Wholeness Healing Today

Letting Life Unfold – Embracing the Musical Nature of Existence

In the symphony of life, there is a profound lesson to be learned from music itself. Alan Watts, a philosopher known for his profound insights into human existence, once compared life to music, emphasizing the importance of letting it unfold naturally. He pointed out that in music, we don’t rush to the end of a composition to reach a specific chord, nor aim to get to a particular spot on the dance floor. The essence lies in the journey, listening to the note, the melody, or enjoying the dance steps themselves. (Basic, 2021)

In a world driven by goals, deadlines, and the pursuit of success, this analogy reminds us to embrace the journey and the spontaneity of moments. Being faster may not give us what we ultimately are looking for. There would be no enjoyment in listening to the notes being played as the music unfolded in a beautiful piece if it were about being faster, more productive, and arriving. We would go to a concert, the conductor would lift his hands, and the orchestra would play the last chord.
We are a compulsive, purposeful, productive culture—always striving to get somewhere faster—forgetting there is joy in simply being in the moment. In our pursuit of striving and constantly fixating on the end goal, we may easily miss out on the joy of being in the moment, listening to the music, dancing the steps, and the journey itself.
We can generalize this to our lives in so many ways. We might be contemplating this as our child graduates. We worked so hard to raise them and give them all they needed, and suddenly, they have grown up and are moving on. In our hard efforts, did we enjoy our time with them? Were we playful and curious, spending time laughing with them? We can take this further with working to retire. Working, saving, working, saving, and finally arriving at our retirement to find ourselves tired, unhealthy, and not having the energy to enjoy our retirement. Or maybe not knowing how to enjoy our retirement. If we are always in pursuit, when do we learn how to be? When do we learn how to play? When do we learn how to listen to the music?
It is easy to get caught up with anxiety and the fear of the unknown, where we are often plagued by the pressure to predict and control the future. In this “grasping onto” or holding tightly to the pressure of control, we easily lose sight of the spontaneous “musical” nature of existence.

The concept of “nature” in Chinese philosophy is something that unfolds by itself and underscores the idea of trusting in the natural rhythms of life. We don’t have to control the involuntary functions of our bodies any more than the ever-changing patterns of the world around us. We don’t have to control our lives. Being aware of our own “grasping,” “holding onto,” “trying to control,” and “living in fear of the unknown” is the start of making some changes. There is grace in letting go and allowing things to happen organically. There is grace in allowing things to happen, letting life unfold. If you don’t know how to begin to do this, perhaps you start with doing some mindfulness exercises. One little step at a time – listen to the birds sing for one of those exercises. Listen to the notes rather than waiting for the last musical chord of finality.
Just as we don’t “work” the piano but rather “play” it, so too should we approach life with a sense of playfulness and curiosity. Let it happen all by itself. Let it unfold and enjoy the moment as it plays out.

Works Cited:
Basic, A. (. (2021, May 9). https://medium.com/mind-cafe/why-life-is-like-music-and-you-need-to-dance-your-way-through-it-64855eabb4ab. Retrieved from medium.com: https://medium.com/mind-cafe/

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  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.


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