By Mary Jane Kasliner
“When we feel, a kind of lyric is sung in our heart. When we think, a kind of music is played in our mind. In harmony, both create a beautiful symphony of life.”
Many of the great writers and philosophers have pondered a life lived in harmony. I would imagine living such a life would be likened to experiencing heaven on earth. But how do we go about doing that? Toba Beta gives us an idea in her quote: “When we feel, a kind of lyric is sung in our heart. When we think, a kind of music is played in our mind. In harmony, both create a beautiful symphony of life.” Sounds so simple in theory, however the relationship we have with ourselves and what matters to us is usually in conflict with the relationship we have with the world around us. When this happens, we experience stress. Why? A little thing called resistance takes front and center and we refuse to give in and accept what is. When this occurs it is impossible to align our thoughts, actions, and relationships with our true values; the result is disharmony.
The Law of Least Effort
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
In Deepak Chopra’s book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, he discusses “The Law of Least Effort.” This law states that nature’s intelligence functions with effortless ease. Just looking at the natural ebb and flow of the ocean tides or blooming flowers supports this law. If you notice flowers and trees do not strain to bloom but rather there is grace, perfect timing, and finesse when it comes to transforming its energy. The Law of Least Effort tells us that we can do less and accomplish more when we let go of resistance and simply accept what is.
There must be more to living a life of harmony than just learning how to accept ‘what is.’ And in fact, there is. If we continue from the standpoint of nature, there are in fact other components that fulfill the elements of harmony and balance; albeit these components do contain many paradoxes. For example, if you observe the great forces of nature, it is obvious that there is a level of detachment, yet compassion, between these interacting forces. For example, trees spread their roots deeply into the earth but are not attached to the earth. Trees recognize the nurturing qualities Mother Earth provides and display their compassion through an exchange of nutrients released for other living things to feed upon.
There are other paradoxes we see in nature, too. If you observe a flower blooming there is a joyful expression in its petals — an enjoyment of life if, you will. However, flowers do not cling to this life. They accept their eventual decay as part of the process. They do not obsess over how perfect their color, shape, or texture is during their lifetime. They are simply indifferent to success or failure of their growth patterns.
Other paradoxes of harmony can also be seen through the eyes of the Taoist sage. Taoism is a philosophy of simplicity and noninterference. It is a Chinese philosophy that advocates a simple life allowing a noninterference with the natural course of things. The Taoist sage is a man of honor, and yet he does not reap honor. He lives a life of highest moral order but ignores ethics and morals. He achieves but does not strive. He knows the answers but prefers to remain silent. These are paradoxes, yet they define perfect harmony the same way nature itself seems to be a harmonious blend of such paradoxes.
Living Close to Nature
“Nature is the art of God.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Even in the midst of city chaos, not a day goes by that man’s eyes won’t fall upon some aspect of nature’s beauty, natural rhythm, and flow of life. Whether it’s the sunrise and sunset, tree branches as they fold in the wind, a bird’s fluttering wings, or swollen clouds drifting along the gray sky, the earth’s sights and sounds ignite the human spirit and induce a sense of harmony.
Remaining intimately close to the instinctual aspects of nature even amongst society’s shifting struggle to reach some imaginary apogee makes all the difference when it comes to experiencing a life of harmony. But how can we do that without becoming lured into the artificial corporate environment of greed and envy? It is simple. Spend time in nature every day and seek its natural qualities in your own environment. Choosing natural design elements such as real wood, natural stones, metals, and fresh water features are perfect ways to bring the outdoors inside. There are countless benefits to surrounding yourself with nature’s essence including ways to bring balance into your life. For example, trees teach us to be flexible in life. How? Their flexible branches allow it to withstand different weather conditions. In flexibility there is strength and resilience. If we maintain a flexible position in our attitude and viewpoint, then we naturally see eye-to-eye with others.
Trees also teach us acceptance through their ever-changing patterns of shedding leaves and sprouting new shoots. This is what keeps them alive and filled with vitality. If you accept change as part of the natural order of things, then your life will gain new vitality; you will have a zest for living and a feeling of being balanced.
Wind teaches us how to let go and be free in life. Wind does not resist but rather is free in spirit. When we let go of resistance life is joyful, harmonious, and abundantly blessed. Wind energy also teaches us to rely on our intuition — the voice of the higher self. When we listen to the seer within and use “the word” impeccably, then we experience heaven on earth.
The sky teaches us to be free-spirited. To let go completely means to let go of what others may think, to release conventional behavior, not to let anything bog you down. Father Sky implores you to march to the beat of your own drum by allowing your personality to become boundless, full of life, well-rounded, interesting and happy-go-lucky.
Mother Earth teaches us to be humble and truthful. The earth doesn’t rank different aspects as being better than others; all parts are equal. When you realize that no one is superior to another and honor our differences, accomplishments can be shared with grace. Seeking truth is the cornerstone to harmony. The earth is always true to itself. It doesn’t seek to destroy. If we are true to ourselves first, then it will be easy to be true to others and live in a state of balance.
The element of water in nature teaches us to persevere and look for assistance on our path. Trying to do it all only leads to frustration and imbalance. When we seek others out on our life’s journey, then abundance follows, anxiety dissipates, and harmony takes hold.
The fire of the sun teaches us to see things clearly and rely on insight. You can become the creator of your own destiny and, in the process, empower yourself and others. Sun energy reminds us of the simple pleasures of summertime where everything comes out to play: flowers are in bloom, and laughter is in the air. Without the element of joy, life is stressful and out of balance.
