Embracing Chaos

Whether you consider yourself 'type-A' or not, we all have a certain level of comfort and tolerance in relation to our environment. It might be the way the towels are folded or the way the grass is cut, but if it's not done the way you had hoped, it's noticeable at it's best and downright irritating at it's worst. In relation to our yoga practice, these unhelpful "needs" and expectations only create bondage for us.

My friend Sarah recently had surgery on her foot. Prior to the surgery, she was realizing how much of a challenge it would be for her to accept help from others and accept the inevitable imperfection of that help!

"I need to have tolerance of my family not doing things the way I want them done when I can't wait. I like things clean and organized and in it's place. I like things done on my time-frame. It is going to be a long few weeks. I am used to doing so much because I want it done my way. I have checklists of things to do daily and weekly around the house. I hate things out of place. So I am going to need a lot of tolerance. Help, thoughts, suggestions?" - Sarah

I'm so glad this conversation came up because many people spend their whole lives putting unrealistic expectations onto themselves or others. I've been there! I used to put so much pressure on myself to "do it all." I never asked anyone for help because somewhere along the way I had convinced myself that having support meant being lazy.

I was my own slave driver; I soon realized that I never would have treated someone I loved with that kind of discipline.

Why do so many of us feel like we have to 'do it all?' Usually, it's because we're praised for doing it all. We're encouraged to multi-task, work 60 hour weeks, and 'get things done.' Most of us have never been praised for resting, prioritizing self-care or half-assing a task. The need for perfection stems from a lifetime of family and tribal influence, basically telling us that we're not enough.

You might be saying, "I just keep a clean and orderly house because I like things in their place." That's great! There's nothing wrong with having a neat and organized space. The problem arises when you're in a chaotic situation that you can't control. The need for perfection doesn't JUST exist within the microcosm of your home. The need for perfection is about control; it is an intolerance of chaos.

Chaos is just as valuable as order.

Chaos is an amazing teacher. If you can only meditate in a quiet room, what use it that to you? If you only practice yoga within the four walls of a pristine yoga studio, how can you expect to behave the same way outside of that space? Learning to exist happily and find peace within chaos will teach you SO much about yourself and your yoga journey than a clean house ever could.

Here are some tips that have helped me along the way.

  1. Understand the difference between TASKS and PRIORITIES. A task is just a piece of work that needs to be done, such as house-chores. A priority is something that is truly important to you, such as spending quality time with your family or making time to paint. Our time is finite. Treat accordingly.
  2. Create imperfection. If 'practice makes perfect,' then practicing imperfection creates tolerance. Explore your boundaries, expectations and patience by introducing imperfection into your home, your routine, your hair, your speech...etc. Practice staying calm within the midst of what you feel is imperfection.
  3. Be grateful. Iyengar teaches that a healthy relationship to our possessions is one of "gratefulness" not ownership. In this way, we're practicing non-attachment as well as thankfulness. How can you nit-pick if you're truly grateful for all of your blessings?
  4. Practice chaotic breathing. Pranayama is a powerful way to connect the mind to the body. Chaotic breath work is just what it sounds like. Allow yourself to let go of control for 5 minutes, moving your body and your breath without pattern, reason or restraint.
  5. Meditate on imperfection. You can meditate on the word, "imperfection" to start, but it would also be helpful to meditate by looking at a "mess," a crooked picture frame, an asymmetrical leaf or something that bothers you. Where do you feel it in your body when you pay attention? What sensations and feelings come up? What can you appreciate about that imperfection or chaos?

If perfection is control, then imperfection is freedom. The type of energy that we put out into the world, our homes and our relationships is what drives us. If we cannot embrace the wild, uncontrollable beauty of chaos, then we are suppressing a powerful and dynamic part of our existence.

"We are afraid of the body, so we don't allow it to be really alive. We have made it half dead. If it is half dead, it is controllable. If it is totally alive, it is not controllable.
We are afraid of it. The mind is always afraid, and afraid of only one thing: what will happen if the mind is not in control? The mind can control only a dead body or a half–dead body. If the body is fully alive, the mind becomes afraid. The energy is so much that the mind is thrown off. Ten minutes of chaotic breathing will help your body energy to be released. Every cell of your body will become alive and dancing. And when these cells start dancing within, you will also have a feeling of dance yourself. Your whole body will start dancing and jumping. Allow it. This is how one enters into the river of existence." - Osho: "The New Alchemy: To Turn You On"