Developing Personal Wisdom By: Copthorne Macdonald

We know what it takes to become knowledgeable, but what does it take to become wise? Is the process totally beyond our control, or are there things we can do to speed it up? In this article Copthorne Macdonald, author of three books on wisdom and webmaster of THE WISDOM PAGE, says that if we want to become wiser people we can develop the characteristics of wisdom — the relevant perspectives, and values, and intellectual knowledge — and incorporate them into our lives.

In the late 1990s there were meetings in Burkina Faso of a “Council of the Wise.” This was a group of people from different countries and backgrounds who wanted to foster the development of wisdom in African culture. A useful outcome of these meetings, and a good starting point for this topic, was the identification of four levels of wisdom development:

• POTENTIAL SAGES includes almost everyone. These are busy people who have the potential to become wise, but have never felt the call to intentionally develop wisdom.

• SAGES IN INTENTION have come to understand what wisdom is, realize that they have the potential to become wise, and have decided, as the Council put it, to “follow the path of their potential.”

• DEVELOPING SAGES are actively involved in wisdom-developing activities.

• ESTABLISHED SAGES are those who are recognized by others as wise people.

As I have come to understand it, we become wiser people in two ways: by exposing ourselves to wisdom-fostering influences, and by energetically dedicating ourselves to helpful practices. That is, we intentionally practice, with effort, the behaviors and attitudes that we someday hope to become effortless expressions of our deepest, truest selves. If we want to become wiser people, we can become “Sages in Intention,” then “Budding Sages,” and develop the characteristics of wisdom — the relevant perspectives, and values, and intellectual knowledge — and incorporate them into our lives. Let’s consider some tools that can help us do that:

1. A CLEAR Spiritual Growth UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT WISDOM IS. There are many views on the subject. Read about them. Get a sense of the wisdom characteristics you would like to develop, and start working on it.

2. COUNSELING AND VARIOUS KINDS OF PSYCHOTHERAPY. Becoming a wiser person is an exercise in inner development, and there are activities that can help us along the way. Counseling and various forms of psychotherapy can, if needed, help us reach the starting point for advanced work which we might call responsible adulthood or mature ego. A person at this stage is free of psychoses and crippling neuroses and has developed emotional control and empathy to an ordinary degree. There are many forms of therapy, including life management counseling, therapies to help us get over fears, therapies to help us manage anger, therapies to help us get over compulsions and addictions, and others.

3. INTELLECTUAL KNOWLEDGE RELEVANT TO THE KND OF WISDOM WE ARE TRYING TO DEVELOP. Reading about inner development can be very helpful for anyone who wants to become wiser. To go beyond normal healthy adulthood — “that starting point for advanced work” — many people turn to writings that discuss the further reaches of human development. Such writings, in turn, lead us to do-it-yourself practices: mind-quieting practices, self-knowledge practices, ego-transcending practices, and oneness-realization practices. Reading about these things is not a substitute for the practices themselves, but reading can help us understand them and perhaps motivate us to try them.

Novels and biographies are valuable resources for the development of practical wisdom because they present us with countless examples of wise and unwise behavior, skillful and unskillful handling of life situations. Biographies of wise people can be especially helpful. How does their behavior differ from ordinary? What values guide their lives? What perspectives and interpretations of life situations do they make use of?

For those who would like to develop existential, metaphysical, spiritual wisdom, the world’s spiritual literature is a vital intellectual resource. There is also an extensive literature on specific go-see-for-yourself spiritual practices that take the practitioner to deeper levels of understanding than reading can. Also helpful in developing the “Big Picture”” view are books that deal with the nature of mental and physical reality, the cosmos, and evolution.

If we want to be effective change agents, then we need to select resources relevant to the kinds of change we are trying to bring about. Among the possibilities are the “new disciplines,” including the sciences of complexity, cosmos-wide evolution, and the human brain/mind system. Important for many would be learning more about human cultures, economic systems, and the biosphere. Of general importance is an understanding of ethics and techniques for changing ethical perspectives; probability as a decision-making tool; the techniques of conflict resolution and effective persuasion; and information on current transformational activities.

