Dear Yoga Community,
After receiving the squirrel’s message to “Lay Down and Rest” in this month’s Guiding Theme newsletter, I realized the source of both its frenzy and its nourishment: the acorn. The acorn is a beautiful example of the mystery of creation, containing the potential to grow into the mighty oak. The oak tree is revered around the world for its qualities of wisdom, strength and endurance, and providing for more than 100 species of wildlife. Becoming small like the acorn, through the spiritual practice of humility, we too can experience inconceivable power unlike what we might think.
Humility as a siddhi (superpower) just recently rose to the top of my list of spiritual practices. My favorite had always been forgiveness, mostly because it blew my mind both in how challenging it is to practice, and in the miraculous healing power it has for humankind. Then my mind was blown even further when I realized that the virtue of humility renders forgiveness obsolete. With humility at the fore there is no ego, there is no mind. Therefore there are no reasons, defenses or rationalizations; no need to be right, fix or change; no “other” to blame. What remains when the ego is humble is the heart and soul which know only love and oneness.
Humility does more than surrender the ego. The practice of humility actually uses, or uses up the ego’s power through the conscious willingness to be wrong, lower than, or less than someone else. This may be the most undervalued and undeveloped skill of our time. While not a spiritual practice for everyone,* we may discover this to be a profound path towards the healing, ease and peace that we seek in our modern world.
How could it be that relinquishing our power creates the greatest power? It is because we are not actually relinquishing our power when we surrender the ego. We are relinquishing our illusion of separateness. We are relinquishing the suffering caused solely by our ego. What remains is the power of our spirit, which then motivates our thoughts and actions, thereby resulting in more spiritual power. We see this spiritual law at play in the greatest yoga masters, the only ones given the task of cleaning the toilet in the ashrams. They were able to bypass the likes and dislikes of their ego and convert a demeaning task into a chance to shine their soul, not to mention the toilet!
Humility is one of the 8 Pillars of Joy mentioned by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in their “Book of Joy”. A perplexing and funny testament to the challenge of practicing humility is that if we think we’ve mastered it, we are no longer humble! The secret is to keep the ego in its proper place--in service to the spirit. In the Buddhist tradition, through the compassionate words of Thich Nhat Hahn, we are given the encouragement to plant the seeds of humility. But even if we fail, as we will, we can remember that we always have the choice to water certain seeds we’ve planted and not water others.
The Christian tradition also conveys the ultimate status of humility. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. He was born a baby in a humble mange, and died a torturous death without attempting to use reason or force. His teachings for mankind are about the spiritual power that results when we surrender our will for the betterment of all. This is the idea of holy hierarchy, that leaders only take for themselves when all those underneath them are loved and nourished.
How can we practice humility? This month’s study began with an invitation from the squirrel to take the first step toward softening the ego’s frenetic tendencies at this time of year. The squirrel reminds us to thoughtfully conserve our energy and store the acorns that will nourish our future. Last week’s message on Karma Yoga reminded us that the intention we bring to our actions will become the result of those actions, and that ultimately our work can become our spiritual practice resulting in greater ease and peace.
This week, as we contemplate the acorn, perhaps we can imagine that we are planting and storing these seeds of humility. It is a humble practice, for the squirrel only finds one in seven acorns it buries. Perhaps some of these seeds we plant will become nourishment for us and the world. Perhaps some will grow into wisdom like the Oak Tree. Still others will remain in the realm of the unknown mystery of life, providing us with the ongoing practice of non-attachment and humility that shine our soul and bring us the greatest power of all--the peace that passeth understanding (om shanti).
*This message is not intended for those who feel victimized or disempowered in any way. They need first and only the love, support and encouragement they did not receive by a bruised and battered world. This message is intended for those of us who feel called to relinquish our world’s old patterns of violence and force, and help bring forth more harmony, beginning with our own hearts. May this be received with the love it was intended to bring.
With great love, Julie
Content related to this months theme:
Guiding Theme | Issue #116 | Lay Down and Rest
Yoga Philosophy | Issue #117 | Karma Yoga: Good Indeed (upgraded subscription)
Our Yoga Nature | Issue #118 | Storing Seeds of Humility
Yoga Therapy Practice | Issue #119 | Becoming Humble Warriors (upgraded subscription)
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