by zochi In a time of much uncertainty there are many people who find themselves struggling for balance in the apparent chaos (complete disorder and confusion) of COVID-19, political strife, violence, and the disruption of a life that once appeared to be a stable and comfortable environment. Yet, on the other side of the coin, there are those who thrive and see opportunity in the same environment. They seem to subconsciously understand how to navigate the randomness of chaos, see the underlying patterns, interconnectedness, and self-organization of the unfolding moment. These individuals discover, explore, and embrace the non-knowing. So, what makes these individuals so uniquely different and how does our somatic/mindful trainings and our intentional practice play a role in shaping our ability to thrive in these states of uncertainty and chaotic conditions? In a recent conversation with a close colleague it had been pointed out to me that I was one of those individuals whom seemed to thrive in chaos. I hadn’t thought of myself in this way, but after our brief converstation I began to connect the dots. What I discovered was a direct coalition with my trainings in various disciplines (stillness meditation, martial engagement, and spiritual embodiment trainings) that have provided me access to this ability of being open and still in the face of chaos. Coupled with a sometimes fearless willingness to take these trainings and integrate them into an intentional practice beyond the training halls. For clarity, I am distingushing “training” from “practice” because as my Zen teacher Rev. angel Kyodo williams used to remind me “training is what we do in training halls (temples, retreats, classrooms, schools etc... – where environment is reasonably safe to try something new) and practice is that which we do and integrate into our lives”. Stillness Meditation: Meditation provides us with an acute inner awareness of ourselves. In doing so, we face the chatter (self talk) and anxieties we sometimes unwitting hold within. Eventually, one step at a time we develop a greater capacity to be in the silence. In doing so we learn to relax and root into this training of meditation where we can reflex, re-center and balance our mind, body and spirit. Yet, this is only the first step to finding balance in the chaos around us. Here we learn to return to a single point again and again. As a traveler, I have used this training when on a airplane seated silently amongst the many distractions, transactions, noise, and movement. It enables me to stay focused and balanced as if I am in the quietness of center of a whirlwind. NOTE: Some stillness meditations are not for everyone, especially for those whom have experienced deep and emotional trauma in their lives. The idea of just being still in the silence can be triggering and you may require a skilled trauma informed teacher to support you. I have heard many say I can not meditate outside of trauma and this could be a mental block one has created for oneself. Just remember this is a breath to breath training. I will take time so don’t get discouraged. There are other training forms such as Yoga, Calligraphy, Qigong and Taiji (Tai Chi) ... that also open the inner door and develop this inner stillness through movement. Below I will touch on Taiji; Movement Meditation Taiji for me has offered several entry points into the stream of chaos. It being a meditation in motion, a martial art and an internal alchemy – requiring one to develop the capacity to listen and sense everything in a relaxed and intentional state. Not being reactive yet responsive. This training helps to develop a state of hyper awarenes within oneself while maintaining a relationship with the so called “outer” energies that may be beyond ones immediate grasp. The integration of this training into everyday life practices challenges one to maintain a central still point as one interacts and navigates the unexpected chaos of being in relationship with others or difficult conditions we sometimes find ourselves. Martial Engagement Normally for one reason or another I don’t address the importance of martial engagement as much as I should unless, I am teaching either self-defense or conflict resolution courses. Maybe because so many people in this day and age are conditioned, or exposed to the entertainment aspects of this martial gateway, it is primarily seen as fighting. Beyond fighting there are many other practical applications that extend beyond physical altercations. In most cases this is how it is advertised and marketed to the public. Playing on the fears, ego, and uncertainty of the consumer. I have found a missing and essential ingredient in various schools who teach martial engagement that is necessary and required to complete the circle for finding balance in chaos. This ingredient is understanding how to manage ones adrenaline; the trigger that launches us into our flight, fight, or freeze response during times of uncertainty and chaos. It is here our stillness and movement meditation trainings meets the road. The martial engagement or our ability to manage conflict under pressure takes us beyond our primal nature. It exposes us through continuous training of being placed in a controlled adrenalized state and/or carefully guided psychodrama over and over again until the individual develops the capacity to manage the reactive nature of their ego and finds levels of comfort or ease in this state of uncertainty to a point where we evolve. It is here my teacher Instructor Kajana of “Tumfo Tu” Movement Masters, reminds us that “a student should be hit frequently and occasionally hurt”. For those of you who may not have a martial engagement training or may find this somewhat callous, what is being offered is a conditioning to be prepared of any and everything in return developing resilience and fortitude. When we are not prepared for the elements of chaos we cannot see the underlying patterns that will eventual lead us to our personal liberation. The integration of this training requires us to not be risk adverse, to speak our truth to power, and to be willing to get out of our comfort zones and challenge ourselves, our relationships, our knowledge each and every time and step into the unknown chaos fearlessly. After all as another one of my teacher’s would tell me “there is no try, only do.” This is the difference that makes the difference between those who struggle with uncertainty and chaos and those who thrive in the face of it.