In Perfect Harmony

by Christopher Lovejoy on September 15, 2013

In a world full of conditions and contingencies, somewhere between the magic of “letting it be” and the mystery of “making it so”, stands the unbridled, unsurpassing joy and bliss of perfect harmony.

Allow me to indulge for a moment: if all we did was “let it be”, would we not die of starvation within a week? And if all we did was “make it so”, would we not collapse from exhaustion within a week?

How might we forgo such preoccupations with letting be and making so? Here’s a clue: if attention serves to guide us into “letting it be”, then intention serves to guide us into “making it so”.

Finding and striking a balance between attention and intention, and then keeping the balance between letting be and making so, requires a finely honed skill for present moment awareness.

What might we learn from verse 55 about this balancing act?

Tao Te Ching, Verse 55

Some rather forceful figures of speech appear in this verse. In reading them, we find that Lao Tzu was not without a sense of humor.

Those in harmony
with the Tao
are like newborns.
Deadly insects
will not sting them.
Wild beasts
will not attack them.
Birds of prey
will not strike them.
Bones are weak,
muscles are soft,
yet their graspings
remain firm.

They have not
experienced the union
of man and woman,
but remain whole.
Their manhood or womanhood
stay strong and sure:
they scream all day
without becoming hoarse.
This is perfect harmony.

To know harmony
is to know the changeless;
to know the changeless
is to have insight.
Things in harmony
with the Tao remain;
things that are forced
do grow for a while,
but then wither away.
This is not the Tao.
Whatever is against the Tao
soon ceases to be.

Edited slightly to enhance flow and to reflect more inclusive language

Ref: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

In stillness, as and when attention is assured, intention can be formed with insight.

My Impressions of the Verse

Can perfect harmony be found in being a baby?

Can it be found in not making anything happen?

We’ve all known or heard of at least one person who seems to glide through life without much, if any, effort. What do they know that we don’t? What do they have that we don’t? Let’s find out.

Those in harmony
with the Tao
are like newborns.
Deadly insects
will not sting them.
Wild beasts
will not attack them.
Birds of prey
will not strike them.
Bones are weak,
muscles are soft,
yet their graspings
remain firm.

Here’s our first clue: souls of harmony are like babies; their unassuming presence conveys a flavor of vulnerability that evidently brings them a lasting kind of immunity against hurt or harm.

These souls are naturally weak, and strong, naturally soft, and firm. In perfect harmony with the Way, their intentions are guided by nurture even as their attentions are guided by nature.

If you’re paying attention, one of these blessed souls will show up in your experience.

In my experience, they’re showing up more and more.

They have not
experienced the union
of man and woman,
but remain whole.
Their manhood or womanhood
stay strong and sure:
they scream all day
without becoming hoarse.
This is perfect harmony.

This is funny because many of us know what would happen if we tried to scream all day.

It’s also quite ironic that screaming all day without becoming hoarse can be offered up as an example of perfect harmony, but when you think about it, it seems quite fitting.

For a baby, without its ability to walk or talk, screaming is an ingenious way of getting attention – fast! It’s not only ingenious, it’s natural – it’s nature calling out for nurture.

To know harmony
is to know the changeless;
to know the changeless
is to have insight.
Things in harmony
with the Tao remain;
things that are forced
do grow for a while,
but then wither away.
This is not the Tao.
Whatever is against the Tao
soon ceases to be.

Short of becoming babies again, what are we adults to do?

Having insight, we know the changeless; knowing the changeless, we have harmony. What does this mean? And what does knowing the changeless have to do with anything?

First, let us not confuse making it so or making it happen with forcing anything.

Second, let us not confuse letting it go or letting it be with becoming a baby again.

Third, let us not confuse knowing the changeless with being allergic to change.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

In his book, The Importance of Living, Lin Yutang wrote, and I quote, if you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.

I had a good chuckle when I read this, knowing in my heart that it makes perfect sense, but in a world that prides itself on doing and having, it does seem rather perverse, doesn’t it?

Isn’t living about doing and having, having and doing, and then doing and having some more? Isn’t it all about improving and succeeding, and then improving and succeeding some more?

How is it that we can justify being perfectly useless?

This is a ridiculously easy question to answer: by not setting any intention to be perfectly useless.

Perfect uselessness is a consequence not a cause. If the cause is a participation in oneness through stillness, the consequence is knowing the changeless in the midst of change.

As I recall, to know harmony is to know the changeless; to know the changeless is to have insight.

Knowing perfect harmony is knowing perfect changelessness in the midst of change. Insight into Being comes as a consequence of knowing changelessness in oneness through stillness.

Practically speaking, I open my focus to see the space between the sights and to hear the silence between the sounds. I can do this anywhere, but the space and the silence between the sights and the sounds of nature are especially appealing to me.

One vital insight into Being is that Being can never be understood; it can only ever be known and felt through direct experience. Having this particular insight guides me to know the changeless in oneness through stillness in perfect harmony.

“Yes, but I have bills to pay, children to raise, jobs to do! I don’t have time to be perfectly useless!”

Ah, but you do, each and every waking moment of your day.

You need only bring “the way to do is to be” into your daily activities with a practice to open your focus to the space and the silence between the sights and the sounds of your daily experience.

Doing and having for the sake of having and doing is replaced by doing and having as an expression of Being, where “making it happen” is never forced and where “letting it be” is never doubted.

Being a steady witness to spacious, silent knowing brings on the change.

Uselessness and usefulness arise naturally, easily, spontaneously.

Next up: With Silent Knowing (Living by Silent Knowing)

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