Spirituality Reading – Notes on Wise Woman’s Way – Part 1

Wise Woman’s Way by Berta Parrish has the subtitle of “A Guide to Growing Older with Purpose and Passion”. As I have often said, understanding my purpose and passion continue to be a challenge for me in my retirement transition. I was also intrigued with the use of the Wise Woman archetype. This blog captures some of the key points from this book (basically my personal notes from Wise Woman’s Way) and is one of 2 blog posts exploring the ideas in this book.

Berta Parrish’s intent in this book was to resurrect the universal archetype of the Wise Woman, a template written over thousands of years in many different cultures. She embraces the terms of elder, elder-hood, Wise Woman, and even Crone.

The Wise Woman is associated with the third stage of a woman’s life. Wise Woman qualities include wisdom, compassion, mirth, creativity and connection. She is flexible, tolerant, patient, generous, unattached to outcome (not controlling), forgiving, grateful (not envious), curious, open to change (not conservative), optimistic, and accepting.

The more we learn about the Wise Woman archetype, the more we can let it emerge within ourselves. What we focus on, we energize. The journey towards becoming a Wise Woman is a lifelong goal. We never become her but we strive to embody her positive traits (forgiving ourselves when we are not perfect!). We can choose to be optimistic and concentrate on gratitude for each small step we take on the journey.


Beyond presenting the Wise Woman archetype, the book provides some guidance to finding a new/different identity and new purpose as you enter this new stage of life, retiring from full-time employment.   As you move from who you were (in the workforce) to who you are becoming (an elder, living a life towards becoming a Wise Woman), many things need to change. Your habitual ways of thinking, reacting, living took years to form; replacing them also takes time (and repetition). Combined with the cultural conditioned messages of “be young, be productive, consume” it becomes a challenge to reinvent yourself versus remaining in the same productive/consumption mindset and lifestyle. For Parrish, a retirement transition is about moving from conquest, prestige, beauty, and external approval to a quest for wholeness and new life-ways as an elder.

Upon retirement, you no longer have a clearly defined role with built-in structures and expectations, social support, routines, and prestige. If one’s self-worth was defined by career accomplishments and not other talents or interests, you will need to find new avenues for pleasure and reward. In retirement transition, we need to deal with the loss (grieve/mourn) of the work roles and structures and perhaps also the physical losses of an aging body, unmet expectations, or unsatisfactory choices made. This transition is about ending the emotional attachments to the prior (let it go) before beginning the new (let it begin). We relinquish the former identity and give time (let it be) to discover the new identity… the Wise Woman one you will grow into.  

Parrish defines an elder’s work as synthesizing the wisdom of a long life experience and formulating this into a legacy for future generations. The early years of elder-hood (ages 55-ish to 75-ish) is the time for introspection, inward searching, and discovery to release the need for social approval and learn how to validate ourselves from within. Introspection comes via contemplation using writing, drawing, interpreting dreams or reading/listening to inspirational material. We can use meditation, guided imagery, and dream analysis. We need to release critical thinking and allow the mysterious in – to become a seeker.

As you spend time in contemplation (writing, drawing, interpreting dreams, reading inspirational material), you will:

  • Learn how to validate yourself instead of seeking approval.
  • Deal with fears and reality of decline and loss.
  • Reconcile your own polarities and shadows – for example: risk taking versus desire for security, focus on self versus focus on others, feminine versus masculine traits.
  • Feel authentic compassion and non-judgment of others.
  • Connect with a Higher Spirit – through traditional or non-traditional approaches.
  • Create your own symbolic perspective to bring meaning to everyday ordinary events.
  • Share your knowledge, wisdom, and skills.

She also reinforces the belief that we do not need to know if everything is “working”, we just need to continue with consistency, using the tools of the practice. And be gentle if there are slips (for example, you return to shoulds or passing judgment), because old habits are hard to break. Just return to the practice of:

  • Meditation
  • Journal Keeping
  • Dream Analysis
  • Active Imagination (guided meditation)
  • Rituals
  • Community Connection

I loved her suggestion to replace obligation terms (should or must or need to) with words of choice (prefer or choose) or passion words (want or intend). Meditate because you want to! Journal with intention! Choose to do dream analysis!

In the part 2 of this personal notes approach to the book, I’ll share some of the approaches Parrish recommends for understanding your belief systems and creating your own life symbolism.

