It is happening. You don't know what It is, but It is unexpected and unpredictable. You can't make sense of it. Your reality is trembling. All of a sudden, your socks have become ill-fitting sweat sponges and your dearly held beliefs seem fickle. Your to-do lists seem like a map for a world that doesn't exist. You don't know who you are or what you're supposed to do. You don't even know what you'll have for breakfast anymore because, in an instant, you've realized that you can no longer continue having the same bowl of oatmeal every morning.
This is chaos.
Before we go on, please note that I have nothing against oatmeal. I love oatmeal, but maybe someday I won't. Chaos happens.
Normally, our mind converts perceived phenomena into cohesive data to which we can rationally respond. But when chaos emerges, the mind struggles to comprehend what's happening. Because we cannot interpret the occurrence, we don't know how to respond to it.
What do I do? How am I supposed to be in this circumstance?
In this scenario, we have a few options:
1) Fight the chaos
2) Avoid the chaos
3) Welcome the chaos
The chaos is initially perceived as a lack of order. Unstable disharmony. The key to utilizing chaos as as an aid, is to recognize that its disorder is an illusion. There is order and direction to it. It just doesn't fit within our previous conception of the world.
When we are confronted with a situation that doesn't align with our habituated perception of life, the mind may want to conclude that it is inherently chaotic, totally void of direction. The mind sees chaos and panics.
When chaos comes a knocking--or, more likely, when it kicks down the doors of perception--we may be at a loss as to how to respond. Unfamiliar situations necessitate unfamiliar, creative responses if we are to progress through them. Instinctually, we may want to fight it, get rid of it, or ignore it. On the other hand, if we can welcome it and take an open, curious look at it, we will be opening ourselves up to new modes of perception, new qualities of existence, and creative (as opposed to rote) paths of action that we would not have otherwise been privy to if we had continued along the path of predictable familiarity.
Familiarity, predictability, and stability have a definite usefulness, but so does chaos. Chaos and order are tools which the mind can use in order to alter the contents of its reality.
How can we use chaos as a helpful tool?
We can welcome it.
When we encounter the unexpected, whether it be a small accident or a storm of shit in a fan, we can circumnavigate our knee-jerk desire to fight it or avoid it. We can then intentionally strive to enter the very situation that is challenging us. Rather than shutting it out or attempting to get rid of the chaos, we can be curious about it, look at it.
In the moment we open up to the chaos, we transform our relation to it. And when we transform our relation to chaos, the chaos becomes less threatening. If we act out against it or evade it, then we are treating it as a danger. If we embrace the unexpected, then it becomes a stimulating addition to our life. Our reality isn't being threatened. It is being expanded. This expansion might not be comfortable, but if we are open to it, it won't need to be so painful. If we can play with the chaos, not only will it lose its sting, but it will also become a source of joy, learning, and creativity.
If we attempt to adhere our lives to a straight and predictable line, we will limit our experience. We will have to block out anything that doesn't fit within our conditions. This might be healthy or useful in certain times, but if we continually block out anything the unknown, we will be confining ourselves within a prison of our own making. Not only that, but we will have to expend enormous amounts of energy to enforce the walls of our box so that perceived threats don't destroy our definition of life.
What happens when we willingly get our hands dirty with the muck of chaos? The world opens up! It opens up because we have opened up. Restrictions are replaced with possibilities. Threats are alchemically transmuted into aids. Illusory dangers become friends that teach us a new way to navigate the ever-fluctuating terrain of life. While we previously knew life to be a battle necessitating a constant state of fight or flight, we will instead find it to be a game of growth and playfulness.
Sometimes, we will find it easy to play with the surprises life deals us. Other times, it will feel like life is shitting a mess of terror upon our gaping face, to which it would be impossible to respond with anything but fear or anger. We each have our own special triggers that stomp on our hearts or send them beating at the pace of demon-possessed pigs running off a cliff. Even though it will be difficult or seemingly impossible to welcome these situations--or, what's more, to play with them--it is in these very situations that we have the greatest opportunity for more freedom.
The more difficult a situation is to face, the more imprisoned we will feel within it. The larger the obstacle, the more strength and creativity we will need to transmute it and move beyond it. In this way, obstacles give us an opportunity to develop previously untapped capacities within ourselves, but only if we enter the obstacle and face it with constructive intentions.
The navigation of life's obstacles and mazes might initially seem like arduous work. A struggle through which we have to sweat and break our spine under the burden's weight. This might be the mind's initial tendency, but it doesn't need to be that way!
How can it be other? How can chaos, obstacles, and the shitstorms of life be anything but hard labor?
Playfulness is like a magical force that can transmute pain and perceived danger into avenues of discovery and joy.
When we are possessed by fear, our mind will imagine all of the things that can go wrong. We will remind ourselves of all of our failures and envision ourselves repeating those failures into the grave. We will shrink away from life, feeling disconnected from ourselves and the world.
And if we play?
The world is transformed!
Even if nothing is different externally, our experience of it will be utterly transformed. When we are playful, we naturally discover new possibilities without even trying. We feel lighter, unencumbered, more capable and more inspired to do what we truly wish to do.
The secret is that chaos isn’t chaos.
If we play with chaos, we allow the unknown to become an adventure. When we play, we find that chaos is helping us by removing our self-imposed, fear-induced limitations. When we willingly embrace chaos, we will find that it isn't chaos. At first, we perceived the unfamiliar phenomena to be symptomatic of disorder and disharmony. When we observe that apparent disorder, we will find that there is an order, a structure, a progression toward harmony and cohesion--we just weren't aware of it before.
Chaos only feels like chaos if we don’t get to know it. Just because we don’t yet see the order and creative potential of an event doesn’t mean it isn’t there, it just means that we have to look for it. And the more we engage with chaos, the more we play with it, the easier the process becomes. Heck, we might even begin to enjoy chaos.
Is it easy to find these hidden qualities in chaos? Is it easy to find gold in a shitstorm? Not always, but we can begin to develop this awareness. In this practice, playfulness comes in handy. Playfulness expands our awareness and makes our minds more flexible. Playfulness increases our accessibility to creative perception and solutions. Playfulness is the magic carpet that allows us to fly through chaos and surf its currents, rather than be disheartened by it.
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