On the eve of a rainstorm here in the Santa Cruz mountains, I am thinking about the Water element, and its corresponding season, winter. Each of the Five Elements has a virtue associated it, a place from which we shine when we are in our true state of health and alignment with that element. The virtue of Water and Winter is wisdom. What is wisdom? Where do we find it? When we say that somebody is wise, it is because they have told or shown us things that ring true within us; we nod and say, "Yes! That is so true!" Thus, the wisdom we are seeking and finding in others was actually already within us all along. We just needed to hear it from somewhere outside of ourselves for it to ring true and awaken us in some way. The question I have been exploring as we move into winter is this--how do we continually access our own inner source of wisdom? It is wonderful to have all of these wise people shedding so much light for the benefit of humankind-- all of our teachers, sages, bodhisattvas, gurus, healers, mystics. But where did they find all of that light? Where can we find the light?
We find it in the darkness. It is in our depths that wisdom lies, like a jewel at the bottom of the ocean. To find wisdom within ourselves we must be the deep sea diver, brave and willing to dive into the darkness and the mystery. It is no wonder then that the emotion most often associated with the Water element is fear. To dive into our own depth and darkness, to face the mystery and the unknown-- fear is a very natural response when faced with the immensity of this task. The healing path of the Water element is to transform this existential fear into the wisdom, the deep knowing that goes light years beyond the brain processing information. Wisdom is not acquiring more information. Wisdom is a state of deep knowing that does not require thinking or data processing.
Being a deep sea diver means accessing our own depth, our own deep well of knowing, gnosis. So often this access to our own inner depths feels blocked. We thirst so strongly for this inner wisdom to which we have lost our connection, or perhaps to which we have never felt a connection. We thirst for wisdom, and so we seek for it in others. We seek teachers, religions, wisdom traditions, books. And there is nothing wrong with this... to a certain extent. As humans we have so many wise people, both living and passed, whose own profound access to the depths is of great benefit to humankind. There are countless wisdom traditions passed down through the generations. There is no reason not to drink from this endlessly flowing spring of wisdom and teachings. But eventually we arrive at a realization, as we drink of this wisdom passed to us through the various traditions and teachers. We realize that all of this wisdom, this deep knowing, has always been within our own being all along, and now we must learn how to open that channel, that access to our own depth of knowing.
And this is where the work begins.
For to open that channel to our own inner wisdom, we need to not only glimpse but be able to reside within our own depth, our own stillness. Far below the continually crashing waves and storms of our busy, thinking minds, there is the stillness. There at the bottom of the ocean, in the depths of our being. It is very still down there where the jewel of our wisdom resides--still, dark, and silent Can we find this place within ourselves? Can we be still? When we cultivate the practice of finding the stillness and silence within us, we begin to have access to that inner source of wisdom. We can hear what our hearts know to be true because we've created space for listening.
Practical ways to create that space. Daily meditation practice. At first, when we sit down to meditate, all we can hear is the incessant noise of our own minds. Planning, worrying, fantasizing, rehashing... when we first begin the practice of sitting still and silent it can be maddening how loud and chaotic our own minds are! But if we stick with it, and this requires commitment and discipline, eventually the noise begins to dim. Slowly, but steadily. Like a pebble thrown into a placid lake, we simply observe those initial ripples that spread out. And then the ripples subside and there is the stillness, the spaciousness, the deep water of our own being that holds all of the wisdom we seek. So we practice meditation, noticing our breath, noticing our minds, noticing the crashing waves and turbulence of our own consciousness. And then we begin to notice what is under the waves, that fathomless and powerful depth of our own wisdom. It was there all along.
Other ways we can access this ocean of wisdom within ourselves... Practicing slowing down in our daily lives. Allowing there to be times when we don't do anything. Practicing silence. Allowing times when we don't say anything. Entire days of silence can be profound experiences. These practices can feel incredibly uncomfortable for many of us, even frightening. That's okay. We can notice the discomfort, notice the fear. We can acknowledge these feelings with our breath. We can begin these practices for short periods of time in the beginning. Baby steps. We can start with meditating just ten minutes a day. As time goes on with our meditation practice, we begin to notice an opening in our consciousness. An insight rises to the surface from our depths; and because we have slowed down and discovered our own silence, we are now able to truly listen to this insight, this jewel of wisdom that arises from our own being. The more space and stillness and silence we allow, the more these jewels begin to surface from our depths--or, we are now able to deep sea dive long enough to find them there, at the bottom of the ocean, in the depth of our being.