4. FULL AND VARIED LIFE EXPERIENCE. If we are open to learning, life itself teaches us. Having many and varied life experiences obviously teaches us more. We not only need to structure our life so that we have many kinds of experience, but we also need an open, curious, inquisitive, appreciative mental stance so that we get the most out of whatever experiences we have. Travel; getting to know people with different skills, outlooks, and values; engaging in different kinds of work; taking up a variety of hobbies — all these things enrich our life and potentially take us further down the path toward wisdom.

5. FEEDBACK AND COUNSEL FROM WISE PEOPLE. Hanging out with people who are already living the values we’d like to make our own can be most helpful. Where do we find such people? Groups like Unitarians, Quakers, and Buddhists that focus on personal growth and doing good in the world are a best bet. Local and online discussion and activist groups are another possibility. Some of these focus on psychological or spiritual growth. Others focus on various social issues. We can experiment, and when we find groups that feel right, get involved.

6. THE OBSERVATION OF BEHAVIOR — OUR OWN AND OTHERS. People all around us are struggling to up level their lives — some skillfully and successfully, others very unskillfully and unsuccessfully. The world’s literature and films present us with countless additional life stories. What can we learn from them? Can we pick out the strategies and behaviors that work and those that don’t? Can we start to sense some general “laws of life” behind the specifics? And can we learn to pay attention to our own behavior, and become aware of the underlying values?

7. PRACTICES THAT HELP US INTERNALIZE VALUES. Becoming clear about the values we would like at the center of our lives — the values we want to make truly our own in a deep and powerful way — is the first step. The challenge then is to move these values from our head to our heart and our guts. In psychological terms, we must internalize them so they are not merely nice thoughts, but actually guide our behavior.

Doing this takes effort, and during one of his trips to North America the Dalai Lama gave an example of what we need to do. He spoke to an audience about the need for everyone to internalize that key value of wisdom, compassion. His advice to those who wanted to develop compassion was to put themselves in challenging situations and then, despite the natural reluctance to do so, behave compassionately. By making the effort to engage in value-based action — again, and again, and again — we eventually internalize the value. Expressing the value in action gradually takes less and less effort until it becomes part of our outlook, part of our natural way of being, part of who we are.

8. BODY–AWARENESS PRACTICES. In our culture we fill our waking hours with discursive thinking. We think about the past. We think about the future. We plan. We solve problems. Wisdom, however, demands that we spend a lot of time paying attention to what is happening in our immediate situation. Body awareness practices such has Hatha Yoga, Tai Chi, Vipassana meditation, and many sports can help us break the mind-tripping habit.

9. MEDITATION. The last tool I’ll mention — though definitely not the least — is meditation. In fact, meditation is generally considered to be the most powerful single tool for developing wisdom. Psychologist Jane Loevinger’s research produced a 9-stage scale of psychological development. The terms she uses for the two highest stages are “autonomous” and “integrated.” It turns out that less than 2 percent of the general adult population have managed to reach these top two categories. However, for people who have had a meditation practice going for several years, that number is 38 percent.

Meditation retreats of 7 to 10 days duration are especially helpful. In the beginning, the mind is its usual noisy thought-filled self. Pure quiet awareness is there as the substrate of the mind, but it is modulated by a lot of high-intensity information — thoughts, sensations, emotions, etc. — much mind content. But as the days go by, mind content — especially thinking — gradually drops in amount and intensity.

Why? Because we can’t think discursively and pay close attention at the same time. In a sense, the noisy mind is a habit. A quiet mind is a different kind of habit. It turns out that if we spend several days paying attention to subtle bodily sensations — like those arising in the nostrils when we breath, and those arising in feet and legs when we walk, the mind gradually shifts from habitual noisiness to habitual quietude. It usually take 3 to 4 days of diligent morning-to-night effort in a supportive environment to make the switch. But once you’ve entered the quiet-mind mode, interesting things start to happen.

For one thing, you have become more sensitive to your surroundings. With the mind quiet, many people find themselves looking at the natural world around them with a new sense of wonder. And insights may arise about our relationship to nature and cosmos.

“Know thyself,” said the Greeks. And when the mind is quiet, that begins to happen in a serious way. Normally, we identify strongly with the busy, buzzy mind content that constitutes the melodrama of our life. We see this unfolding informational story as ME. When the mind is quiet, however, we have a certain detachment. We are no longer overwhelmed by massive amounts of mind content, and are not so identified with what remains. We begin to see how our mind works, and may eventually get a glimpse of who “I” really am.

