Discernment is key to every wisdom tradition. It’s about sorting out the stuff of life — the experiences we have, the people we walk with, the “signs and signals” we pick up — by asking good questions about their meaning and importance in the living of our lives.
Is this my problem, or does it belong to someone else?
Is this something from which I can learn, or have I already been there and done that?
Is this life-giving for me and those around me, or is it death-dealing in ways small or large?
Is this something to which I can give myself, or must I let it go?
I’m inspired by William Stafford‘s poem about discernment. Like much of Stafford’s work, it is simple and mysterious at the same time. I don’t understand all of it, but that’s OK — there’s a lot about myself and life I don’t understand either! Still, I feel certain that the poem contains some critical clues to discernment, not least in its last few lines.
by William Stafford
One mine the Indians worked had
gold so good they left it there
for God to keep.
(Excerpted from An Oregon Message.)