Seventeen years ago, I was horribly broke. In one month, I’d been fired from my job and lost all my money in a bad business deal. A relationship had failed; I’d have to give up my apartment. I was perilously close to living on the streets. And yet I took things very calmly.
Friends were shocked. “Look at the mess you’re in,” they told me. “You have to be a grown-up. Take responsibility.”
When life comes crashing down like this, many people search feverishly for answers. They pray for a helping hand, for a white knight to ride in on a steed and save them. Whereas to me, panic wastes a lot of energy. A spiritual grown-up can be present in a crisis. Recognize it as a chance to grow, to move out of stale or difficult circumstances into something more harmonious.
I’ll give you an example: If you’re overweight, convention says try the latest fad diet—though they rarely work in the long term. Meanwhile, the spiritual solution is saying: Work on your inside. Do things that raise your self-esteem. Get some exercise; invest in the kind of organic, nutritious, balanced diet that helps keep you slim. Now you own the situation. You’ve taken responsibility for who you are, and this begins to lead you out of trouble.
Same thing with your finances. When funds get low, what do people do? They apply for a loan or another credit card, ignoring the voice of integrity inside that says: “Live within your means. Move to a smaller place if you have to. Go without the latest iPad.” That voice helps you move out of a state of helplessness into empowerment.
But there’s another way to handle a crisis, one I like. It’s called “doing nothing.”
That’s when your internal voice urges you to stand still. Stop trying. Be present. Allow the cogs of the universe to turn silently until a solution appears.
Of course, this requires trust and patience, and it can make people very uncomfortable, even scared. But why? When you cut your finger, do you fret that it might not heal? No, you put on a bandage and leave it alone, confident that your body knows what it’s doing.
That’s how I see a life lived under grace. There is a benevolent healing force that will sustain and guide you to the perfect solution if you surrender and let it. Once you’ve done all you can on the physical level, step out of the way and make room for your co-creator—divine intelligence—to play its part, reconfiguring circumstances around you and bringing a solution.
It’s the stepping out of the way part that most people find difficult, mainly because the solution often comes at the eleventh hour, when nerves are frayed and everything seems at its bleakest.
That’s exactly what happened to me when I lost my home.
A mere two days before I was evicted from my apartment, my brother called. He’d just signed the contract on a derelict farmhouse he was hoping to remodel. No heating, no hot water, not even a working toilet, but my brother could offer an old, battered couch. “You can use that if you want to.”
It sounded like an episode of Survivor.
Still, I recognized it as a solution the universe had offered, and I went to my brother’s farmhouse.
For weeks, I slept on that couch fully clothed, waking up each morning covered in a fine dusting of snow that had blown in through a gaping hole in the wall. Then, a couple of months later, things changed. I signed a book contract, received a large advance, and I was back on my feet. By trusting that the immediate solution might not be perfect but was perfect for now, I was sustained and led along the right path.
That, to me, is the right way to take responsibility.
It means releasing expectations—being present and quietly confident while larger forces work on a solution. Otherwise, you’re invisible. How can your greater good ever find you if you’re buried beneath the rubble of your failed efforts to force things to go your way?
Too many of us think we might fall apart in a crisis. We tremble with fear at 4 a.m., hoping that our white knight will show up to rescue us—from our weight struggle, our job loss, our financial woes, whatever it might be—when the truth is, there’s nobody coming. There’s nobody to come. The white knight you were hoping for was there all along. It’s you.
To paraphrase poet June Jordan, “You are the one you’ve been waiting for.”
So, saddle up and ride.