Walking with the Wisdom of All Traditions
An Interview with Sage Bennet, Author of Wisdom Walk: Nine Practices for Creating Peace and Balance from the World's
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 balanceoverworking, 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 walka journey through
the worlds 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 peoples 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 didnt
intend at first. It replaces ignorance about others spiritual traditions
We see the commonalities among traditions rather than what separates us. The
ability to understand each others 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?
Its 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.
Im 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 its understandable because
were 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. Its
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 dont 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 dont
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 wouldnt. 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 arent there
some things that should not be forgiven?
Christianity offers us the wisdom practice of forgiveness. To forgive doesnt
mean we condone actions that are morally reprehensible. . Forgiveness frees
us and allows us to move on.
What many people dont 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 doesnt 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 weve 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 peoples traditions what are some examples
Ill 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 lifehow
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
Another woman in one of the Wisdom Walk classes rejected anything Islamic because
of her allegiance to womens 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 Islamsurrendering
to prayeryet 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 others 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.
Ive experienced in classes that we have disagreements about issues and
we talk them through. We have attitudes and misconceptions about each others
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?
11. What if youre happy with your own spiritual tradition, why learn
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 dont need to join a spiritual tradition to benefit from the wisdom
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