What is Wisdom Cultivation?
Growing in wisdom will keep us from drowning in knowledge.
As John Naisbitt says — “We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.” I believe the real issue is that we are drowning in knowledge while starved for wisdom. Wisdom is an undervalued piece of our evolution as humans. Wisdom Cultivators is one of the first organizations to focus on supporting the growth of wisdom.
Before we can get into explaining wisdom cultivation, we must attempt to define wisdom. If you ask 10 people “What is wisdom?” you will likely get 10 different answers, but connecting them are underlying themes, such as having a wealth of knowledge, but knowing the limits of that knowledge, taking different perspectives into account, being compassionate, and having self-awareness. Often, we decide who is wise by observing the outcomes of the decisions they make in their lives and the quality of their relationships. We see the wisdom they hold through their actions and by the level of well-being they experience.
Often wisdom is used synonymously with knowledge or insight, but if you dive a little deeper, you will find that knowledge and insight are only aspects of wisdom.
Insight is a necessary ingredient
Knowledge is the accumulation of facts that you have learned or information you have gained through experience. Knowledge is about study, research, investigation, observation- about taking in new things. As a culture, we are focused on obtaining knowledge, and fact-based, left-brained, intellectual information is revered.
Insight, the other aspect of wisdom, takes knowledge to a deeper level. It is an awareness of the interrelated nature of that which you are knowledgeable of; something that is not so easily taught. Insights can come suddenly and can feel like a piece of the puzzle just dropped into place. They come from inside, rather than from outside. This deep-seated intuition comes from an integration of experience, immediate cognition, and the grasping of the meaning, significance, or truth of an event without relying on intellectual analysis. Insights can feel like a gift, bestowed upon you from an invisible giver.
Cultivating wisdom is using the seeds of knowledge and experience to grow trees of insight that produce fruits of wisdom.
The Wise Mind
The space within the mind where one’s knowledge and insight come together can be referred to as the Wise Mind. The phrase comes from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), where the Wise Mind is conceptualized as the sweet spot between the rational (fact-based) part of our minds and the emotional (feeling-based) part. DBT is a mindfulness-based behavioral therapy that focuses on balancing the tension between acceptance and change, which can enable the synthesis of opposing thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
The core of the wise mind involves a deep sense of intuitive knowing (insight). The wise mind is insight in action. It is the fruit of knowledge and experience. The integration of these 2 “minds” creates insightful thinking, and insightful thinking put into practice is wisdom.
Cultivating wisdom requires practice
As with any new skill, getting into a state of wise mind (or cultivating wisdom) requires practice. Sadly, many of us humans can gain a lifetime of knowledge but never derive insights from it, and never move towards practicing wisdom. In modern times, we look at knowledge as power; a resource that we can use to gain status, authority, and financial security. We are overwhelmingly rationally minded, and when we do leap over to our emotional mind, it is often so chaotic and foreign feeling that we can’t wait to jump back out.
The idea of learning how to act from the wise mind is that with enough practice, it will become natural. Once you practice new skills consistently and persistently, they become second nature. Obtaining knowledge, being open to insights, and then living (acting) from the truths you discover is practicing the skill of wisdom; which leads you to live from a wise mind more often than you are living weighted towards either a rational or emotional mind.
The familiar association between wisdom and old age is connected to the idea that first, one must have knowledge and insight before they can practice the skill of wisdom, but even young people can be mindful of discerning which aspects of knowledge are true, right, lasting, and applicable to their life. What other pieces of knowledge might I be missing, and what insights can I continue to draw from that which I know? How can I encourage insights in my life and use them to direct my actions?
Questions such as these allow you to grow in wisdom. Wisdom cultivation is about living from your wise mind, so you are better able to transform whatever life throws at you, into wisdom.
How does one move from knowledge to insight to wisdom?
Wisdom Cultivators is one of the first organizations to focus on supporting the growth of wisdom by offering psycho-education and a community through which to practice living from the wise mind. Psycho-education is not enough to promote well-being because it primarily supports the growth of knowledge. Without a place to practice transforming knowledge into insight and then into wisdom, lasting personal well-being and positive social change are hard to achieve.
We encourage the growth of the characteristics of wisdom through the sharing of:
- Teachings that align with modern psychological research on well-being.
- Teachings that harmonize with the ancient wisdom found across varied cultures.
- Teachings that create well-being for all who embrace them, while also positively affecting those who don’t.
In the last decade, there has been a huge increase in the number of social scientists studying wisdom. Although the exact definition of wisdom is still up for debate, there is a growing consensus that wise individuals often share many of the same psychological characteristics. What is beautiful about living from a wise mind, is that it naturally encourages you to cultivate the characteristics that are associated with wisdom.
Characteristics of wise people:
Desiring the good of the whole
Supporting the growth of these characteristics is what Wisdom Cultivators aims to do. The content that we share must fit the 3 part criteria mentioned above because cultivating wisdom is not just about personal well-being or inner growth, it is also about collective well-being. There are many self-help practices out there that can unknowingly benefit an individual in one way, while also harming them in another. A balanced focus on all of the above characteristics ensures that wisdom cultivation benefits the individual in a holistic way, while also having positive impacts on the greater good.
Wisdom is a skill that requires practice
Wisdom is not just bestowed upon us. Although we may have moments of clarity and insight, being human means that we are continually challenged to use our wise mind to act in wise ways. So often part of us know the wisest way to proceed by our emotions, biases, and conditioning get in the way.
Cultivating wisdom requires practicing the skill of wisdom, and we offer a supportive place to do that inside of our online community. We want to practice having hard conversations. We want to seek the truth, even when it causes discomfort and uncertainty and we aim to support others in doing the same.
Like many of the exemplars of wisdom that have come before us, you can walk this road alone and grow in wisdom in solidarity. But as humans, we all need connection and a sense of community, and too often this path is a lonely one. If you’d like to grow in wisdom, with the support of others, while also experiencing a sense of belonging, we would love to have you join us!