I’ve absorbed the Wisdom of my household animals, West Highland Terriers, for two decades. They started every morning with stretching and a walk outdoors. They ate when they were hungry and slept when they were tired. They fiercely protected those they loved. They never held anything against us. We were greeted with joyful love after a short or a long absence. Love and appreciation of nature was inseparable from their “lifestyle”.  In their later years, they often exhibited the regal dignity befitting their Wisdom. And, they knew when it was their time to gracefully exit.

If you’re fortunate, Wisdom is one of the great blessings of aging. I’ve noticed that most people whom I talk to who are in the last third of their lives would not actually want to live their 20’s, 30’s, or even 40’s again. Or, if they do, they’d want to live it with the Wisdom they’ve already earned.  (Sorry, we don’t get to do it that way)

Those of us in our later years are grateful if we came out of each decade unscathed in spite of every boneheaded thing we did. We try like hell not to repeat our mistakes.

(This bewildered daughter will not hold this piece of bone headedness against her Dad!)

My style early on was to try to acquire my Wisdom by learning vicariously from other’s errors in judgment. This worked for quite awhile until my unconscious threw me a curve. I made choices that made the “other me” cringe.  Becoming progressively more conscious is the path to Wisdom.  I learned that some of that path inevitably includes acting out what’s in our unconscious. This can feel like you’re watching someone else’s movie until you embrace and integrate this shadow aspect of your Self.

The path to Wisdom is less painful if we learn our lessons incrementally, not in “one fell swoop” as they say. In other words, if we learn from each mistake and incorporate new ways of being. The alternative is to repeat the same mal-adaptive behaviors until we create a catastrophe that finally gets our attention.

If you read or watch the news you see plenty of examples of people who live their lives like a runaway train until they find themselves plunging off the trestle into the river, and taking a few others with them into the drink (I won’t name names.) Yet, even these folks sometimes become sources of Wisdom in the area of hard won lessons.

Wisdom has come often to me in dreams. The more I pay attention to my dreams the clearer the messages. Sometimes dreams tell me things I’d rather not hear but the dream makes sure I don’t miss the point.  Sometimes a dream will show me the consequences of a possible future action, saving me from intense pain.

Wisdom is all about the path you are on, and the path not taken. Sometimes we need to be guided in a direction we’re afraid to take. Other times we need to be steered away from a dangerous route we’re contemplating.  The Wisdom may come from a parent, a friend, a teacher, a dream, or an inner voice. All of these sources and more have been active in my life.  And don’t forget to observe the animals. They’re watching where they’re going!

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