Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Aliveness and Harmony

--by Christopher Alexander (Jan 06, 2014)

A man is alive when he is wholehearted, true to himself, true to his own inner forces, and able to act freely according to the nature of the situations he is in.

[...] To be happy, and to be alive, in this sense, are almost the same. Of course, a man who is alive, is not always happy in the sense of feeling pleasant; experiences of joy are balanced by experiences of sorrow. But the experiences are all deeply felt; and above all, the man is whole; and conscious of being real.

To be alive, in this sense, is not a matter of suppressing some forces or tendencies, at the expense of others; it is a state of being in which all forces which arise in a man can find expression; he lives in balance among the forces which arise in him; he is unique as the pattern of forces which arises is unique; he is at peace, since there are no disturbances created by underground forces which have no outlet, at one with himself and his surroundings.

This state cannot be reached merely by inner work.

There is a myth, sometimes widespread, that a person need do only inner work, in order to be alive like this; that a man is entirely responsible for his own problems; and that to cure himself, he need only change himself. This teaching has some value, since it is so easy for a man to imagine that his problems are caused by "others." But it is a one-sided and mistaken view which also maintains the arrogance of the belief that the individual is self-sufficient, and not dependent in any essential way on his surroundings.

The fact is, a person is so far formed by his surroundings, that his state of harmony depends entirely on his harmony with his surroundings.

Some kinds of physical and social circumstances help a person come to life. Others make it very difficult.

-- Christopher Alexander, in The Timeless Way of Building

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On Jan 2, 2014 Radhika Srinivasan wrote:

To me, this is akin to saying that one should not abandon one's responsibilities and run away to the Himalayas (read "a remote place") to meditate and go deeper within oneself. One has to learn to achieve that inner stillness and centering that one does through meditation, even while plunging oneself into the peaks and troughs of a tumultuous  life. This journey through the inner and outer may be cyclical for some time (which could be many lifetimes!), and we would probably have achieved a balance between the two, when we are able to keep our inner serenity while being full participants in the happenings of the external world. When I am not in harmony with my surroundings, my circumstances, it indicates to me that I have a lot of work to do on myself before I can get to that state of inner stillness.

On Jan 2, 2014 Rajnikant wrote:
 There seems a contradiction that  this state cannot be reached merely by inner work and that his state of harmony depends entirely on his harmony with his surroundings. Harmony by itself is inner work by itself. If inner thought says he/she does don't like this and that of the surrounding of things or people then his harmony will be broken inside and he may make non-positive comments . Thus breaking one's inner harmony and outside harmony. If one learns that everyone is correct from his/her view points , all surroundings are but natural, that everyone is a nice person and everything is nice from within then he/she will be in harmony with himself/ herself first internally and then automatically with surrounding. Change in belief is needed and that is the work of inside.

On Jan 3, 2014 Sandra wrote:

Inner work is only a part of one's state of aliveness...if that were true for me I could be a monk and that is not for me. I use my surroundings to grow and develop which translate to being alive.  

Simply my surroundings many times lately have reminded me to stay in the present not to stress. The opposite is when I have allowed my surroundings to totally stress me to the point of a hospital stay for 4 days.

Harmony with surroundings keep me balance

On Jan 3, 2014 Sandra Bradley wrote:

 What  I have personally discovered is that my most intimate relationships (3 husbands) and my children (7) were my very best teachers.  Each one awakened in me many of my unfinished parts.  They brought to the surface, my everyday consciousness, aspects of my personality that hindered my awakening to all that I could be.  I tend to do things in grand style and invite learnings at a heightened state.  Suits my persona.  Now in my winter years I can only smile and offer gratitude for all the gifts they brought me.  Some I resisted holding on by my fingernails and protesting loudly. only react to what you know or what you feel or what you own.  Now in the winter of my years it is not my inner work that makes my life full of joy and blessings.  It is my inner work displayed outward in my silence, my feelings, my words, my energy of who I am becoming. 

On Jan 3, 2014 sandra wrote:

Wow that inspires me to what I pray for - God please help me keep my ears and mind open and my mouth shut

On Jan 3, 2014 Jon Madian wrote:

my wife's comment: nice piece but could've been written gender free  :))) 

On Jan 3, 2014 Jyoti wrote:

 Absence of environmental stress makes it easier to relax into my natural state of being connected to my inner calm, and that is why I love being in nature. I find that when I am in a stressful environment (e.g. a hostile workplace) I tend to seek out calm places (the terrace garden or yoga class) as my escape and coping mechanism, to reconnect with my inner calm. This evening, I was dancing with family in a pre-wedding function, laughing and enjoying together, in the very same room in the very same house where just a little over a year ago, we were all gathered tearfully with heavy hearts to say our final farewells to the recently deceased matriarch of the family. The place is the same, the people are the same, the emotions are radically different and yet there is the awareness of the observer in me that is alive to experience it all, bringing the past sadness into the joyful present and letting go of both to cherish the fullness of being alive to experience it all. being alive is to experince life in all its colors, some light, some dark, each just as they are.    

