Conflict and chaos

It is interesting how, with age I gain perspective, and with this perspective, I am more willing to see unpleasant situations as opportunities to grow rather than potential mini-apocalypses.

I have never liked conflict. I have always been afraid of ending up in an argument because conflict for me has always seemed as the end of something. It has taken me a while to understand that this is my attitude towards conflict, and that it is not healthy. I think it is because I know that when in conflict, we show our worst side, and I have always been afraid of my own behaviour when angry and maybe even worse, getting hurt and disappointed.

I have also seen conflict as a sign of irreconcilable differences. If we fight now, it must be because we shouldn’t even be talking to each other in the first place.

I have had a similar attitude towards chaos. I don’t like chaos. It makes me feel out of control. I don’t necessarily feel the need to be in control all the time, but I do feel that it is expected from me- as an adult, as a mum, as a teacher, as a wife- that I am in control of all situations and especially of myself. So, if I end up being in the middle of chaos, I panic, I loose patience, and I feel low self-esteem.

However, during the last few weeks, I have been changing my mind towards these two dreaded situations, and I am starting to think that they are necessary for us to recenter ourselves, create change around us and allow growth.

The key is to not let ego get in the way which, as usual, is easier said than done. Usually, when conflict arises, it is because there is a need to stop, evaluate and consider realigning ourselves. It is also a great opportunity for us to revisit our values and priorities and act accordingly. Sometimes, this might mean that we have to let go of a certain idea we have of ourself, the other or the situation we are in for the benefit of the whole.

Sometimes, when we are in the middle of a conflict, we might feel that the opposing parties want completely different things, but if we look closer, we might realise that the needs at each extreme are the same, only manifested or expressed in different ways. This can help us open up, listen, and meet the other part half-way.

Conflict and chaos, in my opinion, are not that different. They often arise when the need of a change of direction is necessary. They arise to wake us up and give us the opportunity to see things from a different perspective, learn something new and thus grow.

It does happen, that sometimes, a conflict opens up our eyes to the fact that we need to move in a different direction than the other part, and although this is sad, it is also an opportunity to let go and allow for something new to come.


Do you ever go ‘fishing’? I sometimes do, and most of the time, I end up feeling bad about myself. Or should I say worse? It has taken me some time to observe myself fishing and to understand why I do it, and I must confess that I usually notice it after I have been fishing.

To be honest, I think I am constantly fishing, but some fish are bigger than other. In some areas, I am less insecure, so whether I catch something or not is not such a big deal. For example at work, I do my best, and I absolutely enjoy it when I get some sort of validation, but if things don’t go as I hoped for, I can quickly get on my feet again and tell myself that I did my best and I can only learn from the experience.

Writing this, I guess this is not real fishing. This is just playing my part, while fishing is when some sort of inner void manifests itself, and to fill it with something, well, I go fishing.

Maybe you are starting to get what I mean by ‘fishing’? Maybe you are starting to get annoyed by me repeating the word so many times. Can you identify yourself with it?

What I call fishing is when I approach someone with the intention of getting some sort of validation. Just like little kids do, you know? You catch a young kid drawing, and you approach her with curiosity, just to hear the kid say “I’m not good at drawing”. What is the most expected reaction? Will you answer “yeah, you suck!”? Or will you say “nonsense, you’re really good at this.”? Rather the latter, isn’t it. That is what I call fishing. It is not negative, there is not bad intention, the kid is just seeking validation. We all seek sometimes validation.

The problem is where are we seeking validation? How much of our self-value are we putting on this validation? What happens when we don’t get the validation we were expecting? Because, let’s face it, even though we get some sort of validation, often, the void is so big, that reality doesn’t match the expectation. I would actually call it the unconscious expectation because at least I am not always aware of it until later. So, when the fishing doesn’t go well, I end up catching nothing else than a confirmation of my worst limiting thoughts about myself.

