Pondering on Practical Wisdom: An Inquiry from a Fan

by | May 19, 2014 | 2 comments

I received an email from a reader asking a question he would like to see responded to in a blog post. For those of you reading, you can always email me with a topic you would like me to touch on and I will do my best to do so. Here we go with today’s inquiry:

Dear Elizabeth,

Sometimes I wonder what practical wisdom is. With our thoughts and feelings running, we do make choices with our intellect. I still find some people who are able to manage themselves as well others with a practical wisdom. I do not know it may be my random thought, but like you to deal with this in any of your posts.

Thanks and regards,

Wisely Wondering

Wow. What a powerful question. And one so full of possibility. I am grateful to this reader for sending it and for trusting in me to share a response from my heart. Which is what I intend to do below, so here it goes.

When I first read the email, I naively thought that this would be an easy and quick response post. Then taking some time of my own to reflect on the topic and reread the email several times through I realized it was much more detailed.

First I realized- ‘Do I really ‘know’ what practical wisdom is?’ I mean, what sort of training, education, background or experiences do I actually have to speak to this topic. So I went to Google.

I found two resources which spoke volumes in value to me.

  • The first is my dear old friend, Wikipedia. This page defines the origin of the term ‘practical wisdom’. Aristotle, the founder of this theory, states: “Phronesis involves not only the ability to decide how to achieve a certain end, but also the ability to reflect upon and determine good ends consistent with the aim of living well overall.” Through experience, practical wisdom utilizes judgment, understanding, and insight to result in effective action for the good of service to all.
  • Which led me to this TED Talk with Barry Schwartz on using our practical wisdom. I actually sat and watched the entire 23 minutes of this empowering articulation of wise practice in action. Mr. Schwartz’s presentation articulates both the need for virtuous character (where people want to do the right thing) and the flexibility that is required (being able to improvise) to provide service for the good of others.

Now I realize that this may not be exactly what my blog reader was asking for, yet I felt it would be a disservice to you as the readers had I left these important pieces out of the puzzle. To the statement ‘With our thoughts and feelings running, we do make choices with our intellect I will respond myself from my own experiences as a Spiritual Practice Nurse and Reiki Master Teacher.

In doing my morning meditation the other day, I pulled an energy card that revealed an image of a magician holding water in one hand and fire in the other. Behind him was a mirror. The card’s message spoke volumes to my spirit and I believe the information is pertinent in this discussion of practical wisdom, thoughts/feelings and intellect.

Water can be seen as the yin energy. It is flowing, non-doing, and intuitive. The water image can relate to our thoughts and feelings, the true heart’s desire or life purpose. The fire is the yang energy. It is the action, movement and creative energy that propels us forward. Without one the other is not as strong. In only focusing on part we are not whole human being and spirit.

We certainly do make choices based on intellect. I hope that we consciously choose to do the right and moral thing that is for the good of serving others. Yet at the same time our heart has to be invested in this decision. If we feel some of the lower, heavier vibrations of guilt, worry, jealousy or anger are impacting our intellectual choice then we make the wrong decision and ultimately do not follow our heart’s desire.

When we live from practical wisdom, in taking what I have learned from Aristotle’s teaching on the Wikipedia page and the TED video from Barry Schwartz, we enjoy being virtuous in action. As Mr. Schwartz said in his closing remarks, practical wisdom is the key to happiness. When we enjoy meaningful and fulfilling lives full of purpose (at home and/or at work) then we can be truly satisfied.

So, Wisely Wondering, I hope this answers your question in at least some of the way you were looking for. To close, your own practical wisdom knows the response to your very question. The answer lies within. Now it is time to become quiet and listen for it.

I would love to hear your feedback on this post. Any thoughts, questions, comments? And by all means, if you have a topic you would like to see here, let me know and I will do my best to respond. Thank you for reading and enjoy your health today.


  1. skp200219SK Puri

    Elizabeth – you are amazing! Nursing from within is practical wisdom. Health care professional to have empathy is practical wisdom. Sometimes life is asking a different question and we are answering differently is foolish.Love, acceptance,balance and stability is practical wisdom,to love,play and work in a balanced manner is practical wisdom.To have mindfulness and live in presence is practical wisdom
    Life may try to throw us out of equilibrium.,to again get centered and stable ,to come back from a setback is practical wisdom.

    SK Puri

    • Elizabeth Scala

      Hello SK Puri,
      Thank you so much for reading. I am glad that you enjoyed the post. So happy that you have shared further on areas, aspects and pieces of practical wisdom with us here today. Yes, all of these are practical wisdom as listening to the guidance that comes from within- this is practical wisdom. Enjoy the day,


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