peace in the midst of chaosThis phrase is one that has alternately inspired and terrified me for more than two decades now. It inspires me because it sounds like a wonderful way to live. It terrifies me because, most days, I am quite certain I will never be able to get there.

Finding peace in the midst of chaos appears to be one of those quests that requires accepting the presence of the chaos first. I have a very hard time with this. My preferred way of finding peace is by eliminating the chaos. This works for me…..it just doesn’t seem to work for anybody else.

Other people (who shall remain nameless but usually seem to enjoy living or working either right beside, below or above me) seem to like chaos. I find this confusing. Perhaps it is because chaos is always in ready supply while peace is harder to locate and even harder to retain.

Chaos, to me at least, is represented by the presence in my life of pollution, noise, drama, conflict, intrigue, fear, anger and other similarly jarring or emotion-laden experiences. I also feel like, if I’m doing it right, accepting or rejecting chaos should be largely a matter of personal choice. For example, I can engage in gossip with a friend or refrain. I can turn the television on or off. I can also choose what I watch on TV or at the movies. I can stop and take my time before responding to someone who has made me angry or I can mouth off right away. I can live in a city where people outnumber trees and there is lots of smog or one where trees outnumber people and the air is cleaner.

In these instances at least, accepting or rejecting the presence of chaos in my life feels like something I absolutely can control. But what about when chaos comes in uninvited and refuses to leave?

What if, for instance, I choose a place I think is quiet and then a new neighbor moves in who likes to watch her television on the “loud” setting? I might try everything I can think of to get her to stop, but if that doesn’t work, I am left with the chaos of a neighbor’s noise. Or what if I am working for a client and suddenly they take their business elsewhere? That is their choice of course, but then I am left with the necessary chaos of having to find new work in a hurry in order to pay rent.

So chaos will always be present no matter what I do, it appears. This leads me to think that the trick, then, is to allow it to be, even work towards resolving it, without letting it define my personal daily experience of life – in other words, to learn how to experience “peace in the midst of chaos”.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I have been working towards this exact goal for more than two decades to date, and I am by no means in possession of that enviable state as of yet. But I have made progress.

One thing I do that helps is to define “peace” in this case as being synonymous with “following my gut instinct.” For instance, my head might get all wrapped up in getting mad at the noisy neighbor or the ungrateful client. If I stay up there, where my mind is churning out accusations and all kinds of other nastiness, I can guarantee more chaos up ahead. But if I remember to move out of my head and connect with my gut (my heart and solar plexus where I personally tend to “feel” my way towards my own higher wisdom) I can often then ask simple questions and get reassuring direction. I can ask myself, “So should I worry about this?” Sometimes the answer is “Yes” along with further querying and gut-level responses about what I should do to address that worry. Sometimes the answer is “No” and I can just let the worrisome, angry or fearful thoughts in my head subside in that reassurance.

Finding peace in the midst of chaos is also about defining “peace” as “gratitude”. For me personally at least, I often find that when I get very wrapped up in chaos, I can then get stuck in a place of anger or lack. In other words, I may start to feel resentful about the chaos, or angry about it, or jealous of people who don’t have it, and then I forget all about all the blessings I do have in my life. If I can start to tune back into gratitude – for instance, being grateful for the company of my sweet bird, Pearl, or for the smell of the beautiful gardenias in my backyard – the sense of being trapped in chaos and the panic that causes will start to subside.

I am still working every day to actively choose peace when chaos chooses me. I believe it is possible, and, as my mentor has always told me, that very belief proves that a) it is possible and b) it is possible for ME.

Today’s Takeaway: Do you often find that you, too, struggle when unwelcome chaos inserts itself into your life? How do you help yourself in these situations? What works for you to ascend up out of the chaos, seek at least a bit of centering peace, and from there regain some perspective and fresh ideas for what to do next?

Smiley ball image available from Shutterstock

 


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    Last reviewed: 14 Jan 2013

APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2013). Peace in the Midst of Chaos. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 1, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mentoring-recovery/2013/01/peace-in-the-midst-of-chaos/

 

 

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