I want to be naked, running through the streets
I want to invite this so-called chaos, that you’d think I dare not be
I want to be weightless, flying through the air
I want to drop all these limitations and return to what I was born to be.
~ Alanis Morissette, “So-Called Chaos”

Just as Alanis Morissette’s album So-Called Chaos is not one of her strongest, when it comes to 5Rhythms, the third rhythm of Chaos is also not one of my favorites. Still, the workshop I attended last weekend revolved around that theme, so I had to take Alanis’ advice and “drop all [my] limitations.”

Chaos intimidates me for two reasons: (a) Sometimes I get way too swept up in the commotion and lose track of all the body parts I am supposed to be mindful of (e.g., my hip) and end up hurting myself; and (b) Sometimes I just cannot sink into the chaos and feel like an outsider slinking around the room as everyone around me is lost in trance.

These fears are easily translated to life outside of a formal 5Rhythms class. Sometimes I take on too much at once–pin too many responsibilities to myself–and before I know it, I am forgetting to pee, forgetting to eat, forgetting to breathe—ultimately hurting myself. That’s a real-life example of the first fear above. A real-life example of the second fear is walking the streets of Manhattan and being unable to meld with the chaos of NYC, being scared of the loudness, the bright lights, the throngs of people, the smells, speeding taxis, and towering skyscrapers, seeing everyone around me mysteriously immersed in the chaos but myself unable to get swept up in the chaotic flow.

So I was ever-so-grateful when the workshop teacher had us approach Chaos from gentler origins, asking us to enter Chaos from a more flowing perspective. We stood on one side of the room and danced our way across the floor, beginning with flowing movement and then–as the music intensified–gradually transitioned to more Chaos-inspired movement while still maintaining a Flowing undercurrent. She challenged us to stay connected to the Flowing, not to let the more jarring Staccato dominate the body.

Coming from this perspective, Chaos felt wonderfully natural and actually enjoyable. I liked being mindful of the transition, breathing into the more quick-paced movement. When my dance had actually achieved an authentic “Chaos” status, I was still connected to my body and didn’t feel so wildly out of control. I was still letting go but very aware of everything around me.

I had to remember this instruction later in the class during a regular Wave. The music transitioned from a Staccato into a Chaos song, and it wasn’t long before everyone around me was thrashing, spinning, eyes rolling into the back of their heads. But I was stuck in neutral and just couldn’t move myself into the Chaos. Again, it was like standing in Times Square, petrified that I just did not fit into all of the urban commotion around me. I wanted so much to be part of the chaos but didn’t know how to let go.

That’s when I remembered the instructor’s guidance from earlier, to enter Chaos from Flowing. So I undulated my spine, my arms. I sneaked in closer to my chaotic classmates, trying to feed off their energy. I weaved in and out and around of their bopping bodies, deeply breathing in all of the madness. Soon enough, I felt the energy rise through me, and I became part of the Chaos. I was swept up naturally in the energy around me, and my body was satisfied to enter its chaotic state without being forced.

The workshop was perfectly timed, because the following week at work, I got sucked into a massive project that basically had (and still has) my entire office in a state of chaos. I had been resisting the responsibilities for a while, but with my newly learned wisdom from 5Rhythms, I allowed myself flow into the tasks, settling comfortably into my chair, plugging my earbuds into my ears, and swaying along to my favorite songs as I sunk into the chaotic database work that consumed most of my days.

Resistance is futile, so why not just breathe, unclench your fingers and toes, and dance mindfully into the chaos?

Bonus link: Just a few days before this workshop, the blog Zen Habits featured this post, entitled “The Unpredictable Freedom and Sweetness of Chaos.” 🙂