What do you want to be when you grow up? At age 15, as a messy mix of idealistic earnestness and reckless curiosity, one thing to me was clear — when I grew up, what I wanted to be was wise. I was humble enough to know that I wasn’t there yet but confident that the goal was attainable, and that I’d certainly have everything figured out by the time I was nineteen.
It’s taking longer than I thought… I’m now nearly 50 years into this wisdom journey, and I’m still a work in progress. I have picked up a few bits and pieces along the way though, and I‘ll gladly share what I have. Please note that these ideas are subject to change, based on future experiences. Further bulletins as events warrant.
- Experience. I get a lot from books, mostly knowledge, and community. Both are priceless, but neither one is wisdom. Wisdom, that deep, clear, understanding that is always there, sometimes hidden in plain sight, arises from experience. For me, the best learning experiences often come out of an unintentional process of making mistakes and then watching what happens next. Much like roller skating, I learn about life by falling down a lot.
- Change. Everything changes, Everything. All the time, whether I like it or not. In fact, everything is changing right now. I try to not spend too much time dwelling on this, or I’m apt to find myself drifting into a story, drawn away from the beauty and truth of this moment.
- Truth. For me, a simple idea, but not always a simple practice. Many of my more epic learning experiences have their origins in self-deception; seeing things, people and experiences as I wish to see them or am conditioned to see them, not seeing them as they truly are. Am I seeing you or my thoughts about you? Am I seeing me, or my story about me?
- Surrender. I’m learning to do the best I can with wholeheartedness and clear intent, but to then let go of attachments to the outcome. Crazy talk, right? This is really hard for me, the letting go part. When my efforts in life pay off, I want to savor the sweetness. I want credit. Conversely, when the Universe, in the form of fate or other people, does not play it my way, I want to warm myself by the fires of righteous umbrage. A little savoring is good, a little indignation is ok, but these things unchecked can take on a life of their own; soon my ego is in full bloom and I am cut off from the true source of my original good intentions. Dammit, in the weeds again!
- Meditation. It helps. As I continue to mature, I’m becoming a little more patient and consistent in my practice, not from slowing down but rather because of experience. I’ve seen over and over again how sitting gives my stuff time to settle, clears the channel, lets a little light in, and so improves the quality of my engagement with the world. It’s not in the time spent sitting, or even the quality of that time, but how that time changes me, forms me into someone who is a little easier for the world to put up with.
- Love. When in doubt, choose to love. Love others. Love being alive. Go outside and love the world. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it feels ridiculous. Love anyway. It’s worth it.
Thank you for sharing your time with me. Bear in mind that nothing I have said here is the truth; it’s only my own best current understanding. Now go, live your life, check it all out for yourself. Enjoy!
Ginger Long, a Mansfield native, teaches at Madison Middle School. She is also a yoga teacher registered through Yoga Alliance and happily holds weekly yoga classes at the Butterfly House in Mansfield, Ohio. Additionally, she is an Ohio Certified Volunteer Naturalist (OCVN) and a crunchy-granola tree hugging Earth lover. Her two grown children continually impress her with their good-heartedness, common sense and deep wisdom. Not to brag, but she also has amazing friends. You know who you are.