Lately, I’ve been reflecting on today’s social/cultural environment in the context of living a meaningful and joyful life. On the surface, it often appears incompatible.
The wisdom of our elders seems to have escaped us. Truth has become relativistic and unmoored. We’ve sacrificed the love of our fellow citizens for our own increasingly narrow agendas.
We see this in aggressive driving behaviors, increasingly strident and intolerant views, and a growing emphasis on “me, myself, and I!”
Maybe we need to get back to the basics. What is the meaning of wisdom, truth, and love? How do we bring more of these into our lives?
Over the next three weeks, I will reflect on those words as a prelude to offering a new personal behavioral model focused on increasing joy and meaning in the context of community.
This blog is titled “Towards A Life Well-Lived.” As we close out this year and ring in the next, I hope to bring context and action to that aspiration.
I begin this week with wisdom.
Wisdom is a consciousness we can all tap into, but first, we must learn to listen!
Wise people listen. They watch what’s happening and then “connect the dots.”
To listen, we must first quiet the chatter in our heads. Especially when it steals our attention away from others while they are speaking! Wise people avoid the distraction of self-absorption. They exude a rare attentive presence. A presence where we feel heard.
Wisdom increases when we bring our attention to the present moment rather than being distracted by what happened yesterday or what needs to be done tomorrow. When we enter the moment, we see things otherwise missed. We bring ourselves more into the world.
Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) suggested four steps to accomplish this (my paraphrasing):
-Quiet our minds and become still.
-Witness what’s going on within us and around us.
-Gain new insights from what we see
-Integrate those insights into our lives.
According to Underhill, “wisdom is the fruit of communion.”
The more wrapped up in ourselves we are, the more clouded our understanding. Strong emotional responses are the epitome of self-absorption.
When we learn to listen, we live in our bodies as a question rather than a statement. We behave as the director of our life’s drama instead of an actor.
Witnessing uncovers insight into our emotional being. Maintaining emotional intensity is nearly impossible when carefully watching our emotional response. Try it the next time you’re upset.
We are wiser than we think, literally! The world is one, but we divide it into ten thousand things we are too busy to pay attention to. Active listening takes us beyond self and opens the possibility for new connections in life.
Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.
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