Navigating challenges in times of chaos

Collectively we have experienced much stress in recent times, and this stress can manifest itself within each of us in different ways. The uncertainty of our current situation only compounds the anxiety many of us experienced during lockdowns, drought and devastating bushfires.

Is there a way to navigate through the coming months while maintaining our sense of balance? Are there any simple strategies we could use to reduce the emotional impact? We have called on local psychologist Lisa Brown for her heartfelt advice and words of wisdom at this time.

Lisa works in private practice as a psychologist and yoga teacher, facilitating mindfulness and compassion groups and retreats with colleagues. She also works as an adjunct lecturer at CSU in the Graduate Certificate of Mindfulness, and is engaged in social and environmental activism with an InterNational Indigenous led group. But in a nutshell, Lisa describes the work she does as:

“Supporting people to get in touch with their inner resources for healing and health.”

Definitely what we all need right now. Lisa admits that she has been fortunate to have learned skills and tools from many extraordinary teachers that blend threads of western science and ancient wisdom traditions. And each week she has offered to share these skills through some simple strategies we can incorporate into our lives.

But this week we also spent some time chatting with Lisa (remotely) to gain a better understanding of why we are feeling or behaving the way we are right now, how essential community is for our wellbeing and the importance of maintaining hope.

Many of us are experiencing feelings or bodily reactions or behaviours that seem foreign to us. Can you explain how the events of the past few months have impacted our community (both collectively and individually)?

In our basic humanness we are a complex web of systems, individually and collectively, and these systems can move in and out of balance. We’ve all experienced much stress in recent times. The enormity of suffering and loss of creatures, pristine forests, homes and livelihoods during the fires, was barely absorbed and processed, before there was flooding. This sense of grief and loss is compounded for First Nations Peoples through a history of colonisation, which continues to be a deep collective wound in Australia’s psyche.

The way we experience and cope with change and uncertainty shows up in many ways. Aversion to feeling grief, loss, anxiety, fear, depression, sadness and stress can manifest as reactive behaviours like hoarding, irritability, relationship problems, sleep disturbance and increases in addictive behaviours. Because emotions are felt as sensations in our bodies, these experiences may also be connected to our prior experience of trauma, sending the body’s alarm systems into overdrive and triggering us to find ways not to feel emotional pain.

The coming days, weeks and months are likely to challenge us all deeply. These challenges offer opportunities to develop our inner skills and tools in facing uncertainty, and to bring about longer term positive societal change through waking up our hearts, making choices to do things differently, in particular helping the most vulnerable within our community.

How important is it that our community comes together at a time like this?

We are tribal, collective beings in our hearts, and the illusion of separateness and individualism has been enormously problematic throughout recent history.

We do best as humans when we practice kindness and compassion to ourselves and help others. This is also an opportuntity to own more deeply, our collective shadow and the shocking history in Australia for the past two hundred and thirty years, reflected in the way we continue to treat human beings, including our most vulnerable.

Humans are immensely creative beings and we face phenomenal opportunities to profoundly change how we do things.

Is it important for all of us to look for a point of hope despite the current chaos?

The coming days and weeks ahead will be deeply challenging for us all. Knowing we can’t control what is going on around us, but that we are most powerful choosing to be present and respond in each moment with mindfulness and compassion, can help with the anxiety of uncertainty. Jon Kabat Zinn says, ‘we can’t stop the waves but we can learn to surf’.

Seeing change as part of life, waking up our hearts, finding joy in the simplest of moments, and remembering we are feeling beings. Being kind to ourselves in the same way we are towards those we love can help to meet our challenging moments with love. Asking for help as we need it and honouring our collective vulnerability.

Life in its essence is fleeting, precious and brief. There will be pain and suffering, and we have immense choice individually and together about how we move forward. Within those choices, lie beautiful seeds of change and hope.

Can you share three simple measures that our community could embrace to cope in these uncertain times?

Somatic practices like Yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Qigong and Mindful Movement to help balance our nervous systems and develop interoception, the ability to sense and feel what is going on inside our body. The ability to sense and feel is an important part of regulating our emotional response. We have some amazing local practitioners offering classes and practices online.

Relaxation during these times is essential. Yoga Nidra is an ancient practice to calm the nervous system (the Insight Timer App is an excellent resource with many Yoga Nidra practices including iRest Yoga Nidra for Healing Trauma by Molly Birkholm).

Mindfulness Meditation to understand the nature of mind and see more deeply how our reactive patterns and cycles contribute to stress. There are many online courses and guided practices available through the Insight Timer App. You are also welcome to use recorded practices from our website:

Wendy Haynes and I are offering a community mindfulness meditation practice each Tuesday from 7pm to 8pm via Zoom by donation. Everyone is welcome, please email us for more information or

Tallowood Sangha are also offering a guided meditation by Zoom each Monday evening 7pm to 8:15pm, for more information please contact