Master a Moment of Chaos

Apr 16, 2020

Wynton Marsalis, the great jazz virtuoso, spoke last week about mastering a moment of chaos. His equally renowned father, Ellis, recently passed due to complications from COVID-19. The younger Marsalis bravely spoke about how his dad would be urging him to get on with it. Take action.

One of the most brilliant musicians of our time is now faced with the hard task of dealing with his own grief while doing all he can to save Jazz at Lincoln Center as millions of dollars slip away during the pandemic. All this in the midst of a city under siege.

Like many of you, Marsalis is being hit by loss from every angle.

So, let’s talk a bit about mastering these moments of chaos. What’s one to do when grief surrounds every aspect of our life?

Be Responsible and Lean In

Whenever I use the term “lean in,” I’m suggesting that you give yourself permission for whatever is going on in your interior. There’s a very subtle balance between taking action and acknowledging grief and loss. You don’t want to dwell on your feelings, but if you fail to give them space, they will morph into something far more dangerous.

We are a resilient people. We want to be released from our cages and get on with our lives. If we do this too quickly, however, we will pay a dear price because grief and all the psychological and emotional ramifications that surround it needs to be honored within your own system. Failure to do so will only delay the healing process.

Psychological experts are already warning of a mental health epidemic as a result of COVID-19. It’s anticipated that we won’t have enough resources for people to receive the support they need on the other side of this pandemic.

As this crisis unfolds, the millions without jobs and the layers of economic loss will culminate in a flood of societal grief. We must individually fortify ourselves in ways to support one another not only now but in preparation of what’s yet to come.

The unmet hunger of grief in the individual translates into the ongoing chaos of a society. More violence. More crime. More murders and suicide.

A society traumatized by grief, left unattended, is a dangerous one.

As a collective, we cannot let the effects of the pandemic destroy us. This means that each of us must be responsible for our own mental wellbeing as we transition through these days of sorrow and loss. And loss comes in many forms. We have all lost freedom and our way of life. We are all grieving.

What Does Mastery Look Like?

Mastery over grief is a process. It begins with acknowledging what is, so you then have the power to do something about what isn’t.

Here’s an example:

If the electricity suddenly blew out in your home and all you had to rely on was darkness, would you stumble about and hope the light would return?

Of course you wouldn’t.

You would do what was needed to restore the light. You would begin by first acknowledging that something had shifted in your interior. You would acknowledge the darkness so that you could then position yourself to take action. This calculated action, in whatever form, would then restore the light.

You might find that all you need do is change one light bulb or flip a circuit breaker. If that failed, you might be forced to call your electric company.

Mastery of grief or chaos is a similar process. For some, restoration is as easy as the flip of a circuit breaker. Others, however, might need to seek outside support. There’s no shame in doing so if your circuits are blown out.

Mastery has to do with knowing the landscape of your interior so that you can take the right actions and seek the expertise of others as needed. The restoration and wholeness of our society demands that each of us do so.

Grief is a Spiritual Matter

Grief is not an abstract. Yes, it is often birthed out of some form of chaos, so our natural tendency is to move through it as quickly as possible.

But, grief is also one of our most powerful experiences. It’s an opportunity for tremendous growth because it rocks our core. Grief causes us to ponder the very meaning of life itself.

More importantly, it points quite specifically to our relationship with God. God is the CEO of the electric company we so desperately need in times of darkness.

Mastery requires that we dive deeper rather than avoid. To avoid grief is to avoid who God is calling us to be in this next phase of life. It’s to ignore the fact that something magnificent is happening. To suffer loss without the hope and glory of restoration is to suffer in vain.

A Restorative Morning Practice

If you don’t already have a daily spiritual practice, here’s one to consider.

Do this first thing each morning even if you have to get up earlier. Routine and rituals are very important right now as they will keep you from feeling like you’re running on a hamster wheel.

Carve out 20 minutes. Put everyone and everything else on hold.

Close your eyes. Take several deep breaths. Feel your body relax. Let your mind scan over the thoughts and feelings that rise up.

Allow yourself to experience whatever is going on inside your own interior. Maybe even ask God to show you what you need to see and know.

What’s causing you the most stress right now? What assumptions are you holding to be true? Where are you being called to grow?

Don’t try to figure out the next action. That comes later. Just lean in.

If you’re bold enough to do so, lean into God. Ask for what you need. Acknowledge that you don’t understand most of what’s going on right now.

Accept that you feel out of control. You’re frightened or overwhelmed.

Your power lies in your vulnerability and in your willingness to be still and listen.

The spiritual, emotional, interpersonal, and psychological growth opportunities are right here waiting for you. Yes, in this moment of chaos.

Because . . .in the midst of chaos, there is always order.

All you have to do is pay attention.

For up-to-date information on how others are handling the challenges of COVID-19, please listen to some special episodes of my podcast, The Other Side of Potential:

If you’re stuck and would like to schedule a one-on-one call with me, please go to: