By Theresa D-Litzenberger
In any challenging life experience, I seek relief through some kind of comfort. Often, the best comfort comes from the wisdom of another person or from an inner wisdom of my own gained from previous life experience.
What is wisdom and how is it different from advice? One of the Elders participating in this year’s Elder Speak says that wisdom is knowing when not to give advice. She had only just discovered the difference when visiting her granddaughter and observing her lifestyle. Jane ached to offer advice for how her granddaughter could live more easily. Wisdom told her to keep her advice to herself, and, more importantly, appreciate her granddaughter’s place in life in that moment.
When I began struggling with my sense of growing older, I turned to the book, The Gift of Years, by Joan Chittister. In her chapter on Wisdom, she describes the period of elder-hood as a service. “The service of elders is not a service of labor. It is a service of enlightenment, of wisdom, of discernment of spirits.”
Is this true? I asked myself. Deb Pobst and I went to our elders to ask for their experience of aging. We asked for their wisdom about it. First of all, to a person, they say, “I have no wisdom.” But then, as they share their experiences, the lessons learned are teased out, along with how these experiences and lessons informed their lives. The wisdom flows quickly and easily – a gift at the door; the golden nugget.
Finding Your Own Wisdom
Wisdom is a very human experience, since it is born from our experiences. Wisdom is that golden nugget that informs us in times of need. And if we haven’t had the experience, that nugget can be learned from another who has had the experiences and lessons. When the time comes that I am in the midst of a challenge, I can say, “Oh yes, one of my elders experienced this. Here was her wisdom from it.”
To learn these wisdom pieces, though, I need to be in conversation with my Elders. To receive, what Joan Chittister calls “the ancient truth,” I need to pause in my busy life, sit down and be in connection with my Elders. And listen.
How do I find my own wisdom? Again, I need to stop my busy life, sit down with myself and listen. As I sit with an experience or a question, I take deep, calming breaths and focus on my heart. While focused in this way, I hold gratitude for this moment; for this question; for this experience. In time, the wisdom floats into my awareness. I feel a full bodied and emotional connection to this wisdom. It is the golden nugget; the “ancient truth;” the final Aha.