As a 58-year old senior at Smith College, I have been immersed in questions about the future.
However, recently, I took a brief look at what I have learned from the past. I realized that
sometimes people have conveyed great wisdom to me, and they have often done so without verbalizing
it. They have instead conveyed it simply by the manner in which they have lived their lives.
And there have also been times when a crisis or ordinary circumstance holds a nugget of wisdom
unappreciated until years later. The following examples are recorded at random here in hopes
that others might appreciate some of the wisdom which has blessed my life.
Barb, the First Boss:It is ok to say “No”. Strong women often say no and
they often do not.
It is good to serve your own well being—it allows you to give more freely to others.
Vera, the Fourth Boss: Try to solve problems before seeking help. You will feel more
empowered and the solution may be more creative. On the other hand, avoid a life of crisis
management; seek help in a timely manner.
A sense of humor is more fun than perfection or a clean desk.
One can choose to die, and it will be magnificent.
Debbie the Dirt Eater (after eating dirt when we were six): Plants have a close relationship
to dirt, but what works for one being doesn’t necessarily work for another.
David the Bully (first grade): If you are going to say something unkind about someone,
say it to their face or not at all.
Grandma: Good sex is good.
People on airplanes: If a person hurts you, are they to blame if they are incapable
of being any different?
Your mother has hurt you. Your mother is never going to change because she can’t change.
You are not your mother.
Mac the Mentor: Disappointments and unrealized goals are often the soils that make
Part of being intelligent is recognizing an opportunity when you see the sun glint off something
among the stones. Run back and look at those sparkles which catch your inner eye—there
could be a jewel there.
It is ok to make money. Greed, not wealth, is the culprit. In terms of money, one always has
the choice of taking the high road or the low road. There is a belief that good people should
not desire to make money. On the contrary, it is the idealistic, generous people who should make
money because they will share it and be wise guardians of its power.
If you believe that all your decisions are in stone then they will become the prison walls
around you. Decisions and their results often depend on circumstances, not your efforts. One
type of decision making doesn’t fit all problems.
If you have been severely hurt, mistreated, or tortured by the forces of evil and madness,
you can still triumph—choose to live a meaningful life.
Bad Bill: Love does not grow in toxic soil. Toxic relationships become sludge in your
life and create all the associated effects of sludge.
Fred the Irishman: Sometimes laughing at inappropriate times is important.
Don’t forget to sing and dance, and ask others to share such with you.
Periodically run wild in the woods and be out of control.
What a joy it ’tis to take off that business suit and jump buck naked into the Bay.
A good joke can disarm your opponent and often builds bridges.
Howard at Lunch: Expect change to be good. Change à challenge à creativity.
Emma the Mentor: Synergy exists, accessible through consciousness. Synergistic events
are like sign posts. Watch for them along the journey.
Use all your tools for making decisions: intuition, rationality, research, and consultation.
Intuition is a subtle melody at first, barely discernable in the background, but with practice
it becomes a symphony.
Consciousness is knowing the reasons for the changes you make and the relationships you accumulate
in your life. It is also the source of eliminating clutter and toxic people from your life.
Barbara the Mentor: Getting things done in good times or crisis requires focus, flexibility,
planning, and perseverance.
Being strong doesn’t mean you never ask for help.
Always surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
You can do absolutely anything you deeply desire to do.
Jo Ann the Mentor: Maybe the dividing line between work, play, and education shouldn’t
be there at all.
If you have to accept a job you dislike, there is no reason why you can’t alter that
job in some way to make it better—think of it in terms of improving poor soil.
While you are worrying about time passing by, it does.
If you want something, speak about it with clarity. Otherwise, you’ll get what somebody
Rumi: It makes absolutely no difference what another person thinks about you.
Thoreau: If you want to know the Truth about your life, spend a lot of time alone in
the woods or by the river examining the laws and the relationships of Nature.
Waiting room of a hospital, mystical experience: The existence of Spirit shows up at unexpected
times and in unexpected ways in your life. Try to call it in when needed.
Jack the Client: There is rarely any decision which cannot be deferred for 24 hours.
Don the Yoga Teacher: We don’t change without consistent introspection and delving
deeper. It is our responsibility to pay attention and cultivate our own awareness. The right
answer for one is often the wrong answer for another.
Observe your own fear and develop a relationship with it. This will subdue reactivity.
Responding with moments of silence can sometimes empower you more than speaking your response.
If you want to understand who a person really is, watch them struggle with their self-expectations.
Milton the Scholar: Beauty and education often intersect and take you on a glorious
Mike the Course Leader: If you have a dream and someone says “no”, be persistent.
Stand in the question of “what if”.
Quit stepping over things which don’t work in your life.
Anne the Writing Teacher: Pay attention. Tell the Truth.
Me, the Organizer: Once a year make a list of what is working and not working in your
life. Know that you don’t necessarily have to take action immediately; this will defer
any anxiety which might minimize your ability to think and plan effectively.
Title of painting on gallery wall at Cape Cod Community College: Judging yourself on
experience outside of your own.
Yoga Scholar George’s 14-year old son when asked how to explain spiritual matters: Gee,
Dad, isn’t it all about whether you learn to love or you don’t?
Students wrote these poems after listening to selections from Beverly Rollwagen’s book, She
Just Wants (Nodin Press, 2004)