Once upon a time there was a young woman who lived in a village far, far away. This young woman was going through some hard times and needed help deciding what to do with her life. She turned to a trusted friend to ask for advice.
The friend was understanding, but didn’t have any answers. Just before sending the young woman away, the friend remembered something. “I’ve heard of a wise woman who lives in a cabin deep in the woods. Many people travel from far distances to speak with her and learn from her wisdom. Maybe she can help you!” The young woman thanked her friend and hurried to pack a bag for the long journey ahead.
The next day, the young woman set off early to find the wise woman in the woods. She spent all day trekking over mountains and across rivers. Finally, after many hours of hiking, she came to a clearing in the woods. There in the clearing she saw an old cabin and she knew she was in the right place. As she approached the cabin, she saw two rocking chairs and a small table on the front porch. On the small table sat two mugs and a small tea kettle. The young woman was tired and thirsty from the long journey, so she sat down and poured herself a cup of tea.
For a long time, the young woman sat alone on the porch, sipping her tea. Just then, she heard footsteps along the path leading to the cabin and she saw an older woman walking toward the cabin. “This is it,” she thought, “This must be the wise woman in the woods.” The older woman climbed the stairs to the porch and sat down in the empty chair. Smiling at the young woman, the older woman poured herself a cup of tea from the pot on the table.
The young woman did not want to be rude, so she stayed quiet, waiting for the older woman to speak. Without saying a word, the two sat in silence for nearly an hour. As the sun began to set, the older woman finished her cup of tea, stood up, and walked off back into the woods. The young woman was quite confused. Why had the wise woman not said anything? She decided to set up camp in the clearing near the cabin, and return the next day to try again and discover what advice the wise woman had for her.
The next day, the young woman woke up with the sun and headed back to the cabin. Just like the day before, there were two rocking chairs and a small table on the front porch. On the table were two mugs and a fresh pot of tea. This time, the older woman was already sitting on the porch waiting. The young woman sat down and poured herself a cup of tea. For the next four hours, the two sat in total silence. Not a single word was uttered between the two of them. Just as the sun reached its peak in the sky, the older woman finished her tea, got up, and walked back into the woods.
The young woman was starting to worry. Had she done something to upset the wise woman? Or maybe this was a test. Maybe the wise woman was trying to teach her that there was wisdom to be found in silent reflection. Silent reflection!? The young woman hadn’t traveled over mountains and across rivers for silent reflection. She came for answers. The young woman headed back to her camp to regroup and come up with a plan. She was bound and determined get answers, so she decided that she would break the silence the next day, no matter how rude it seemed.
The following day, the young woman walked back to the cabin to find the same two rocking chairs and small table on the porch. Just like on the days before, the table was stocked with two mugs and a fresh pot of tea. Settling in, the young woman poured herself a cup and waited for the older woman to arrive. Minutes later, the older woman emerged from the woods, climbed the cabin steps, and sat down. Before the older woman could even finish pouring her tea, the young woman blurted out, “Excuse me, I’m sorry to be rude but I can’t hold my tongue any longer. I’m going through hard times and I need advice about what to do with my life. I’ve heard legends about a wise woman in the woods and so I’ve come here to learn from your wisdom.”
The older woman finished pouring her tea and looked up at the young woman. For several seconds her face was completely blank, as though she were dumbfounded. Slowly a smile broke across her face, “This whole time, I thought you were the wise woman in the woods,” proclaimed the older woman. She too had been going through hard times and was looking for advice about what to do with her life.
The younger woman was astonished. They had each come to this cabin in the woods looking to find answers. Trying not to be rude and look foolish, they had spent two whole days with each other in silence. The two spent the rest of the day drinking tea and sharing stories with each other about their lives and the troubles they were going through.
Despite the risk that the young woman felt in speaking first, she realized that it was worth opening up and breaking the silence. Through sharing stories, both women learned insights about what they might do with their lives. Neither had definitive answers for the other, but by opening up and telling stories, they came to understand the real wise woman that they were looking for didn’t live in a cabin in the woods. The wise woman lived inside each of them.