Use the Chaos to Find Your Center

This week was January’s full moon meditation gathering for our community. It is always a Zen Temple used under attribution license and enlightening time with amazing people. This month’s lesson for me was the paradoxical realization that sometimes you can actually use the chaos swirling around you to find your center. And, surprisingly it can almost be easier to get centered the more chaos that is present. How crazy is that?

Let me explain…When we meet we always spend 30 minutes or so in silent mindfulness meditation. Usually it is very quiet. Occasionally there is some ambient noise going on from pets being sequestered or the kids amusing themselves in the other room. This month was crazy surrounding noises times ten. Now, it’s not because our host did anything different or odd to have the funny series of sound come into our space, it simply happened (or perhaps we just attracted it).

So, instead of the usual mostly dead silence for 30 minutes, we had intermittent chaos. The kids upstairs amused themselves alright. They creatively decided to play a game together that involved jumping on and off the bed. So, cue random loud THUDS and giggling throughout our sitting time. No worries…just breathe into it. After all as my beloved yoga teacher Connie always says – meditation in silence is a piece of cake (comparatively speaking). REAL meditation happens when the kids are screaming and things are swirling around you. So I kept that in mind.

Then a few more minutes pass and the golden retriever locked away in the room decides to let us all know he is sad. I mean real sad. Whimpering like a stray without a home sad. Of course he’s an older dog so that didn’t last too long. So, just breathe into it, right?

A few times the host quietly got up and attempted to silence the natives. So, breathe into it and just notice…her presence leaving the circle and returning. All is well.

Silence starts to descend. At least on the inside. You can feel it happening in the circle despite all the auditory cues outside of us. Then, the phone rings and rings, and rings… OK, maybe it is spirit calling reminding us to just breathe into it.

Fairly quickly the silence returns and the thudding just becomes part of the space, of our being; equal to the tranquil sounds of water from the nearby aquarium and the cackling of the fire. Surely we are in that still and aware place now.

Then I find myself wishing the 30 minutes were over already. I mean, really, come on leader Liz can’t you ring that bowl and bring this to a close?! It has to have been at least 30 minutes with all that has transpired inside and out. Then it happens. An alarm goes off. One of those beep beep beep beep type of alarms like the kind you find on travel clocks. I think “AHA! See Liz it HAS to be 30 minutes…this is an alarm from the Universe…it’s a sign…for you to ring that bowl!”. Meanwhile our host calmly gets up and franticly searches for whatever is alarming. (it turns out later that it was her daughter’s toy and no one knew how to turn it off)

Just breathe into it right? It’s just part of what is present right here, right now. A few more moments pass, I banter in my head about embracing and practicing patience (boy I need work) and presence. Then the bowl rings and our sitting is brought to completion.

What was most interesting about this whole experience other than how funny it is to recall my own mental chatter is what was shared following the meditation. Every single person in the circle shared in their own way that the chaos that was swirling around us actually helped them get centered and keep focus. I believe that is true because for me all the distractions forced me to be even more present and hyper focused on my breath. There wasn’t this lovely silence to drift off into and out of the moment of being right here, right now. Instead I needed to keep bringing my focus back to my breath and let go of what was going on around me. And I needed to do it over and over and over and over… You get the point? It was a constant moment to moment re-centering.

The lesson here is that this same calm approach can be applied to our daily life. When things get nuts…just breathe into it and return to center. Got crazy idiots you are working with running in man made crises? Again, return to now, breathe, and find your center. From this space we not only feel better but can make more powerful choices about both the big and small things. It’s not always easy and goodness knows we’re not going to succeed at re-centering all the time, but it sure is worth giving it a shot. Sounds like I can’t use chaos as an excuse for not feeling present, centered, and peaceful anymore!

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