Throughout our business and personal lives we encounter many problems on a daily basis. What quality of the mind is most valuable to us when we encounter these problems? The answer of course is wisdom. By wisdom, I mean the quality or ability of the mind to know the answer to a problem. The more wisdom we have, the more likely we are to know the answer.
How does this wisdom arise? It arises simply from observation. For example, assume for a moment that you know nothing about the rules of driving. If you were to stand on a street corner and observe cars as they stopped at the lights and then continued through, how long would it take you to learn that red light means stop and green light means proceed? I’m assuming that most people would realize that fairly quickly. This knowledge is a kind of wisdom which arises from observation.
The same principle is at work with our meditation practice. When we practice insight meditation we observe the body and the mind over the course of 10 to 15 days or however long our retreat is. During that time we can notice several rules of nature playing themselves out for us as we watch and showing us the connection between these rules and every day life.
Just like in our street corner example, we would conclude that it is unsafe to proceed on a red light, there are certain actions in life that are unwise. Similarly, a green light is the signal to continue on and, in life there are definitely times when it is in our interest to move forward in a certain direction. In this way, insight meditation becomes an invaluable fountain of wisdom.