A quiet mind also opens the door to the subconscious. Mental quiet thins the barrier that exists between conscious and subconscious mental processes. Messages from our subconscious are better able to bubble up into consciousness. We may start to see things about ourselves that we were never conscious of before, things that we’ve been pushing out of awareness.

Improved creativity is another benefit of quieting the mind. Under quiet mind conditions, the intuitive process’s creative Muse is able to communicate effectively with the intellect and the global workspace of the mind. The number of Aha! and Eureka! experiences goes up. This is not too surprising when we think of the number of writers and artists who find solitude essential for significant work.

Another plus: when the mind is quiet, insightful shifts of perspective can occur. We suddenly apply a new interpretive framework to the same old facts and see things in a dramatically different way.

I discuss still more benefits of meditation in my books Toward Wisdom and Matters of Consequence. And I’ve put some of this information on line. Check The Wisdom Page for that, and for information on meditation retreats.

Copthorne Macdonald is a writer, independent scholar and long time meditator. His interests include the nature of reality (including consciousness and mind) and the development of wisdom. He has written extensively in these areas, and his published writing to date includes 8 books (3 on the subject of wisdom) and over 130 shorter pieces. Since 1995 he has tended The Wisdom Page — a website devoted to wisdom resources.

Twelve Qualities of Spirit – Wisdom By: Peri Enkin

Knowledge is a wonderful thing, and I am all for sharing information that is meaningful and useful. But the development of wisdom gives us inner sustenance and fortitude – something that helps us ride through obstacles without getting stuck.

“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.”

Sandra Carey

Tapping into the spiritual quality of wisdom requires different skills than the ones that give us access to knowledge.

Knowledge is a wonderful thing, and I am all for sharing information that is meaningful and useful. But the development of wisdom gives us inner sustenance and fortitude – something that helps us ride through obstacles without getting stuck.

Scientists now confirm that we are living within an “intelligent quantum soup.” When we tap into that soup we move beyond the facts we have acquired along our individual time lines. We actually shift our perspective from a solo linear viewpoint to an expanded more connected vision where a wide range of insights and intuitions pour into consciousness.

The practice of accessing, trusting and acting on intuition puts us directly into the flow of wisdom.

Most of us do not take the time to develop our intuitions or to rely upon them but I highly recommend it. Nothing gives us a greater sense of personal confidence and empowerment than knowing we have access to our own inner oracle – one that has our very best interests in mind.

There are Three Steps to Practical Intuition that I use regularly in my own life. Each one is like a muscle that can be exercised and strengthened with use and over time.

1. Turn Inside and Ask for Guidance

There are many practices that help you to strengthen this first step. Meditation, Yoga and Journal Writing are some of my
Spiritual growth love
favorites. What are yours? And are you doing them regularly? Anything that quiets the chatter in the mind and allows you to turn your attention to your inner world helps.

2. Open Up and Receive the Answers that Are Offered

Answers come in different ways for different people. When you open up and listen you begin to discover your own inner language. For some the physical body sends signals that are encoded messages from the deeper wiser self. “Chicken Skin” or “God Bumps” happen to some. When I am working with clients my eyes tear up when we hit an important piece of work for them. I know it instantly. For others there is a warm sensation in the heart area. And for others they hear actual phrases or words as if gentle whispers of fragments from dreams are felt and understood. How do you receive your answers from inside?

3. Act Upon What You Know

Acting upon intuitions takes courage at first. The very nature of intuition is deeper, wider and wiser than the answers that come to us through deductive reasoning. We often can not back up our intuitions – We Just Know. It takes trust in your self, and in the invisible side of life.

Over time and with practice asking, hearing and acting upon intuitions adds wisdom to your life.

” It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Antoine de St. Exupery

Wisdom is delivered to us through our intuitions. It speaks to us through our hopes and longings. It requires us to relax our minds and soften our hearts.

Through the doorway of our own hearts longing we unlock and connect with the essence of who we truly are. These are not just pretty words describing untouchable ideas. These are actual states of consciousness – that when tapped into, even for brief moments – give us the ride of our lives.

There is nothing more precious and wonderful than knowing the wisdom that resides within your own core.

The Connection Option: Wisdom

The energy of the universe is wise and loving. Universal intelligence is alive within every molecule, atom and manifestation seen and unseen.