So what now? To be honest, not much. The void will still manifest itself from time to time, I think. I might then go fishing, but at least now, I notice the pattern before creating a big drama in my head and outside my head because I didn’t catch that impossibly big fish I was expecting. I don’t miss the hope that one day, I will notice the void and be with it without unconsciously going fishing.

Today’s quote

“When there is tension in you, seek within to find out what you are fighting against to cause that tension.” – Eileen Caddy.

The idea of mental tension or inner tension has been in a mind for a while, and I often observe that it is created when I resist or, like I understand the quote, mentally fight a situation. When things don’t go as I want them to go or when I don’t like what is happening. Since the start of this school year, I am trying to catch myself when I am adding tension to a situation because of my resistance to it. I must say it is very helpful, and something that helps is to ask myself what my role is and how I can play that role with an open mind and an open heart.

It isn’t always easy, and it requires discipline and self-reflection, but with practice, I notice it is allowing me to waste less energy in creating internal (and external) distress, and rather spend my energy in what I perceive as a productive and constructive way.

I think it is helping me develop more constructive and positive relationships with my students and with those close to me. Somehow, a big shift has happened in my mind, and what before seemed like big deals, seem more like opportunities to learn and grow together.

A key element to this kind of exercise is time. Time is such a challenge for most of us, but I am experiencing the benefits of always taking the time to stop and talk, or maybe even more importantly, let the other talk. Ask critical questions, be curious, and let ideas, solutions, alternatives come to us. Don’t push it, don’t fight it.

I don’t always agree with what my students or my kids come up with (or other adults for that matter), but it is their clarity, their learning process, and I am experimenting with allowing them to come to their own conclusions. Because that is what we all are doing in this life after all. We are all learning to take responsibility for our own thoughts and actions to act with as much clarity as we can. But this clarity comes from our own perception of the circumstances, so my clarity, will most probably not be your clarity. Or my clarity today might not be the same in ten years time. This is where values come in handy so I don’t fall into too much relativism. The one that I keep going back to is ahimsa or non harming. Easier said than done, but good to go back to over and over again until hopefully one day, it will come naturally in all circumstances.

Thinking about life and death

One of my colleagues lost a very young family member this week. A young woman who just had started studying at University. I can’t even imagine the pain and sorrow this has caused for my colleague and her family. Some of my first thoughts ware the usual in this kind of situations ‘so young, with her whole life ahead of her, why does this happen to young, kind people?’, and so on.

Let’s face it, death is the only thing in life that we are guaranteed will some day reach us. Death is part of life. We don’t know when we are going to die and we don’t know how we are going to die, but we know we are going to die. It seems random who dies when. Some die young, some escape death in incredible situations, others die in the must absurd situations.

When we are faced with death, we immediately think about life. We start reflecting on what kind of life is worth living.

There are, of course, different answers to this question, and we often have a tendency to think that we are missing out on something and that in order to have a meaningful life, we should be doing ‘something else’, ‘something bigger’, ‘something more spectacular’. But what if, living a meaningful life means living exactly the life we are living, only intentionally, with awareness? Mindfully.

My idea of a meaningful life might not be your idea of a meaningful life, but just make sure that you don’t go chasing impossibles because you feel you don’t live enough. Maybe, the secret is in the beauty of now and the feeling and attitude we bring to it. I keep going back to the same over and over again: clarity, calmness, love and trust. Don’t wait until you can do something ‘special’ to believe that you are leaving a meaningful life. Start with yourself, get to know yourself, be kind and patient and make time every day to nurture yourself. Sleep enough, eat well, rest, and know your strengths and weaknesses so do your part the best you can. Then, look around and notice those around you. Show them that you notice them. Whether it is your family, your colleagues or just a random person.

Be grateful for the small and the big things, for the good and exciting and for the challenging. Gratitude expands our hearts and allows us to develop humbleness. Humbleness teaches us to appreciate simplicity, and this way, life feels meaningful no matter where we are and what we are doing.