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Posts Tagged ‘wisdom’

Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding: 146                                      Days Blogged: 130 

New Mileage: 5                                                     Total Trip Mileage: 1015

Unfiltered Knowledge!

As I rode the bike today I reflected on the scenes along our route as we moved north on a road bordered to the east by a thin ribbon of sand and the vast Atlantic Ocean.  One of the ways I scout for pilgrimage sites is to follow a detailed road map (on the internet) that includes photos of the scenery along the route. These scenes will at time point me in the direction of unexpected sites for us to visit or may simply inspire my creativity.  Today I decided to focus on sunrise scenes!

I am aware that sunrises are often seen as symbolic of renewal, rebirth, and spring.  I have always found myself attracted to sunrises and prefer an early morning walk as a great way to get my day started.  My youngest son recently noted that he enjoys sunrises more than sunsets, because a sunrise means “you got the whole day ahead of you!”

Highlighting the colors!

As I collected some of the photos of sunrises I noticed that the most striking and beautiful sunrises had less to do with the sun itself and more to do with the clouds that interacted with and affected the sunlight.  I began to realize that there is a great deal more symbolism and meaning in sunrises because of the clouds that often accompany them.

If sunlight is seen as being representative of knowledge, guidance and/or wisdom, then clouds must serve a function of shaping, blocking, filtering and focusing this “light” before it is received by the viewer/recipients.  While we may marvel at that spot of intense light as the sun first breaks the plane of the horizon, we cannot for long study its growing presence without turning away.  It is too bright and intense in its raw form, in a very real way we are unable to “handle it” in it pure form.  However, a covering or haze of clouds can afford us the opportunity to see the light’s source in it’s perfect round form and to realize that its size is not as large as its unfiltered corolla might leads us to believe.  Some would say this is representative of the intense “glory” of the divine, that we must turn our gaze away.  The clouds imperfect covering allows us to study and receives insights from the lights source that would be absent with an empty bare sky.

Studying the sunrise scenes lead me to realize that clouds not only filter and diminish the sun’s intensity but also shape and focus the light, whether that is through the creation of a halo, a bright highlighted edge on a cloud or a beam of sunlight.  We may become acutely aware of the multiple colors or qualities of the light because of the cloud’s effects.  While the wisdom and knowledge represented by the sunlight maybe intense and illuminating in its pure form, I believe it is the interaction with the clouds, with the contrasts and textures created by this dance between the shifting and impermanent cloud forms that gives the sunrise its awe inspiring “take your breath away” quality.

Blue Hues!

As a pluralist I often tell my sons and students that there is no “one way” to get from point A to point B, that different people may need very different paths.   Whether that end point is an understanding of the divine (as with a spiritual pilgrim), finding a career/job that fits for you, or finding the answer/cure to what ails you (as in the course of psychotherapy).  I look at these sunrises as representing in a graphic way this message.  Some people like their insights and wisdom pure and straight forward, some need it filtered and muted, others need to be awed and dazzled with dancing colors.  Throw in a sunrise over the sea and you get the added reflection and texture of the ocean’s surface.

What are these clouds that shape and change the light, the wisdom coming at us from its divine source?  They are made up of water, a part of the earth, and air. We as human being are made up in large parts of water.  Therefore, much of this blocking and filtering is perhaps part of our nature or a product of the process of being human.  I suspect these clouds are representative of a number of things: teachings and instructions from parents and church leaders; personal experiences (like mystical experiences); biases we embrace out of safety and/or ignorance; exercises and rituals (like prayer, meditation, reason and logic); negative and/or positive mood states; our egos and basic needs. 

Rays of Illumination!

Perhaps that is a topic for another blog!  I for one can just as easily get lost watching a cloud and its flowing, shifting dance across the sky as I can in a sunrise.

I hope you enjoyed today’s words and sunrise scenes!

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Pilgrimage Statistics 

Consecutive Days Riding:  84                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 85 

 Today’s Mileage: 8                                             Total Trip Mileage: 695

 As I ride the bike this morning I think about how quickly the celebrations of the New Year have come to an end.  How quickly we find ourselves back on the path, back to the grind and the demands of life. We strike off again with a hand full of new resolutions, refreshed motivation and knowledge that spring will soon follow the cold biting winds of winter.

Life is a Dance!

