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The wisdom of the sages

There’s sage and then there’s sage !

Sage, as we know, is a type of herb. The sage plant has been used by a number of cultures for thousands of years.  It has been used in Chinese medicine.  It has been used by Native Americans in various ceremonies and for medicinal purposes. Some have even suggested that it leads to immortality!

In China, sage tea has been called the “thinker’s tea.” Along with its anti-inflammatory properties, it has been known to help improve memory and overall brain function.  Perhaps that is why the word “sage” also is used to describe a person who is wise.  It can also be used as an adjective (as in “sage advice”).

The title of this article is a deliberate play on words.  Sages and ages. They both connote a harkening back to ancient times as well as serve as a current example of ancient traditions put to good use in the so-called modern age.  Has there been a resurgence, or have these practices been put to good use all along?  Are we perhaps simply more aware of them now, due to the internet, globalization, and social media?

Sage has even become a somewhat trendy baby name, at least in the United States.  I wonder if it’s part of the ‘Apple’ craze?  (Referring to the celebrity’s baby’s name, not the computer company.)

We all remember being asked the question when we were young: What do you want to be when you grow up?  Me:  a philosopher.  I didn’t hear anyone around me saying that they wanted to be that.  It wasn’t exactly listed anywhere as a possible career track.  That didn’t matter to me.  If it was needed, and served a purpose, why couldn’t it be an occupation?

I wasn’t even exactly sure what all a job as a philosopher would entail. I knew in my heart, though, that it was a role that would be important and one that would be of service to others.  In my imagination, philosophers were the wisest people in their communities.  And, as such, they had a responsibility to answer seekers’ questions and provide helpful suggestions, recommendations, and solutions.

Sometimes we picture “wise ones” sitting on a mountain top, or living in caves in the Himalayas.  In my mind’s eye, I pictured them more along the lines of a wise man or wise woman in Ancient Greece sitting quietly in a town square, as the local villagers would stop by whenever they were seeking an answer to an inquiry or when wrestling with a concern that was weighing heavily on their soul, or when struggling with a conflict they couldn’t quite resolve.

I pictured philosophers dispensing wisdom not unlike a modern day pharmacist dispensing medicine.  And, I did truly envision “philosopher” as an actual vocation, and a paid position, for sure.  I even had a specific annual salary in mind.  I thought that a philosopher should make $300,000 a year.  Here was my reasoning:  At the time, the President of the United States’ annual salary was set at $200,000. Knowing that, accordingly, I figured that philosophers should be paid at least 50% more than the President, as they would be at least that much more wise and valuable to the country and citizenry!  Apparently, I really had put a lot of thought into this (grin).

While Philosopher or Sage may not be a job title, certainly there are modern day professions where others seek their guidance and advice.   Lawyers fall into that category (hence, the term “counselor at law”).  As with some other professions, within law, there are rules of professional responsibility.  It is part of the licensing process, and continuing legal education requirements as well.  And, as covered in this week’s Six-Minute Saturdays episode, many lawyers including myself were drawn to the law as a career because of a deep desire to be of service.

Admittedly, not all legal advice is the sagest or the wisest. I would suggest, though, that the profession is at least designed to serve that purpose, and with that intention.  And, ultimately, the client retains control over whether to heed that advice, ignore it, or even to seek additional opinions.

For your consideration:

So, with that in mind then, allow me to pose this question: Upon whom, ultimately, do we need to rely, for the sagest advice of all?

Are we not, each of us, deep down, our own best philosopher?  We simply need to access that inner wise sage.  That’s why meditation is important.  That’s why getting quiet and still is wise. By listening to our own inner guidance and messages, we each hold the power and divinity to reach the most appropriate conclusions and answers for ourselves.  And, that is valuable beyond compare.

Okay, your turn:

What’s been the sagest advice that you’ve ever received?  What’s the sagest advice that you’ve ever given? What’s the best advice that your inner-sage has revealed to you?  What made it so?  Did you act on it?

I invite you to SHARE your thoughts, feelings, and experiences by leaving a Reply in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2018 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.
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Embracing Excellence

Close on the heels of the Olympic Games, I recently found myself contemplating excellence and what that means in today’s world. I discovered, as it turns out, that along with respect and friendship, excellence is one of the Olympics’ three core values, as set forth by the International Olympic Committee. Excellence is an important element of what many consider to be inherent in the athletes who perform “at that level.”

