My clients sometimes use the word “chaos” to describe their struggles:

  • “I have just too many things to do. My mind feels chaotic trying to keep it all together.”
  • “Since two staff members quit unexpectedly and we haven’t been able to replace them, the organization feels like chaos.”
  • “We’re all just reacting to the demands of this moment but haven’t yet created the systems to proactively get the most important work done. It feels pretty chaotic.”
  • “I have so many big ideas about the work I’d like to bring into the world. Trying to make them all happen has created a sense of chaos in my life.”

Any of these sound familiar?

If you, too, are struggling with a sense of chaos, I want to share with you a map that I learned from an Art of Hosting training. It’s called the chaordic path.

The Chaordic Path

The chaordic path is the line between chaos and order.

If we go too far into chaos, we reach chamos, a place of disorder and destruction. Being in chamos can feel like getting trapped in a tornado, spinning out of control.

In contrast, if we go too far into order, we reach rigidity. Things get stagnant, dry, constricted, constrained. Rigidity lacks juice and flow.

Creativity cannot survive on either side for too long.

The chaordic path is the space between chaos and order, the place where creativity, innovation, and generative flow can happen.

Through my work with clients, I’ve discovered that most people have a tendency toward either chaos or order.

This tendency toward either chaos and order depends largely on our experiences growing up.

Those of us who were raised with rigidity may have rebelled against the dominant order, finding more comfort in chaos. Or we may have internalized a more rigid way of being and learn to find comfort in chaos.

Those of us who were raised in more chaotic environments may have developed more rigid ways of being to cope with the chaos around us. Or we may have developed comfort with chaos ourselves and need to develop skills in creating a sense of order.

We all can practice stretching ourselves into the less comfortable side of the spectrum, finding comfort with both order and chaos, and walking the chaordic path.

The following somatic practice is one of many practices that can help you sense your way along the chaordic path or integrate a  just-enough amount of order into your life.

Somatic Practice: Walking the Chaordic Path

  1. Grab two pieces of paper. On one paper, write the word “Chaos.” On the other paper, write the word “Order.”
  2. Place the two pieces of paper about five feet apart from each other on the floor, both facing you.
  3. Stand about five feet in front of the papers, equidistant from both.
  4. Then, walk very slowly, in a U shape, coming close to Chaos. Notice what happens in your body.

    Do you notice your body tense up? Or relax? Do you hesitate when walking toward Chaos? Or do you feel drawn in? Do you notice any sensations in your body—hot, cold, tingly, softening, pressure, release? Any emotions like sadness, anger, fear, delight?

  5. Then walk back and away, and approach Order. Again, notice what happens in your body.

    Do you notice yourself leaning forward / leaning back? Holding your breath / sighing? Tightening your belly / relaxing your belly? Notice any subtle shift in your body.

  6. Moving very slowly back and forth, take your time to feel your body’s response to each, noticing any subtle shifts in your body.

One Client’s Experience with Walking the Chaordic Path

I shared this practice with a client who struggled with organization. He managed a pivotal team at his organization, was a member of his city’s Cultural Commission, and showed up consistently for his middle-school-aged child. But as much as he was admired for his innovative thinking, he was frequently dropping balls, showing up late for meetings, and felt a constant background stress from rarely being able to focus on his big vision.

Initially, he hesitated when I offered this practice. It seemed a bit woo to him, and he doubted that walking back and forth between two papers would really help him shift things. But he agreed to give it a go.

As soon as he started the practice, he noticed himself feeling drawn toward Chaos, as if he wanted to snuggle up with it. And when he first looked at Order, an image of his demanding, rigid father immediately entered his mind.

He realized that he’d equated order with punishment and rigidity and avoided it out of a fear that it would cut off his creativity.

Walking very slowly toward Order, though, he realized that order didn’t need to mean either rigidity or punishment. And that, instead, cultivating a sense of comfort with order would actually support his ability to bring his dreams into the world.

He continued to engage with this practice for a few minutes each day for a few weeks until he felt a sense of internal balance and comfort with both order and chaos.

Gradually, his newfound comfort with order supported him to set up systems he needed to focus on—and complete—the projects that were most meaningful to him, his organization, and his community and to experience a newfound sense of calm.

Pay attention to what happens for you.

I encourage you to play with this practice a few times over the coming days and notice how your comfort level and relationship with chaos and order shifts. I hope you find it supportive!

Either way, I am wishing you the right-sized amount of order and chaos in your life and grace for yourself as you practice walking the chaordic path.

***

If you found benefit from this practice, you may enjoy my free video library, Somatic Practices for Social Change.

In it, you’ll find thirteen videos with guided somatic practices to help you soothe your nervous system, embody leadership presence, and tune into your inner guidance.

It’s free! And you can access it here: Somatic Practices for Social Change. I hope you enjoy :).

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