Meditating in the Middle of Chaos
Gusts of wind and rain swirled through my mom’s tropical flower garden in Guam as I meditated.
A tropical storm was passing close to Guam, where I’m living at the moment, and I decided to go out into the torrential rain to meditate for at least a few minutes. Don’t worry, it was safe.
The water kissed my face, the wind rocked my body into a sway as I practiced being present in the storm.
I was practicing stillness in the middle of chaos.
Of course, we don’t need to have an actual tropical storm (which turned into a supertyphoon after it passed us) to practice with chaos. It’s all around us, every day. Chaos is the uncertainty of our daily lives, the constant barrage of information, requests, tasks, and messages. It is the uncertainty of the global stage, national politics, our finances, the global economy, changing communities, and our ever-changing lives.
Chaos is all around us, and it can stress us out. It causes anxiety, depression, frustration, anger, procrastination, constant distraction, and the seeking of comforts like social media, food, shopping, games and more.
But what if we didn’t need to run to comfort or fear the chaos?
What if we could find calmness with the uncertainty swirling around us?
A member of my Fearless Training Program said he would like to “dance with chaos.” I think that’s a beautiful idea. Embrace the uncertainty. Practice with it. Dance with it, and let this practice be joyful.
A Joyful Practice in Chaos
So how can we practice mindfulness in the middle of chaos? How can we make it joyful?
For me, it looks something like this.
First, you give yourself space to be present with the chaos. I stood in the middle of the storm because I was excited to see what it was like. I intentionally called it “meditating” because my intention was to be as present as possible with whatever happened. In your daily life, that might mean stopping in the middle of your busy workday and dropping into the present moment so you can truly feel the chaos.
Second, you find the courage to be completely present with the experience of the chaos. In the storm, part of that was feeling the wind and rain on my skin. It meant noticing the dramatic light that filtered through the thick clouds and the amazing tropical jungle in the small valley below me. It was also the feeling of excitement in my chest, and noticing the small fear radiating in my chest that something could be blown and hit me on the head. It was also the feeling of my body swaying, my leg muscles tensing, my chest expanding as I breathed. All of this was the felt experience of that moment; not just my thoughts about it, but how it felt in my body. We can practice this at any moment.
Third, you relax into the chaos and embrace it. Noticing how the chaos feels, you might notice any tension you have around it. For me, in the storm, there was tension around my safety even though it was actually pretty safe. I noticed this tension and relaxed those muscles. Relaxing my body, I let myself surrender to it. Embrace the chaos, as if it were an incredible gift. Again, we can practice this at any moment. Right now, in fact, if you’d like to try it.
Fourth, you dance with it, joyfully. Once we relax around the chaos and start to embrace it, we’re making friends with it. The uncertainty is no longer a thing to run from, or to resist, but is just a part of the experience of this moment—of every moment. And so we can start to dance. We can let ourselves move through the chaos in a loving, joyful way. What would it be like to play right now, in the middle of your uncertain life? What would it be like to be curious and explore, like an adventurer? What would it be like to be grateful for this incredible moment of chaotic beauty?
We have the opportunity, every single day, even every moment, to be present with the storm of the world. To sit in stillness in the middle of the wind and downpour of life. We have the opportunity to be open to it, to dance with it, and find the joy in the immense uncertainty that is our lives.
Let’s dance, my friends.
Leo Babauta is the author of six books, the writer of “Zen Habits,” a blog with over 2 million subscribers, and the creator of several online programs to help you master your habits. Visit ZenHabits.net