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Wisdom – A Beginners Mind

Message - Sunday, May 17, 2020

Wisdom – A Beginners Mind

by Melode Mariner


The Five Invitations by Frank Ostaseski

On The Brink of Everything by Parker Palmer

Winter’s Graces by Susan Avery Stewart, PhD

Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher


We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves

after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.

- Marcel Proust, French novelist, essayist

“To understand wisdom fully and correctly

probably requires more wisdom than any of us have…

and it is almost certainly not something we can ever achieve…

The recognition that total understanding will always elude us

is itself a sign of wisdom”

-Robert Sternberg -

Wisdom – It’s nature, Origins, and Development

When there’s a little awareness, we want more.

- Ellen Ireland, Koinonia Spiritual Director


There is so much to absorb in to our being regarding wisdom, isn’t there? I can claim to have some wisdom, but I can’t count on it – I’m a beginner. This morning, I’m going to be wise enough to share the resources and inspiration I received from our Koinonia 9:00 a.m. study group on aging and eldering. I’ll be using a lot of quotes along with a little bit of personal reflection.

My life career in human development has helped me with a moderate amount of insight and some maturing. I laugh when I think about my first bit of acquired wisdom. It comes in a rather harsh tone - “When in doubt, shut your mouth”. Jimi Hendrix, master guitarist offers a softer version –

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”

My understanding of higher awareness or consciousness is limited. I want to go deeper. But deeper into….what? Take the word ‘being’ and the suggestion of ‘just be’ or even ‘be still and know that I am God’. Frank Ostaseski helps with his description:

“That which is deeper and more expansive than our personalities.

‘Being’ is the potential inside us that helps us to mature,

become more functional and productive.

It is working with our inner guidance system –

all that gives us a greater sense of well-being.”

Being: “Working with our inner guidance system. I’m thinking of three tasks before me to stretch my beginners mind.

#1) Number 1 - Listen to my gut - How many times have I said, “I knew better” or, “Somehow I knew that would happen”. My impatience outruns the inner voice I know is there. My inner guidance system can make me feel uncomfortable or is just plain inconvenient in the moment. Sometimes just an emotion comes through.

"We need to slow people down to the speed of wisdom.

The slower you travel, the more you see.

When you give up speed, you open up time."

- Mary Pipher

#2) Number 2 – Hold life lightly, be aware of the impermanence of everything. Frank Ostaseski suggests aligning ourselves with how the world actually works. “Instead of patience, substitute ‘constancy’ – the ability to be with what is true moment after moment.” David Whyte gives an extra challenge suggesting elderhood as a good time to “Apprentice yourself to the curve of your own disappearance.” (GULP)

For me, the first step of accepting impermanence is letting go of the roles I have played, to see what is under all the expectations and hard work of mother, sister, daughter, wife, career woman. Slowly softening early identity has made this process easier.

"One mark of wisdom is the ability to distinguish

between who we are educated to be and who we truly are."

- Mary Pipher

There is something waiting to fill the space of past identity and the need for speed.

#3) Number 3 - Give up “the right way” – Substitute curiosity and discernment. Parker Palmer counsels: “Thinking paradoxically is key to creativity, … the ability to hold divergent ideas in a way that opens the mind and heart to something new. Living paradoxically is key to personal wholeness, which depends on the ability to embrace one’s self-contradictions.”

“Embrace my self-contradictions” means accepting the shadow side of life, including my own dark side. Youthful qualities that I thought were positive turn out to be self-serving – such as fixing and helping, accidentally speaking for others. While learning acceptance of inconsistencies in myself and others I still wince when I have thoughts like “I hope those who run the country without wearing masks might catch a bad case of the covid virus. I immediately back-pedal. There are these shadow moments that make me fear Karma.

Deepening includes letting go of stories of personal injustice and suffering. Elizabeth Kubler Ross has said, “We can be very loyal to our suffering.” Buddhism offers the insight that the suffering in the world can be seen as an imperfection, natural, integral to all life, and nothing special. It is not personal. I have to repeat that last little bit because it is so very hard to accept: IT IS NOT PERSONAL.

The primal howl of … suffering holds within it

the lesson that we all must learn at some time in our lives:

To heal from our suffering—not merely to ease it,

but to transform it into the source and substance of our growth and wisdom

that requires a journey through it.

We must listen attentively for whatever message it has for us….”

- Father Richard Rohr

Deep listening: Suffering is not personal and there are messages to hear.

Life is contradiction, full of paradox. Susan Avery Stewart even describes the seeming contradictions of wisdom. She says:

The grace of wisdom is a paradoxical mix of

active engagement and detached reflection;

clear seeing and healthy uncertainty;

effective action and holy inaction.

A deeper compassion slowly drips in to my conscious. Mother Teresa urges us to remember “not to forget we belong to each other”. This leads me to ponder the statement from The Five Invitations.


I think I need to repeat that for myself:


My brain is overloaded and that probably means it’s time to end this message. One thing I’m sure of, there is a hidden wholeness in all life’s brokenness. I want to be more fully aware, awake, and hold life lightly. Herman Hesse, beloved author of Siddhartha can give us a final thought.

Wisdom is nothing but a preparation of the soul,

a capacity, a secret art of thinking, feeling

and breathing thoughts of unity at every moment of life.

- Hermann Hesse, author

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