By Leo Babauta
There’s a big part of us that doesn’t like chaos: we want order and simplicity and feeling like we’re on top of things and doing things the “right” way.
And so when things feel chaotic, we scramble for some kind of stability:
- When we feel overwhelmed and behwend, we might beat ourselves up and try to look for a system to get things under control.
- When someone is upset with us, we might not like the feeling of being judged and the uncertainty about how people see us, and so we might lash out at them or spin around a story for days about how terrible that person is.
- When plans don’t go how we hoped they would, we feel like we’re on unsteady ground, and we start criticizing ourselves or feeling like we’re doing things wrong and things are out of control, and it might bring a lot of stress in our lives.
- When we think about putting our work out there into the world (by writing a book or putting out an album, for example) … we worry about the shakiness of putting ourselves out to be judged, and might decide that we won’t be OK if that happens, because it just feels too scary, and so we put off putting my work out there, for years.
Do you relate to any of these examples? In fact, the uncertainty of our chaotic lives is perhaps the main cause of our anxiety, stress, frustration, self-doubt, fears, procrastination, distraction and more.
We know when we’re feeling this chaos when we’re reaching for a new tool, system, method, tactic, plan, expert, book on a topic … or our phones.
There is nothing wrong with any of these things. It’s just how we normally respond to chaos.
But if we could relax in the middle of that chaos, it could do so much for us:
- We would be OK with the feeling of overwhelm, and not need to panic or feel bad.
- We would simply take the next step.
- We could focus on one thing at a time.
- We could put our work out in to the world, letting ourselves be with the shakiness of being judged.
- We could be with someone’s upsetness, giving them compassion rather than worrying about whether we’ll be OK.
- We could simply meditate, go for a walk, exercise, eat healthy food, deal with our finances, and do all kinds of other simple, helpful actions that we put off when we feel stressed about chaos.
- And much, much more.
The training is to learn to relax with chaos. And from that place, decide on the next simple step.
Training with the Chaos
The training is to notice when we’re feeling chaos … and then use it as a kind of meditation, to breathe and then relax.
Notice when you’re feeling chaos. You don’t have to look for it — you’re probably feeling it right now. The world will always give us enough chaos to practice with. It’s a gift.
Notice it, and then pause.
Breathe. Deep into your belly, slowly, letting yourself relax with each breath.
Then learn to relax with this feeling of chaos, uncertainty, fear, anxiety, shakiness, groundlessness.
Breathe, and with each breath, relax into the feeling of uncertainty and chaos.