Excavating Wisdom

safe_imageThey are still excavating in Israel. This came as a surprise to me when I visited the country recently. Before traveling there I naively thought the land had been entirely unearthed and its complete history would be on display for me to see. I assumed all great discoveries had already been documented and recorded. As a visitor to this ancient land I knew I would see and learn about things found long ago, but I had no idea the past is still being pieced together there to this day. It was one of the biggest surprises of the trip.

As we traveled throughout the country visiting national parks and learning the story of this Holy Land, it was not uncommon to see excavations in progress. Our tour guide, Tsippy, would point them out to us which initially was helpful because I did not realize what I was seeing. Large, open sided tents with porous black tops provided shade to diligent workers methodically moving among rock piles beneath them. Sometimes there would be several tents lined in a row.

On one occasion as we traveled down a modern day highway to our destination on the coast Tsippi informed us we were traveling along the Roman road known as the Via Maris. This Sea Road, was one of the most important trade routes connecting Egypt in the south to the Fertile Crescent in the north (modern day Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq). Tsippi, who is Israeli, became animated and pointed out the window to a row of black topped tents beside the Via Maris. She excitedly commented that they had not been there just two weeks before and noted that they must have discovered something new. Her joyful enthusiasm infected us with curiosity.

You see, in Israel, whenever they are creating anything, whether it’s a road or a building, if they come across an artifact, construction must be suspended and a thorough excavation performed. They value their history, and their responsibility to record it, so highly that the country has adopted laws guarding the information contained in the land itself.

In other parts of the country we saw partially constructed highways with barriers across them and detour signage as workers diligently uncovered what was in the soil. Before they could proceed with the road development they were required to uncover the treasures contained in the earth. Thereafter, whenever we would see a black topped tent, whether on a road or in a town, we would pause and wonder what new discovery was about to be made. I came to realize this country is still actively researching and exposing its abundant history.

Israel values the stories contained in their very land and I began to see parallels with personal excavations.  Our lives are made up of the individual stories that make each of us unique. The longer we live the more material is accumulated and buried deep in our bodies, hearts, minds, and souls. What would it be like if we took the time to stop and excavate the story, salvaging the relics and discarding the debris to uncover the treasures within each of us? Instead of busily rushing past our history either in an effort to get ahead, or avoid what is behind, we could stop and brush the dust off our experiences, considering and polishing the artifacts or lessons of our lives to glean understanding. It could provide us with a deeper, more meaningful insight to our own story. We would know ourselves better, appreciating all that brought us to this point and cultivating our own personal wisdom. I believe our experiences are usually our greatest teacher.

Not all history is pleasant to remember and so often we push it into a mental or emotional backpack hiding it somewhere in the recesses of our inner world. Then when something triggers us we experience strong reactions and don’t always understand where the response originates from. We may wonder “Why is this situation so disturbing to me?”

Just as the Israelis interrupt the forward progress of construction to see what the land tells them of their history we could choose to pause our busyness long enough to look at our inner history. With curiosity we could explore our strong reactions, either positive or negative, and learn from them. I might wonder, why does my heart soar when I hear a particular song, or see a particular view? Even riding on a familiar road can evoke memories of the past that warm my heart and soul. Approaching our inner world with curiosity, non-judgment, and loving-kindness allows us to know and accept ourselves better. With greater consciousness we live life aware of who we are and what life-shaping history has brought us to this point. Grounded in self awareness and acceptance we can more readily understand and love others and their stories.

No one is perfect. We all have highs and low periods in our personal stories. There may be times we want to forget and times we long to remember forever. Learning from the difficult times, and savoring the beautiful times, we are able to be more fully present each day knowing we are creating our history as we breathe in each moment.

I wish you peace as you understand and honor all that you are.