Cultivating Calm in a Chaotic World

The mind has a habit of playing itself out in loops. Endless loops.

They might be old (and limiting) belief systems or obsessive, busy thoughts about what could or should be. Regardless, they are so normal, that yoga has a name for them: vrittis.

Vritti, more literally, means churning, spinning, revolving. Left unchecked, vrittis become inner chaos, mirrored in the pace and noise of day-to-day life.

Yoga, however, helps us calm the churning mind.

The physical practice of asana can help release the body’s aches and pains. Through the breath, we access and let go of stored emotion.

With dedication, over an extended amount of time, this creates more calm in body, more clarity in mind and more joy overall.

With a clear mind we can see and readjust our habits to be healthier.

Since the mind is meant to work, we don’t try to stop it. Instead of letting it spin endlessly on worry, fear, doubt or anger, we focus on the healthy vrittis, creating more joy and calm within, even when the world around us might be chaotic.


Kindness • Maitri

You know you’re practicing maitri when you can be kind to those who challenge you the most. It’s often easy to be kind to strangers, but then be short-tempered with family, or worse, hold a grudge.

Disapproving of others takes an enormous amount of energy —energy that could better be used for your own self-improvement. Practicing kindness, according to research from Emory University, lights up the centers in your brain associated with pleasure and reward. It turns out everyone wins when kindness prevails, even if it’s just a celebration of getting to the top of the mountain.

Compassion • Karuna

Compassion for others takes us to a place of recognizing our kinship with them. In remembering that all suffer loss, grief, heartache and sorrow and that all also want to be seen, heard and loved, we come to a deeper respect for each other, regardless of our race, political views or socio-economic bracket.

Instead of wishing the discomfort of someone else’s suffering would go away, we learn to stand with each other in understanding. BKS Iyengar says, “Real compassion is potent as it implies the question, ‘What can I do to help?’ ” Action may be as simple as giving someone a hug or looking them (or yourself) in the eye and smiling.

Joy • Mudita

When the mind is busy thinking about the past or the future, it’s impossible to enjoy the moment. Try focusing on something enjoyable now. Then receive those good feelings from a state of being, not doing.

Outwardly, look for good in others. This isn’t giving someone a pass when they’ve done something inappropriate, but is seeing the virtue in them despite that. True joy comes when we can let go of victim mentality and celebrate when something good happens for someone else, instead of being jealous.


Equanimity • Upeksha

Can you cultivate mental calm and composure, especially in difficult circumstances and especially toward those whose beliefs are different than yours? That’s upeksha.

Research from Brené Brown shows that keeping company only with people who are like you actually fosters more loneliness.

What brings us together is being able to connect and communicate with those who are different. This doesn’t mean trying to convert or convince another. Nor does it mean allowing for dehumanizing behavior.

What it does mean is you need to remain emotionally calm enough to, as she says, “lean in” and have conversations that bridge the gap between us. A conversation born out of equanimity leaves room for making peace, not stirring up more chaos.