Humility is a theme that keeps confronting me in the last months, stirring me up when I go deeper into it. And because it makes me so uncomfortable, so restless, so edgy, I know that I just can’t jump over this steppingstone on my path to self-discovery. I’m challenged to explore this issue more intimately.
Something in me senses that true humility – surrendering oneself totally to the Unknown, to the Absolute – is needed on my path to freedom.
But because the word brings up so many negative associations like humiliation, resignation, and especially capitulation, my ego totally recoils at the thought of giving myself up to it. And precisely because of this resistance, I know that I need to dig a bit deeper.
Of course, I’m not talking about the kind of humility that is preached by dogmatic religions, this forced humbleness and subtle ego trips of missionaries doing good deeds, but a natural humility that comes with surrendering everything in a moment of total trust.
I can see clearly that for my mind, humility is connected with weakness and so it can’t be a virtue that’s worth pursuing.
My family conditioning is that a woman is strong and powerful – a Rosa Luxemburg – fighting for justice and freedom, standing her ground, dying if necessary for these principles. My Sannyas conditioning too is that of strength, confidence, courage, and speaking my truth.
All the challenges, the deep experiences I’ve had in so many magical places in the last decades, have been an affirmation of these traits of strength, a permission to enjoy them, to feel pride in having come so far.
This Pride – my pride of being strong and in my power – seems to be the key issue and the subtle reason for my squirming at the very idea of having to give way to humility. It feels so threatening to my ego that in order to gain liberation, I would have to “give in” and give up” this strength that, after all, I have worked so hard to gain and to own. The word humbleness, which is inseparable from humility, has more appeal for my spiritual ego and doesn’t bring such a strong inner reaction and feeling of threat.
I’m going to have to go back to my past to find this connection between pride and humility. I was a very shy teenager and was often frozen with embarrassment and insecurity in the commune where places were noisy, and people quite rough at times with their confrontational style of relating. The people I felt most secure with, my friends and peers, were the ones I could be expressive with, often very feisty and witty, even confrontational myself.
As time moved on I became quite secure, feeling at home and comfortable. This gave me the impression of already being strong and confident, and my ego was allowed to expand. It took some years of maturing and experiencing myself in all kind of challenges to have this false sense of confidence become genuine strength, expressing itself naturally.
I can still remember this unsettling feeling of shyness that was mingled with fear and humiliation. When I was quite new in the commune, there was so much fear for the first month, so much inner turmoil that I couldn’t speak, I could hardly breath, and often felt paralyzed, frozen to a point of not being able to move from one spot to the next, just waiting for something to melt. At the breakfast table, I remember eating only what I could reach because I didn’t dare ask someone to pass me the butter. In this nervousness, I often spilled or broke things, or stumbled over something bringing attention to myself and feeling even more embarrassed and humiliated.
And it’s this fear connected with helplessness and humiliation that I somehow associate with humility. My interpretation is that humility is the absence of strength, is weakness – a feeling that must be avoided at all cost. In my mind, I seem to be unable to separate humility from humiliation – Demut from Demütigung in German – and this is the reason for my resistance to the idea that humility is needed for the total freedom from my ego.
I feel proud that I’m able to speak my truth, to confront someone who has “done me wrong”. My deepest fear is that I have to give up my strength if I surrender, if I were to allow myself to be submerged by humility.
What I realize is, that this pride in my strength is based on the feeling of being seen, is evidence of my very existence. Being seen means that I am! If I’m weak, I’ll become invisible. I’m associating humility with weakness, smallness, being invisible.
And yet, something inside me knows that this is not the truth! I will not cease to exist, I will not loose anything but gain everything if I let go of all these ideas.
There is a longing to shine a light on this pride and to come to the heart of humility.
The picture I have of divine humility is that of prayer – kneeling down on the ground, with arms and open hands stretched to the sky, head falling back, eyes closed, the whole body completely relaxed – one sincere single thought arising “Thy will be done”! Or perhaps: YES!
I have experienced this state of prayer in special moments in my life, and many times sitting at the feet of my master Osho. These experiences of humbleness, and simplicity have increased the longing to melt, to disappear, to let go and surrender all and everything has become a burning flame. Like a sunflower that keeps turning its face with the movement of the sun across the sky, I’m following this inner light guiding me step by step towards this point of letting go, this capitulation I’m so afraid of and yet long so much for at the same time. Ultimately, I have to trust in this – when I let go of pride, humility will simply arise, naturally!