On Jan 3, 2014 Mish wrote:

 I basically feel it is "inside/out", but my "inside" was formed by all the experiences on the path, so, surely my surroundings were part of the "whole shebang".  :))
I feel "most alive" when I am in my Light-center experiencing oneness with another through kindness.
On a camping trip a long time ago, I was very frightened by my surroundings one dark night when my flashlight stopped working half-way down the hill.  From that disharmony with my surroundings I was forced to face my fear, which I agonizingly did, & was blessed with the gift of increased strength & confidence .  Grateful for the gift from disharmony w/my surroundings .....boy, did I feel "alive" that night. (& elated when I was back in our tent, snugly cozy in my sleeping bag !! Namaste _/\_

On Jan 3, 2014 Rajnikant wrote:

 It is my understanding from Holistic Inner science that all information flows thru mind, body and speech. Certain aspects are governed by what you perceive and then the information goes internally and processed and then action takes place and there are circumstances when inner thoughts are sprouted based on many evidences and then action takes place after the information is processed thru mind, sub-conscious, and intellect. Invariably all information is processed internal for any reaction that happens. If one's reaction is due to surrounding, where does the reaction occurs and how is it processed? The inner function of the body is responsible. The inner functions are internal to the body where as seeing, touch,hearing, smelling, and tasting are external whose reaction is processed internally and then felt outwardly. 

On Jan 4, 2014 david doane wrote:

 I suppose it's a matter of what is meant by inner work.  I think of inner work as including the ongoing process of discovering and facing and accepting more of myself, integrating, realizing that I am one with others and all that is, developing compassion.  That kind of inner work is significant, not 'merely inner work.'  Perhaps the author sees those activities as more than inner work.  Aliveness can also be defined in various ways.  There are different kinds of aliveness.  I think an important kind of aliveness is waking up, enjoying enhanced awareness, feeling one with all that is.  In my description, the inner work and aliveness have come together.  I suppose aliveness can be reached by many roads, all of which provoke or stimulate me to be more -- more alive, more integrated, more conscious, more in union.  I resist the notion that one's state of harmony depends entirely on one's harmony with one's surroundings -- I resist dependence and I resist the notion that my state of harmony depends on harmony with my surroundings.  I think I have felt inner harmony when not in harmony with my surroundings, though I think the harmony was limited or partial.  I guess  the greatest harmony is when both inner and outer harmony are present.  I suppose that is ideal.  I became very intellectual and feeling less harmonious within myself, so I'll stop. 

On Jan 5, 2014 Rajnikant wrote:

I agree with you that both harmony is very important. When one decides to celebrate an event, the moment the decision takes place one becomes happy even before any preparation or invitation has been send out. From that very moment one is happy and goes on happily preparation of the celebration. That happiness is spread among others who join the preparation and so on.

On Jan 5, 2014 Conrad P Pritscher wrote:

 Since we are all one, there is no difference between inner and outer and no difference between an individual and his or her surroundings. Paradoxically, one's harmonious state while connected to what surrounds one, can be peaceful even when chaos and war seem to be going on around one. Surprisingly, Ganoba's response to honoring the gill inside you reached me today and it applies as an excellent response to today's message. It reads: "Me, all of me. Life became a fun adventure when I started taking myself as an harmonious whole, fully attuned with the environment. With this I started accepting, even celebrating, all that was served on my plate. I started to see the value of everything irrespective of its size, shape and color. Now it is love all the way." How wonderful Ganoba. Thank you. Warm and kind regards to everyone.

On Jan 5, 2014 Krzystof Sibilla wrote:

The less violent we are to our surroundings the more stable our inner work become .I do remember my first attempt to  meditate after I decided not to kill any moving being for food. I was surpised when the door where I was sitting slamd loud and my reaction to it.Since then I accepted that way of life, still improving it,  and my perception of inner and outer reallty became more united.
The most destructive weapon on this planet is the table fork.Ghandi.

