One might say that there is three or four periods of the lived day: work, family, friends, and personal time. One might also say there are three or four divisions of the self: mind, body, spirit, and possessions. He who says both of these things might be tempted to diagram out the interplay of these splits of the circles: how are each of the aspects of self at work, with family, with friends, when I am alone?
Such questions are obtuse idleness. All such divisions are profane – spirituality and happiness are wholes that cannot be so divided.
You can’t be happy if you have a miserable working life, have a miserable relationship with your family, or can’t stand being alone. You can’t be spiritual if you spend a bit of time praying or meditating and then immediately abandon yourself into the maelstrom of the ego as you begin the day’s activities.
Harmonious living is the reversal of the divisions; it is recovery out of ego-addicted, discordant living. It is a return to wholeness and holiness from qualitative judgment and perverse selfishness. In short, harmonious living is synonymous with happiness and peacefulness – and it is approachable through three changes you can make in your mind.
1. Practice discernment in all your consumption.
When you sit down to a meal, you know full well (if you stop to think about it) that you should focus wholly on the process of eating without distractions like television or planning. If you pay attention and fully taste what you’re eating, then you’ll know when to stop because you’re full. You’ll know if food is bad. You’ll know if food is playing an emotional or mental comforting role instead of being simple nourishment, you’ll know if the food contains animal or human suffering, and you’ll know if the food is actually something you wish to incorporate into this mortal self you’ve gathered up around yourself. Without paying such attention to your meal, pain and disease will eventually arise because you did not eat in a wholesome manner. This is true no matter who you’re eating with or whether you’re concerned with mind, body, spirit, or possessions.
The same discernment is needed when reading a book or watching a video. The same discernment is also needed when having a conversation or taking a walk. Words and images are absorbed into the self no less than the food you eat – and some of these elevate healing and happiness, and others do not. This is true not only for the words and images you hear and see, but those you speak and create. It is not a matter of good and evil, but rather of light and darkness – of wholesomeness and division.
It is not a matter of positivity and negativity, but rather of inspiration and depression – of enthusiasm and defeatism. It is not always that which is sweet that is good for us, nor always that which is bitter.
2. Practice discernment in your companionship, but without condemnation.
Just as, knowing that fast food is unwholesome, you must choose to abandon it in favor of food from the garden – so too, you must choose to abandon unwholesome companions. The trap of ego in this is that abandonment does not equate with condemnation. Although my body does not take lactose well, I can choose to not consume milk without condemning all milk – or those who consume milk. Although people we work with, family members, or friends may be “triggering” of lower mind and dark behavior, it is only so because we are not yet healed enough to interact with them while maintaining our inner peace. This is not because they are evil or bad any more than the milk is; it is a question of your constitution only.
And again consider that it is not a question of that which is agreeable – for that which is not easy is sometimes the best thing for us, and sometimes that which is easy is a trap and a rut. Sometimes people challenge you into growth or out of your tired routine, and that’s a blessing. But, other times, they simply can’t accept it if you are uninhibited, assertive, honest, or happy – and there’s no way for the relationship to progress happily.
The simple qualification is whether the other person will ever be free enough to see you as more than a means to an end. With that in mind, do not neglect the companionship of animals and plants – they are frequently the best choice for companionable sitting.
Knowing that, then, choose to work and live in places and with people that help you in your gazing to the light. And tell yourself that, when your wings are strong enough, you will come back and try to provide an example of light and happiness for those you must leave behind now.
3. Adopt the spiritual perspective of a Child of God.
Those fears and anxieties that relate to the most treasured parts of our egos always seem largest in our minds. If you overly identify yourself with your work – that is, if you do not suppose that you can provide for yourself and your family through any other way – then the threat of work-related problems will always loom largest in your mind. If you overly identify yourself with your possessions, all specters of loss or theft will walk as giants through your head. Bodily identification leads to obsession with health. Mental identification leads to obsession with worldly knowledge.
From the spiritual perspective, however, the struggles and issues of life are largely reduced to the same size. The sink of dirty dishes is no less or more important than the difficult client at work. One plate at a time, one email at a time – and each a chance to practice the meditation of life. The huge darknesses must be given over to divinity; you and your loved ones can’t escape death and loss of this mortal frame, and so it is that we can be no more than children in the ultimate and higher journey. The only mastery possible is attention: the ability to focus on the right things at the right time. You and I can do nothing more, and everything else proceeds from this.
The Holy Father provides everything, and leaves it to us to become wise enough discern His Light from the darkness we conjure.
May you find these simple changes to be effective in your journey, and may you know fully your blessings and the grace of your life. May all beings be enlightened, free, and dwell within the Sacred Heart.