“Comfort in the Chaos”: living mindfully in the “real world”
What does living mindfully really mean to you and how does that definition fit within your daily life? Are you challenged by the curve balls life throws at you or by the sense of being too “crazy busy” to attend to your health and well being? Those are the times when understanding and experiencing mindfulness can reveal “comfort in the chaos”…..staying centered through the storms of life as they blow through.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of waiting for something or someone to change and receive this as a signal of return to our balance. “Once I, s/he, it……(fill in the blank here)…..then I can take care of myself and prioritize my stress/health/wellbeing.”
But we don’t need to wait for the calm after the storm to begin feeling a sense of peace and awareness. Here are some simple suggestions for bringing peace with the present:
1. Return to the body:
Using our breath, gentle movement, or simple awareness of our body instantly brings us back to the present moment and cuts through the “crazy-busy” for a moment. The more we practice having these “in-our-body” experiences, the more automatic it becomes to return there when we’re feeling overwhelmed or disconnected.
2. Listen for what you need:
When we say what we “want”, be aware that beneath those words are emotional “needs”. What are the big goals, the things you talk about wanting in your life? When you’ve identified those goals and wants……check out what the emotions are underneath. Then ask yourself, “How do I want to feel different? What could I do right now to create that feeling?” Do you have an “escapist” fantasy? Those fantasies can tell us a lot about what we need. For example, a past client of mine would wish that she could be alone in a small cabin in the woods for at least a month. This was her “escapist” fantasy. But in the present, she had three small children and a demanding executive position. Beneath her words was a need for quiet, simplicity, solitude and a mindful sense of herself in the midst of daily demands. A small way she learned to meet this need is to take 5 minutes when she wakes up to light a candle, notice her breath and take in that sense of inner quiet. She ends her day in the same way. Sometimes she even has ten minutes to do so! And you know what? It made a significant difference for her sense of well-being and self-awareness throughout the day.
So, in very small (yet significant) ways, we can meet some big needs while still attending to our responsibilities. But we first have to identify what it is that we truly need, what we long for, so we can then mindfully attend to it.
3. Embrace what is already here.
Shifting our expectations of what it means to be authentically well can be a great support. What is your vision of authentic wellness? What can you recognize and embrace in your life today, in the tiniest way that will take you toward that vision? Gratitude, expressed in myriad forms shines light through the murkiest, chaotic moments. Jon Kabat-Zinn, an author and master mindfulness teacher, shares this perspective in his classic book “Full Catastrophe Living”. The title comes from the story of Zorba the Greek, who, when asked about his life, said “Wife, house, kids, everything……the full catastrophe!” His description wasn’t a complaint, but rather a full appreciation for the ups and downs of life and all its riches within. If we wait for that Zen Retreat in the mountains to feel balanced……we could be waiting a long while, missing life’s riches along the way.
The next time you find yourself caught up in the chaos of daily life……take a moment to appreciate the beauty of your full catastrophe. You may catch yourself smiling! As the saying goes, “we can’t always stop the waves….but we can learn how to surf!”