Secret #5: Hits Are What It’s All About

Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul
be strengthened, ambition inspired and success achieved.

—Helen Keller

Spiritually bullet-proof people understand that, no matter how things seem on the surface, heart-break and loss are an integral part of the universe’s benevolent unfolding. The key word here is integral—bullets are built in to the very fabric of life and they are an essential element of the human experience and not, as many people believe, an aberration from the normal course of events. They are as necessary to the wholeness of life as are blessings—resilient people understand that hits are not just the things that get in the way of “real life;” they really are what life’s all about. Spiritually fragile people are often shocked and resentful when life disappoints them. But expecting to go through life without facing serious hurdles or heart-breaks is like trying to play football and not get tackled—it ain’t happenin’.

We live in a culture that dislikes messiness. Modern science, medicine and technology convince us that there’s an answer for every question and a solution for every problem. Spiritually bullet-proof people are as optimistic and positive as anyone (in fact, they are generally more so) but they also accept that suffering is part of the human condition because they see the growth and development that usually accompanies it as vital. They trust the wisdom of the universe and know that losses and crises serve a powerful purpose in our lives. On a very basic level, spiritually resilient people believe that it’s okay that hits happen. They may not like what they have to face and they certainly try to dodge bullets whenever possible, but resilient people also accept that taking hits is part of why we’re here. Though no one wants to experience the suffering or difficulty that comes with the hits life hands out, spiritually bullet-proof people expect to take serious hits and believe that these hits are essential to a purposeful life.

Spiritually bullet-proof people
expect to take serious hits and believe that
these hits are essential to a purposeful life.

You might find this perspective difficult to consider right now, but it’s important to remember that you are in the process of transforming how you respond to adversity. You are breaking through barriers and limits that have, up until now, kept you from tapping into the full power of your own bullet-proof spirit.

Most of the limits we experience are self-imposed. Poet Robert Blake called these limits “mind-forged manacles” because they originate only in our perception of what’s possible or not. Often, when we see that a certain thing is possible because someone else is doing it, we begin to realize that our limits are illusions that we, too, can break past. For example, before Roger Bannister ran the mile in less than four minutes in 1954, no one had ever been able to do so. Since then, countless runners have gone on to break that record. Roger broke more than a record with his famous race--he broke a psychological barrier for others who followed. Being able to take a hit and come out on top, like most of life’s challenges, is a kind of “head game.” Super spiritual resilience requires you to break through certain psychological barriers. It can be hard to see life from a bullet-proof point-of-view if your family modeled less-than-ideal responses to adversity. It can also be difficult to see hits in this way if you buy into the myth of seamless perfection that Madison Avenue and Hollywood depict. It may be necessary for you to find new models to help you tap into your bullet-proof spirit. It’s no accident that you are holding these secrets in your hands at this moment—take a moment to remind yourself that you are connecting with new models right now. There are plenty of spiritually bullet-proof people whose responses to adversity have broken through psychological barriers we all face. Azim’s life was literally ripped apart by an actual bullet. Losing his son to a real-life bullet only convinced him more thoroughly that the hits we take are an essential, albeit painful, element of a purposeful life.

The Only Game In Town

Most people are so caught up in the busyness and challenges of daily life that they do not often stop and think about the purpose of life. Thinking about the meaning of life kicks up very big questions that we’re usually content to leave to philosophers, theologians and artists—most of us are kept quite occupied just getting through the day. When things are going fine, it’s easy to take life at face value and avoid the really tough, soul-searching questions. But there’s nothing like a heart-breaking hit to make us question the meaning of our lives and our suffering. Some of the worst suffering we’ve seen clients go through was existential in nature—wondering what the hell their lives were about and feeling like nothing made sense. For most people, existential or spiritual anguish is actually more painful than physical suffering. When we can’t find meaning in what is happening to us, it is easy to slip into despair when we take a hit.
One major advantage that spiritually bullet-proof people have is that they know the game they’re playing, so life’s hits have a different meaning for them than for most people. In the most basic terms, resilient people think that life is like a giant bumper car ride—they buckle up and expect to get hit. To them, bumping up against other people, difficult circumstances or devastating events is not only inevitable, it is actually desirable; they understand that the hits they take help them to become their fullest selves and they also believe that personal or spiritual evolution is central to the purpose of life. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that they go out looking for trouble or heartache; they simply live their lives with heightened awareness of the role that adversity plays in their own development.

Dr. Cherie Carter-Scott, author of If Life is a Game, These are the Rules, believes that we will each be presented with lessons that are custom-designed for us and are designed to teach us what we need to learn next. She teaches that these lessons often come in the form of painful events or situations. According to Dr. Carter-Scott, these lessons are different for each person and they are completely inevitable—they are one of the rules of play in this game we call life. In our work, we’ve observed that spiritually bullet-proof people intuit or consciously acknowledge this part of life’s game plan, though they might not use the same language to describe it.

Chasing Tigers

There’s an old Zen story that speaks to the value of life’s hardships:

A man was walking through a field when a tiger sprang at him from the brush and began to chase him. The man ran for his life but was no match for the tiger and, in desperation, he jumped off the cliff at the edge of the field to escape certain death. As he jumped, he happened to catch hold of a vine that kept him dangling against the cliff wall a hundred feet above the ground below. When he looked up, he saw that the tiger was prowling the edge of the cliff ten feet above him and when he looked down, he saw that there was another tiger waiting below. He held on as hard as he could, praying that he could wait them both out. To make matters worse, he spotted two little mice gnawing at the vine that held him and he knew that it could break at any time. Just then, he saw a single strawberry growing out of a crevice in the side of the cliff just within his reach. Hanging on with one hand, he reached out and picked the strawberry and ate it. Never had anything tasted so sweet.
This story reveals a secret known by spiritually bullet-proof people: if you want to really live with purpose, you must understand the value of tigers. The beauty, joy and sweetness of life symbolized by the strawberry are always there to be noticed and enjoyed but without the crisis represented by the tigers, we would most likely fail to value it. Learning to see the value of life’s strawberries is common sense. Learning to see the value of life’s tigers is true wisdom. If you want to turbo-charge your spiritual resiliency, begin to consider that tigers and strawberries are really what life’s all about—everything else is just filler.

Jillian Quinn, author of Secrets of the Bulletproof Spirit
Jillian Quinn, author of Secrets of the Bulletproof Spirit
Jillian Quinn, author of Secrets of the Bulletproof Spirit
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