One day last week I was in the presence of 2,623 years of wisdom, thanks to a retreat, "Growing Older with Grace, Spiritual Practices for the Second Half of Life," which I helped organize and facilitate. Wisdom overflowed the entire day, beginning with our opening exercise.
Each participant was given a white gauze bag filled with glass pebbles--one for each year of his or her life. Some bags were heavier than others, since our oldest participant was in her mid80's and the youngest in her 40's. On a table in front of our retreat room I had placed a large empty glass bowl, and I asked each person to one by one empty their bag of shiny pebbles into the bowl and to share a piece of wisdom they had acquired during their lifetime.
My pebbles were the first in the bowl, making an almost metallic sound as my 67 pebbles spilled into the glass bowl. I turned to the group and said, "One piece of wisdom I keep relearning is the awareness that when I give myself time to move into silence, to become still, I seem to have more time and am more open."
Little by little, person by person, the pile of pebbles grew into multicolored layers and the sound, as the mound grew, became richer and deeper, not unlike the kind of wisdom that comes with the added years. The room was hushed as we yearned to receive each offering of wisdom. Wisdom about learning to live alone following the death of a spouse. Wisdom about patience and about appreciating the small and ordinary pleasures of life. Wisdom about trust and forgiveness and letting go of regret.
Before this opening exercise I had led the group in a meditation, in order for each of us to become centered and present to our time together. I said, "You are in a safe place. You are in a place where your wisdom is welcome. You are in a time of spiritual deepening. Today is for you. Breathe in and out, receiving and surrendering. And when you are ready, open your eyes, gaze in silence around the room and feel yourself in this sacred moment."
The entire day was a succession of sacred moments, for when wisdom is shared, when wisdom is received, the moment is sacred. The glass bowl of 2, 623 pebbles was a visual reminder of all we have learned on our spiritual journeys and how much we can benefit from the wisdom of others. I wish I had thought to add more pebbles to the bowl throughout the day as we shared insights and reflections and as we opened to the movement of God in our lives. If I had done that, the bowl would have been overflowing by the end of our time together.
At the end of the day I invited each person to come to the front of the room again and share with the group a gratitude, a hope, a learning they had acquired during our time together and then to take pebbles from the bowl as a reminder and symbol of our day of wisdom.
The bowl remained full even though pebbles had been removed. I think wisdom is like that--wisdom shared, wisdom received creates more wisdom, grows more wisdom.
I invite you to share a piece of wisdom that guides your daily life and leads you to greater awareness of the movement of Spirit in your life. What pebbles of wisdom do you have to offer? I would love to know.