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Reflections on Humility
My exciting plans to visit my family and friends in Israel didn’t work as I hoped. On the way there in one of our stops I ruptured my Achilles. Suddenly I found myself helpless, unable to move. As I realised I was losing my freedom of movement and becoming dependent on others, tears welled in my eyes. I was no longer invincible, as I once believed. Another beautiful realisation on the journey to humble my ego.
I took the first flight back home to have an operation. No one is with me and there is no one home. But somehow it feels like the whole world is with me. I have discovered much care and support around me. Everywhere people seem very compassionate towards someone who is injured. Until I got injured, I held the belief that I was the kindest person on earth, always keen to offer help to someone in need. Seeing from the perspective of the needy, I now know what a self-centered view it is. Most people in their own way are keen to help you when you are in need – both strangers and friends, who prove to be absolutely essential in times of need. Another humbling experience.
And what of my plans? Dreams? Aspirations? Well, life is not in our control as we would like to believe. There is so much mystery and unpredictability, it leaves me no choice but to surrender. So I am home in a plaster, waiting patiently for six weeks to be over soon.
So what is humility?
It comes from the Latin word humilitas, which means “humble”, or “grounded” (humus = earth). Our ego with its self-importance takes us either too high to grandiose ideas or too low to self-doubts, worthlessness and sarcastic views. In humility you are grounded in your intrinsic self-worth which has nothing to do with what you have or what you do or any of the socially conditioned stories. To experience humility means to acknowledge limitations, weaknesses, and above all, not knowing. In our culture where knowledge means power and money, it is indeed very challenging to admit not knowing. If ego is the “knower” then humility is to swim comfortably in the depths of not knowing.
What is surrender?
It is the very act of surrender which sacrifices all arrogance and separation to the altar of Life. In the act of surrender the protecting game is exposed for what it is. In surrendering totally to a guru or to a lover, there is no inside and no outside, no guru or lover. In the total surrender, all that is left is Love. We long to disappear or to lose ourselves completely and yet we also run from it in terror. If we surrender completely then we will lose all control, all limits and all identity. We are terrified of this possibility and yet we are exhausted with the effort of maintaining and defending a separate identity.
In Western culture usually we have too much pride to bow down and surrender to someone else. The word “surrender” is often interpreted as admitting defeat or being weak. But surrendering means falling into the total openness of who you are. This is not weak and is in no way any kind of defeat. This is recognising that you are life itself. It means no longer buying into the tension of the little vortex you believe yourself to be and realising the deep power of the ocean you truly are. It means to recognise that you have no boundaries, mental, emotional or physical, and to know yourself as wide beyond any limiting sense of self you might have. No longer relying on thoughts, beliefs and assumptions. No longer finding any safety in what you think. Surrender is losing everything so that all that is left is Life happening presently.
Surrender is intimacy, vulnerability. Exposing that you don’t know, and perhaps that you are really quite scared and lost. There is an absolute strength and power in that open vulnerability. Recognise the openness that seems to be covered up with ideas of who you think you are and who you pretend to be and know that who you really are can never be hurt or undermined. You are life itself.
Surrender is standing aside and no longer pretending to know it all and be in control. Standing aside and letting Life take you over and engulf you completely. There is no one to defend or protect, there is only vulnerable, unhidden, and undefended Self. If there is pain there is pain, if there is joy there is joy, but no matter what happens, there is no barrier and no escape from what is. Whether thought agrees or not, there is an absolute in-loveness with what is, no matter what. Life doing you. This is Love.
Dare to let Life take you. Lose yourself and know what Love is.