As everybody in Spain races to their chosen getaway to spend a couple weeks fighting with other holiday makers over a table at the best restaurants, best spot to anchor their boat, or nicest hammock on the beach, I seem to be the wise one: Madrid is at its most relaxed and calm in August. It’s a perfect setting for book writing, reflecting, self-mirroring, learning and growing. It’s ideal for the cultivation of wisdom. Have you considered growing yours?
Ironically, the word wisdom in Spanish – sabiduría – is spoken of as an unattainable ideal.
Ironically, the word wisdom in Spanish – sabiduría – is spoken of as an unattainable ideal. Having worked in Holland a lot this year, I noticed the contrast in our cultural perceptions because the Dutch talk about finding their wisdom all the time. It made me realize how this special kind of knowing has traditionally been considered a privilege only available to a few.
In olden times – and I mean olden – before civilization, progress and technology became our kings, wisdom was not written about at all. It made no sense. It still doesn’t help much in the sense that you only understand these things when you feel them. The same book that is an incomprehensible bore at twenty, can suddenly turn into a magical piece of insight thirty years later. The book hasn’t changed. We have. We’ve developed our perception and fine-tuned our thinking to exclude all the dead-ends and dumb ideas we’ve run into over decades.
We’ve developed our perception and fine-tuned our thinking to exclude all the dead-ends and dumb ideas we’ve run into over decades.
The good news is that time works in favor of wisdom, because we are living and experiencing many things every day. Whether we pay attention to it or not, our body, or the part of our brain that continues under our neck, is always absorbing information. While our minds keep racing forward to find the next best thing, our hearts and guts worry only about the present, and the parts of our past that keep overshadowing it. Because wisdom is always in the present. Everything is now. You must have heard this before.
The bad news is that we can’t listen to it or follow it in any way if we don’t stop racing, competing, fighting, thinking, talking and doing stuff non-stop. Our bodies may be full of wise insights on which path to follow, which investment to choose, which employee to let go. If our minds can’t correctly decipher our own body’s messages of wisdom, we remain non wise. That is, pretty stupid in our endless repetitions of similar mistakes: “Oh yes! We MUST book a table at this place before anybody else does!” Ha, ha, ha!!
Our heart and guts, as we’ve also heard before, are crucial to smelling out business opportunities and doing the right thing.
Our heart and guts, as we’ve also heard before, are crucial to smelling out business opportunities and doing the right thing. They don’t speak in words or numbers, however, and that makes them a little challenging to heed. If symbolic language was the only problem, we’d be fine with racing around Ibiza. The other very annoying thing about heart and guts is that they are not linear, and they speak veeeeeery slooooooowly. So much for running, huh?
Wisdom speaks to us through body sensations, symbolic visions, and a sense of recognition that connects unlikely dots in our perception. It’s completely unpredictable and it comes to us in moments of quietness. So there can’t be any racing, competing, fighting, thinking, talking or doing stuff if you expect any wisdom to make an appearance.
While intelligence loves to operate in the future, projecting better versions of an insistently analyzed past, wisdom is now. There’s no logic to it, and there is no order or timing – no before or after. What really sets wisdom apart from intelligence is that once you truly know something in your gut and in your heart, there is absolutely no amount of information or logic that can change your mind again. When intellect fights with wisdom it always loses. It’s simply too small, and too needy of reasons, information and outside certainties, mostly known today as scientifically proven facts.
When intellect fights with wisdom it always loses.
But here’s the quality of wisdom that most amazes me: it is unique. All wise people share increasingly similar visions of the world, of humanity and of our history. Almost seven billion completely different interpretations of the same universe live together on our small, tiny planet. Seven billion little heads reason and talk and do stuff all the time to judge, change and conquer the way they interact with the world around them. They keep running into other little heads with radically different views who insist on bending them over to their own view. Blah, blah, blah… just look at the news or open your internet browser.
Those who stop to take a breath and question their own vision, however, begin on a path of wisdom. As they increase their ability to focus attention on what’s really important, as they express and release old layers of emotion, as they come to honor their family’s past and feel unreasonable gratitude for the hardships their ancestors passed on to them… wisdom grows inside them. A common feeling of connection to everything, everybody and every age rises inside these individuals. Differences dissipate and judgments melt, as wisdom slowly creeps up around us, bathing all in its comforting warmth and joyful safety.
The path to wisdom is not outside ourselves, but inside.
The path to wisdom is not outside ourselves, but inside. There are no gurus. There are no absolute truths to hang on to. Walking this path inevitably demonstrates that nobody can understand your choices or your feelings of the world except you. You leave stuff behind. Things, clothes, cars, other people’s opinions and hot tables at restaurants become less important. Always very enjoyable when you have them, but also very irrelevant when you don’t. You no longer need to change anybody or anything. You realize they are all on their own path of awakening to their own inner realm of knowing without knowing. You know that every step of your own path was essential, necessary and beautiful in the global picture of what you have walked until now. I wouldn’t dream of stealing a step from someone else’s journey, or rushing anyone around a corner that needed to be savored slowly in order to build awareness of what was coming.
You become contagious. You bring peace and calm to people without trying. You just look at them and breathe with them. And they break down a little. Stop running a bit. Start feeling a lot. Forget about the cool table you’re both sitting at. Just bask in the moment. Feel the connection. Sense the timelessness and let the joy come up inside you underneath the grief, the fear and the anger.
Because all you need to do to find your inner wisdom is to stop running, start breathing and release your feelings.
Because all you need to do to find your inner wisdom is to stop running, start breathing and release your feelings. Don’t worry about time. The path is long, but it’s never boring. Every week is different. Every month feels lighter, more efficient, more intense. Every day you learn something new about yourself, your patterns of repetition, your old habits of avoidance and your very legitimate reasons for being sad, afraid, angry or disgusted. Techniques fall in your hands before you knew you wanted them. You never know who’s going to say something that will resonate inside you for weeks or years, slowly unwrapping a pearl of wisdom in your heart.
Maybe wisdom is spiritual. All religions and spiritual traditions share similar messages at their core, from the most elevated intellectual cults to the primal rituals performed in caves and forests for thousands of years. There is something unspeakable that connects us all within it, and which we recognize instinctively when we are exposed to it.
I really can’t say what wisdom is made of. All I can tell you for sure is that it is inside you, just as much as it is inside me. You will know it when you feel it. And once you know what you’re looking for, there is no amount of intellect, information or hardship that will keep you from coming back to it again and again.
Happy holidays, everyone. Wisdom awaits when you’re ready.