1. How did you come to write Wisdom Walk? You mentioned that your own Wisdom Walk started as a “dark night of the soul.”
The first answer to this question starts with my own experience. In 1984 I had a crisis in my life. Some call it a dark night of the soul. I was completely out of balance overworking, failing relationship, and stressed out to the max. Then I got sick, double pneumonia, and in the long nights of recovery I finally rested, meditated, and questioned my life. While in the process of my divorce, I began to live in a meditation center while teaching classes at a nearby university. Part of my responsibilities at the center included working in the library. There I was exposed to many spiritual paths by authors ranging from Buddha to Lao Tzu. At the meditation center we also had a vast array of teachers from various traditions, come to teach at the center. The wisdom practices helped me heal the difficulties in my own life and helped me find my spiritual center.
After I left the meditation center, I moved to California. My teaching positions included courses in world religions. I was able to share the fruits of what I had gained from the writings and practices of the major spiritual traditions. In my classes I took others on what I called a Wisdom Walk a journey through the world’s spiritual traditions with the aim of gathering wisdom that we could use in our daily lives. Year after year I took many students on a Wisdom Walk. Their lives changed. This book is an invitation to a larger audience to take a Wisdom Walk with me.
2. What is the value of people taking a Wisdom Walk?
I have seen people’s lives change, including my own, by applying the wisdom practices mentioned in this book. The benefits of taking a Wisdom Walk are three-fold.
First people learn ways to reduce stress and find balance in their lives from overworking and other addictive behaviors through simple wisdom practices such as creating a home altar, meditating and finding peace, surrendering to prayer, forgiveness, letting nature be our teacher, visioning, learning to go with the flow, and service.
Second, by taking a Wisdom Walk people learn about a wide array of spiritual traditions. The effect of looking at different spiritual traditions from this perspective of the wisdom they each offer, has another effect that I didn’t intend at first. It replaces ignorance about others’ spiritual traditions with knowledge. We see the commonalities among traditions rather than what separates us. The ability to understand each other’s traditions hold the possibility of peace. We can appreciate the differences instead of judging them. This opens the possibility of participating in what Martin Luther King called “the beloved community.”
Third, taking a Wisdom Walk includes exploring the “charges” we may have toward different aspects of spiritual traditions. Charged material refers to unresolved or partially unconscious issues, usually rooted in your personal history or in attitudes you were taught early in life. When encountering a specific word (for example, God or Jesus) or reading about a particular tradition (for example, Islam, Judaism, Christianity), you may find yourself experiencing resistance, anger, or defensiveness. Such a reaction may prevent you from taking in the wisdom available in the practice. Part of the Wisdom Walk journey includes a healing of these charges.
3. How can a Wisdom Walk give people help with depression, over-work, and addiction?
Ancient wisdom indicates, “Wisdom is better than rubies.” The prevailing message of our time is different and encourages us to seek external riches instead. We may do this by acquiring products, climbing the corporate ladder, attaining degrees, and following other pursuits. Oftentimes we get lost along the way. We lose touch with ourselves and find ourselves overworking, overspending, feeling stressed, even depressed, wondering how we lost our balance. The nine practices of Wisdom Walk take us down a path that leads us home to a place of rest inside, where we can be quiet, satisfied, and serene. Once we find this center, the activities in the outer world also reflect balance including our work schedule, our spending habits, and our mental states. Even those of us who feel fairly content may still not claim the riches of the path of wisdom. Yet the rubies of inner peace and the diamonds of a loving heart can be ours. If we follow the guidance of Wisdom Walk we can attain these riches.
4. One of your wisdom practices is to create time for the Sabbath is that really realistic in such a busy world as we live in?
It’s funny, or maybe not so funny, but making time for the Sabbath is one of the hardest assignments for students in Wisdom Walk classes. When I ask them to engage in this wisdom practice of deliberately not working for twenty-four hours, people panic. I hear things like: I have school work that is due. I’m working a huge project at work. How am I going to find 24 hours? I try to allay their anxiety and give them an option of shortening the Sabbath to a morning or several hours. Yet I find it revealing that the idea of resting from work seems so difficult. In some ways it’s understandable because we’re exposed to a world in which we can work 24/7. Fax machines, email, cell phones, even copy stores that are open all day and all night give us an expectation that working all the time is normal. To balance these cultural pressures, taking a day off each week is quite wise. It gives us a time to replenish our physical, emotional, and spiritual selves. It’s wise to have time with family, friends, and our spiritual connection to God, universal presence, peace whatever we call this larger life.
