At the beginning of a new year, I like to think of a phrase for the year ahead. Usually, if I have been doing enough reflecting backwards and planning forward, the right word comes to me. For 2018, the word that made its presence known (or unknown… more on that below) is harmony.
What is harmony? For me, it’s about finding peace within me and with those around me. It is more than seeking an elusive sense of balance; it’s about learning to modulate different energies, demands, and intensities.
How I Arrived at Harmony
I’d been away from my mat for over a month due to travel, the holidays, and family commitments. When I returned to my yoga studio, something in me shifted. Perhaps it was due to my instructor’s amazing assists, but as the class progressed, I started to notice that what felt balanced to me did not necessarily look balanced to her. Throughout the class, she would come over to make some assists or tweaks to my poses. This got me wondering: If what felt balanced to me was not, where else was I out of balance? What does balance really feel like? And, can I feel balance if I am inherently out of balance?
Harmony moves beyond balance and into interconnectivity. In harmony, one encounters a huge “exhale,” but also enables one to truly experiences the ebb and flow of life. In harmony, everything seems to fit, work, and tick. In short, harmony is an exploration of synergy, alignment, and integration. In 2018, I don’t expect to achieve perfect harmony but hope to gain the awareness needed to look into the future and face everything on the horizon. This means focusing on both internal and external factors.
Internal harmony starts with the head, heart, and roots. It’s about sharing different gifts and leveraging one’s energies. It is also about developing a better understanding of yin/yang energy and hoping to achieve a better balance.
Internal harmony is also physical—it is about nutrition and monitoring what one consumes. I love sweets but to achieve harmony on a physical level, I know that I need to moderate my intake of them. Physically, harmony may also be connected to one’s posture (e.g., noticing if you’re constantly leaning forward or during a yoga class, noticing if you’re more flexible on one side than another).
More abstractly, harmony is about paying attention to intensity. It’s about noticing where and how we allocate our attention and energy. It’s also about expectations. Are we expecting too much or too little from ourselves at work or in life?
While more concrete, achieving external harmony can be even more challenging than achieving internal harmony because it is rarely fully in our control. What’s obvious is that it begins by being more mindful or our environment, relations, and commitments.
- Simplify your surroundings (pitch and purge what you don’t need).
- Create more time in the right space for the right tasks.
- Build a Zen space at work and/or home where you can relax and be inspired; this may be a physical space or just a set of conditions (e.g., closing your eyes and listening to relaxing music or even white noise).
- Don’t simply avoid conflict—harmony is also about creating room for difference.
- With children, over communicating is sometimes the best way to achieve more harmony!
- Build clarity and transparency at home and work by being clear about who is doing what and when.
- Be clear about what you are committing to and why.
- Bring greater attention and intention to what I choose to do.
- Stop feeling guilty about saying no to commitments you can’t take on at this time.
I’m not deluded—I know that 2018 won’t be entirely harmonious. There will be moments when my harmony is unsettled by surprises, intruders, and surges of intense work and/or life demands. By keeping harmony front and center, however, I have set a clear intention to find more awareness and more balance over the coming twelve months.