I know I’m a writer and should be able to deliver a more eloquent, creative description of my visit to Mickey Singer’s temple, but I’m going to stick with…
You’ll see why after you read this series of articles about my visit.
Today’s piece is about something Mickey told me that helped crystallize my path ahead. Before getting to that, I want to relate my overall impression of Mickey, the Temple and the people I met who make it all run.
First, if you’ve read my stuff these past few years you know that Mickey is my favorite teacher. Why? Here’s an article I wrote about that. The bottom line: His teachings make the most sense to me.
Overview of Mickey’s teachings
In a nutshell, what Mickey teaches is that we shouldn’t do what virtually everybody does, which is look to the outside world to remedy what ails us inside. Instead, we should look inside to remedy what ails us inside.
And what ails us inside? We cling to or resist life experiences that we really like (cling) or really don’t like (resist). This clinging and resisting manifests inside as blocked energy. The key then is to let go of these energies when they arise, paving the way for the eventual return to our natural state: The free flow of beautiful, loving energy.
What’s he like?
Those are the teachings. What about the person? It’s hard to know with any certainty what somebody is like after reading their books and listening to their talks. I certainly had an inkling of what Mickey would be like, but again, who knows? Some spiritual teachers are disastrous people.
The best thing that came from this trip is that I can say this about my experience of Mickey: He far exceeded my expectations. He could not have been more generous with his time or more gracious in his dealings with me and the other guests at the Temple.
I had called a month ahead and told one of his associates of my plans to visit and that I had written extensively about Mickey’s teachings. A few days before departing for Florida, I was shocked and gratified to learn that he had offered to take a walk with me after the Sunday services.
On that walk, we ambled around the vast Temple property for over an hour. Again, he could not have been more decent and less full of himself. We discussed myriad spiritual topics.
Mickey’s inner circle
I also found the five or so people who help Mickey run the Temple to be incredibly competent, “normal” people. Why do I add ‘normal?’ Because you hear of spiritual leaders who are surrounded by bizarre, slavish sycophants.
That is not the case here. All of Mickey’s people seemed comfortable in their own skin and, while respecting Mickey greatly, didn’t seem at all fearful of him. Bottom line, I got the feeling that he’s a good boss who has surrounded himself with good people, as any leader should.
Mickey’s unwavering commitment
The other thing I took away is what real commitment looks like on the spiritual path. Monday through Saturday from 6:30–7:30 a.m. the Temple does a chanting of the Sri Atma Gita, a sacred 2,500-word Hindu text. They told me Mickey has been doing this six mornings a week for fifty years! He led the chant one morning (he knows the whole text by heart) and an associate of his did it the other day I attended.
He also gives three talks a week, every week. There’s singing and chanting before and after all his talks, which he leads and chanting every night at the Temple. He plays a small organ at all the services. He does it all.
What I saw was his authentic devotion. I went to five separate services at the Temple. He was at each one and he did not phone it in at any of them. And he’s been doing this for decades! I was amazed. And inspired.
The life-altering advice Mickey gave me
So, what was this life-altering advice he gave me? It happened at the end of our walk on Sunday.
As we neared the parking area, I started talking generally about where I saw myself going. It went something like this:
“This stuff, the meditation, the mindfulness, the letting go, isn’t really that hard. And it’s so unbelievably, profoundly good for people. And yet, hardly anybody does it. I’d be shocked if more than one percent of people have a regular meditation practice. So I want to get this stuff to the masses. Get many, many millions more people doing all this great work…”
And just as I was about to go to, “Just think about what the world would look like if billions of people meditated and practiced mindfulness,” he stopped me in my tracks and said —
“No, no, no. You don’t have to spread this to the whole world. Just keep doing what you’re doing. Things will evolve. I never did anything. I just put everything into what came before me.”
My first reaction? It was like I’d been knocked to the canvas by a right hook from Muhammad Ali, the announcer bellowing,
“DOWN GOES GERKEN! DOWN GOES GERKEN!”
But as I picked myself up off the proverbial canvas, it dawned on me…Holy crap, this is huge.
My baggage with ambitious ideas
Why? Because of my background, the sixth of six children in a high-achieving family with a Fortune 500 CEO dad, I’ve always tended toward grandiose, BIG ambitions. Like spreading meditation to the planet. But it’s never served me well and never felt quite right.
Not that there’s anything wrong with big ideas and big ambitions. It’s just that when I do it, it usually comes from a place of trying to fix a big hole in my psyche for the reason I stated above.
That advice of ‘just do what’s in front of you. Give it everything you’ve got. Then let things evolve,’ was music to my ears.
I’m 1,000 pounds lighter
The net result is that I feel like a thousand-pound weight has been taken off my shoulders. I don’t need to singlehandedly change the world. I just need to focus on writing these articles, maybe write a book someday and see what else comes down the pike.
Who knows? Maybe by doing that, I will massively change the world. If that’s the case, great. And if it isn’t, that’s great, too. I’ll put in my effort and then let the universe decide what it wants to do with it. As the Tao says, do your work, then let it go (chapter 24).
What does this mean for you? I hope what you’ll take is the importance of simply giving everything you have to what’s in front of you. If it doesn’t feel like the right thing, move on to something else and put effort into that.
And keep doing that until you find what feels right. And when you find that thing that feels right, as I did with writing about spiritual matters, just put a bunch of effort into it. Then see where it goes.
That’s it. That’s all you have to do. Just three steps:
Step one, find that thing that feels right to you.
Step two, put effort into that endeavor.
Step three, get out of the way. Let the Universe/God/Nature decide what to do with your work.
Hope that helps. The advice Mickey gave me could well be what shapes my work life from now until the end of my days.