Contemplative Practice, Working With Painful Emotions

Receiving Wisdom and Guidance: A Contemplative Practice

Do you need more wisdom and guidance about something in your life? Do you feel confused about the right action or path to take in a certain area of your life?

If so, you are not alone. All of us, at one point or another (or at many points), find ourselves in need of wisdom we do not currently possess in our immediate consciousness. This can make us feel scared and alone.

Please know that you are not alone, and you were never meant to carry the burden of life by yourself.

Here is a practice you can use when you need more wisdom. It is suitable both for people who are not religious and those who are.

One–Create Space: Take some time to sit or lie down and be quiet today. You have a lot of wisdom inside of you, whether you realize it or not. If you are not religious, you can think of this wisdom inside you as the seeds of love, compassion, and creativity that all human beings possess as part of their emotional and intellectual structure. Just like you have the ability to talk and walk. You have the ability to be loving, compassionate, and creative. Wisdom lies in those abilities. When you take time to be quiet, you water those seeds in you.

Silence Quote--Thich Nhat Hanh (2)

If you are religious, you can think of this wisdom as the seeds I mentioned above, and you can also think of it as the light of God inside you. God is the source of love, compassion, and creativity, and you are made from that source.

When you create spaces of silence, you allow the light in you to become more present in your life, and that light is full of wisdom.

Two–Be open to receiving wisdom: You can simply say to yourself or out loud, “I am open to receiving wisdom, and I invite it to become present in my life.”

Or if you believe in God, you can also pray, “God, I need wisdom, please help me.”

Asking for wisdom.jpg

As you say this, do your best to feel open and willing. If you can’t feel open and willing (because it can be hard to make yourself feel things), that’s okay. You can just make an intellectual commitment to be willing. For instance, you can say, “I am willing to be willing.

If you can, imagine your heart opening to receive wisdom. You can imagine a door in your heart opening, or you can imagine your heart with a sign that says, “Open for wisdom.”

Open for Wisdom #2

ThreeRemember that perfection is not required. Try to remember that you are never required to be perfect. You are only required to act in a loving way towards yourself and others. So if you are not sure what to do, ask yourself, “What is a way I can act in this situation that is loving both to myself and others?”

Acting in a loving way means acting with kindness, compassion, and respect in order to nurture the good and mend what is broken.

Four: Give it time–I know you might want answers right now, and that is understandable. If answers are not immediately forthcoming, try giving it a little bit of time.

Go out and live your life and try to get your mind off of the issue at hand for a while. Frequently when we ask for wisdom and then give ourselves a little space, the answer will come to us unexpectedly. The answer might come as a quiet but strong inner impression, or it might come in something someone says or that you hear on the radio or see on TV.

You can think of this answer as a result of your subconscious working things out or of God’s voice speaking to you.

And it may be that you don’t hear any particular answer about the issue for which you are seeking wisdom. If you don’t hear a specific message of wisdom from your own heart or the world around you, then act with the intention of love for yourself and others: that is often the wisest thing you can do.

Wisdom--Thich Nhat Hanh


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11 thoughts on “Receiving Wisdom and Guidance: A Contemplative Practice”

  1. I love that “open for wisdom” painting – I think it perfectly sums up a lot of things! Our hearts and minds should always remain open for wisdom and also different perspectives, ones that we may not always understand right at first. Another great share!

    1. I am so glad you found that painting helpful, M.B.! I really enjoyed painting that one especially. You are so right. We always need to be open for wisdom. I have definitely found, as you say, that I learn a great deal from other perspective, often ones I don’t totally understand at first.

  2. Good morning, Shelly,

    I have read this piece a few times over the past two days. Thank you for putting these truths into words . Your wisdom is particularly helpful to me as I have conversations with my stepson who is trying to decide what to do for work. He keeps repeating, “I don’t know! I don’t know!”

    I am going to invite him into the idea of being open to receiving wisdom. I think what he is telling himself (I don’t know!) is putting up a barrier to his wisdom.

    I also want to share your idea of “acting with loving intention” when we don’t know. That’s beautiful and freeing!

    I am always glad when I see your art on the Holy Disorder of Dancing Monks page. There is a sweetness there that speaks to me.

    Blessings on your art and words and calling…❤️

    Kate Young Wilder

    1. Kate: What a lovely note. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it. I can really sympathize with your step son. I think so often we get really nervous and think we have to know the exact perfect answer for each situation, and that can lead to a type of emotional paralysis. I have struggled with that before and have found that the acting with the intention of love idea is really empowering and freeing for me. Peace and love to you, Friend. Thank you for your kindness.

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