The majestic mountains of the earth exude a sense of stillness. When we practice stillness through meditation we maintain composure and find a greater meaning in each experience and unleash potential power. Mountain energy also teaches us to value our efforts in life and not just the successes. This requires patience so we can discover who we are and who we are not, which leads us to the axis of our being where everything revolves and a cheerful acceptance of life can be found.
Communing with nature feels like coming home. It has a way of energizing the spirit, keeping us balanced and joyful. One can feel the wind communicating, full of life and intelligence, while the sunlight, with all of its warmth and vitality, energizes everything in its path. There is an intertwining of energy that dances between us and Mother Nature where harmony exists.
“When there is no desire, all things are at peace.”
The Taoist sage does not rely on external things to provide him with a harmonious spirit. When we are dependent on things like wealth, status, popularity or success we easily crumble in the face of defeat, failure or loss.
To live means to have balance in our thoughts and actions. Excess of any kind leads to imbalance and suffering; however, the fact is that nature does not allow us to move away from this balance. Everything in nature grows, stabilizes and withers away. Man, on the other hand, fights against this law not by living a balanced life but resorting to gimmicks that promise to break this cycle. This simply creates a vicious cycle with no end in sight.
For equanimity to arise, we must accept life experiences for what they are — the good, the bad and the ugly — while not reacting either negatively or positively. The only way to have a balanced life is to stay rooted in a state of calm acceptance no matter what the outcome. Although it can be difficult to remain calm when things are not going as planned, it is the way to harmony. Should we choose to fight against what is, the universe will respond with repeated circumstances that expose us to unpleasant situations. Unless we move forward and adjust our behavior to these disagreeable circumstances, the cycle will repeat and suffering will continue.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
–Leonardo da Vinci
Living a modest life with little desire and almost no expectation can be difficult in a world dedicated to material gain and vanity. However, living a simple life has its perks. When you choose to live with enough, but not in excess, you tap into the essence of a good life. You eliminate all the “stuff” so your life becomes unfettered and there is more time to do what you want to do instead of what you have to do.
Choosing to live a simpler life makes it easier to balance your time between work, home and other responsibilities. When there are fewer distractions in your life, there are fewer things competing for your time. Taking that long walk, visiting with a friend, or curling up with your favorite book becomes a reality rather than a wishful thought.
‘Less is more’ is a precept for minimalist design. This phrase cuts to the chase when it comes to living simply. The less we put in our environments and in our minds, the better off we will be. Once we voluntarily decided to let go, we eliminate the worry and anxiety that come with trying to maintain everything. We reduce the busyness factor which of course is activity with no real purpose. We begin to recognize all those things we do that have no real purpose. Life is too short to waste it on being busy. Instead, choose to live simply and reacquaint yourself with the fundamental beauty of nature. You’ll come to appreciate the natural elegance of Mother Nature and feel more balanced as a result.
“Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.”
Mindful living is attending to the present moment without judgment. It involves nothing more than being in a state of awareness — noticing moment to moment what is happening and then releasing it until the next experience arises. Yoga follows this same mindful concept. One becomes a witness to the breath, making no judgments but simply allowing the next breath to occur.
When we take the role of being the witness in life rather than judge and jury, it has a calming effect on our brain. The more we practice this approach, the more our brain wants it. The “monkey mind,” as Buddhists call it, slows down and a new peaceful way of being takes hold. This is the key to living a harmonious life — letting go of the mind chatter and being in the here and now. After all, life unfolds in the present.
When you become mindful you begin to realize you are not your thoughts. Instead you awaken to the experience of the thoughts. When you tune into this behavior, stress is reduced, the urge to be impulsive or reactive wanes, and the immune system is activated in a positive way. So how can one begin to live more mindfully? Here are a few simple things you can do to get the energy moving in the right direction:
- Stop over-thinking things. Just let go and be in the moment.
- Let go of the past or wondering about the future and experience what is happening right now.
- Practice tuning into your breath. This simple act will automatically move you from an ego state of mind to feeling more connected to yourself and others.
- Move into a state of flow. Flow occurs when you are so engrossed in a task that you lose the concept of time.
- Meet a challenge head-on instead of resisting it. Resistance will only magnify it.
- Take notice of new things in every situation. This will automatically shift you from ‘Monkey Mind’ into the present moment.
- Think of yourself as an eternal witness and just observe the moment.
“Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again, Because a vision softly creeping, Left its seeds while I was sleeping, And the vision that was planted in my brain Still remains Within the sound of silence.” –Simon and Garfunkel
The sound of silence — isn’t that a contradiction? Is there really a vision of silence or, for that matter, emotions contained in silence? Simon and Garfunkel seem to think so, and I tend to agree with them. If you’ve ever experienced entering “The Gap” during meditation there is a definite softness that creeps in and a far-off humming sound as if you can hear the vibration of the universe. It is a feeling of profound peace.
A keynote to a harmonious life is to cultivate silence — certainly a challenge when we are constantly bombarded by noise, social media, and the need to be overly busy. Silence can be a spiritual experience. It can also be a treasure. Finding the quietude in between the sounds and activities of the day can act as a grounding mechanism that will deepen your connection to yourself and others.
Building more silence into your daily life can be as simple as taking a quiet moment before bed or contemplating a peaceful image. The idea is to fall into the realm of nothingness so you can cultivate spaciousness and deepen the connection to your soul. The benefits of devoting a few short minutes a day to silence can reduce stress, improve mental clarity, expand insight, and enhance well-being.
Silence is accessible to each of us. It doesn’t require a special password or cost anything. It is a simple choice that can uncover the intelligent voice within and lead to pure joy.