When I lived in Berkeley for two years, I walked and rode my bike everywhere. There was a photography place I passed on my way downtown, and for those two years there remained a painting so profound that I had to stop each time I walked by the window. The painting was simple. It was a monk in a marigold robe. His hands were clasped together and he was standing while bowing his head before a small flower in the same color as his robe. The monk was honoring the flower with the gentle bow of “Namaste” (“I honor the place within you in which the entire universe dwells. I honor the place within you, which is of Love, of Truth, of Light and of Peace. When you are in that place within you and I am in that place within me, WE ARE ONE”).
If I could have bought that twelve-hundred dollar painting, I would have. It moved me so deeply. After six months of rigorous treatment in a facility in the Berkeley Hills where I was brought down to Earth from my grandiose thinking, that precious painting was a reminder to me of my place in the world, which is not above anyone or anything, or beneath another man’s ego, but a sacred place where I remain aware that every living thing is an extension of the divine. If all living things are an extension of the divine, then there is no living thing above another. We are all a spark of life in the vast wholeness of our creator. For those of you that do not believe in a creator, you can certainly agree that the spark of life dwells in every living thing; therefore, life is delightful, even if for the moment that it is alive. To honor the life we are given, and to be aware of it in another living thing, is humility. There is not one living thing greater than another. Each living thing on the planet has a purpose and each purpose provides for the well-being of all.
Humility has several definitions, but that painting provided me with a quintessential understanding. Whenever I am on a hike in the woods, I spend a few moments honoring the life surrounding me. Often I clasp my hands together in the presence of a deer, or a butterfly and thank the creatures for blessing me with their divine nature (life) and for their part in the ecosystem of the planet. At times when I am annoyed with another human being, I try to remind myself that I am not above that other person. They encompass the same spark of life as I do. The ego doesn’t see things this way, but the heart does. To be humble is to live through the heart center, rather than in the space of the ego. Sometimes (often) I have to remind myself to drop down into my heart because I am way up in the Tower of Babel of myself where my ego has delusions of its own greatness.
Look around you – although one person may have wealth while another is begging on the street, what would happen if neither had water to drink because of the severity of a drought? Both would eventually die of thirst and the one man’s wealth would be of no use. If you drive a nicer car than many other people, this does not make you a greater human being. If there were a sudden natural disaster and everything got swept away (homes, cars, buildings, etc.), the only thing that would matter to you would be your life and the life of your loved ones. Life is all that matters in the end, therefore life should be regarded each day, rather than taken for granted.
Humility is not about being a martyr or seeing yourself as below others. Humility is standing in balance with yourself and knowing your own divinity, as well as being aware of it in others (even when they are not aware of it in themselves). Humility is the shelter that brings us in alignment with who we truly are. It washes away the delusions of the ego and comforts you in the knowing of the heart. It is the only place I want to be, because it is a place of truth. It is the place of ultimate surrender, and the space where I do not get ahead of myself or where I fall behind. It is a place of total clarity.
When you think of the word “humility,” think of the painting of the monk and the flower. It is simply a place of being grounded and centered – where you understand that there is something great in simply being alive. Be alive and know that this is enough. See the life in others and understand that you share a common ground. Honor the life surrounding you in gratitude of its purpose toward your well-being. This is how you remain humble, and to remain humble is to walk in the entire wholeness of yourself, rather than in the fragments of your splintered mind. Humility is so underrated! It is what keeps me sober. It is where I want to spend the remainder of my life. It is where ultimate freedom welcomes me.