During the retreat I co-facilitated recently, "Growing Older with Grace, Spiritual Practices for the Second Half of Life," I opened with an exercise in which each participant emptied a bag of glass pebbles, one for each year of their life, into a large glass bowl, and then shared a significant piece of wisdom from their life.
The bowl of pebbles symbolized all the years of wisdom in the room. 2, 623 years of wisdom to be exact, although as one person told me, some of her years were more foolish than wise. I know the feeling!
All day long I wanted to run my fingers through the bowl filled nearly to the top with multi-colored pebbles. I thought perhaps I could capture all that wisdom through osmosis. If I stirred up handfuls of those pebbles, would I become wiser myself, would wisdom seep through my fingertips and reach my heart and my mind? Would the coolness of the pebbles extinguish the flames of my ego which so often gets in the way of openness and calm? Would dipping into all this wisdom reinforce the wisdom that has come to me slowly and often painfully?
And where would this day of wisdom shared and received lead?
One person shared her discomfort about offering wisdom to those she viewed as being so much wiser than herself. We talked briefly about the root of her concern, and I urged her to sit quietly and have a conversation with her own wisdom. Invite her for a cup of coffee and get to know her. Ask her what she knows, what she has learned. What is her name?
It seems to me that at this stage of our life, we need to become comfortable with our own wisdom. This is the time to uncover the wisdom we have learned along the way. This is the time to live our wisdom, not just know it. To be our wisdom, not just expect respect for our years lived. Knowing our wisdom is a deep form of coming to know our essence, the person we were created to be. And knowing our own wisdom is a step, often a big and sometimes a surprising step, towards understanding our purpose during this stage of our lives. A step to living our wisdom.
Ok, here's a caveat. Listen to the tone of your wisdom. Is it whiney or bossy or wedded to the past, beginning sentences with "in my day," or "in the day." Listen to your wisdom and notice if it is acting from a "I have a right to be heard." stance. Are you open to the wisdom of others, including those younger than you, or do you pronounce your wisdom as if it is the end all, be all? Notice if the wisdom you offer, comes from your heart and is that heart truly beating with compassion and love? Is your wisdom willing to grow and deepen or is it stuck in "that's the way it is"?
In a recent sermon at our church Barbara Lundblad, the now retired, former professor of preaching at Union Theological Seminary said, "What is the word you have been called to say that only you can say?" That is your wisdom, and it is good to develop a deep and abiding relationship with that wisdom.
How are you living your wisdom? What are the opportunities you might have to model and share and be your wisdom at this stage of your life. I would love to know.
Barbara Lundblad http://day1.org/216-the_rev_dr_barbara_k_lundblad