On Jan 5, 2014 Mish wrote:

 Well said. Namaste _/\_

On Jan 5, 2014 Rajniknt wrote:

 Conrad has very nicely summarized it. Even though we all are one at one center point, we need to recognize that each one is an individual and has his/her own beliefs. My take from Holistic Science is that everyone is right from his/her view point. This would lead to oneness. If we have a belief to adjust everywhere and avoid clash which is an internal belief, then it will work like a charm in the external surroundings and one will be very happy. If the gill is a happy heart which is again internal, then it will reflect externally. Krzyst also provided a experience of inner meditation which has helped inner and outer unity. With the right inner belief, the outer can be handled very satisfactorily and amicably.

On Jan 5, 2014 aj wrote:

 All I know is that, I feel more alive and in harmony with/in life having met you.  Answered prayer.  God is good.

On Jan 5, 2014 a wrote:

 This is truth! Thank you!

On Jan 6, 2014 Conrad P Pritscher wrote:

 Thank you for your wonderful comment. I agree with you.

Warm and kind regards,Conrad

On Jan 6, 2014 Good Night! wrote:

 It is well below freezing outside tonight, I will take your warm and kind regards to bed with me!  Thank you!

On Jan 7, 2014 Marianne wrote:

 I found this supposedly uplifting piece disturbing and insensitive because of its use of exclusionary male pronouns.  When I was in a college women's studies class many years ago I had eyes opened to sexist language.  I would like to suggest an experiment to you Mr. Alexandar and your male (and even female) readers.  Go back to the beginning of the piece, close your eyes and have someone read it to you with all female pronouns and then tell me how included you feel.  I hope you will be more sensitive and inclusive in future writings.  Thank you.  

On Jan 7, 2014 Marianne wrote:

Mine too!! 

On Jan 7, 2014 PIUS THEK wrote:


On Jan 7, 2014 Mish wrote:

 Gender equality most desirable , yes.  :))

On Jan 7, 2014 Mish wrote:

 Total agreement with you.

On Jan 7, 2014 rohan wrote:

 So beautifully put. Let's not forget however, our uniqueness means experiencing is unique to each individual and is dependent on the quality of the instruments through which experience is garnered/interpreted/felt/embraced/resisted.
Being alive to even a single act of creation is being alive.......through the everyday simple things that we do....not by rejecting them, but by accepting all.....good and bad....and gracefully letting go knowing that you are not the doer.... 

On Jan 7, 2014 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:

 I believe it's interconnected. True, when one is at peace Inside then the external surroundings may be somewhat less important. At the same time, one's external environment has an impact on the internal as well. While it is true one can be at peace within external chaos if one is at peace Internally, eventually the outer chaos will probably have an effect on the inner peace. I am going through this right now, so this question is especially timely for me. I am living in an environment which causes external stress and eventually that affects my internal peace. To be balanced I need to exert more energy than if the external surroundings were more peaceful. It is an ongoing challenge. And a cycle/circle. when I am at peace internally it is easier to deal with the external. However, when I am in a peaceful surrounding I feel my heart as more full and can then be even MORE peaceful inside. Both environments affect us. :) HUG  (gosh, I hope this makes sense) 

On Jan 7, 2014 me wrote:

I know I will read this again and again!  
Be Warm this cold day!  (A warm heart, keeps the body warm!) 
Always Love

On Jan 7, 2014 jodi wrote:

 i am sorry but the incessant use of "the man," "him," "his," etc. completely ruins this article for me.  i rewrote it for myself using "person," "one," and "she/her."   how lazy to not include half your readers!  you either don't care very much about what you're saying or you don't care about how this makes women feel.  personally, i feel disrespected and excluded and angry.  also, your punctuation is poor enough to make the writing confusing at times.  one's surroundings include the language in which one couches their opinions and thoughts.  as such, the "surroundings" of this article, the relentless exclusionary language, prevented me being in harmony with it or even from taking it in until i rewrote it.  (please excuse lack of capitals, i have a broken indication of how strongly i feel is that i took time to respond with one-handed typing.)

On Jan 7, 2014 you have us wrote:

 Hug back to Kristin!  

On Jan 7, 2014 jodi wrote:

 thanks for the inclusionary language, rajniknt.  while an ideal most of us cannot reach consistently, i agree.  and your use of the word "center" brings to mind a quote from voltaire that embraces this mystery:  "god is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere."  for a vibrant illustration of this via a richly detailed near-death experience, i highly recommend anita moorjani's "dying to be me."  for me, it brought all of this into a simple, real-life, grounded form.

On Jan 7, 2014 jodi wrote:

 p.s. to good night - i hear you - we were 20 below 0 temp when i left work sunday night w/44 below windchill.  attempt harmony with that!

