Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of December 28, 2020


Wisdom

(The Ladder of Being: 9)

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Life's challenges, triumphs, and failures bring us the wisdom of experience. But because every situation is new, that type of hard-won and necessary wisdom does not always serve well. Yet there is another realm of wisdom that does not depend on experience, a realm that we sorely need, that enables us to see deeply and truly, to choose well even in small things, which can have large effects. Without that wisdom, we tend to flail our way through life, both individually and collectively.

All we usually have to go on are our own thoughts, emotions, and impulses, which are each so changeable as to be untrustworthy as a guide to living. Alternatively, we might drop back from our own resources to books of wisdom or to the advice of people we consider to be wise. What we find that way may be deeply true, but still we much choose whether and how to apply it in our situation of this moment, this day, this year. Thus, to interpret the wisdom of others, we again are left to rely on our prior experience that is often irrelevant and on our unreliable thoughts, emotions, and impulses.

If we can accept this reality, we have made an important, preliminary step toward wisdom, the step of understanding that we lack wisdom, that we do not know. Part of the importance of that step is that it undermines our ego, our view of ourselves as wise and knowing, or at least as determined to do it "our" way. Indeed, ego is a major impediment on the road to wisdom, for it obstructs the channel through which wisdom could flow.

That channel of wisdom is not only blocked, but also noisy. The bits of wisdom that do manage to pass by our ego, get twisted by our existing attitudes and by the exigencies of the moment. They are garbled and obscured by the endless stream of thoughts, emotions, and impulses inundating our psyche. The original bits of wisdom thus become confused scraps of dubious value.

The practice of inner stillness may resolve much of this. The thoughts, emotions, and impulses slow down, receding toward the background of awareness. The ego does the same. We are left with peace and equanimity, the precursors of wisdom. Relaxing our inner world into peace and soaking ourselves in that peace, can be our first substantial steps toward wisdom.

The prime path into peace is through simple, quiet meditation: just sitting. We couple that with the practice of equanimity during our day, the practice of accepting ourselves as we are and our life as it is, as it comes to us. This does not preclude working toward needed or desired changes and improvements in ourselves or our situation, but we do so from a stance of equanimity. Peace leads to equanimity and equanimity leads to peace.

As that peace deepens, it brings us to the shores of wisdom, where the light of wisdom begins to penetrate our soul. Without asking anything of it, we let that light warm us and infuse us. With practice, we learn to wade into it and eventually to dive right in wholeheartedly. We let the light of wisdom saturate us through and through.

There are general, timeless principles of wisdom, such as the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the necessity of work, inner and outer, and the teachings of love, faith, hope, and charity. But wisdom is dynamic and can guide us here and now. We yearn to have the light of wisdom live in us and accompany our days. Humility opens the way for wisdom, while wisdom gives us the confidence to take our next step. Wisdom shines through peace. An unbiased heart can see impartially.

As we enter a new year, can we leave aside our excess baggage and make our way through inner peace to the shores of wisdom? Can we come more into the light of wisdom? Can we choose wisely? Can we live well and with joy, like the wisdom that dances before the Lord?


     

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