When I reached my mid-sixties, I had a strong, and rather guilty feeling, that I had reached the age in which it was required of me that I fulfill the description of being “A Wise Woman!”. After all, were not all senior women wise? Anyway, this is what I had been led to believe. But what does it mean to be wise? And what is it that motivates me to continue on my journey which has more recently been named by a local public relations expert as a facilitator of “Conscious Ageing”?
In my earlier blog about my visit to the Mindfulness Conference in Gauteng, I mentioned the contribution of the wise Zimbabwean Elder who reminded us of the role of both our Ancestors and Mother Earth in contributing to our wellbeing. How we need to honour both those who have gone before us as well as the planet, which sustains us in all our multiple dimensions. These concepts are now resounding in my awareness, I have been made even more profoundly and painfully conscious of the ubiquitous manner in which mankind has been exploiting both natural resources and natural wisdom. It made me feel there is something which I must do actively to promote the knowledge of impending ecological disaster. I need to promote support for people who are in a less fortunate position than myself.
If you peruse the information on the website of Mindful in May you will have the opportunity to join an annual program in which I have participated for the past few years. Elise Bialylew who runs this course is author of bestselling book, The Happiness Plan. Mindful in May is “The world’s largest online global mindfulness fundraising campaign that teaches thousands of people each year to meditate, while raising funds to build clean water projects in the developing world.” I do believe that the development of Mindfulness and the acquisition of Wisdom go hand in hand, and recommend you consider taking advantage of this opportunity taking place next month.
Wisdom – Andrew Zuckerman
Returning from the conference last week we popped in to see a friend en route to the airport, and there on the bookshelf I spied a beautiful picture book entitled Wisdom. The photographer and film maker Andrew Zuckerman has photographed and recorded the thoughts of fifty prominent people over the age of 65 who have achieved acclaim in their chosen field. I was so intrigued when glancing at this book after pulling it off the shelf, that I had to apologise for being anti-social as my attention was totally diverted to the wonderful pictures and beautiful erudition of the wise men and women who were featured in this work.
Jane Goodall – Animal Behaviorist
I have been an admirer of the esteemed primatologist Jane Goodall since I was a student and it was her profile which immediately drew my attention. As a young woman she spent many hours in the heart of the African jungle scientifically studying the behavior of chimpanzees. Today the Jane Goodall Institute protects these wonderful apes and inspires people to conserve the natural world we all share. The work of the organisation honors the concept, “that everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.”
Jane feels the most important thing we can do is to try and get out of the mess we’ve made on this planet both from an environmental point of view and a social perspective. We need to learn about the consequences of our daily actions. How the choices we make about the products we purchase, the foods we eat and the origin of the clothes we wear impact the environment. Are the acquisition of these goods causing a disruption in the balance of nature? Are they contributing to human suffering because of their mode of production or manufacture?
Changes in Water Usage
And, yes you can change your habits, even at a senior age. In Cape Town, South Africa we have all learned during the past three years of drought, how to use water more wisely. I frequently remind myself that my daily consumption of water has dropped at least 75% because of the discipline and training I have acquired which means I now use water without any wastefulness. Washing dishes happens once a day, and the flushing of the toilet, only when necessary. Watering of gardens is strictly limited to certain hours and number of liters.
What do I understand now about Wisdom?
My exploration of some Buddhist philosophy and my practice of Mindfulness has made me aware that Wisdom and Compassion are deeply enmeshed with each other. It is through the introduction of “metta” or “loving kindness” meditation that I now am more readily able to value gratitude and looking at the positive side of apparent challenges. I have been trying to make a habit of listing my Gratitudes, looking at the good things which have happened to me on a daily basis. So yes, I am feeling a little wiser than when I first realised this is an area of my growth which needed attention some fifteen years ago!
The force needed to empower wisdom is compassion. Both wisdom and compassion shift our sense of identity away from ourselves toward the wider human, biotic, and cosmic community to which we belong. —Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, “The Need of the Hour”