“Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.”
– John Keats –
In his mysterious poem “Ode on a Grecian Urn” the 19th-century poet John Keats reflects on the contradiction between mortality and eternity, equating truth with beauty, portraying how the external perception of beauty is closely linked to the beauty within.
How we perceive our external world is shaped by momentary feelings and thoughts. It is a difficult endeavor for the modern mind suffering from information overload.
The mind is pulled from one distraction to the next. And, if your attention is focused on a grievance or hurt going back weeks, months or years, you will not appreciate the beauty around you. You will miss the waymarkers sent by the universe and lose your way.
Empty yourself of everything
The Chinese philosopher Lao Tze once said: “The usefulness of a pot comes from its emptiness,” meaning we have to empty our mind of everything and become still. If we are preoccupied with thoughts of the past or the future we miss out on the present moment of real human experience. Thoughts of the past are colored by imagination and have only partial relevance to truth.
According to Lao Tze we cannot force the boat to go upstream. Everything happens in its own time and place. We cannot control external events or calamities, but we can control how we respond to them. His teaching emphasized “effortless action” and the acceptance of the “wu wei” which ultimately seeks harmony.
Living according to the Dao means living without attachment. Life itself is the objective and the motivation. Behind a seemingly chaotic exterior lies a natural order of things. Nature has its seasons and cycles. We need to accept the impermanence of all things. There is always change, growth, death, and rebirth.
But as we are all imperfect beings on a path of learning, keeping the mind still can be a lofty undertaking. Toxic emotions such as anger are easily triggered by anything from a news broadcast of an event thousands of kilometers away or find yourself having to wait in line at a supermarket.
Alignment through stillness
When we are aligned we get into touch with ourselves and our feelings. The first step is acceptance of the momentary feeling be it sadness, anger or anxiousness. The next step is replacing that thought or feeling with a positive experience or an expression of gratitude.
One of the simplest methods of alignment is the act of mindful breathing and mindful deep walking. Inhale to the count of four and exhale to the count of five. Inhale and on exhaling hum one of the most powerful mantras: “Om Mani Padme Hung”. When you practice such meditation methods regularly you will gradually sense a greater calmness and alignment of body and mind.
More than ever during these times we need to practice self-care and self-love. By becoming aware of the divine spark within we become aware of the beauty that is embedded within all things such as in the vibrant images that the poet John Keats saw in the simple contemplation of an ancient Greek urn. It is what inspired the great Dutch painters in the contemplation of everyday objects that led to the creation of some of the world’s greatest works of art.
By learning to BE in the present we learn to simply see things as they are without attaching to them comparisons with the past and giving them a definitive label.