Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | May 24, 2010

Devolution into Chaos

It’s easy to be taoist when things are going well. A few weeks ago, everything was clicking along fine and I was present enough to really be filled with thankfulness and joy. It’s important to remember to have a sense of gratitude when things are going well and to be able to enjoy the wonderful moments of our lives.

It’s not so easy when things begin to devolve into chaos, which, taoism teaches us, happens every now and again. Life is like a weather system. Sometimes it’s blue skies, sunshine, and a cool breeze. Sometimes the storm comes in. Tai chi and taoism teaches us that there’s nothing you can do to stop the storm from coming; it would be like trying to make the earth rotate the opposite way. But what we can do is respond to our circumstances with balance, equanimity, and quiet integrity.

Life comes at us sometimes with a flurry of jabs and punches, and if you’re not prepared, you flinch and get thrown off balance; you get depressed, feel despair, and complain, a lot. When you recognize what’s coming at you, you can be tai chi: ward off, yield, press and push. You can disengage from conflict, you can allow the storm to pass, you can let the chaos evolve, as it does, into order.

The way through is in the I Ching, hexagram 10, Lu/Treading(conduct). Remain steadfast in innocence and conscientious thought and action.

“In the end, it is our inner worth that determines the outer condition of our lives. Those who persevere in humility, sincerity, and gentleness can tread anywhere, even on the tail of a tiger.”(I Ching quotes from the Brian Browne Walker version).

One of the reasons we get caught off guard is because we forget that we are operating in a broken system. People are conditioned to believe that in order to get their way, whether right or wrong, they need to put on the mask of confrontation. For example, one of the demoralizing things at work is the number of returns we get throughout the day. You work for hours trying to sell a few pairs of shoes, and all that work goes out the window when someone returns four pairs of shoes and you’re back to square one. It can be an ok moment in life, but for the most part, it is a demoralizing experience–the customer thinks they need to be rude, or they try to get over with worn shoes without their receipt and on and on, or maybe some of the shoes they bought just aren’t that great and need to be returned.

We also get caught off guard when the unexpected happens–and this happens a lot. It throws you off your game plan. But this is also an opportunity for spontaneity–a fundamental principle in tai chi philosophy. We learn to welcome the unexpected because it can bring out the unexpected in us.

Another cause is when you are hit from all sides by multiple situations and comflicts(multiple attackers in a martial scenario) at one time. You feel like the whole world is coming down on you. But it’s here that you stay to the center and let everyhting bounce off of you. You learn to control what you can control and let go of what you can’t. You learn acceptance of certain things and try not to let it get you down. You learn perseverence and fortitude. And you learn to be a bearer and witness of the truth, the truth of things. If others are operating in a lie, all you can do is stay to the truth.

Everyday life is a great way to learn taoist and tai chi lessons. It’s like sparring. You gain experience so that you are ready when you need to be.



  1. Hear, hear! It’s easy to “make harmony” when everything is going you way. It’s a bit more challenging otherwise.

    If we don’t struggle for our art, to see what we’re made of; we’ll never know.

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