Yesterday I shared with you a number of quotes and images to ponder as you faced the New Year. One of my regular blog followers made that comment: “Funny how some authors lend themselves to quotes, and others, also favorites, will hardly have a quotable sentence in a whole book.” Almost two weeks ago I produced a blog entitled: Inspirational Sayings: Gifts With Out Instructions.  I noted that inspirational messages, while important, may be meaningless if the person receiving them is without the skill, abilities or resources to meet the goal they are working towards.  My viewer’s comment got me to wondering about Wisdom.  Is it always useful and meaningful? How is it that some people can present it in a sentence or two, while others need a whole lecture, book or lifetime to express it?

I googled the phase “Words of Wisdom” and found over 18 million references. The search broke them down into general categories which included: Funny Words of Wisdom, Inspirational Quotes, Words of Encouragement, Short Words of Wisdom, and Words of Wisdom and More Good Advice.

How do I make sense of the sources and forms of Wisdom?   To begin, I must speak in a general way to what I see as the primary motivation of our journey through life. I believe that life is a process. Like a dance, it is a balance between two partners.  One partner is represented by our desire to find meaning in life, to understand it, and to make it at best, predictable.  This partner tends to explore the past for patterns and the future for possibilities.  The second partner is represented by our desire to experience life. This partner lives in the moment of the sensations of the dance, the rhythm and beat of the music, the spinning and twirling and the movement of the dance.  One partner reviews the past and points to the future as the other spins and twirls in the moment.  Together they can achieve a balance that advances both causes and fills both desires.

Something is not in balance!

I believe that finding this balance is a major goal for most individuals and that it is the healthiest goal we can undertake!  Some people fall short of this goal, as they fail to see life as a dance. They may deny one partner to the advantage of the other.  They act as if life is a solitary dance and as a result turn all of life into an intellectual puzzle, or a hedonistic free for all.  Others recognize the dance and the presence of the two partners, but then give dominance to one, allowing them to be the sole leader and director of the dance.

I have observed that if one has not found this balanced dance, that person often feels as if something is “missing.” They feel as if they are missing a partner or are unable to “get onto the same page of music.”  The dance becomes a struggle. When you achieve the balance, comfort and joy are found and the dance becomes effortless!

Back to the question of Wisdom!  I believe that wisdom comes about when we recognize patterns in the dance and can make predictions about choices and paths we might follow.  This experience can be put into words and represents the Wisdom of Meaning.  Wisdom can also arise in the experiential realm of the dance.  This is “known” but not spoken and shows up in the ease of the master athlete when a racket or bat becomes but an extension of their arm.  The person with this wisdom imagines a movement or a dance step and it just happens.  To some it may look like magic or the product of the supernatural, while others will recognize it as the Wisdom of Experience (knowledge of the dance movement).

 I believe that each type of Wisdom has two forms! Personal Wisdom is unique to our story and circumstances but may have little application to others.  There is only one eldest son of Lee and Rose Ann, born in Iowa, raised in the Dakotas, veteran of the US Navy, artist, poet, therapist, college professor and now a stationary pilgrim! My personal wisdom has created many an interesting story, as my students regularly attest, but only bits and pieces of it reverberate with my listeners. The other form is Universal Wisdom. It is achieved when the dancer sees common patterns in their dance and the dance of others.  This wisdom is realized in the shared aspects of the dance.

Balanced Dance!

For all my uniqueness, I share many experiences with others; of being an eldest child, a veteran, a therapist, a teacher, a parent, an artist.  I believe that what makes me a good teacher and therapist is my ability to weave and highlight this more universal wisdom into the details of my stories.  Sometimes I try to distill it out into a quote or a sentence or two (i.e. Be certain, but humble!).  At other times I highlight it like a bright thread running throughout the story.  I hope the listener might recognize similar threads in their own histories and follow them to find the universal wisdom in their lives. I believe it is this universal wisdom that makes up the bulk of the “inspirational and motivational quotes and advice” people view as gems of wisdom.  Personal wisdom on the other hand might be intriguing and interesting, but does not reverberate with many other people.

Back to the question of why some authors and teachers are so quotable and others are not? Some individuals hold primarily personal wisdom even though they may harbor a great deal of knowledge about topics of interest (e.g. hold a PhD in an area).  But look as hard as you can and you will not find the universal gems. Other individuals have achieved not only a level of universal wisdom, but the ability to distill it down into a handful of words or a poignant and relevant example. These gems are often embraced by others as a gift and/or a significant discovery.  This is in part because it seems that the giver has done all of the work of mining them from a life lived, a life dance embraced!  I caution you to recognize these as gifts but not answers.  They are insights into patterns, universal yes, but patterns that you must work to uncover in your own dance.   The universal wisdom is only valuable if we make it personal in our own life.  It must be transformed into personal wisdom, and used to bring balance to our dance. Otherwise it is just a showy piece of costume jewelry and not a special treasure.

