8 Points For Developing Practical Wisdom…

8 Points For Developing Practical Wisdom

Wisdom is a fairly abstract concept. But how do you get it, and what can you do with it?

We are used to responding directly from what we experience. But only when you are aware that you are observing, can you recognize patterns in your behavior and their results through reflection. The ‘metaposition’, as it is called in gestalt psychology, is comparable to the basis of Buddhist attention meditation. Only by being alert and attentive in the here and now can you free yourself from mental and emotional suffering. Here you can read 8 practical tips for alertness and making your perspective wiser based on 40 years of development on the psychological and spiritual path, and more than 30 years of work experience as a facilitator of development processes.

(1) Wisdom is seeing how it (really) is

As children we played the game ‘I see, I see what you do not see’. As adults, we seem to have ended up in a variant because the chance that you and I see the same in the same circumstance is not that big. The interesting thing about the experience of our different realities is that they can only occur if there is one absolute reality that we both see differently. The absolute reality is as it really is, and the relative reality is as you and I experience it ourselves. However, they are always present at the same time. If you have insight into these two aspects, you have less tendency to identify yourself with your own limited reality. You keep track of what encompasses everything — including you.

Practical tip: Do not lose yourself in your personal reality, that gives space in your mind and actions. > The Wise (male/female) moves along in relative daily life without losing sight of the absolute.

(2) Wisdom is seeing that circumstances are factual, but that your experience of it has a personal taste and color

You are probably familiar with the psychological phenomenon ‘projection’ — you project your own reality, your ‘film’ consisting of all kinds of images, ideas, experiences and conclusions from your past — on the screen of reality. This colors the neutral conditions and you make a personal version of it. In itself, this is no problem unless you forget that this is ‘only’ your personal version and think that everyone sees and experiences the same as you. You can recognize this phenomenon in the tendency that you and others have to want to be right. This attitude is widespread — I know a few people who ultimately do not want to be right — and this often leads to irritation, misunderstandings, quarrels, conflicts, and even wars.

Practical tip: Exchange experiences, but do not discuss them. Only discuss opinions. > The Wise (m/f) is aware of his own projections and those of others and realizes the relativity of both.

(3) Wisdom is knowing that your own experience is the result of the interaction with your environment — and of your own share in it

The way you color and spice reality comes from the interaction between you and your environment. Suppose I am in a conversation and the other person says something that I strongly respond to and I become defensive because I feel unjustly treated. I take it personally and start defending myself. We call this emotional reactivity. It is important to note that although the other person is here the trigger for my reaction, but is not the ‘cause’ of it! The real cause is my own sensitivity to being treated unjustly (my own perception). Apparently, I have had less pleasant experiences with that in the past, and want to prevent it to happen again.

Practical tip: Ask yourself if your reaction is in proportion to the current trigger. If it is out of proportion, assume that an old, personal emotional charge plays a role. Then look at your own share immediately before you react from that load. That’s wise because your emotional charge is likely to hit an emotional charge of the other person, which probably triggers you again, and so on. > The Wise (m/f) recognizes his own share in the result and remains free of reactivity.

(4) Wisdom is not equal to stubbornness

Who has not been told during his or her puberty: “Do not be so stubborn!” I did. This reprimand has to do with how useful your view of reality is in relation to your environment. If your youthful stubbornness continues after your adolescent time, you probably experience problems and misunderstanding in your dealings with others. If I keep hanging in the aforementioned wanting to be right then I have too little eye and heart for my environment, I am too busy with myself. You need to develop your stubbornness into true wisdom by facing both your possibilities and limitations. This generates compassion for yourself and for the other person.

Practical tip: Imagine yourself into the other person and view of the world, and have a look from there side. > The Wise (m/f) develops his wisdom through his capacity for empathy.

(5) Wisdom is a verb

In all living conditions, judging and acting adequately is quite an art. It is possible if you have developed a clear insight. Wisdom must be present in your vision and be reflected in your behavior. That this is not so easy you can see in the number of people who do proclaim wise statements but do not put them into practice. I try to practice wisdom by training my attention to be alert to (among other things) the distinction between what I think, say and actually do. And yes, that is confronting. But the insight that it brings me is indispensable for the development and use of wisdom.

Practical tip: Practice wisdom in every situation: what is the right judgment and the right action here? > The Wise (m/f) makes theory and practice match through continuous self-reflection.

(6) Wisdom is making your insight into the importance of perception useful to others

Wisdom is an attitude that derives its added value from its usefulness for others (besides for yourself of course). In my personal hierarchy wisdom that helps others to consciously address their perception is at the top. After all, this insight is the basis of all possible changes in perspective. Without the possibility to change the observed ‘facts’ of our personal reality, we are all caught in an individual and limited vision. In other words, if someone does not have a vision or concept that carries the possibility of liberation from his or her limited perception, then that person remains stuck in that limited reality. The idea of the two realities — absolute and relative — offers the possibility to break through this limitation.

Practical tip: Meditation is a relatively simple and quick way to actually experience these realities. > The Wise (m/f) sees the two realities and helps others to utilize the possibilities.

(7) Wisdom is taking life seriously without losing your sense of humor

Wisdom is a serious matter. It is part of the meaning of yur life, of the foundation on which you build your existence. But an aspect of wisdom is also the ability to relieve the heaviness and suffering of life. Humor emphasizes the relativity of a subject by applying a different perspective, and that works liberating and expanding. Not for nothing humor is so important, especially in intimate relationships. It is a fast, though temporary, solution of a shared restriction and gives space. Humor as a vehicle for wisdom is both liberating and a very useful tool.

Practical tip: If you have to laugh then pay attention to what exactly happens! > The Wise (m/f) uses humor to bring about the liberating effect of a perspective change.

(8) Wisdom is impermanent and situational

Although you may long for definitive answers, wisdom tells us that existing universal and timeless truths are valuable, but that we must give your own answer within our current situation at any time. Your current situation asks you, as it were, the questions: who am I in this situation, what do I want in this situation and what do I do in this situation? Even though you are often not aware of these questions, your behavior is your answer. If you raise awareness of these questions, they immediately provide you with more insight into the situation, and into the dynamics of your own share! From that insight, you will slowly align your actions with your insights. And that is how we become wise!

Practical tip: learn to regularly ask the three questions regardless of the situation. It increases the quality of your presence and insight into your behavior and experience. > The Wise (m/f) unites the absolute and the relative reality in his mind and acts by taking the universal as a starting point for the temporary and personal.


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Ramo de Boer

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Gestalttherapist, coach, trainer since 1985. Author of ‘The Power of Attention – Essential Guide for Training Your Mind’ (2013, Dutch).…

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