Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the week of March 25, 2013

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Developing Wisdom
Introduction

When He appointed the foundations of the earth;
Then I [wisdom] was beside Himů
Playing always before Him

(Proverbs 8: 29-30)

We respect those who are wise and we want to be wise ourselves. But the way there appears haphazard, appears to depend mainly on longevity, though some older people seem wise, while others do not. So the mere passage of the years, perhaps a necessary ingredient of wisdom, does not seem sufficient. How can we develop wisdom ourselves? How can we set ourselves on a course such that, as the years pass, as experience and knowledge accumulate, our own wisdom does indeed grow?

But first, what is wisdom? Difficult to define but easy to recognize, we know it when we see it. Nevertheless, we could say that wisdom is deep understanding coupled with the ability to act effectively from that understanding. Certainly the wise person has sound judgment and can act creatively. Knowledge, experience, and innate intelligence all contribute, but these are not sufficient and perhaps not even necessary to produce wisdom.

One implicit but often overlooked ingredient of wisdom is presence. We cannot understand what is before us if we are not here to take it in, to see it. And we cannot act effectively, if we are not here as the one who acts. Presence puts us here. The more present we are, the more here we are, the more available we are to wisdom. In the silent mind of presence, everything we perceive finds its place. This may be a necessary condition for wisdom, which then takes the next step of connecting our perceptions with our experience and with our foresight, with causes, constraints, ramifications, and goals. All that happens effortlessly, without active pondering or considering. Thus wisdom sees into the heart of the matter at hand. Seeing comes from inner quiet and inner quiet comes from presence.

One part of wisdom surely lies in the realization that this is our life, that what we are doing now, today is our life. So many of us are oriented toward the future. Much of what we do is all about taking us a bit closer to some goal, to some result, to some other day. So what we do today, our life today, takes on the character of a chore, to be gotten through and over with. But this attitude literally kills our time. It is today that we are living. It is the mundane and the chore that we are living. Today is precious. It is our life. Presence makes the mundane magical, makes everything more vivid. In presence we appreciate our life as it is now, even if and as we engage in preparing a better future. Wisdom begins with honoring each moment, mundane or interesting, pleasant or unpleasant. We honor our life, we honor our time, regardless of the particulars.

Presence also promotes wisdom by enabling our experiences to enter more deeply. In presence we tend to take in more of what happens and to be able to remember it later. Thus in presence the experience-base that wisdom can draw upon grows more robustly than if we are not present to our life. Wisdom sits at the junction between the past and the future, open to both.

Another pre-condition for wisdom is to honor it and aspire to it. We doubt that the wise person stops seeking wisdom. At whatever stage of life or wisdom we find ourselves, we look to deepen our wisdom. The extent to which we believe we are wise is the extent to which no further wisdom can grace us.

There are many ways to develop wisdom. In the coming weeks we will explore some of them. For this week, ask yourself what you consider wisdom to be and look at the role that presence plays in wisdom.

    1. Regret
    2. Self-Management
    3. Deep Thinking
    4. Natural Purity
    5. Spiritual Efficacy
    6. Asking
    7. Conscience
    8. Creative Wisdom


        

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