My first reaction when life turns on a dime is to swing into action and do something, anything to fix the problem. Yesterday was one such day and I reacted as I always do, with rapid fire decision-making and jumping in to make things happen quickly. In the cold light of a foggy fall morning though, I realized that the adrenaline charged decisions I have made in my life were not always the best ones. And even if they were a good choice or perhaps the only choice, I wouldn’t know because I never took the time to weigh the options, to look forward to the consequences and make a calm, reasoned decision. That is my goal for today.
First I need to breathe, and find the inner calm I know exists when I turn off the fire alarm reaction and look directly at what I am facing. I suspect that the impulse to charge off in one direction or another is in part a way to avoid looking the dragon in the teeth. The next step then is to look at the dragon. What is the very worst that can happen? And if it is the very worst, what will I do to adjust to that reality? If I am to do something now, what does that look like?
I have received advice over the years when confronted with any choice to look at the short-term and then the long-term. How do the choices I make today to cope with what may very well be a short-term crisis affect my long-term goals? The cusp of this decision rests on the essential question of my priorities. In the end, how do I want this to look?
Instead of making lists of things to do, which was my plan of attack; I will instead look at the options and weigh them against the goals I have for myself and the shared goals of our family. Once I have a clear picture of our priorities for the coming months and years I can decide which option makes the most sense today and then down the road.
In many ways this crisis at a crossroad is a good thing and I suspect I would have been less likely to take the steps to really analyze the most critical choices if not confronted with the need to stare hard at the components. By taking the time to sit with my life picture I will take yet another step towards choosing my life path instead of it choosing me. Ah, I feel better already!
“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”
Wisdom is not something one can seek as much as something that descends upon us when taking the time to sit with life and let its lessons reveal themselves. For me it was slowing my reactions and responses to offenses real and imagined. Quick to imagine less than kind intent in the smallest slight, I internalized these and my responses became even more rapid. When I was finally able to step back, and let the events rest on their own, I began to see the people behind the supposed offense. To see more clearly required time for observation and reflection. Mindfulness took away the urgency; not just being in the moment, but paying close attention to my responses.
With my new-found intimacy with the present I discovered that Patience also yields Wisdom. They are inseparable and one continued to benefit the other. I suspect that wisdom is closely associated with age not so much due to accumulating experience, but the natural slowing of the pace of life that gives one time to put that experience in perspective. The added awareness that life is short, when it becomes rather obvious with age, results in a softening of the edges. The lack of benefits to taking offense push it to the “why bother ” ledger as I search for those things with the greatest payoff in the least time.
Have I gained wisdom and patience? I like to think I have grown in that regard as much as in any other. Losing the habit of taking offense and then feeling compelled to act, leaves more time for joy and acts of kindness.
“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” ~ Saint Augustine
I have tried to imagine the face of wisdom. The image I see is a person of enormous calm and reserve, taking in everything, yet slow to offer comment. Storing knowledge and experience for later use with caution and proper timing, the wise being of my imagination uses their experience to facilitate foresight and takes time to carefully consider consequences. Taking mindfulness out of time and space and placing oneself in the past, the present and the future to see most clearly.
This is a patient person, waiting watchfully for events to unfold; unhurried by the immediate demands with an eye to the overarching impact of an action. Words chosen with consideration and mindful of their impact, my imagined sage sees time as its companion and equal, not driving the moment but walking in unison. With measured thoughts and words, comes insight. Learning from each experience, the knowing among us carefully build understanding and exercise a judicious habit of action.
Developing a way about us that allows wisdom to evolve requires slowing in all things. Observing and listening, contemplating and considering, holding a thought until it can be examined with care before acting; all change the pace and the results. Practice editing by speaking little and absorbing more. Build up patience to give an idea chance to mature.
Wisdom comes not with age, but from a way of being. Stillness and silence gives wisdom a garden in which to grow, whether you are 18 or 81. Quiet your heart, quiet your mind and let the wisdom around you take root and flourish.