by Deepak Chopra MD: Do you want to be wise? Surprisingly, many people would shrug off such a question. They want to be other things instead – practical, successful, rich, respected – that don’t involve wisdom, which is reserved for old people, the wise gray heads of society. And yet the way someone’s life turns out depends on making wise choices. Every culture that values consciousness also values wisdom, so the topic is worth discussing over several posts, I think.
What is wisdom, exactly? Mature awareness. This isn’t defined by a set of rules. You can’t equate it with being cautious, prudent, and conservative (the behavior pattern of “wise old men”) or with any other fixed quality. Wisdom is judged by the things you devote your mind to. Someone who wants to be wise has the following traits:
The desire to be real
The courage to step into the unknown
A refusal to be fooled by illusions
The need to feel fulfilled
The ability to go beyond material satisfactions
An intimation of other levels of existence
I think the most valuable trait is the first, the desire to be real. The opposite of “real” is “illusory,” and many external forces influence us to choose illusion over reality. They hold out a false sense of happiness rooted in money, possessions, and status, for example, and tell us that they best way to avoid the painful side of life is to devote hours to various distractions. But the world’s wisdom traditions teach something very different, that there is a level of the mind where the potential for creativity, intelligence, peace, and joy is unlimited.
If you devote yourself to finding this level of the mind you are a seeker after wisdom.
“Seeking” sounds less old-fashioned than wisdom to modern ears. Although given a religious connotation, seekers don’t have to be looking for God, and if they are, the goal will be reached in the same place as wisdom, their own consciousness (following Jesus’s dictum that the kingdom of heaven is within). Wisdom leads to wise choices, and here there is a pattern that marks the seekers of wisdom
The decisions that shape a conscious life
When you are afraid and anxious, don’t trust the voice of fear.
When you are in a chaotic situation, find a way to bring order and calm.
When faced with an angry conflict, make no decision until the anger has subsided.
When meeting resistance to your ideas, consider the viewpoint of those who resist you.
When you are tempted to condemn someone else, see if what you hate in them is hidden away in yourself.
When you are in trouble, decide if the situation is one you should put up with, try to fix, or walk away. Having decided, act accordingly.
When you know the truth, speak up for it.
What links these choices is a trust in your own awareness and a refusal to be pulled this way and that by the chaos of the outer world. But I realize that modern life seems unsuited to the image of a wise savant sitting alone in his Himalayan cave or monk’s cell. That image is misleading, because the best way to live is wisely, bringing the highest rewards.