HJ: The key to staying calm in the midst of chaos is realizing that you have a choice in the matter — how calm you feel at any given moment is completely under your control. It simply takes a bit of practice to master the art and there are a two powerful techniques that can help you do so. These are perspectives you can adopt that will greatly aid you in maintaining your center regardless of what is going on around you — non-duality and acceptance of what is.
Non-duality teaches that nothing is wrong or right, everything simply is. What this translates to is that everything simply is a learning experience intended to teach us lessons about ourselves, but particularly to help us evolve our conscious awareness. Seeing ALL events in your life from this perspective immediately discharges much of the emotion (especially negative and/or chaotic emotions) from any experience and is incredibly powerful in helping you stay calm in the midst of chaos or disruption of any sort.
Once you understand and integrate the non-dual perspective, you can immediately move into acceptance of the experience, which eliminates any emotional charge that may still remain. Acceptance is a profound state in which one fully integrates the knowledge that ALL experience is called in by the self to evolve consciousness and learn the lessons we must pass through in any given lifetime. Every moment is imbued with potential for spiritual awakening and the chaotic moments hold great potential for growth — if we can disconnect from and understand the emotional chaos that typically arises. Non-duality and acceptance are the tools that will take you there.
Chaos, Calm and Being Present
This moment, this moment, this moment…
One of the most subtle of our misperceptions is discriminating between tension and anxiety. Anxiety is a physiological state, brought on by a tangible threat or, in some extreme cases, the symbolic re-experience of a tangible threat. Tension – or, more properly, internal stress – is self-created; a product of the mind that derives from the fanciful stories we tell ourselves about what’s going to happen, instead of what is happening.
There are two kinds of chaos – internal and external; neither one pleasant or productive. External chaos is the stuff we can’t control. It comes from the outside in and does its level best to disturb our inner calm. Internal chaos is sometimes real, as in the case of genuine anxiety, but, more often than not, it’s the stuff that we make up; the stories that we, in our failure to remain present, tell ourselves about the challenges that we encounter in our lives, and their potentials. Those stories are based on all sorts of things, from our assumptions, expectations, and ideas about the way the world works, to our developmental templates of behavior and our general model of the world.
The key to managing external chaos is pretty simple – recognize it as external and keep it there. Don’t take it on, buy into it or let it run you, much less consume you. What often happens to us is that we buy into external chaos because it doesn’t fit our meta-story. Releasing our need to control — which is typically based on those assumptions, expectations, and ideas about the way the world works — or, even better, acknowledging what it is that we can’t control, takes us out of our own game in the best possible way.
Guess what? If your 16-year-old, who is, by and large, a pretty terrific kid, exhibits an intermittent pattern of poor judgment, you can teach, re-teach, pre-teach, consequent, punish or even dance naked on the roof to get her attention, but, in the end, she’s going to do what she’s going to do. Appropriate parental concern aside, the chaos that she is creating for herself is external to you and not something that you should be taking on unless you enjoy making yourself crazy.
That’s a big lesson, because in releasing our attachment to external chaos that is not ours, we relieve ourselves of the burden of the internal chaos that we create for ourselves. In this, we can remain centered and calm, prepared to deal with any real chaos that might ensue in the moment that it occurs, rather than being at the sufferance of the stuff we make up. In other words, by eschewing chaos and invoking calm, we set ourselves up to remain present.
Internal chaos is a bit more complex, because it’s informed by our very natural tendency to take everything personally. We do this for a very simple reason – we are our own best point of reference. Moving out of this ego-centric perspective (our I-ness) and into a more ethno-centric perspective (our Us-ness), we have the opportunity to tease out from our experience which part of the tension that we are experiencing is transpersonal (i.e., external chaos), which part is self-created (internal chaos), and which part is legitimate anxiety.
In the end, what we are talking about here is the gathering of perspective that allows us to maintain our sense of calm by virtue of the notion that we are always, in the moment that we are in, safe. Being present is not just about mindfulness, or accessing the Buddha-nature, or being self-actualized, or being one with the Christ-nature. It’s about being here now, and going there later, when there is here and later is now.
So, the next time that you’re managing to freak yourself out, bear in mind that the sky isn’t falling – it’s teaching you a lesson. Listen up.
Michael J. Formica has recently established LifeWorks Compass, a transformational vehicle for overcoming the limiting beliefs and distractions that interfere with overall wellness, personal meaning, inspiration and drive. Visit his website here to learn more: Michael J. Formica