On Jan 7, 2014 Cindy wrote:

 Sandra, I liked you instantly. I too feel that these paths and people are teachers in Earth school! And that I am learning from them all. The lesson is love and be loved. Thanks for sharing...

On Jan 7, 2014 Somik Raha wrote:

Jodi, unfortunately, when this was written (in 1979), it wasn't politically incorrect to use the male gender for generalizing humanity. This is true for many thinkers and writers who wrote earlier than a decade(for instance, Martin Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi and others). Kudos to you for taking the time to rewrite it in a way that made it more resonant for you.

On Jan 8, 2014 Rajnikant wrote:

 Kristin wrote "I am living in an environment which causes external stress and eventually that affects my internal peace". We need to define external stress since stress is a due to our beliefs of not liking a particulate situation or an interaction. Our beliefs are in the mind which is internal. So, what is the best way to handle such an external event? The way i learned from Holistic Science  is that any adverse situation we have to make the best out of it since it is teaching us and it is redemption and challenging time. Why should a situation make me miserable? I can always turn it around. So, one has to say ok this is it how can I see positivity in it and why I do not like it or why it happened. I want to be happy no matter what. Once you start inner reflection, you will get an answer and you will change your belief. If you see good in everything and everyone you will feel good. By the same token when you are feeling good and happy you can also examine internally why you are in such a state and you will learn which will help you in adverse cases. Be posititve and you will feel great. Good luck and all the very very best.

On Jan 8, 2014 S.K.Haldar wrote:

 When the mind is defile, all the best available materialistic pleasure, luxury even at auspicious places can’t generate the happiness, harmony to a person or to the soul. On the other hand if the mind is vibrant with positives,awaken  and conscious, peace of soul does not get disturbed even a person is put in the most inauspicious situation.

Harmony is balancing the reaction or response of external impact what we encounter every moment/every day in life with the inner consciousness and awakeness. Developing the inner consciousness is the most fundamental tool to live in harmony which automatically influence to the sorroundings.

On Jan 8, 2014 Always Love wrote:

 From the minute we are born we pick up our crosses.  Each day, new crosses . . . Heavier crosses . . . Other people's crosses . . . .  Each day, we journey with our crosses.  It is humanly impossible to journey earth without a cross (since if we were to lay our cross down, we'd be picking up yet another).  Just like Jesus, when the burden gets too great, we have to fall down . . . Rest . . . And get back up again.
Mother Angelica (in a rerun), last evening, shared something like this, "It is better that we "carry" our cross (as opposed to "dragging" it) for obvious reasons.  
Listen to Jill Briscoe today on the radio program "Telling the Truth".  (I couldn't catch the entire program because I was helping someone else carry their cross, but the part I heard was "spot on".

On Jan 8, 2014 Rajnikant wrote:

 Always Love put it rightly. Each morning we should resolve to carry ours and any other crosses that come across without hurting anyone including oneself. The mantra can be , "I will be very positive today, not hurt anyone, help myself first and then others with happiness". We are always put in circumstances which comes and we cannot do anything since it comes so it should be our firm belief that we will make the best out of it and in particular will not get affected negatively so we help our self and any others we interact with no matter what the external circumstances are. We need a resolution that we do every morning and then it will start automatically working for a rich inner living.

On Jan 8, 2014 Srikantam Saibaba wrote:

I am just a part (negligible) of  this whole world. Whether I exist or not  it has least effect  to this world.  If this becomes a conviction ones ego automatically gets grounded and experiences the real meaning of HUMAN LIFE   

On Jan 9, 2014 david doane wrote:

 Each of us is only a tiny speck in all that is, but none of us is negligible.  Each of us is a one and only, a unique and valuable expression of the Sacred Presence. 

On Jan 9, 2014 Rajnikant wrote:

 Very well said David. We are one at the center and we need to learn to interact at the center and then oneness can be felt and achieved. We are the world itself within us and therefore we do have an impact. If we learn to live for others and not hurt any living being that is what human beings are for and then we can get nearer and nearer to the center. Then we will know meet some one who is at the center and show us the center. Then we will know who am i? Knowing the center will dissolve the ego.

On Jan 9, 2014 PIUS THEK wrote:

 I am unique, and i have a mission. That is why I came out  of the Infinite. I am one way God smiles at the whole creation. If I were not here, it would be like God is missiong one of His/Her teeth while smiling!!!!!! 

On Jan 9, 2014 Mish wrote:

 Beautifully spoken & my daily goal.  Namaste. _/\_

On Jan 9, 2014 Mish wrote:

 Each one of us makes a difference in the whole, I believe .  Our contributions surely are not "negligible". Hmmm?  :))

On Jan 9, 2014 Rick wrote:

 Thank you friend for pointing out that we are one at the center. I guess how do I recognize one who has reached that state?

