I’ve been on the planet for a good amount of time now, and have learned quite a bit along the way. And while there is a beauty in accumulating a wad of skills and wisdom, there is also a shadow in that I can get a subtle kind of egotism around such wisdom. For example, when I take a yoga class from a 20 year-old who’s been practicing two years compared to my 25, it’s easy to see their rough edges. This is compounded by the fact that one of my big character traits is a strong impulse to change, improve, and make things more efficient. It’s what has made me a good manager, interior designer, and therapist. The shadow side though, is that to make any improvement one has to first clearly see what’s wrong. Add in the mix that I am a natural leader and have a tendency to run the show. So, a developed awareness of what’s not right with the knowledge that I would likely be able to improve it and a leader type personality…well, it doesn’t naturally lend towards humility.
In my 20s and 30s, I was really working on stepping into my confidence so the idea of humility wasn’t one that was particularly appealing or one that I paid a whole lot of attention to when I would come across it in my spiritual explorations. But now, skirting around the edges of 50, I understand the sacredness of living with a humble perspective. The Buddhist concept of beginner’s mind (Shoshin) has a much stronger impact now that I am a seasoned woman. One cannot be a beginner without a certain amount of humility and willingness to be the student – and not a reluctant student, but a willing and eager student. It means approaching a subject with openness and without preconceived notions, even if you are already knowledgeable on the subject. As Shunryu Suzuki said in his famous book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few.”
So, my practice for the last six months or so has been to consciously attempt to hold the position that every single person is my teacher – as an educator and counselor I am not always successful in this endeavor, but I suppose that’s why it’s called a ‘practice’, not a ‘perfection’. Practicing beginner’s mind and holding the role of student to all people means that the 20 year-old yoga teacher, the person who doesn’t graciously let me merge on the highway, my 18 year-old niece, that woman from grad school who I still hold in disdain, my clients…they are all my teachers. As the famous adage goes, “there are no friends or enemies, only teachers.”
I don’t claim to have perfected my humility. I doubt that I ever will. I have, however, softened my ego just a bit…enough to have seen some benefit from the practice. Here’s what I believe to be true.
Benefits of Humility
- You will learn both skill and wisdom.
- You will become a better teacher to others.
- Others will learn more from you because it is much easier to receive from a humble teacher.
- More people will be drawn to you. Humble people are emotionally safe people. People like to feel safe.
- You will have more authentic connection because to be humble means to be vulnerable, and vulnerability is the cornerstone of depthful connection.
- Having more depthful connection, you will begin to find healing through those relationships. The illusion that you are alone, unlovable, not enough, etc. will diminish as you experience the opposite of those illusions through depthful connection.
- You will stop having to shore up a fragile ego that needs to perceive itself as better than others. In doing so, you will begin to make peace with your own underlying insecurities.
- You will more readily discover the beauty in others. You will see what’s right more frequently than what’s wrong.
- Seeing more beauty in others, you will find more beauty in yourself. Your self-critique will diminish.
- And ultimately, you will feel better than you could have imagined.
May we all balance our confidence with humility. May we find the good in others and ourselves. May we deeply connect from a place of vulnerability. May we be happy.
Sabrina Santa Clara