Navigating Chaos

You are floating along on a small river, going slowly along in your boat. The landmarks and objects around you are all familiar — trees, houses, docks, boats, small obstructions in the water’s path. Other people you know are floating nearby in their own boats. You recognize all of these things — they are the flow of your life. You know where you’ve been and where you’re going. Your life is fairly orderly and predictable, and you’re comfortable and confident.

One day you wake up and the river is traveling faster than before. You look around and see a few things you think you recognize, but you’re not sure. The water is choppier and there are more obstructions to steer around. After some time of stressful riding, you notice that the people around you aren’t feeling or acting so confident. Their faces are a study in worry and preoccupation. Everyone’s questioning the flow of river, yelling at the obstructions, and searching desperately for some familiar landmarks. Things are not as comfortable as they once were. You start to question, too.

The next day the river seems much bigger than before. The riverbanks are far off in the distance, making it hard to feel secure or knowledgeable about your position. For a while you seriously wonder whether you are going in the right direction — or whether the direction you’re going is one of your own choosing. You look around for some kind of trustworthy sign to tell you; there is none. Friends and strangers alike are similarly searching. No one has any good answers, only more questions.

At one point you land in a soft, slow current for a time, and things go smoothly. Later you float into a whirlpool, and get stuck circling in an unfulfilling or unsettling pattern for a time. Once you try to stop altogether, and you manage to convince yourself that everything’s okay, only to later find that you are drifting to places not of your own choosing, and you feel reactive, unempowered, and afraid. You even try to steer against the current, but that only causes you stress and pain. At times you feel lost.

After a time you discover that you can no longer see any riverbanks at all. You are in an ocean, with waves and currents pushing you this way and that, and no clear signs to tell you about their ultimate destination. You look down at your boat’s controls, but they seem somehow unfamiliar and inappropriate to the waters you now find yourself in. You search your memory for any clues; but there is nothing in your past that has prepared you for this.

You look out upon the white-capped waves and see other ships going by. Some have captains who seem to know the way. One day you decide to steer in behind one of these authoritative ships, only later to find it wasn’t going in the direction you wanted. You try again another day, joining a veritable armada of small ships trailing a proud tugboat — surely its captain seems knowledgeable about these strange and powerful waters. But days later you discover that you feel even more estranged from your own sense of self and direction, even more uncertain and confused. And it hurts.

So finally, after much turmoil and circling around in this sea of constant change, you put your boat in neutral and sit thinking about yourself. You think about what’s important to you, what you value. You think about family and friends. You ponder on your creative talents. You pay attention to your gut feelings. You notice how you may have been steering yourself wrong by believing in your limitations of following empty goals, how you’ve been driving yourself based on old recipes or other people’s maps.

Coming out of your reverie, your eyes open to the lazy flight of seagulls above you. You breathe deeply and notice the various smells coming your way. Schooling fish light by your boat. You drop anchor awhile and decide to go diving for treasure. You collect lost gold from submerged remains of bygone passages. In the evening, pondering the infinite space of the starlit sky, you feel something pulling you through the darkness.

From somewhere deep inside you a spark flashes. A vague inner knowing, or perhaps a remembrance, rises out of your bones to warm your heart. You relax, and feel the ever-cycling motion of the ocean waves, back and forth, in and out. It’s the same motion as your heart beating. It’s the same motion as your breathing. As your heart stretches out to feel the shifting tides, you find yourself becoming one with the sea of change. You forget for a time your little boat, and how isolated you felt on it.

Your mind now encompasses the entire ocean. No longer feeling that it is you against the ocean, but it is you and the ocean, you with the ocean. You feel the currents and tides as powerful forces that mirror the powerful creative forces you have within you. While you cannot always see the current’s destination, you can begin to make out the shapes on the horizon. You eagerly begin to sense the possibilities for creating new destinations and yes, you even begin to enjoy the ride.

Gradually, you allow yourself to be carried by a joyful wave, luxuriating in the sun and spray, in the faithful lapping of the waves against the side of your boat, and in the call of gulls and the playful banter of dolphins and other life nearby. Slowly you discover that, somehow, your heart seems to know how to steer in this current.

So with your heart and mind open, you lift your head and claim your place upon this ocean, confident that your inner currents of life force will meet with the outer currents of your own choosing, and that you will find yourself daily in a place of joy and learning.