I am not a “New Year’s Resolution” person. I mean obviously, it’s nearly May and I am just now writing about the miraculous word I stumbled on that inspired me to change my way of thinking in 2018.
Working on Magazine Street in New Orleans provides me with an endless opportunity to observe all kinds of stuff. I love to people watch and window shop. I love stepping out of work and smelling all the delicious food cooking from every direction as I walk to my car. I love that I can get a coffee from a local purveyor and support local groceries when I buy lunch. One day, on my way to the grocery a few weeks after new years, my shoe got caught on the lip of the side-walk of the street and I stumbled, trying not to fall in to a group of BAMA dudes yelling, “Dilly! Dilly!” I was distracted by my thoughts and not paying any attention to where I was walking.
After my slight embarrassment cooled, I noticed I’d fallen right on to Harmony Street. I looked up to the clouds, rolled my eyes, and smiled. I told myself right then and there that practicing and living in harmony was going to be my “resolution” this year. This sentiment has taken several shapes since the beginning of the year. I had no idea that the word “harmony” would end up challenging me more than I anticipated; we’re only five months in and the observations I’ve soaked up so far are totally changing my approach to everything.
I moved to New Orleans in July and found it difficult to find work, make new friends, write, practice yoga…basically to exist like I normally would. I hadn’t imagined returning to the Big Easy once I left. I had heard once that New Orleans would either wrap you up in warmth or spit you out; I thought for sure the latter was happening to me. I was restless with indecision about what I wanted to do and was super disappointed in not having all the answers right away. I had finally finished my degree and just knew jobs were going to line up and align with my ultimate purpose — what it is, I still don’t know. I focused on having patience and trusting that the universe would provide me with answers. It didn’t. I had to make up my own answers. I accepted a job I didn’t want and tried to make the best of it until, thankfully, a magical, amazing job landed in my lap. I sound like a broken, looping, blog record, but we manifest our own happiness and we have to keep reminding ourselves of that. Happiness is a choice. Harmony is a choice, something I didn’t really ever stop to think about, and they absolutely go hand in hand. EVERY MOMENT OF EVERY DAY we have to choose those things. I think we get so caught up in developing what happiness is supposed to look like on the outside that we miss the mark on what it is supposed to feel like on the inside — though YOU are the only person who can truly define that.
I was in the middle of a very ugly moment with an old friend yesterday when the conversation we were having posed a question in my mind: if we have to reiterate over and over that we’re happy, are we? As angry as I was in the moment, I felt bad for my friend. I felt the flame of her scrambling to make sure that I knew that she was plenty happy, and for what? She made clear, as people often do, that she didn’t need my approval to be happy. So it made me wonder: why do we care so much about others approving of our happiness? I briefly assessed recent conversations with people I don’t see often and I don’t think I ever included the assurance, “I’m happy. I’m so happy, do you hear me? I swear I am.” I don’t think people need that kind of confirmation. If anyone has experienced me within the last few years, they know I am getting married to the person of my dreams and that happy is not at all the right word for what I feel! Think sublime joy, irritating, smiley, sappy, joy; I feel like I’m beaming most of the time. I think when we say things like, “I hope you’re just as happy,” we challenge others to compare our version of happiness against theirs…and that is really not at all what the emotion of happiness is. That realm of “happy” seems a like pointed, maybe even fake, cry for attention. I’m not saying you shouldn’t celebrate your happiness, but damn, stop comparing it to your next door neighbor’s appearance of happiness; it is, after all, just your perception.
living in harmony and finding happiness looks like this for me:
this is one of the first yoga photos I ever posted, and I had to dig to find it, but boy does my heart sing when I see it. I look at it now and remember the emotional disarray I was swimming in when I found yoga. — I’ve talked about this a good deal in various places on this blog, so I’ll spare you the replay. — You can see the sunlight cracking through the top of the photo, light barely coming in, but it’s there; what a metaphor. I was losing weight at a rapid pace, my hair was falling out, and I was watching a long, unhealthy relationship unwind. I felt like a wild woman, freeing herself of the things that bound her; I was unwinding but learning to piece myself back together, too. Each time I stepped on my mat I found new things my body could do and this dazzled me; what began to happen in my mind as I moved, an internal digging out, humbled me in ways I’m still learning to explain. My practice now feels more like finding the harmony between my body and breath, my mind concentrating almost solely on the dissipation of thought. I don’t have a perfect practice, I never will. Sometimes the practice is too hot to concentrate on not concentrating, too challenging to feel any rapport between body and breath. But I find that if I keep understanding at the forefront of my thoughts, the harmony is easier to locate.
