“Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.” —Leonardo da Vinci
To take a walk amongst the beauty and magnificence of Mother Nature is to take a lesson in how subtlety functions and why it functions so well for the benefit of each plant and animal that reside in its particular ecosystem.
Beginning with the silence found while walking underneath a canopy of tall stretching-to-touch-the-sky pine trees that are awash in the most beautiful natural music – a birdsong here, a whisper of wind there, a squirrel chirping an alert of a human in its neighborhood overhead – we experience momentarily the de-stressing qualities of Mother Nature’s greatness. What is needed to function well can be beautiful and deeply savored, treasured in fact. And in this case, when it functions seemingly effortlessly, you have found the sweet spot.
What subtlety looks like in our everyday lives:
- Observing instead of passing judgment (criticism or praise in excess)
- Being loving based on what would be received as love by the person we love rather than feeling resentful or becoming angry or pushing for what we ‘need from them’.
- Accepting instead of criticizing.
- Navigating life’s hiccups with the understanding that this too will pass if we respond thoughtfully, rather than reacting and blaming unnecessarily turning life’s natural ebbs and flows into full blown dramas.
- Honoring what you need to feel at peace instead of taking advice or following what has never felt ‘right’ intuitively.
- without creating a fuss, a scene or starting an argument
- simply saying no without attacking or blaming others and then partaking (or not partaking) in what you need to do to feel nurtured and nourished
The above choices may at first look not appear to be effective in the long-run for creating a life of less stress. Aren’t I being less engaging, passive or silent? And how can any of these three behaviors provoke progress? But the art of living subtly is at first not something glaringly obvious by onlookers, but to us, the person who is living subtly, we are living consciously, we are fully present and not living by default. What we are doing is taking in a wide array of information from the outside world and giving ourselves choices about how we will proceed to live with continued contentment or even more contentment in our everydays moving forward:
- what questions can I ask to learn more information?
- who do I want to make an effort to spend time with based on how I feel around this person/group/community/etc.?
- what more can I learn about this subject before I make a decision that is best for me?
- what am I feeling and what has caused me to feel this way?
- what perceptions are standing in my way of living more deeply, more lovingly?
Perhaps living subtly is less an American approach to life, as it was in 2012 that upon my trip to England and then the Continent, specifically France, I wrote my first post on The Art of Subtleties, as I noticed a distinct difference in how citizens on either side of the Atlantic go about their days. An overgeneralization perhaps, but when we live in a world where we feel pushed to constantly have an opinion about seemingly everything (from global events to whether or not the ‘thumbs-up’ emoji is dead), it can feel nearly impossible to live subtly. But here is why considering inviting the art of subtlety into our lives may be exactly what would bring what we seek (if we are seeking more peace and contentment).
The Art of Subtleties (from TSLL Archives, August 2012)
When we don’t rush (to judgment, to opinion, to a decision, etc.), we discover more. We discover more that keeps us enthralled, or we discover we are actually not interested at all, and were merely drawn to this ‘something’ due to circumstances that correlated rather than caused. Case in point, maybe you were drawn to that particular person because of their conversation, or maybe it was simply their beauty or style, but because you were needing to feel seen, to feel validated or accepted, it wasn’t them specifically that you were drawn to, but in that moment, they provided what you needed. When we give ourselves time to observe rather to pass judgment and make concrete decisions, we find more peace, create more room for possibility and reduce decisions made hastily.
The Grammy-award winning singer Norah Jones speaks to her desire to infuse her songs with subtlety ever more so as her career progresses, revealing, “What I was going for in the first two albums I didn’t necessarily achieve. Because I was young and because it was my first time out. And the second album was such a ‘quickie’ sort of ‘Let’s just get it over with!’ But the kind of music I make, there’s a lot of subtlety in it. And I think it takes a couple of listens to actually really get it” which leads me to the next worthwhile benefit of living subtly to deepen the quality of our life . …
Subtlety hints, rather than screams. It tickles our curiosity, and then we are inspired to continue to explore, and if it is something that will provide value in our life, the many layers of awesome detail and depth underneath deepen our clarity which simplifies decision-making moving forward.
When listening to a symphony play in harmony in-person – you in the audience, the conductor and artists on stage – when you watch the musicians, each playing their own individual instruments, you begin to appreciate the magnificent piece of artistry that has been created, and your awe deepens. The subtlety is presented when you listen to the composition, taking it solely in through your sense of sound – it is seamless, seemingly effortless and well, pardon the pun, lyrical, without one ‘lyric’ being sung by a human voice, yet there is so much to explore and savor. And thus, to appreciate. When we strengthen the skill of appreciation, life brightens, days are more enjoyable, and we desire to expend less energy to dwell on what is not working. Subtlety is one way to strengthen this muscle that is appreciation.
So much of what we seek to feel more at peace is quietly residing within each of us, and as Deepak Chopra writes, “the subtler levels are more sensitive, awake and meaningful than the gross.” In other words, by drowning out the subtle pieces of information within us with brash actions, excessive noise, limiting ideas, either-or choices, we are not able to dive deeply into what wants to be discovered, but what wants to be discovered, what each of us uniquely has within us, are the keys to our unique life journey – how to live to honor our true selves.
It is when we begin to live subtly, that we begin to make choices moving forward that put us in surroundings, company and in the presence of ideas and beauty that speak to the subtle, sensitive pieces within us that spark the ideas that become our aha moments of discovery.
But if we are too busy and/or consumed passing judgment, criticizing, blaming, arguing, clinging, we bring unnecessary stress into our lives and expend energy living a life that isn’t conducive to living with contentment.
So today, consider ways in your everyday life where you can step back and observe, accept, listen, honor or be truly loving, and discover how gradually, with consistent practice, you begin to see your life transform into a far less stressful mode of travel, and in fact, become all the more enjoyable.
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