As a Victim:I forget who I really am and I act as if I am limited and inadequate.

As a Creator:Since I know there is no separation between my energy and the energy of life I know that the innate wisdom of life is my wisdom too. I know that I am one with the innate intelligence of the universe. The wisdom of life flows continuously into and through me.

Action for Wisdom: I trust life!

Spiritual Growth: the Spiritual Challenge of Modern Times By: James Yee

To grow spiritually in a world defined by power, money, and influence is a Herculean task. Modern conveniences such as electronic equipments, gadgets, and tools as well as entertainment through television, magazines, and the web have predisposed us to confine our attention mostly to physical needs and wants.

As a result, our concepts of self-worth and self-meaning are muddled. How can we strike a balance between the material and spiritual aspects of our lives?

To grow spiritually is to look inward.

Introspection goes beyond recalling the things that happened in a day, week, or month. You need to look closely and reflect on your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and motivations.

Periodically examining your experiences, the decisions you make, the relationships you have, and the things you engage in provide useful insights on your life goals, on the good traits you must sustain and the bad traits you have to discard. Moreover, it gives you clues on how to act, react, and conduct yourself in the midst of any situation.

Like any skill, introspection can be learned; all it takes is the courage and willingness to seek the truths that lie within you. Here are some pointers when you introspect: be objective, be forgiving of yourself, and focus on your areas for improvement.

To grow spiritually is to develop your potentials.

Religion and science have differing views on matters of the human spirit. Religion views people as spiritual beings temporarily living on Earth, while science views the spirit as just one dimension of an individual.

Mastery of the self is a recurring theme in both Christian (Western) and Islamic (Eastern) teachings. The needs of the body are recognized but placed under the needs of the spirit. Beliefs, values, morality, rules, experiences, and good works provide the blueprint to ensure the growth of the spiritual being.

In Psychology, realizing one’s full potential is to self-actualize. Maslow identified several human needs: physiological, security, belongingness, esteem, cognitive, aesthetic, self-actualization, and self-transcendence. James earlier categorized these needs into three: material, emotional, and spiritual. When you have satisfied the basic physiological and emotional needs, spiritual or existential needs come next.

Achieving each need leads to the total development of the individual. Perhaps the difference between these two religions and psychology is the end of self-development: Christianity and Islam see that self-development is a means toward serving God, while psychology view that self-development is an end by itself.

To grow spiritually is to search for meaning.

Religions that believe in the existence of God such as Christianism, Judaism, and Islam suppose that the purpose of the human life is to serve the Creator of all things.

Several theories in psychology propose that we ultimately give meaning to our lives. Whether we believe that life’s meaning is pre-determined or self-directed, to grow in spirit is to realize that we do not merely exist.

We do not know the meaning of our lives at birth; but we gain knowledge and wisdom from our interactions with people and from our actions and reactions to the situations we are in. As we discover this meaning, there are certain beliefs and values that we reject and affirm.

Our lives have purpose. This purpose puts all our physical, emotional, and intellectual potentials into use; sustains us during trying times; and gives us something to look forward to-a goal to achieve, a destination to reach. A person without purpose or meaning is like a drifting ship at sea.

To grow spiritually is to recognize interconnections.

Religions stress the concept of our relatedness to all creation, live and inanimate. Thus we call other people ‘brothers and sisters’ even if there are no direct blood relations.

Moreover, deity-centered religions such as Christianity and Islam speak of the relationship between humans and a higher being. On the other hand, science expounds on our link to other living things through the evolution theory.

This relatedness is clearly seen in the concept of ecology, the interaction between living and non-living things. In psychology, connectedness is a characteristic of self-transcendence, the highest human need according to Maslow.

Recognizing your connection to all things makes you more humble and respectful of people, animals, plants, and things in nature. It makes you appreciate everything around you. It moves you to go beyond your comfort zone and reach out to other people, and become stewards of all other things around you.

Growth is a process thus to grow in spirit is a day-to-day encounter. We win some, we lose some, but the important thing is that we learn, and from this knowledge, further spiritual growth is made possible.

The Individual’s Connection with the Universe of Memories in the Unmanifest – Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

The Indiividual’s Connection with the Universe of Memories in the Unmanifest.

Maharishi explains how to contact to the Transcendental Field or Unmanifest through pure lifestyle and practice of Transcendental Meditation.

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