Dance like no one is watching!

A quick note on today’s blog title; I have been planning a drop in gathering for my eldest son as he leaves for the Army in three days.  He informed his mother today that he will not make it to the event.  I have a suspicion that he is looking for an excuse to not let family and friends say their goodbyes.  This saddens me but is not surprising.  He has made a practice out of making his choices, while ignoring the needs and desires of others.  That is his choice!  All I can do is try to glean some wisdom from the whole experience, which is why I also remind myself: “The best laid plans are just that… plans!”

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding:  57                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 58

Today’s Mileage:   10                                          Total Trip Mileage: 512

Today we are heading up Fort Myers beach and will soon turn inland toward our next pilgrimage site. Tomorrow is a special religious day for the Buddhists and a celebration of an important Christian doctrine, the Immaculate Conception.  The following day will represent our two month anniversary on the Pilgrimage journey!

Fallen Giant with exposed roots

As I ride, a specific image hovers in my mind.  Yesterday we strolled along the beach at Lovers Key celebrating the shoreline and the beauty of nature.  One photo displayed a line of dead trees. I called it “Shoreline Sentinels.”  What I did not post was a photo of a tree that had been uprooted.  This scene got me thinking about trees and their spiritual significance. 

Symbolic for many faiths.

Trees have been used as symbols for individuals, communities, and churches.  The roots are the anchor, embedded deep in whatever substrate (dogma) the church holds as truth (sacred scripture and/or sacred experiences). Trees without strong roots might not thrive being prone to fall over in times of  stress in life.  The trunk of the tree must be strong and sturdy, like the structure of a church (leadership, buildings,mission).  A thin or rotten trunk may give way and split in the face of life’s storms. The branches and leaves provide protection from the heat and rain. They capture the light of the divine, transforming it into life giving sustenance (fruit). A sick or diseased tree will not provide fruit or shade and may become little more than a skeleton.  It is easy to see why some of the early earth based wisdom traditions actually worshiped trees. Trees provided shade, shelter and sustenance and were recognized as central to their lives.  Many faiths see in the tree a symbol for the wisdom needed to survive in challenging times.

Shaped by stone and flexability.

 Once a mighty tree falls over, whether at the hands of nature or of man, we are afforded a rare opportunity to see signs of a monumental struggle which all too often goes unnoticed! I became aware of this struggle years ago as I would hike around the “clear cut” areas of southern rural forest land.  In forming their lumbering roads the large metal monster machines would push aside trees stumps exposing the hidden root structures.  I learned to come back a year or two later, after the rains had done their job and the delicate roots lay exposed, the thin root bark peeling away. 

Bonsai Roots!

Swirl and flow.

When the soil was rocky the roots took on the quality of water!  Like a stream or river, rocks did not stop the roots but instead diverted the root’s “flow.”  Roots would become stunted and twisted, sometimes forming a bulb or a disk.  If you pulled away the loose bark you might find swirls and eddies etched into the wood, like fossilized patterns of flowing water. We tend to take it for granted that the tree’s struggle is with the elements above the ground, the wind, fire, lack of rain, insects like the pine beetle and crowding of neighbors. From the moment the seed sends out its first root, the struggle between life and the inanimate world begins and continues till the inanimate world wins!

Old man with tablet!

Several years ago in a shop featuring items from China, I came upon a piece of artwork.  Into a tree root had been carved the figure of an old Chinese man.  It was one of several different root carvings in the store.  However, this one was special, for embedded deep within the wood protruded a square rock, like a book or tablet.  The natural curve of the wood, like the old man’s arm, cradled this inanimate object like it was a sacred text.  I purchased it on the spot!

Recently when I visited the store they remembered me as the guy “who bought the carving with the stone.” It’s a powerful image and symbol!

It makes a statement about the constant, even if unseen struggles of life.  It speaks to the need for persistence and flexibility in meeting life’s challenges.  Obstacles can strength us, impediments can be incorporated into our structure, even in death we can be a source of wisdom about the process of life. This is the “wisdom of the wood.”

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