Have you chosen to incorporate contemplation tools into your life?


Picture: my first attempt at Canva!

20 thoughts on “Spirituality Reading – Notes on Wise Woman’s Way – Part 1

  1. Hi Pat, I bookmarked your posts, since I wanted to make sure to return to them and read them carefully. I like the concept of resurrect the Wise Woman’s template, yet, It has always been present. Our culture does not always embrace it. I had not heard the term “third stage” until this past year. I like some of the words in your paragraph that we do not always associate with a Wise Woman. Examples are “mirth” and “curious.” Your review is filled with many gems. I look forward to reading Part 2:) Erica

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Erica, the book is about 10 years old (if I recall) and I do think the “older woman stereotype” has gotten turned on its head a bit in the past 10 years…with so many wonderful role models who are out there doing amazing things, being bold, full of mirth, curious, and even daring. I’m not sure the old stereotype is completely gone, but there are definitely newly recognized Wise Women in our world today.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pat you always have such interesting thoughts on this stage of life. I particularly liked “(ages 55-ish to 75-ish) is the time for introspection, inward searching, and discovery to release the need for social approval and learn how to validate ourselves from within.” I’m definitely finding that there is work to be done in the area of releasing “working me” and embracing “retired me”. There are ups and downs and the idea of being gentle with myself through it all really resonates with me too.
    Thanks for sharing this and I’m looking forward to Part 2 and for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahh, that nasty social approval … it hits me at such odd moments. A tone of voice, a “you’re doing what?!” or “you’re not doing that?!” said a certain way, or just hearing what others are doing and wondering am I missing out. But then I start over and think about embracing the me I am becoming, validating me from within. A work in progress… maybe by the time I’m 75-ish I’ll have it habitual!


  3. Thank you, Thank you for introducing me to this book – I’ve added it to my must-find list! I love the idea of being comfortable in my own skin (even in the condition it’s in!) and being the me I am, not a youth-seeking/pretending version of a me I think I need to be or others suggest I should be. I appreciate the wisdom I have – gained only by living the number of years I’ve lived. Sharing your article for sure! #mlstl

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agnes, Your welcome! It was a very thought provoking book. Part 2 is coming this week. A lot of things I’m working on… the shift from obligation words to choice words has been an interesting experience!


  4. Find the crone name really ugly…for me. I do understand though the elder word. I like to to think there might be something I have to offer even now. This year I will be joining my husband and turning 70. He already tells me ‘it feels different’. I am hoping to challenge that. Letting go of more shoulds now in my life than ever. At least something is rubbing off in my ‘elder years.’ Thanks for sharing Pat!

    Denyse #mlstl

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Firstly, just how fabulous is Canva? I love it to pieces. I love the idea of replacement of obligation terms. I tend to resent and rebel against certain structures and “shoulds” so using those different words would help me. It’s interesting, but when I was younger the idea of wisdom and the gaining of wisdon were not attributes that I ever would have associated with myself. Like the word contentment they felt like “old” words. As I’ve gotten, (ahem) older I’m becoming more accepting of both terms. Accepting – another word that I would never have associated with myself…or patience. Actually, I still have some work to do in both of those regards!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve always viewed acceptance differently than most people. For many, it seemed to be negative, but I felt it was a positive term. And I’ve learned to love the word contentment! It really describes how I feel about my current life.

      I’m going to keep playing with Canva and see how it works for headers on my blog. This one still cut off too much, so I must be doing something not quite right yet.


      1. Pat you need to find out what the size of the pic is that you need and then format your image to those dimensions. After creating it in Canva and dowloading it to my laptop, I crop my header pic down to 700 x 450 and make sure that the image is in the right place to allow for the cropping (so I don’t lose any bits off the edges!) Keep playing around and you’ll get there xx

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Mixed emotions are not uncommon with retirement, so do not feel you’re alone in that! Give yourself time to grieve the loses, because it is the end of one stage of your life and the things that go with that. Give yourself time to fill the days with other things. You might spend time this next year creating a Possibilities List, things to explore when you have the time. Look for classes you might want to take, either on-line or in person. I’ve taken all kinds of classes – from creative writing to pottery to cooking!
      Local Meet-ups can link you into things of interest, or recently retired friends can have suggestions too. Just focus on what you are interested in, and I do believe things will start to fill in on your calendar.


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