"Wisdom is calm, not fearful. Wisdom is chosen, not forced. The wise choice leads to feelings of liberation."
~ Martha Beck
This morning as I was getting ready to dry my hair, I looked in the mirror and noticed - for the first time - the presence of three or four grey hairs. Although they were mixed in with my blonde hair and they weren't as obvious as you might expect, the fact that they were there was unmistakable.
I had always assumed that I would be freaked out at such a blatant sign of aging and mortality, but my reaction took me by pleasant surprise. Instead, I felt a sweet tenderness in my heart. It was as if I was greeting dear old friends. To me, these grey hairs are a friendly reminder of everything that I've experienced so far in my life. They represent wisdom that can only come by truly participating in this human existence.
I spent the weekend talking about gratitude with my classes, and wisdom seems like such a lovely tie-in to that.
Wisdom is ultimately a deep understanding. A genuine comprehension of what is true and right. I've never believed that wisdom was something that one got through hours of pouring over textbooks or from an Ivy League education. These are things that may get you a heaping helping of knowledge or 'book smarts', but not true wisdom. True wisdom comes from taking part in life. Getting out there and feeling your way through no matter what.
Sri Chinmoy sums wisdom up beautifully:
"What do we mean by the word 'wisdom'? Usually we mean something superior to knowledge, something deeper. In the spiritual world, the word 'wisdom' is not used in that way. Here wisdom means light, illumining light, transforming light. That which illumines our unlit consciousness is wisdom. That which transforms the finite consciousness into the infinite consciousness is called wisdom."
Each grey hair we find, each wrinkle or scar we wear, is a sure sign that we have lived and experienced the sweetness, bitterness, joys and sorrows of life. They offer evidence that we have grown and changed and have developed a deeper understanding about the world and feel more at peace with everything that arrives.
Finding myself firmly ensconced in my forties, I have grown to feel a great tenderness and deep appreciation for the wisdom I've acquired. The wisdom of standing solidly in the world and feeling at home in it is a wonderful gift. Practicing mindfulness, yoga and meditation helps me to live in and be grateful for the moments as they unfold (grey hair and all). My practice helps me to stand in the present moment and look forward with excitement at what is to come - even if that means more grey hair!
Close your eyes and think of the obstacles and challenges you've lived and how they have contributed to your deep understanding of what life is about.
Until next time...
When I have ceased to break my wings
Against the faultiness of things,
And learned that compromises wait
Behind each hardly opened gate,
When I have looked life in the eyes,
Grown calm and very coldly wise,
Life will have given me the Truth,
And taken in exchange--my youth.
Cherish things while you still have them, before they’re gone,
and you realize how precious they really are.
Life can only be understood backwards,
but it must be lived forwards.
Everything in life is temporary.
So if things are going good,
enjoy it because it won’t last forever.
And if things are going bad,
don’t worry because it won’t last forever either.
Destiny is not a matter of chance,
it is a matter of choice;
it is not a thing to be waited for,
it is a thing to be achieved.
A journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step.
Never cross a bridge
without knowing how to swim the tides.
If you could not add years to your life
Add life to your years.