Stability in Chaos
There is incredible value to finding stability in the midst of chaos.
by Sarah Lipton
The leaves have almost entirely fallen from the trees here in Northern Vermont. They lie brown and shriveled on the still-green grass. Just now a light breeze erupted across the hillside, tinkling the leaves together ever so gently. It sounded like a miniature symphony.
In the next moment, to the background music of the recently rejuvenated brook, one lone leaf caught the wind and slowly, almost as if choreographed, drifted, turning stately through the air. As soon as the leaf found the earth and the pile of leaves strewn below, it was again indistinguishable from the rest. To my eyes, the tree remained unmoved.
Chaos swirls about us all the time. It is easy to get lost in the shuffle, in the “pile” of other leaves all around us. How do we find ourselves in the mix? And even more importantly, how can we find a sense of balance amidst the chaos?
Stability is not an externally procured item. It is not something we can fake. We can’t pretend we are stable if in actuality our lives are falling apart all around us. To ourselves, at least, we are exposed for what we are – naked, vulnerable, confused and sad. Do you think the trees who lose their leaves at this time of year feel otherwise?
Perhaps. Perhaps they know that this season will come. Perhaps they understand that it is time to shed their green leafy extensions, knowing that in spring new buds will appear. Perhaps stability in this context is simply a matter of riding the waves of experience and not being ridden by them.
I know from my own experience that stability means feeling whatever I feel. It means riding the turbulence – irritation, grumpiness, elation, sadness, anger, exhaustion – and not fighting it. It also means not denying it. It also means not going so headlong into it that the story of the feeling takes over and I therefore become identified as “the grumpy one,” “the sad one,” “the angry one.” As soon as I have bought into the story, I have allowed the “chaos” to take over. I have allowed myself to get lost in the pile of other leaves.
But when I simply (and I really mean simply here) feel what I am feeling, I allow it to move through me. There’s a sense of “in and through.” The feelings don’t need to stick to me – I don’t need to become the thing itself. Instead, I become one who feels irritation in this moment. And in the next moment, because I have deeply resided in the midst of my experience, the irritation has the opportunity to melt and shift (though it may take quite a number of moments before the shift occurs, but occur it will eventually).
This is not a comfortable situation. It is, in fact, deeply uncomfortable to stay inside the feeling of irritation, for example. But staying with the experience is what enhances our ability to generate stability.
Life is chaotic, folks. We are always changing. Circumstances are always changing. And more importantly, how we feel is always changing. But taking leadership of our lives means having the stability to be with things as they are. To ride the waves and not be overtaken by them.
So next time you feel you are caught in chaos and life is littered all around you, scattered like a million brown leaves, look up and catch sight of the tree from which the leaves fell. Notice its strength, presence, and stability. See if you too can be like the tree. Feel the wind, but be not shaken by it.
Sarah Lipton is founder and owner of The Presence Point, LLC, through which she offers leadership mentoring to individuals and organizations. Sarah is also hard at work on a new podcast called Genuine. Click here to learn more. (https://www.patreon.com/GenuinePodcast)
Editor’s note: this article was previously published as part of Sarah Lipton’s blog. Find more of Sarah’s work at her website: http://www.thepresencepoint.com/blog/ .