You may be swimming in something similar, so ask yourself: what would bring ease in to this situation? How can I have that? It is SO easy to choose the hard thing because we don’t want to drop our egos long enough to learn something about ourselves, but that’s what we really need to do. By actively selecting something other than easpiness, we create more dissonance, causing chaos. “Just choose ease,” may sound flippant and trite, but it is the path that leads to less resistance from the world. It doesn’t mean you’re making a lazy choice by not acting, it’s actually quite the opposite. By choosing ease, you choose yourself, happiness, and ultimately…joy.
I promised myself this year I would write more because writing makes me happy, and I haven’t done that. (Like I said, it’s not a great idea for me to label intentions as “resolutions.” I think I actively break the promise just because I made one.) Lately, I think all day and night about what I want to say and if I should say it and are the opinions worth sharing? I worry that my words will just fly in to cyber space and get lost somewhere, all because this or that piece didn’t immediately make me a million dollars. This kind of fear is stupid — a word I hate to use. I have kept thousands of words in my head for months because I’m afraid of stepping on the wrong toes or failing or succeeding or whatever. The fear… it’s real. Fortunately, the last forty-eight hours have been eye-popping and I cannot help but find myself, here in the chair with coffee, willing the fear to shut the fck up. When we allow this kind of fear to set in, we need to pause and ask: how is this serving me? Is the fear driving me to do something new, daring, and great? Am I learning in this moment or am I drinking in the fear and letting it take control? Taking a pause for thought in moments like this is crucial, that’s when we learn what we’re made of and what outcome is most important to us. Maybe we just don’t allow enough space between our perception of the situation and what is actually going on.
Yesterday I posted about writer’s block and today I’m writing, I guess that’s how it goes. I have been overwhelmed by emotion in 2018, nearly a drowning sensation of all kinds of overwhelming happiness mixed with weird anger. I’m angry at the anger when it shows up, since it mostly feels like it’s just there to spite the harmony. I make it a point to emphasize the stuff that deliberately creates harmony in my life: practicing yoga, drinking in the Louisiana sun, checking things off of all of my to-do lists, grocery shopping, doing laundry; it’s not glamorous and it’s not mundane, it just is. The list of happy and harmonious could go on. Now that I’ve made a small change to my way of thinking, I spend less time worrying about all the things I can’t change in this moment and focus on being present here and now. If you haven’t read or listened to Ram Dass, look him up. He talks so much about struggling to “know” and helped me finally figure out that once we stop trying to “know,” once we relinquish this insatiable hunger for answers and resign ourselves to live simply in the ebb and flow of harmony, life feels less daunting; the universe seems kinder.
I know you’re sitting there wondering, what does any of this have to do with harmony? Wasn’t that the entire point of this blog? The answer is yeah, you’re right. I feel like my resolution has totally taken over every aspect of my life journey. It is constant work. We don’t just wake up and feel all the good things all day every day, life unfortunately isn’t like that. It’s easy to get down about it being and feeling like a constant uphill climb, and it can be if we perceive life that way. Harmony, I’m learning, is this incredible yin and yang. Effort and ease. Balance and imbalance. It’s the marrying of voices of all kinds to create a beautiful sound. We have the power create that sound within ourselves and within others. We have the power to manifest happiness and harmony, to expand and share it and be in gentle union with not only others, but the world.
Take a moment today to observe the harmonies, or disharmony, in your life and ask yourself: how can I supper and celebrate this feeling? how can I find it? what changes do I need to make RIGHT NOW that will bring me ease and ultimately joy? Five minutes is all you need, and it is totally worth it. I promise.
For those of you exploring harmony on the mat, check this article: Finding Balance Between Effort and Ease
Here’s a song: