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To Find Wisdom, Follow Your Own Breadcrumbs

"What you seek is seeking you," Rumi said, which means some things are not meant for you - noticing patterns in your reality will show you the wisdom you're meant to embody

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When I was younger, I laid my hand flat on the electric burner at a cabin in northern Minnesota. 

My mother warned me, and, as if in slow-motion, dove toward the stove to try to stop me from doing what I was so clearly set on accomplishing. Now, there is a hard, thin, white scar about an inch long on my left palm, offering me a daily reminder. Of what?

The story, as told by my mother is an ode to my stubbornness, perhaps recalling the eye-contact we made in the last moments before my hand hit the stove that dangerously whispered for me to come toward it. And yes, while stubbornness is a trait I have honed nicely over the years, perhaps there is another meaning behind this experience. 

“What do you know now in a deeper way than you knew it before?” 

This is the question Melinda Gate’s friend asks her often, and that she shares with us in her book, The Moment of Lift. Gates goes on to say, “Wisdom isn’t about accumulating more facts; it’s about understanding big truths in a deeper way.”

The pursuit of wisdom, finding our way through understanding to get in touch with our inner knowing is a lifelong endeavor for all of us. 

Instrumental to this journey, for me, is books. 

People write for all sorts of reasons. But, at the core of most books is an author’s desire for some piece of wisdom to be relayed to their readers. A truth they know to be meaningful, that others can incorporate into their lives, as well.  

I am currently reading my 75th book this year and on track to hit a goal of 100 books total. The books I read tend to focus on spirituality and the self, and therefore, there is a lot of overlap among the content of their pages. In taking Gates’ mindset, I welcome this. The more I read about the same big truth from different perspectives and multiple authors, the easier it is for me to integrate that wisdom into my own knowing. 

If you’re not interested in spending the time it takes to read 100 books (totally understand), I want to share four pieces of wisdom encountered many times throughout the books from this year. By reflecting on the quotes I chose to remember and copy into my journal, I came to a surprising realization about what wisdom can mean for all of us, regardless of whether these four pieces of wisdom resonate with you.  

Go against what others tell you to do

“With good intentions, we’re seduced into becoming a self that is diametrically opposed to who we are authentically.” – The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

At the end of February, I received a job offer. I knew it was risky to turn down, but I was in the fourth and final round for a position I wanted more at a different company. What could go wrong? The day of my final interview was March 16th, and five minutes before the call began, I was notified the company just went into a freeze due to Covid-19.  

Go deeper

“It started to make sense that every experience, good or bad, was just stuff —stuff to nudge us away from our attachment to ego identification and toward soul identification.” – Comedy Sex God by Pete Holmes

Left in that in-between place of waiting for the company to open back up again and not knowing when that would be, I had no idea what to do. I didn’t realize how deeply rooted a job, a way to contribute, and making money was my guiding compass for my own sense of inner value. Until it no longer could be.

Change your mind to change your life

“What a powerful moment it is, though, when we finally see that we have it the wrong way around. All of us can find and nurture the capacity for positive feelings now, rather than waiting until some longed-for event occurs.” – The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks 

For months I struggled. Sitting in that unknown place was deafening. I didn’t want to question everything I thought life was for what I fearfully hoped it could be. I had fallen in love with feeling stuck, with waiting. That job I was hoping to get? I knew it wasn’t actually where I wanted to go. Now was all I had, and I was finally ready to live there. 

Take risks to become who you are meant to become 

“My goal is not to remain the same but to live in such a way that each day, year, moment, relationship, conversation and crisis is the material I use to become a truer, more beautiful version of myself. The goal is to surrender, constantly, who I just was in order to become who this next moment calls me to be.” – Untamed by Glennon Doyle

At the end of July I packed up all my belongings and put them in storage. I became fully nomadic, indefinitely, living out a dream that whispered steadily to me for years. 

There’s a reason I read what I did this year, and a reason I held onto these sentences. Reading the same 75 books, I have no doubt you’d be prompted toward completely different action. And that is exactly how it should be.

The beauty of wisdom, unlike what we may think, is that it is not universal. (If you find yourself rolling your eyes at that throw pillow that says “Follow Your Dreams,” it’s likely not your wisdom.) Living out of a backpack may not sound all that great to you, either. We each need to find our own breadcrumbs.

The lessons we struggle to learn, experiences that mean the most to us, the way in which we come upon, choose to accept and finally arrive at those truths; that is our path of life. Wisdom is our guidepost on that journey, back to Source, back to the home within ourselves. And while that Source is the same for all of us, our path to get there is as varied as we are. 

I want to return to the scar on my hand. 

That experience wasn’t about defiance or being stubborn, rather, wisdom that lay waiting to be understood. Stay curious, no matter the cost. Can that be painful? Of course. But for someone like me, prone to getting stuck in my head, the universe offered a physical reminder early on. I needed to feel the exhilaration of action to keep me vigilant of the much deeper pain that comes with inaction, with forgetting my innate curiosity; a curiosity, that, when fully switched on, feels like my superpower.

Our wisdom not only leads us back to Source, it is also how we are most of service to others. We walk each other home with our superpowers, and this game of life is about following the breadcrumbs to reconnect with what wisdom tells you is yours. 

So, let me ask you, what is whispering?

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