Sooner or later life's going to come along and knock you on your a--. No matter who you are, how high and mighty, rich or poor, spiritual or worldly, it is going to happen. The thing about getting knocked down is you can't change what happens to you once it's happened. You have no leverage. Your power lies in how you're going to respond to it: intelligently or unintelligently.
If you respond intelligently, the injury's going to grow you; respond unintelligently, and it's going to shrink you. The catch is that it's nearly impossible to respond intelligently until we understand one stupendously important thing about life: Life is a conversation.
When we don't know that, nothing makes sense. We don't understand why bad things happen to good people like us, and why bad things have to happen at all. In time we will call the hard experiences of our life, "God's will," which, of course, answers nothing but affords us the consolation of some comfort.
Twenty years ago I was in the first year of my work as a spiritual counselor. I conducted my business out of my office, which was really my apartment. With my handful of clients I made just enough money to pay my rent…until the neighborhood I was living in was given an "official" name: The Flat Iron District.
Overnight rents skyrocketed. I got a notice slipped under my front door that my rent was being increased $500. That was a 50 percent increase and it was unfair. I was angry at being wronged. Within minutes I was on the phone with the NYC Office of Landlord-Tenant Relations. They explained that in a building that was not rent-controlled or stabilized, the landlord was free to charge whatever the market would bear. I was forced to bear it or move, however neither was an option; I didn't have the money to stay and I didn't have the money to move.
Einstein says that the mind that created the problem in our life isn't the same mind that can solve it. So I turned within. Call it what you will -- I call it prayer. My prayer was short, and it was clear: "Shrink the rent!" What I heard within my heart in response to that prayer taught me something about Life that would change the way I lived my life forever. I heard these exact words. "Do not ask me to shrink Life, ask me to grow you."
The sacred text of the Tao Te Ching, the Taoist philosophy of life written in 81 verses about 3,500 years ago, says in Verse 29, "All of life is a movement towards perfection." The Greek root of the word "perfection" is completion, wholeness. Greatness, even. In other words, Life leads us into becoming the whole and complete person we were born to be by bringing to us experiences that awaken our deeper, greater nature within. Life opens a way so that, as Robert Browning saw it, "the imprisoned splendor may escape."