Keeping Calm Amidst Chaos
“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” –Deepak Chopra
One of my political science professors once described the world as ambiguous, complex, uncertain and volatile. As a wide-eyed idealist then, I wrote him off as cynical.
I’m amused by my young self. Making hasty judgments about her unexplored world, other people and their experiences from a most dangerous place imaginable – behind a desk.
The only thing one can be certain of in this life is change. And in the midst of change, there is certain to be chaos. I believe that was the professor’s intended message.
People who seek out change are kind of like adrenaline junkies. When we set off to climb a mountain, the exhilaration of reaching a summit is soon replaced by the anti-climactic feeling of having plateaued. So off we go, looking for a new mountain to conquer, courting chaos all over again.
The question becomes, how do we manage change with the fluidity and effortlessness of a master? To know the answer is to know the art of managing change.
Most of us have been around the block, yet, when it comes to change, we feel like amateurs. On some level, we know that change is good. Like eating kale. But how many of us truly love it?
Here is how to make change easier to swallow. I’ll share with you what monks from a rural village in Southeast Asia and successful executives here in America have in common.
The secret to their mastery is stillness.
Stillness does not require meditating hours in a faraway ashram or an exotic temple. It is not limited to spiritual gurus but accessible to any practitioner seeking it. It’s easy to recognize someone who mastered stillness. She’s the one listening to an irate customer berating her without becoming emotionally charged herself. He’s the one, when a crisis hits, people seek out to make the final call.
If you master stillness, you will be at peace in any given situation.
In a life and death situation, the amygdala, the most primal part of our brain that we know to be responsible for the fight or flight response, has this other cool ability – slowing down time. It gets smart about prioritizing like zeroing in only on what’s crucial to keeping you alive.
For example, if you’re driving merrily along the freeway, and all of a sudden, a tire blew out, your brain will only focus on the things that will get your car back in control and out of harm’s way. It’s not thinking about last night’s dinner, the other cars behind you or even the sexy passenger next to you.
The good news is, with practice, you can train your brain to do the same in a non-life threatening situation. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Breath. Most of us breathe incorrectly. Learn correct breathing through the practice of yoga and meditation.
Trust Yourself. You got this. You’ve been here before.
Faith. Faith is different from trust, in the sense that you believe in a power far larger than yourself.
Seek out nature. It doesn’t have to be complicated and faraway. It can be as close to home as a city park. For me, it’s the ocean. Water is holy to me. My noisy mind feels the reverence and ceased its endless chatter.
Now there is science to back up the brain’s connection to water. Dr. Wallace Nichols, a marine biologist, calls this stillness “blue mind.” In this article, he explains it as “a meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity, and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment.”
Create a quiet space. If you are unable to seek out nature, go to any place where you can sit in silence for five minutes and calm your breath.
One final thought.
Choose Vertical over Horizontal.
Horizontal is lying down, it’s giving up. In hard times, the mere act of putting one foot in front of the other and choosing to remain vertical is a radical act of courage.