5. How can I create a home altar if I don’t believe in Hinduism?
This is the beauty of a Wisdom Walk. We can appreciate own tradition and still participate in the wisdom practice from another tradition. For example, we don’t have to become a Hindu but we can create a home altar, which gives us a sanctuary in our own home to connect with a spiritual source. In traditional Hindu homes, we may see a statue of Ganesh, the remover of obstacles. If that particular icon does not hold meaning for us, we can simply light a candle and place a rose on a clean surface. The important thing is that we create a place in our homes to commune with a sense of peace and spirituality.
6. What is the value of developing a meditation practice?
We often treat our appliances better than we treat ourselves. Who would leave a vacuum cleaner on for fourteen or eighteen hours a day? We might respond, “Of course we wouldn’t. Our appliance would burn out.” Yet, we think nothing of leaving our minds on thinking, figuring things out, remembering the items on our to-do-list for this amount of time without stopping or resting. Buddhism offers us the wisdom practice of meditating and finding peace. Developing a meditation practice helps us to give our minds and bodies a rest. Meditation also helps us cultivate different states of mind that are deeper than ordinary awareness. This allows us to tap into deep levels of peace that can have a healthy effect on mind and body. This peace not only produces health in the body but also peace of mind. Regular meditation helps us to reduce stress and react to the circumstances of our lives with more serenity.
7. One practice that you mentioned is forgiveness aren’t there some things that should not be forgiven?
Christianity offers us the wisdom practice of forgiveness. To forgive doesn’t mean we condone actions that are morally reprehensible. Forgiveness frees us and allows us to move on. What many people don’t realize is that harboring resentments toward others affect the one who is condemning. We all make mistakes. We sometimes get hurt by these actions. Forgiveness is a wise practice because it allows a person to move on from the transgression. We may have feelings about what has happened such as anger, sadness, and fear. Yet even though we may have feelings about certain acts toward or by us, having feelings doesn’t mean that we pitch a tent and make these feelings a place where we live. I think we need to be gentle with ourselves with the forgiveness process. Sometimes we are not ready to forgive. Forgiveness is a wise choice that we each need to make for ourselves.
8. You mentioned in your book that your life changed as a result of visioning what is visioning and how is it valuable to us?
Visioning, is a meditative process that allows us to see our lives through the mind and heart of God. We can learn how to vision by sitting quietly and putting aside any preconceptions about what can happen. As I did this over a period of time, I kept seeing myself finish Wisdom Walk. Writing has always been a deep desire of mine, but I was not able to find a way to arrange my life with this priority. The images I received in visioning began to lead me toward my true path. Whether we call it our soul purpose, the song we’ve come to sing, or our service to others, the truth is, we are each here for a purpose. Visioning helps us to connect with our purpose, the divine pattern within us. The visioning process helps us align with a universal intelligence that is greater than, although a part of, our own intelligence. By putting aside our own individual ideas we can gain access to the ocean of wisdom available to us, not just the small pool of our own individuality.
9. One of the things that you say can happen with a Wisdom Walk is a tolerance and appreciation of other people’s traditions what are some examples of these?
I’ll start with myself. In the case of my own Wisdom Walk, I realized I knew less about my own tradition, Judaism, than all others. By tracing the cause of this back to some resentments I acquired earlier in my life how come the boys got Hebrew training and not the girls I was able to get current with my beliefs and walk through the door that led to the beauty and wisdom of Judaism.
Another woman in one of the Wisdom Walk classes rejected anything Islamic because of her allegiance to women’s rights. When we visited a mosque as a class project she spoke to a Muslim woman and realized that we was viewing Islam through her own cultural lens. This conversation freed her to open the door to the wisdom of Islam surrendering to prayer yet still retain her commitment to social change.
10. Is the appreciation of religious diversity related to peace on earth?
I recently heard someone say at an interfaith gathering. “Until we have understanding of each other’s religions we will not have peace among nations." I thought that was an interesting comment. What if what happens in a Wisdom Walk class can happen among world leaders. I’ve experienced in classes that we have disagreements about issues and we talk them through. We have attitudes and misconceptions about each other’s traditions and heal these through understanding and learn to appreciate the wisdom that is contained within each tradition. Most importantly we delve into some inner work and try to understand our reactions. Then at the end of the class we sit around a table and share a meal, laugh, tell stories. I wonder if we can do this in one class, could we do in on a larger scale in the world? Why not?
12. What if you’re happy with your own spiritual tradition, why learn about others?
First of all, taking a Wisdom Walk does not mean that you need to abandon any tradition that you hold dear. We need not be dissatisfied to begin an investigation of other traditions. Oftentimes, taking a Wisdom Walk can increase an appreciation of our own tradition. In addition, learning about other traditions is an interesting and rich experience. The journey helps dispel misunderstanding or ignorance about other traditions. We don’t need to join a spiritual tradition to benefit from the wisdom it offers.
This Q&A was graciously provided to SpiritualityandPractice.com by New World Library.