gain wisdom. We like to believe experience automatically helps us find wisdom.
We might try learning how to be wise from other people. Sometimes we read books written by people we believe are, or were, wise. Some of us attend workshops and conferences with people we think are wise. We may listen to sermons or other talks we hope will make us wiser.
It can take a long time before we appreciate whether a person is wise. We may experience something which seems wise at first but wears off over time.
Most of us have difficulty appreciating whether we ourselves are wise. It is a challenge for us to be objective about how wise we are in ourselves.
How do we gain wisdom? Where do we go to find and understand it? When do we know whether we are coming into contact with wisdom?
Can we sort out 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.
I am learning how stillness is wisdom’s natural habitat. Wisdom lives in stillness, so we go there to find it.
How Wisdom Lives in Stillness
I believe wisdom lives in stillness, but it is not wisdom’s only home. We can find wisdom in many situations, if we take time to seek it.
It is not because wisdom can only live or grow or thrive under certain protected conditions. Loud noises or bright lights or rapid movement do not endanger wisdom.
We find wisdom lives in stillness because we are able to listen and pay attention when we are still.
Stillness is not a particularly fertile environment for wisdom. It is not as if stillness is the right soil with the proper acidity for growing wisdom.
Wisdom lives in stillness for us because when we are still we can recognize and appreciate what wisdom has to tell us. Stillness frees us from distractions which make it more challenging for us to listen.
We are more able to discover and recognize wisdom when we take time to listen to sacred stillness. The wisdom is always there, waiting for us, but it is often drowned out.
We do not listen the way we would to someone reading, or telling, a story. It is not about remembering every word or even being caught up in the narrative.
Our practice is not about squeezing every drop of insight from the world around us. We are not working to organize and categorize or even remember wisdom.
Wisdom is not something for us to earn or acquire. We are not trying to amass a collection of wise sayings.
We are not memorizing answers so we can pass objective tests. 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 complete.
Wisdom lives in stillness and flows into and through us.
Where Wisdom Lives in Stillness
Wisdom can be a challenge to find even as we practice listening to sacred stillness.
Our practice is not about flipping a switch which illuminates wisdom for us.
We often find wisdom in some of the most unexpected places.
More and more we find it as we reflect on what we have experienced. Our search for wisdom is not about adding to our store of facts or experience, but about the time we 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 respond to 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 wisdom, 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 apply in practice is no more than good ideas. We know we have found wisdom when we appreciate how it helps us live differently.
We listen to sacred stillness and hear wisdom in its depths.
Why Wisdom Lives in Stillness
We do not need more ideas, more emotional experiences, more strength to find wisdom. Sometimes new stimulation makes wisdom more difficult to recognize.
I have come to see wisdom 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 and within us.
When we need wisdom it helps us to step out of our regular routine. Sometimes I go to the beach or the mountains or the woods. Sometimes it helps to take time in the middle of everyday life and listen for wisdom.
Wisdom 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 stop and listen we find wisdom within ourselves and the world around us. It is not limited to blinding flashes of insight. It comes to us one drop at a time, setting our hearts on fire.
When will we explore where wisdom lives in stillness today?
How will we discover why wisdom lives in stillness this week?
[Image by VV Nincic]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director 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.