Have you ever heard the term ‘coherence’ as it relates to inner harmony? Perhaps, simply reading the words ‘inner harmony’ and ‘coherence’ bring about a desire to feel a little more firmly planted within yourself?
It’s not easy right now. I mean, life is rarely what anyone would describe as easy – but as far as my lifetime goes, it’s never been quite this challenging to navigate while maintaining any sense of calm. I have come to trust that things unfold as they need to for our own greater evolution. To try and change what we cannot control is the greatest source of our self-inflicted suffering.
What I can change are my mind, my heart and my response in any given situation. This is well within all of our control and this is why understanding coherence and inner harmony is so critical right now. We need it more than ever.
A lot of us have a vision of what a happy life looks like. It might include a dream home, a vacation, a certain type of partner, or perhaps a certain level of wealth and financial security.
The reality is that none of that is the ticket if we can’t calm the nerves and flow more effortlessly through life. The desires for those things that we think will bring us greater happiness are not really what we need or want. What we truly crave is to feel at peace. It’s a lot easier and more obvious to crave material things or extravagant experiences than to sit for five or ten minutes, focus on our breathing and allow what we really want to wash over us. And what we want is that inner harmony.
What Does It Mean To Be In A Coherent State?
We know that the brain sends signals to the body. As I type this, my brain is telling my fingers to get to work on my lightning-fast, slightly manic, two-finger typing to get these words on my screen. That’s the brain sending a message to the body.
We also know that if we witness a scary or startling event, we feel a jolt of fear and our heart rate elevates. These are the efferent pathways of the nervous system: brain to body.
Very few of us actively acknowledge that the heart sends more signals to the brain than the brain sends to the heart and the rest of the body. These are called the afferent pathways.
When we can tune into that rhythm of the heart and bring it into coherence, we can directly impact how we feel from a nervous system perspective (anxious vs. calm) as well as how the frontocortical and motor cortex of the brain functions (responsive vs. reactive).
Optimally, we want to be in a coherent state where we feel calm and peaceful and where we are better able to make mindful decisions, allowing for critical, creative and solution-oriented thinking to dominate. As you might now be seeing, this is not the state most of us are in as we go about our day.
Most of us, most of the time, are operating in an incoherent state where we are experiencing stress, overwhelm, anxiety, uncertainty and fear. When we are in this state, our ability to think clearly, be compassionate, kind and caring is impaired. In short, we are not remotely at our best.
To be compassionate, one of the most critical heart-based emotions that we all need to be embodying right now, means tuning into the heart and bringing ourselves into coherence. What’s really amazing is that being compassionate brings us into coherence, and when we are in a coherent state, we are more compassionate, loving, kind, appreciative, grateful, calm and peaceful. A beautiful thing about this is that when we are in this state, we also directly invite others to feel more heart-centred as well.
Our level of coherence has been shown to directly impact the heart rhythm of those around us.
How Do We Cultivate Inner Harmony?
What I love about the technique I’m about to share is that you don’t have to sit quietly in meditation for 20 minutes to get there. You don’t need to remove yourself from life. Don’t get me wrong: it certainly helps to develop a dedicated meditation practice, as that will make the 30-second doses of coherence easier to achieve, but it’s not essential for impact.
The technique I’m sharing below is based on the teachings of the HeartMath Institute. There is no right or wrong way to be proactive; it’s all about steadying your heart rhythm and bringing your mind and body into coherence.
Getting Into Coherence
- Take a few moments to focus on and slow your breathing. Consider trying an inhale for a count of 1-2-3-4 and then a 1-2-3-4 exhale.
- Once your breath has steadied, envision this breath coming in through your heart and out through your heart. Continue with your slower than normal breathing.
- Now, as you continue breathing slowly in and out through your heart, embody the feeling of love, compassion and appreciation. Feel in your body how it feels to be deeply cared for, appreciated and loved. I find it helpful to turn the corner of my mouth into a smile as I embody this feeling.
- Sit with this feeling for as long as you have time for.
- If you want to extend your practice, after a few minutes, you can extend that feeling of love, appreciation and compassion outward to someone you know, to a community or to the planet as a whole. Continue focusing on your breath, coming in and out through your heart and embodying these heart-centred emotions.
Inner Harmony In 30 Seconds
I have been doing this practice daily – sometimes for 5 minutes, sometimes for 20 minutes – for several years. It’s a bit of a personal check-in. Lately, however, I think I’m likely clocking in a lot more time because of my ongoing 30-second practices all day, throughout the day.
See, as I mentioned earlier, it’s tough out there. Tension is high, resilience is low and most people are going about their day operating from an incoherent state, making them reactive, short, fearful, and lacking patience and compassion. And I do my best to blast it out. I picture it a bit like the Care Bear Stare.
When I am standing in line, waiting at a red light on my bicycle, or even when my son is exhausted after a day of school and melt-down-ready, I mindfully slow my breathing and embody compassion while sending this emotion out to whomever is near me.
Imagine for a moment if 5% of us did this. Or what about 10%? If every 10th person we encounter was embodying love, compassion, empathy and care, we’d be living in a very different world.
If happiness is really what you’re after, you’ll get there a lot faster – in fact, you’ll get there today – if you take a few moments to get into coherence. It’s literally your next breath away.
And, well, this is my goal. Inner harmony and coherence will be playing a big part in the new program I’m developing. If you’d like to learn more about the evidence and experience coherence, I have this 20 minute training you can check out here. In these sessions, I will also offer the science that supports what I’ve shared above in greater detail. Learn more and get on the list here.
On My Mind Episode 20: Creating Inner Harmony In 30 Seconds
Header Photo Credit: Nikki McKean