You’re probably wondering why anybody would write a piece about how to handle good times. Shouldn’t we focus solely on dealing with adversity?
No. There’s lots to learn and lots to gain here.
What are ‘good times?’
First, what do I mean by ‘good times?’ I hesitate to put too fine a definition on this because I think most of you get what I mean.
Maybe you get a raise at work. Or you’re in a groove with your boyfriend. Or your kid just got into Harvard.
Things like this can put us in a place where we think, ‘I’m doing really well right now.’ Of course, the caveat here is that all of these ‘I’m in a good place’ examples are highly egoic so, in a perfect world, they wouldn’t have this effect on us. But most of us aren’t at the end of the spiritual path just yet, so I’m trying to use real-life examples.
Winning some cheddar
I had one of these happen to me about a month ago. Playing in a big senior tennis event here in Southern California, I beat a good player in the semifinals. That was really cool. Even cooler was that the winner and finalist each received prize money, so I had just guaranteed I’d win some cheddar.
I’d had some bad losses over the past year so this result was welcomed. By the way, I lost in the finals to a Swedish guy who didn’t have an ounce of fat on him. No fair! But I digress…
Granted, doing well in a tennis tournament is not some life-altering “good” thing. But I did find myself in a bit of a groove in the ensuing days. I’ll tell you how I handled that in a bit.
Clinging during good times
But first, let’s talk about what most of us do when we hit a “good patch.” We do something that the Buddhists strongly advise against: We cling. We try to grab hold of the experience in the hopes that it will stay with us.
The biggest reason we do that is we fear what will happen when life returns to “normal.” We fear the normal times because we think we can’t handle them. So we cling to the good.
But clinging results in two things. First, it diminishes the ‘good’ of those good phases. And second, it shortens those phases.
What to do
What’s a healthier approach to the good times? It occurred to me after I hit my mini-groove last month.
I was thinking to myself, “This is cool. I played well. Had a good win. Won some money. And just have a really good vibe from it.” I told myself to run with it. To enjoy it.
But this is the critical part. I also told myself that my little groove would end at some point, but that that was fine.
Why? Because the ‘normal’ times are fine, too. I can handle them.
I owe it to spiritual work
In fact, all this spiritual work I’ve done these past ten years has gotten me to a place where the normal times are great. People ask me how I’m doing and I say, “Really well.” Not because of some great thing going on, but just because I enjoy my everyday ‘normal’ life.
That spiritual work has also given me another valuable benefit: I know I can handle anything. That doesn’t mean I will like every experience I go through. It just means I can handle them, as Mickey Singer would say.
Flow with life
What that does is allow me to enjoy the good times without clinging to them. It allows me to flow with the cycles of life.
Good times. Medium times. Tough times. Normal times. They’re all part of life. And we’re just conscious beings experiencing all of those cycles.
The key is to honor that fact and not resist it. It’s about not fighting with reality. Not fighting life.
But rather, as the Taoists would say, flowing with it. Accepting our place in nature rather than resisting it.
So do the inner work of getting quiet and letting go. Then when good times come, enjoy them. Groove with them. But don’t cling to them.
Know that when ‘normal’ times return, you’ll be fine. And hopefully even great.