Chaos abounds. It is everywhere. Just walk out your front door and you will find it (unless you live in the woods). If you are like most people in our complex and “civilized” society, you probably experience an equal or greater amount of chaos in your own head and relationships, as the chaos that you notice in the outside world. The macrocosm is just a reflection of the microcosm, so the ancient saying goes.
So what can we do about all this chronic chaos in our lives? Can we live chaos free? Why not? After all, the chaos is more threatening to our health and longevity than most of what we eat, drink and breathe on a daily basis. The chaos is equally as addictive as alcohol but like excessive alcohol use, it also creates disease. So it is in our best interest to learn to live without out chaos before we are forced to learn this lesson through tragedy or illness. Those who are already ill, might want to consider listening to what shamans have been saying for thousands of years and devote themselves to a steady course of chaos-free-living, since ultimately this is where healing grows from.
Just like our skin color, our hair, our toes and our height, we are genetically predisposed to chaos. Chaos (behavioral patterns) is passed down through families, just like money and possessions are. Behavioral patterns are partly genetic, but they are also a learned behavior. If chaos was all genetic, it would be impossible to stop creating it. But since creating chaos is also a learned behavior (we learn it in our childhoods from those who are our primary care givers and we learn it from the world we perceive around us), there are alternatives.
First, it is important to realize that 98% of the chaos in your life is self-created. Chaos is what you create because you do not know how not to. At a neurobiological level, your limbic brain is running the show. The limbic brain (lower brain functioning) is focused on survival, and when we are in its grip we see threats and danger everywhere. Childhood traumas (physical and emotional) often activate our limbic brains, causing us to spend a lifetime under threat. When our limbic brain is running the show we are often responding to life like a trapped animal. Raw emotion overtakes us and we become paralyzed with fear, anxiety, worry, anger and rage. Thinking straight becomes impossible. As a result, we continually create chaos.
I could go on and on about this but I often grow bored when reading about neurobiology, so I do not want to bore you. I will say that when we practice mindfulness we are stimulating the neocortex (higher brain functioning). The neocortex is often referred to as “the new brain” because it is that part of our brain which allows us to become more aware, present, creative, focused, curious and open to new learning experiences. When the limbic brain is in charge, it shuts down the neocortex. When we practice mindfulness we might feel good for a bit but the moment that the limbic brain kicks back in, our more aware, present and focused experience flies out the door. This is why it is important to practice mindfulness daily in order to combat a chronically hyperactive and easily stimulated limbic brain.
Chaos is to our limbic brain what peanut butter is to jelly. They go together perfectly. When we practice being mindful, we are strengthen the neocortical regions of our brain, which in turn overrides our more chaos making behaviors. Aggression, emotional withdraw, excessive worry, problem making and other destructive behaviors are quieted down when we are engaging our neocortex brain through mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness practice makes it much easier for us to slip into present moment awareness whenever we notice that we are about to create chaos or are creating chaos. When we are able to experience life through present moment awareness, we are then able to become aware of the numerous resources that are available for us to create a healthier, more creative and chaos free life. It is possible to live a life free of chaos, to live in a world surrounded by chaos but to be free from it (this is what practicle enlightenment is). We just have to make the choice to stop living our life on automatic pilot, to stop allowing learned, habitual and often unconscious behaviors to run the show. It is a choice. A chaos free life is a wonderful thing, but in order to live it we need to be able to cultivate more present moment awareness and less identification with ruminative and often destructive mental chatter. Mindfulness practice is the key.
Give it a try and see if you can spend just one day chaos free.