What is Your Practice in Chaotic Times?

Submitted by vanessa reid on February 26, 2012 - 6:51pm
learning from and leaning into discomfort~ meditation practice for crumbling systems

"Today, many things indicate that we are going thorough a transitional period, when it seems that something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying, and exhausting itself, while something else, still indistinct, were arising from the rubble," wrote poet and world leader, Vaclav Havel before his death.

What happens when our systems really break, show their cracks and our foundations begin to crumble? How do we find the resilience, ingenuity, open-heartedness in our souls and in our collective heart to respond in new or generative ways?

What are the practices, as individuals and collectives, that sustain us during massive moments of change or throughout transitions, when that which we have known is no longer and the future is uncertain.

Tibetan Buddhist teacher Reginald Ray speaks about "discomfort" as an intensified form of intelligence. We tend to move away from discomfort because it is, well, uncomfortable. But in meditation practice it is something to explore and lean into because it has something to tell us about our emotions, our body, our ego - our deeper intelligences from which we are so often cut off. And as we practice, we encounter that part of our selves that is hardened or scared and we soften it through continual encounter.

What is practice? It's to show up even when you don't want to, to something that you might not be very good at. It is leaning into the edges of what we know and what we are comfortable with so that the edges soften and we grow into them. Practice is showing up to ourselves and to others - with our full presence - and even then, we might fail. But we get right back up and try again.

I am curious to know what are the practices of community which can hold, sustain and transform high levels of discomfort, fear and the terrible unknown of "what will happen to my family"? How do we work with the collective energy of dying and disintegration - especially in the West where we do not honour, but we fear and ignore death. Or where comfort is confused with happiness or success?

I ask this because I am in the thick of the dying and the not yet-birthed. I am in Athens as I write this where ALL of it - beliefs and world views, the economy and governance structures, infrastructures, jobs, pensions and the ways people have been living are crumbling. There is no ignoring it, and so people here are forced to face discomfort, live an emergence they did not ask for and respond to the chaos within us and around in new ways.

It is incredible to witness the human ingenuity, compassion and open-heartedness in such close contact with violence, grief, anger and outrage. Holding the paradoxes. This seems to be a critical  practice for these times. Another is to b r e a t h e, to stop and slow things down. To re-locate from the stress of the outer world with an inner anchor point, to find the still points within ourselves and then begin again from there. There are many more practices~ and I am curious to know what will emerge from this intense "transitional period" that is our new practice ground.

If we are to imagine and then manifest a new way of living life together, on this earth, what  practices help us access and re-member a wider and deeper spectrum of intelligences within and around us?

What are your collective practices for uncertainty and chaotic times?
How do you lean into discomfort, as a friend who has wisdom to share?

Comfort with discomfort

Good post Vanessa.  Discomfort is an interesting thing.  I think that to get the most out of discomfort, out of chaos, we also need to have some sense of order, some sense of comfort as well.  This gives us a place to put one foot, to help stabalize us or give us the strength to learn from the discomfort.  This can come from within or from without but without it I think we either cage ourselves in, unwilling to deal with the pain that comes with the learning or we are blown about without being able to ground ourselves and rationalize what is going on.