I believe that humility is a great virtue that can offer amazing benefits. My current understanding of its mechanics is surely very limited – but I find it deeply fascinating and intriguing nonetheless. In this article I am going to share a few thoughts about this precious state in the hope that it might inspire some quality introspection within yourself.
If you google it, humility is defined as a “modest or low view of one’s own importance”. How would such a view actually be of benefit or help us along the spiritual path? And what causes genuine humility to arise – and why bother exploring it?
I see humility as the very quality that opens my mind to the insignificance of my tiny conditioned sense of self as it stands in contrast to a vast self-regulating Universe. Such an open space offers the possibility of learning and growth while confronting the idea of certainty, knowledge, power and control. When I find myself contemplating the awesomeness of the macro- and microcosm I feel humbled as it clearly shows me how little I really know.
I would say that humility is an open, receptive listening state of mind based on four reflections:
1. All my current knowledge has been established and passed on to me by other beings.
2. All experiences in my life are a result of the way my body and mind were shaped by circumstances and conditions.
3. The universe appears as vast and limitless. Therefore I could say that my ignorance is truly without limit and my knowledge very limited.
4. It is hard to know myself. How hard is it to truly know others?
These four reflections help me to create a sense of wonder and awe. They reveal just how fragile my sense of self is. How easily it breaks apart getting lost in its bubbles of thought, emotions, opinions and belief-systems. When I sense just how little I actually know I feel shocked. It scares the living flip out of me. And at the same time something deeper opens up and new learning can take place. Something deeper becomes available when the “little me” looses power.
Questions could be seen as a result of humility while certainty often seems to emanate from pride. Before we ask something, we’ve had to open up to the possibility that we don’t know everything. And some of the people we consider to be most intelligent where in fact full of questions while some of the greatest human disasters came forth from a sense of certainty.
Furthermore, listening can be an act of humility. We have to forget ourselves and the urge to present our clever ideas in order to truly receive another being. Such a listening skill has healing power. Those who listen to life are open for countless learning experiences. Those who talk a lot are often full of self. I guess I am guilty – so writing this line is very humbling indeed. It allows me to grow and growing often comes with painful insights of how we keep ourselves from the light.
I consider genuine humility to be the open state I described above. It’s authentic, often feels scary and raw. It definitely leads into an experience of inner and outer growth. The other form of humility is often seen in spiritual circles where people pretend to be very humble because they try to emulate the state of humility. I did that for a long time and it’s a questionable trait as it’s based on harmful self-talk. “I know nothing, I am worth nothing” “Please forgive me for breathing away the air around you, venerable sir.” 😀
When seeing humble beings we often want to be like them. There’s power and honesty to someone dwelling in a state of true humility and we feel intrigued by that. So we often do what we all do quite well: We try to copy the external signs of it. This might be helpful in some ways but if it turns into another garment of Ego it won’t lead to benefits at all. So I usually would recommend to work on the real state right away. For me it does the trick when I deeply reflect on the four points mentioned above. What creates humility for you?
Feel free to leave some good comments (Everybody can benefit from your skillful contributions!) I will simply delete Self-promotion (e.g. “I love your article. Please check this link to my own site.”). I might post your links if they are truly relevant and contribute to the readers experience though. We are open for meaningful discussions and hope that this article serves as an inspiration for you.