on harmony…and integrity
Harmony is a concept commonly equated with music; in this sense, it is defined as “the simultaneous combination of tones, especially when blended into chords pleasing to the ear”*, derived from the Greek root harmonia, which means “agreement”.* When musical notes played together are in harmony, they sound as if they actually are in agreement; each individual tone has its place, its presence is perceptible, but the consonance between them makes for a much more beautiful, resonant whole.
Harmony implies a sense of balance as well. In this week’s yogasana practice, we explored the architecture of arm balancing. At first glance it might not seem an accurate metaphor, but when we look more deeply, we learn that balancing on our arms is not a feat of upper body strength, and there is much more to Yogic flight than meets the eye. Strength is an important component, yes, but in order for these poses to really take off, the muscular effort must be simultaneously distributed throughout the body from crown to toe. Even if there was enough brute strength to “muscle through” and “do” a pose, (counterintuitive to Yoga practice), it would not have the lightness that it might have, should the pose have been approached with the congruity of alignment, breath, body and intelligence. Poses executed with a heavy, aggressive intention look exactly so–heavy and sinking–as opposed to buoyant and ascending. Birds don’t struggle to force flight, and neither should we.
This could bring us to the the question, isn’t the hope of ascension one of the reasons why we practice? There might be very lofty goals for practitioners like enlightenment, but for most of us in this lifetime, that just might not be realistic. We hope, with humility, just to rise above where we are today. Is there harmony between infinite possibility and achievable reality? Maybe, as Krishna Das says, “it’s through practice that we get the ability to become a good person. And a complete person.” Becoming a good person–sounds simple, but as anyone with any sort of honest internal monologue knows, not at all easy.
As with arm balancing, there is more to being a good person than meets the eye. Being a good person is more than knowing right from wrong. It isn’t posting platitudes on Facebook, but then gossiping about your neighbor. A good person has substance, follows through, does what they say they are going to do, they “show up”. That does not mean a perfect person, however. There is no such thing. And that does not mean sterile, either. Being a good person doesn’t mean we don’t have personality, emotions, or texture. We are human. So how, then, given the intrinsic challenges of being human, can we become a good person? Maybe we can begin by cultivating Integrity. The Bible says that a house built on sand cannot stand, to build a house on rock. Integrity is the rock on which any person can stand. This is where the Harmony comes in…integrity is when what we say, what we think and what we do are harmonious. It is having a set of strong core values, and then letting those integrated values inform our decisions. When we are a person of integrity, we have inner peace. We don’t have lies to cover up or excuses to make, our decisions come from clarity; we sleep soundly at night knowing we are living in truth, not delusion. We walk softly and speak kindly because we don’t need to defend our choices or our view, we know they were cultivated through the prism of our values and dharma. We try to make right, not be right—now there is a really tough one! In a world where opinion is often presented as truth, where vitriol and volume substitute for substance, where righteousness is misrepresented as Right, it can be hard to work from the center. So, we keep practicing, both on the mat and off—we keep looking inward in an attempt to connect to our eternal nature, because our eternal nature, our Soul, is good. Over time, our inner and outer lives become harmonious, sometimes effortlessly, and our life sorts itself out. Things and people that are in conflict or no longer serve us begin to fall away or hold less value so we release them. There is more space for the people places and things in our life that are in accord with our more harmonious, integrity-based self. More depth, less drama. More Joy.