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The Old Woman and the Train: A Parable About Centering for Wisdom

One day a businessman was traveling to another city for an important meeting with a potential client.  He was rolling through the countryside and cornfields of the Midwest, where he was no longer receiving cell phone service.  He pulled up to a railroad crossing and the gate was down.  There was one car in front of him.  This was one of those really long and loud trains, where he couldn’t see the end – there was only train cars as far he could look.  It was a beautiful spring day, so he decided to get out of his car.  Pacing back and forth, he started to review his proposal in his mind.


After a while he noticed that the woman in the car was waving him over.  As he drew near, he was struck by a sort of ageless beauty on the woman’s face.  Even though she was clearly an older woman, she had bright, kindly eyes that twinkled with a youthful warmth.  He felt immediately calmed by her smile.

She was speaking to him with her window down, but because of the noise from the train he couldn’t hear her.  So he leaned in even closer, just inches from her face now, but still couldn’t hear.  He tried to show her that he was unable to hear, and this made her start waving her arms and pointing.  But he just couldn’t make out what she was saying.  After a while he just smiled kindly and walked back to his car.

Soon, the end of the train passed, the gates went up, and they both drove away.  A couple miles down the road, he came to an unexpected fork in the road, and since he still didn’t have Siri to tell him which way to go, he decided to go to the right.  Shortly after that he heard a loud “Ka-Chunk!”  He pulled over and found that he had two flat tires.  Not having any way to fix two flats, nor any cell phone coverage, he started to walk, hoping he’d find someone who could help.

A little while later, the same kindly woman pulled up and offered to drive him to the nearest gas station.  As they drove, she explained that she was trying to tell him that he would be coming to a fork in the road, and that he shouldn’t go to the right because there had been a terrible accident with lots of debris in the road.  He couldn’t hear her voice because of all the noise from the train.

The moral of this story is that we all possess an inner core of wisdom that can guide us through the many decisions we have to make every day.  The kindly woman represents your inner core of wisdom and goodness.  The noisy train represents all the distractions and stress of modern life that cause us to lose touch with our center of wisdom.  Now some this noise is external – like all the pings, notifications, and ads clambering for our attention.  But some of that noise is internal – the constant mental chatter, commentary, and critical voice in your head.  That noise is a bit trickier to deal with, and a bit more frustrating.

We need a simple way to listen to that inner voice of wisdom so it can guide us toward wise and ethical decision making.  If you think about it, the sum of your life is really the sum total of all the decisions you make every day – whether big, important decisions, or small, mundane ones.  Centering for Wisdom is the practice of returning your center of wisdom, of tuning in and listening to your thoughts, your feelings, your desires – ultimately to your heart’s ultimate desires and the inner wisdom that will guide you along the way.

To get started, follow the link over to and sign up for our email list, and you’ll immediately get my free E-Book on “How to Start Practicing Centering for Wisdom,” along with a bonus guided Centering Meditation audio track.  It’s easier to get started with a centering practice than you might think, and my E-Book, Centering for Wisdom Assessment, the “Contemplate This!” podcast, and other resources will give you everything you need to feel more centered, focused, calm, and productive, even amid a busy life and career.  Do it now as an act of kindness for yourself!

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