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Redefining Harmony

I recently read a very popular yoga journal article on the Year of the Wood Sheep. I was looking forward to what the author's take was on the fortuitous events waiting to occur in the Wood Sheep Year. Something in the article grabbed me, pulled me in and then spat me out to sit with my thoughts. At first I must admit there was a flavoring of disappointment. I wasn't sure why I felt negativity to the author's words, all I knew was that something was stirred up within me. The discussion was on harmony, how as fortune told, we were to expect a year of propitious balance. The author, someone whom I highly respect and always enjoy delving into his perspective, said that he did not buy into this notion of harmony for the upcoming year. We, as human beings, he expressed, will inevitably experience a year full of ups/downs, good/bad, happy and sad. According to him then, this concept of a harmonious year is bulls?!@. It wasn't until I went back to that sentence of his on the subject of harmony that I discovered the root of my disappointment. It seemed to me such an undeveloped idea and assumption of human beings. I was disgruntled; realizing that some may think harmony is unattainable simply because we are human. My disappointment was not in the author but more in the acknowledgement that we often use words to make an argument without fully understanding the complexity or philosophy contained in such words; in all words for that matter. I also felt a bit disappointed in myself, that perhaps I had romanticized and misinterpreted the word all along.

Isn't the very definition of harmony the balance between the poles? Harmonization as defined by wikipedia "usually sounds pleasant to the ear when there is a balance between the consonant and dissonant sounds. In simple words, that occurs when there is a balance between "tense" and "relaxed" moments."

That being said, perhaps we need to change our view and understanding of harmony? Studying and now practicing Chinese Medicine and learning and dissecting everything in and out of our world as opposing elements of yin and yang, has given me a much better appreciation and acknowledgement for both ends of the spectrum. An understanding that you need both ends, good/bad, happy/sad, up/down, light/dark to achieve harmony and balance. As the old adage goes "everything in moderation, including moderation." Too much of a good thing is still considered out of balance, unharmonious. For me, a year of harmony looks like a year full of light and dark, with equal weight. I would challenge my friends and loved ones to re-examine their definition of harmony. Is it one of pure light, all up, only joy? If you are consciously functioning on a regular basis at a certain frequency, are you subconsciously or consciously for some, expecting, thinking, waiting for that inevitable shift to the other end of the spectrum? Existing for example at the high frequency end for an extended period of time and expecting that ineluctable shift, could be considered a state of disharmony.

Furthermore, if you delve deeper into the definition of harmony you find that it is all perception. Cultural, societal, biological and personal factors all come into play and have done so over time. The term harmony, derived from the Greek term harmonia, was defined as joining, agreement, concord, to fit together. It was a term often applied to music and defined the combination of contrasted elements, higher and lower notes. In following with TCM principals, you could say these contrasted elements are yang and yin, higher and lower, light and dark. According to the ancient TCM texts, when yin and yang are in harmony with one another, there will be no disease. Much like the seasons, we need winter to guide us to spring and summer to fall. Likened to a well-balanced meal, we incorporate ingredients with varying flavors and properties to create a pleasurable experience for our palate and a meal that is fully digested by our bodies.

There is still much ambiguity surrounding the term harmony. This ambiguity is certainly true in the musical sense, but in my opinion, this misunderstanding is extended to the grander scheme of life. Again, according to the omniscient Wikipedia Gods, "Ambiguities tend to arise from either aesthetic considerations (for example the view that only "pleasing" concords may be harmonious) or from the point of view of musical texture (distinguishing between "harmonic" (simultaneously sounding pitches) and "contrapuntal" (successively sounding tones). I argue that the same could be said in the application of the broader sense of the word to everyday life. Like music as a whole, and as such, the concept extrapolated to life as a whole, harmony is a process.

I believe that there are many different practices that we can participate in and master to help guide us back, bring us home and help create the consonant chords in life. These practices can be as simple as being present, an awareness of the ingredients we are including in our meals, to a mindful minute of meditation. There is a balance between tense and relaxed in which case tension is usually prepared, and then resolved. The mastered skill of the musician is to prepare the listener for the tension in a disarming fashion. In the context of life then, these practices, whatever they may be for you, work in your favour when composing the song of your life. These practices help us to offset the tense moments and counterbalance the inevitable dissonance.

I think Frank Zappa made a superb point in saying that "The creation and destruction of harmonic and 'statistical' tensions is essential to the maintenance of compositional drama. Any composition (or improvisation) which remains consistent and 'regular' throughout is, for me, equivalent to watching a movie with only 'good guys' in it, or eating cottage cheese.

—Frank Zappa, "The Real Frank Zappa Book" page 181, Frank Zappa and Peter Occhiogrosso, 1990

If we redefine, or perhaps just delve a bit deeper into the full life of the word harmony, can we agree that this Year of The Wood Sheep, and all years for that matter, will be full of harmony? I challenge us, as mindful beings, to compose our personal song of life in the spirit of harmony redefined, using the many different practices available to us. Be it meditation, acupuncture, the preparation of a home cooked meal, free diving, yoga, a dip in the ocean or a sip of warm chai, the tools within our reach are plentiful.

Much gratitude to you all, I'm off to have some cottage cheese for lunch countered with a cup of lavender, peppermint tea ;) If you're looking to create more harmony in your life, come visit me at Banyan Tree Health where we can create, align, and collaborate to achieve your personal balance.

Love and Light,


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