It has been said that wisdom is in knowing things as they truly are, not as we would like them to be. To me, it seems that this is largely what was meant in Conversations with God (Vol. 3) by the statement that the biggest difference between highly evolved beings and the rest of us is that the former observe more clearly and completely. They don’t fool themselves, for example, that they can dump pollutants into the air, earth, and water or their own bodies without consequence. Nor do they expect high-quality government services like fire, police, roads, and education without paying for them.
To bring the focus back to the nature of wisdom, consider a question: How does this perspective relate to your immediate personal experiences? Specifically, how does observing and knowing what is truly going on relate to wisdom?
The simple fact is that we each have complete access to all of the truth and wisdom that we need and crave in our lives. All we have to do is ask for it and be open to receiving it. It often takes us in surprising directions. Such surprises can be delightful. They can also seem strange, threatening, or scary at first.
In my experience, the unexpected appears frightening or threatening only when it is leading in a direction that I don’t want to go in. Invariably, the decision to avoid that particular direction is one that I have held for some time before receiving guidance and my resistance springs from my adherence to my earlier decision.
For example, if I am trying to make new friends or meet a life partner, I may get that I would benefit from going to parties and events and meeting people, but doing so may seem daunting. It’s so much easier to stay at home or go out with friends whom I’ve known for years. Alternatively, I may want a promotion but the new job may require that I speak in front of rooms full of people and I might prefer death to public speaking.
In any case, it can be difficult to get past these emotional reactions or even to see that it is possible to get beyond them. It can feel effortless and automatic to drop into a state of dread, resistance, or frenzy over the unwanted path, even (maybe especially) if it seems like the most logical or only path forward. In the midst of such self-imposed crises, focus tends to collapse. We lose connection with our essential selves and, through our essence, to our world and instead find ourselves confronted with difficulty, dread, and failure.
Another common reaction is to become depressed, confused, overwhelmed, or uninterested and numb. One key thing to realize is that emotional reactions like this are usually layers of affect that have built up over time like layers of hard candy. Each layer may have a different flavor, but each one is doing the same thing – adding another layer of protective coating around the soft, gooey center. Even numbness and depression can be flavors of emotional layering.
Some people recommend applying massive amounts of discipline at this point to “power through” the resistance. However, there is another way. It begins with simply noticing what is present for you in the moment. Whatever you may be thinking or feeling is fine because you are thinking and feeling it. Judging, condemning, or stuffing the feeling or yourself for having it probably won’t help. Have they helped in the past?
Let go of the resistance and give yourself permission to really notice what is present. If your judgment, etc. eclipses the original thought or emotion, notice yourself judging, etc. Have no judgment or opinions about whatever you notice yourself thinking and feeling. Simply notice that you are thinking and feeling it.
The next step is to sit with this awareness for a while. People often ask how long they should sit and the best answer is, “As long as it takes.” How long does it take for water to soak into a seed once it is planted? Is it the same for a kidney bean as it is for a marigold seed? There really isn’t one definitive answer to apply in all cases. However in every case, at some point a sea-change occurs. The quality of the experience changes and we don’t feel so stuck or immersed in the thought or feeling.
At this point you may find it helpful to ask yourself why you are thinking or feeling this thing. I find that it is helpful to allow the silence to fill in the space that follows such questions. We are trained by society to have answers to questions and our minds often leap to fill in that space with answers. In the process, we obliterate the silence. Questions have value in themselves beyond any answers we may construct with our intelligence. Allow the question and its silence to unfold.
Eventually this process leads to truly powerful insights and creative solutions. This is the realm of true wisdom and inspiration. Wisdom and our connection to it flourish in the inner silence. We each may come to that silence in different, idiosyncratic ways, which is perhaps the reason that true silence is best cultivated in solitude. Interestingly, although it is cultivated in solitude, as familiarity with your silence and wisdom grow, you inevitably find that it becomes a bridge to connect with everyone and everything more immediately, playfully, and powerfully.
Sitting meditation is not the only way to cultivate silence. Some may access it through movement or dance. Others through yoga or manual labor. Still others through poetry, music, or math. However you are most comfortable accessing inner silence in your life, recognize and honor it and the truth it brings you to. Regardless of what form it takes, if it supports your connection to inner silence, it is a form of meditation. Whether you are comfortable or familiar with formal meditation techniques or not, if you have benefited from a regular practice that brings you into touch with and greater awareness of your own inner silence and peace, you have meditated. Such meditation is a vital key to developing conscious, volitional access to wisdom and creativity.
If you haven’t found any particular practice to be effective, yet, or you wish to explore more formal meditation, you can start by noticing the silence. Modern life is full of distractions. Indeed, many things are deliberately designed to distract us and pull us into a story or drama (and out of connection to our inner silence) in order to get us to buy something. When such distractions arise, notice yourself being distracted. Then notice the silence that follows.
Alternatively, take a few moments, close your eyes, and notice the sound and sensation of your own breathing.
Notice the sounds all around you. Don’t try to identify them or picture their sources. Just notice them.
Then notice the silence between the sounds.
Notice the silence beneath the sounds. What lies behind the sounds?
“The Nature of Wisdom” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.