On Jan 9, 2014 Krzystof wrote:

Spontaneous expression in full harmony with all that is.

On Jan 9, 2014 jo wrote:

 Amen David!

On Jan 10, 2014 Jagdish P Dave wrote:

Radhika's reflective writing deeply resonates with me. The beauty of such writings is like walking to the mountain taking   different paths realizing that there is no absolute way for everybody. I learn and grow by remaining open to the diversity and feeling grounded at the same time, like a tree rooted with its branches open to receive gifts coming from various sources. Thanks to all for expressing their reflections and contributions.

Jagdish P Dave

On Jan 10, 2014 Always wrote:

 The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the 'center' you speak of.  We tuck ourselves there.  We are one there.  EVERYONE finds purpose, order and LOVE there.  WITHIN/IN the Sacred Heart of Jesus ALL are welcome and find peace.  I love you brothers and sisters!

On Jan 10, 2014 a wrote:

 Amen, Rajnikant.  
Always thru Him

On Jan 10, 2014 Thank you! wrote:


On Jan 10, 2014 Gotta Go wrote:

When in silence . . . in stillness . . . in aloneness . . . in emptiness . . . before your God, you sense you are NOT spiritually without that other/others.
When in saying nothing . . . asking nothing . . . being silent . . . being still, you sense an other/others knowing/hearing you.
Within God's gaze, heart, presence . . . you sense that not only God's knowledge, understanding and love are present . . .but, too, others.  (He designed it to be this way!)
God loves us so much that He gave us His Holy Spirit.  That while He and His Son, Jesus live in Heaven, His Holy Spirit infiltrates earthly hearts to join both His, yours, mine, ours, others . . .  that we live in communion with each other.  He wants us to look upon each other with His love  . . .
In Quiet
In Stillness
Let God/Others LOVE you.

How can you tell who resides in Jesus' heart with you?  God/Jesus/Holy Spirit will tell you.   

On Jan 10, 2014 now I gotta go wrote:

 I forgot to say my words were molded/folded around the words from "Prayer of the Sojourner Companion".  No credit to me, please.  

On Jan 14, 2014 Rajnikant wrote:

 One who is void of anger, pride, attachments and greed is the one. He would not bat an eye when insulted. He would lead you to what he has in him without any expecting anything in return. He will not make you a disciple since he does not want to be a guru. He is at the center so he will show you the center and then you are own your to open out at the center. He will be there for you to ask question and again there is no any other expectations. His center has been lighted so he lights your center without any expectations and then it is upto you to make the light full. He is experienced and will talk from experience. He does not need scriptures to answer your questions, though he will answer any questions from any scriptures of the world since he is totally experienced and knows how the world workd. Good luck.

On Jan 14, 2014 rajnikant wrote:

 The center is the same for everyone and one can give the name as to the beliefs and understanding. Since center is center it is the same therefore everyone is right in his/her belief and can name it accordingly. The center is so unique that it is totally impartial and therefore will accept everyone's viewpoint and will not enforce one is right and one is wrong. It will accept everyone. The real truth is the center since it is all knowing and seer.

On Jan 14, 2014 Rajnikant wrote:

 When and how can one be in center? Does one have a biased opinion? My view point is correct? Have I hurt  or cause someone to hurt or support someone hurting even the slightest ego of any living being - human, animals or  plants and/or of any foundation or view point of any religion?and/or uttered untrue adverse things offending or showed disregard or disrespect of any religious head or authority, disliked or hate any living being or spoken harsh, hurtful language, and/or have had any desires, gestures, or thoughts of perverted, sensuality or passion towards any gender- male, female or neuter, and/or excessive temptation towards any relish or taste of food, and/or uttered untrue, adverse things for any being-living or dead, in one's presence or absence? Am I an instrumental in welfare of the world that is good of mankind as a whole? Once these things are being implemented then one marches towards the center.

On Jan 21, 2014 Cliff Flanders wrote:

Thank you so much, Jodi, for your post.  While I am sure no offense to women was meant, it really is important to remember that women are more than half the world (53%, I believe) and that use of the generic masculine is offensive and exclusionary--and because women are the majority, it really makes more sense to use the generic feminine instead!  In any case, it's so easily fixed when writers are mindful of the fact that slightly more than half their readers are female.  I hope your hand heals soon.

On Mar 9, 2018 Vivek Jazz wrote:

 Thank you.