When my life starts to feel too chaotic, I need to take a step back and do something with my hands. On a daily basis, that something is knitting. During the spring and summer months, it’s also working with wool in a variety of ways from just off the sheep to finished clothing. The process is simple, but the results are both lovely and practical. And the routine helps to order my inner self.
When I need something more significant, I tackle my house or my yard. While no one will ever envy my spotless house or my manicured lawns, I see mundane tasks not as routine chores but as a way to bring a little bit of order to something verging on chaos.
Whether crafts or chores, the principle is the same: ordering my outer world helps to focus and sort out my tangled thoughts and feelings. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with being active instead of sitting in front of a computer screen. And it has a lot to do with thinking my own thoughts instead of being bombarded with all the major and minor conflicts that fill the news 24/7.
When I was on pilgrimage in Italy in 2011, I experienced an example of what can happen when this principle of creating order from chaos takes place on a larger scale. Mondo X, a ministry of the Franciscans, began in Milan in 1961. One friar working with troubled Italian youths has become a network of 40 locations where those struggling with addictions are rehabilitated. One of the principles behind their treatment is this very concept of ordering their outer world as they discover the mystery that lies within themselves.
“In the world there are many people who have great power simply because they own much, know much, and make decisions. Many people count for very little but they believe and love a great deal. When those who count will join those who love, we will be able to change the world,” states the ministry’s website.
The first act of divine creation in the Book of Genesis tells us that God created order out of the chaos and nothingness, the formless void. Each time we do something to bring a little more order to our lives, we share in that creative act.
There are few things that soothe my soul as much as quiet time at home with my dogs and my hobbies. As I relax, I am filled with gratitude for the many advantages that I have. Everyone has different ways of ordering their lives. For some, it’s art; for others, it’s music; for many, it’s exercise. All of these can be ways of bringing our whole selves—body, mind, spirit—into a place of centering and peace.
Let me close with this thought from one of Richard Rohr’s daily meditations: “You become so upset with the dark side of things that you never discover how to put the dark and the light together, which is the heart of wisdom, all love, and the trademark of a second-half-of-life person.”