I like to think that all the articles I write are of equal benefit to readers. But honestly, that’s not true.
Why? Because some articles go deeper and are more beneficial than others.
Today’s article is one of those. It’s about a teaching that I’ve wanted to write about for a long time but have always felt was too daunting.
And that is the subject that my favorite spiritual teacher, Mickey Singer, simply calls “handling it.” What does that mean?
What is handling it?
It is what it sounds like. If something happens to us and we fall apart, that is not handling it. If we respond from a place of presence, that’s handling it.
Let’s look at small and large examples. Really small would be handling it when you stand in a long line at the grocery store checkout.
Small would be your son’s kindergarten teacher taking you aside at pick up to let you know that little Johnny has been disrupting the class and she’d appreciate if you’d to talk to him about it. [I know this one personally as I’ve gotten “the talk” on more than one occasion!]
Yes, it’s upsetting. But as we hear the teacher out and after we walk away, we need to be able to handle it and not let it throw us into a mini-depression.
An emotionally powerful example
A large example came from Mickey Singer himself. A woman asked him for advice on how to deal with the recent loss of her son. I’m not sure life can give us anything more challenging and painful than that.
Mickey’s answer was incredibly powerful. After some empathetic words of compassion for her loss, he pivoted to assuring her that his answer would center on what he thought was best for her.
He then told her that millions, and probably billions of people had lost children over the millennia. And that it’s terrible. But life can be that way. It can be excruciatingly painful.
And then he urged her to resolve to herself that she wasn’t going to let this break her. Or ruin the rest of her life. That of course she was going to suffer and grieve for a long while, but ultimately, she was going to need to…
Raw, truthful advice
You could hear a pin drop. It was one of the most poignant moments I’ve ever witnessed. It was raw, honest advice that pulled no punches. And the mother who received it seemed genuinely thankful to Mickey at the end of it.
Some parents may be outraged at reading this. “Don’t you tell me I need to ‘handle’ my kid’s death. If that happened to me, I’m pretty sure I would die inside. And I’d have every right to.”
I’m a parent. Of three of the greatest kids that ever lived. And I completely understand that response.
We have to be able to handle it
But that doesn’t change the fact that Mickey’s right. No matter what life puts on our plate, we have to be able to handle it. Why?
I’ll answer with another question: What’s the alternative? Collapsing and giving up on life?
The bottom line is this: Unless we learn how to handle it, we’ll go through every one of our days vulnerable to the vicissitudes of life. So the way I look at it, being able to handle it is a huge objective in our work traveling the spiritual path.
But how do we ‘handle it’?
Fine. But if I’m you, I’m thinking, “Sounds good to me. We need to handle what life throws our way. But how the hell do I do that? Do I just wave a magic wand and say, ‘Abracadabra. For the rest of my life I’m going to handle things.’?” No, we don’t do that.
Which gets us to the how of it. Here are three ways to strengthen our ability to handle it.
First, we adjust our life view. We accept that life can be hard and that some level of suffering is inevitable. It’s difficult to handle something painful when our reaction is, “Why does this always happen to me? I hate feeling like this. Life is so awful and unfair.”
No. We accept that life can be hard. So that when it does get hard, we can say to ourselves:
“Yes, what just happened sucks. And I don’t like how it makes me feel. But s*^t happens. And I’m going to do my best to handle it, remain as present as I can and not collapse under the weight of it.”
Second, we do our spiritual practices. We meditate, practice mindfulness, pray, do yoga and any other activities that help quiet our minds.
Why does that help us handle what life gives us? Because the more we practice these things, the calmer and quieter we get, which strengthens our ability to handle tough situations and not freak out.
Third, we exercise our spiritual will. That means setting an intention that we are going to do our best to handle things when they come at us.
A bad performance review at work. Our kid fails their final exam in math. The stock market goes into a tailspin, putting your retirement money at risk. Whatever it is, we go inside and summon our spiritual will to help us handle it.
Spiritual work is hard
Many people have the mistaken notion that spiritual work is all fun, airy and light. Some of it is, but most spiritual growth is attained through hard work. And, sorry to say it, also involves varying levels of suffering.
But there is no more important work we humans can do. Why? Because the payoff is profound.
When we liberate ourselves from our egos, which is what most spiritual work involves, we feel really good…most of the time. Not every now and then as is the case for most people.
Coming full circle to the subject at hand, just think how great it would be if you could navigate every day confident in your ability to handle anything.
-It rains on your wedding day. You don’t like it…But you can handle it.
-A mom blackballs you from the ‘fun mom group’ at your kid’s school. It’s hurtful…But you can handle it.
-You walk out your front door to head to work and find that someone has smashed into your car, causing major damage. No note left behind. And you’re pissed…But you can handle it.
That’s what we need to shoot for. Not many of us are fully there yet. I know I’m not.
But we set our intention to keep working on those three things. And if we do that, we get better every day at handling what life throws at us.
Think of how freeing that would be…