Deciding how to live in the world can be difficult. The people around us present a lot of differing viewpoints, cultural traditions, and moral standards, leaving us to ask ourselves, “What is really right? How do I know the best path for me?” I say that you don’t really need to worry about what others think and do. Instead, you just need to follow the Tao of who you are.
Recognize You Are Part of Nature
People sometimes speak as though the human and natural worlds are two completely different and separate things. In fact, humans are part of nature, and we are completely dependent on nature to support our existence. We might, though, find ourselves out of touch with the greater rhythms of nature as we become engulfed by our human problems and transfixed by our technological gadgets. That’s why we sometimes feel stressed or disconnected. Remembering who we are—a part of the natural world—is a useful first step toward creating health and happiness in our lives.
Look at Your Health as an Ecosystem
To decide what is right for your health, watch how nature operates. Nature has a way of recovering from any imbalance that it experiences. A flower knows when it should close its petals, a tree knows when to drop its leaves, and birds know when to gather their nests. Humans have this sort of natural ability, too, but too often our thinking minds get in the way. Our bodies know when to rest and how to relax, for example, but too often our busy minds tell us to keep going and that we must get ahead of others, leading to an unhealthy, imbalanced, stressed-out existence.
This is the reason I teach a concept called Suseung Hwagang. Translated, this phrase means “water up, fire down.” It describes the ideal circulation of energies in the body—cool water energy rising toward the head and hot fire energy pooling in the lower abdomen. This is reflective of the natural environment in a healthy, life-giving state, where the hot rays of the sun penetrate downward and are absorbed into the leaves of plants, giving them life and energy. Also, thanks to the sun’s rays moving downward, water evaporates and moves upward to create clouds that give rise to life-sustaining rain. If anything disrupts this cycle, life cannot be maintained for long.
In the body, that means bringing hot fire energy to the lower body, so it can be transmuted into vital life energy, which may be used for action in your life. In my previous blogs on the first step of Brain Education, I explain this in more detail and provide some exercises for achieving this.
Find Your Rhythm in Life
It is important to find balance in your life as a whole, too. I often tell my students that living well is a lot like breathing well. There are times to inhale, and there are times to exhale. Yet, we often go through life as though it were only about inhaling—working, doing, getting, thinking. But there must be times to exhale, too—relaxing, meditating, being still and silent. Since our society emphasizes the former (inhaling), you must find a way to make the later (exhaling) happen. Some form of mind-body practice is essential, therefore, to create balance in your life, and for the health of body, mind, and spirit. Part of this is learning to listen to yourself—to the needs of your body and to the content of your mind. You already know when you need to rest and when you need to act. It’s just a matter of learning to listen.
Look to Nature for Wisdom
Finally, there is nothing like direct contact with nature to help you find the balance you are looking for. Yes, human society is part of nature, but it tends to busy and distract the mind in ways that disconnect you from your inner self. That’s why I recommend that you go spend some time among rocks and trees if you are looking for answers to difficult questions. Our friends, parents, books, and the Internet can give us lots of useful information, too, but there is a kind of primal wisdom that comes from time spent in nature. In nature, you might not hear words giving specific instructions, but you will hear, on some subconscious, cosmic level, everything that your body and soul long to understand.