In this edition of Soul Notes, let’s hold in our hearts this notion of excellence.  What, if any, purpose does it serve?  Is it a worthy goal, an end state?  Or, is it rather a state of being?  Is it something to be embodied, rather than pursued?  Does it matter?  Does embracing excellence (or, its opposite – not embracing it) come with a price?   What does it cost, in terms of our serenity, health, or overall well being?  What impacts result?

FOR THOSE ON A SPIRITUAL PATH

So often we hear the phrase “in the pursuit of excellence.”  Is it, however, all about the pursuit?  I’d like to challenge each of us to replace that with:  embracing excellence.  Unlike the pursuit of something, embracing it sounds and is more encompassing, more in the moment, more present, more “now.”  Pursuing sounds as if it’s a constant state of grasping for something that’s still out in front of you, almost as if it is something that remains ever oh so slightly beyond your reach.  It seems unattainable.

For those on a spiritual path, I would venture to say that it is the embracing of, rather than the pursuing of excellence, that rings true.  It’s a setting of an intention that each of us will embody a way of life, of living, that emerges from our highest state of being.  It is soul centered, soul activated, soul sustaining.  Accordingly, it’s something that, once accessed, can and may be cultivated and developed.

During this season of Northern hemisphere harvesting, it’s a good time to reflect on what each of us has already cultivated with regard to excellence in our lives.  Take a few moments to inventory your relationships, work endeavors, wealth signs, health indicators, and the like.  Remember, as an excellence “embracer,” you’re simply staying on the path of excellence, nurturing and cultivating it throughout your journey.  Survey your life’s stock.  Appreciate and celebrate all the fruits of your excellence to date!  For those areas that are still germinating and not quite yet ‘in full bloom’ for you, continue to foster their continued growth, regeneration, and renewal.

EXCELLENCE IS A QUALITY

Excellence is not an innate gene or trait.  Not unlike integrity, or loyalty, excellence is a quality.  It’s a commitment.  Embracing it is a choice each of us can make — today, and every day.

Why does embracing excellence matter?  I’d say it matters for many of the same reasons we enjoy watching the Olympics!  It brings out the best in ourselves, and in others.  It motivates. It inspires.  It raises us, and others, up.

“Excellence encourages one about life generally; it shows the spiritual wealth of the world.” –George Eliot

Yes, in the Olympics there are medal counts and world records, and pride amongst nations.  What we experience when witnessing the various Olympic events, however, runs deeper than that. 

A few brief weeks or even days after the Olympics have ended, many of us do not even remember who placed in what order, and in which particular event.  Sure, there are those few standouts, who become household names, who garner multimillion endorsement deals, and who receive the ongoing, related spotlight and ‘stardom’.   Or, perhaps a few of the athletes are our personal favorites.  We will remember those names.

What we tend to remember most, however, are the MOMENTS.  The moments of excellence personified.  Individual moments.  Team moments.  Moments frozen in time. We remember the stories of triumphs, and personal “overcomings.” These are what are emblazened on, and held snugly, in our hearts.

For what end?

Some say excellence means something along the lines of “putting out a high quality product.”  This begs the question, of course, of where to draw the line.  It discards and leaves behind, without consideration, the notion that excellence is an admirable quality in and of itself.  It remains of value – with and without attaining a specific, predetermined outcome.  It’s more fluid than that.  Excellence in this sense is more in the shape of a circle than in a straight line.

Let’s consider the fourth place finishers at the Olympics, for example.  Do they embody excellence any “less” than those who get to stand on the podium as the gold, silver, or bronze medalists?

There are inherent benefits of embracing excellence, within ourselves and in appreciating it when we see it in others.  It FEELS GOOD to excel!  It feels good to watch others excel!  It’s PASSION in MOTION!

For your consideration:

As we close, I leave you with these words, from Nobel laureate, Pearl S. Buck:

“The secret of joy in work is contained in one word – excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.

Okay, your turn:

What does excellence mean to you? Is it worth pursuing?  Better yet, is it worth embracing in our daily lives? If so, in what way or ways?

I invite you to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences in the Comments section, below. Soul-to-soul!

© 2016 Lori A. Noonan. All Rights Reserved.