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The Wisdom to Live

bee-and-burdockThe Native American definition of wisdom is: “that people may live.”

In Original Blessing, brilliant religious scholar and author Matthew Fox breaks it down for the reader, separating out two unique aspects of the definition. First, he explains that people “may live,” by being alive. Second, he explains that people “may live” as an action, to live. In a life of wisdom we are not just simply alive, we live – in the action oriented sense of the word. We laugh, dance, eat, pray, cry, make love, give birth, enjoy beauty, take part in pleasure, experience loss, grieve, morn and celebrate. From this definition we learn that to live a life of wisdom is not to live a life of profound perfection, but to experience and become a part of the humanness of existence. To live with wisdom is essentially to learn to be.

It is so easy in our culture, where stress, anxiety and worry run high, to get stuck in those places – to become our challenges or our anxiety, our worry or our fear. Lets just be honest, as animals we don’t have enough avenues to exercise our survival instincts – stress is a serious survival instinct and we get stuck in it! Our emotional experiences get blown out of proportion, building and confounding on one another, leaving us in a place where we are all-consumed. When this happens, the best thing you can do is step outside those emotions and let go of working them out, talking them over, or fixing them for long enough to get back into being. For me, the place of being is the place where I am most at home, calm, grounded and relaxed – it is a much better place for me to be when I am trying to work out my emotions. There will always be challenges, even in the life of wisdom, but when we are living, when we are in a place of fully being and being alive, we handle them with grace and approach them with a wise perspective.

How do we find the courage to live this life of wisdom? Many of us know that it is never as easy as we want it to be to step outside of the hard places once when we are in them. One of the first step is to ground yourself inside your body so that you can feel safe enough to relax. Here are a few tips:

– Eliminate or greatly reduce consumption of caffeine.
– Practice self care that you know helps relax you: get a massage, take a bath, go swimming, do some yoga or stretching, meditate, sing, play or listen to music, massage yourself with lotion, you get the idea.
– Express your emotions to yourself and others.
– Get some excellent quality, deep sleep.
– Eat three balanced meals a day.
– Drink water.
– Do things you enjoy.
– Spend time with people you love, who bring you joy.
– Learn to say “no” to the things that don’t give you life.
– Spend time outside.
– Love yourself.

soft-boiled-eggOnce you are in your body, the next step is to find the beauty in the ritual experience of everyday life. For example, in the simplicity of a delicious, perfectly cooked soft boiled egg for breakfast.

You may also find it helpful to get a little help from your friends. Your human, animal and plant friends. My favorite tonic for times of stress is oats. The tops or straw are both excellent, nourishing mineral tonics. Oats nourish the nervous system, help repair the nerves and offer support for stress, anxiety, nervousness, withdrawal from drugs, and some forms of depression. Oats help put you right in the moment and help create the space to BE so that you can LIVE above and beyond simply being alive.

oat-circleMy favorite way to take oats as a tonic is to prepare a water based infusion or decoction. You have two great choices, prepare it the night before and let it sit overnight, or simmer the oats and water together for 20 minutes. Both are nutritious, calming and supportive.

2 tablespoons oatstraw or oat tops
2 cups filtered or well water

1. This first method, called an infusion, utilizes a long steeping period to extract vitamins and minerals from the plant material. To prepare, put the oats in a glass jar or teapot and pour two cups of boiling water over. Cover with a lid of some sort and let sit for 6 – 8 hours, or overnight. Drink throughout the following day. This can be drank at room temperature or re-heated.

2. The second method, called a decoction, is good option if you are in a hurry or forgot to prepare your infusion the night before. Combine herbs and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer with a lid on for 15 – 20 minutes. Strain and drink hot or let cool and drink at room temperature.

I suggest you drink two cups a day, but if you do not get to it all store what is left in the refrigerator. You can also prepare larger batches and store extra in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

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