You have to go through the falling down in order to learn to walk. It helps to know that you can survive it. That’s an education in itself.
– Carol Burnett
So many religions and philosophies, ancient and modern, set forth paths to happiness, fulfillment and the end of suffering. Many of these paths are filled with great wisdom and deep spiritual insights that have helped countless people throughout the ages. I have been inspired by so many of these spiritual traditions; and I have learned so many hard lessons though my own inner struggles and challenges, as we all have. Consistent with so many of the spiritual traditions, I have found that one of the keys to happiness and finding a deep spiritual connection is cultivating a spiritual humility — reaching beyond our egos as best we can by quieting our minds with a bit of wisdom, by opening our hearts to a bit of unconditional loving-kindness, and by expressing a bit of gratitude for the light and wonder that has been given and that touches us even in the dark times.
1. WISDOM AND THE INTERDEPENDENCE OF ALL EXISTENCE. We — and all of life — are interconnected in a vast and boundless divine tapestry. Our belief that we have a separate, “fixed” self is a delusion that cuts us off from the flow of life and the interdependence of all things. We are nothing but a wondrous part of a larger, interwoven whole. To see all this, even a little, leaves us humble, but also touches us with a deep wisdom that we are connected at our core to something so much greater than we can imagine.
2. THE INNER SPIRIT. As a part of that greater whole, we are truly children of God, at one with the divine essence. Yet, when we come into this world at birth, we put on a limited and fragile ego mask that we wear throughout our lives, believing that the mask is our real self and forgetting our true, inner spirit that is a part of the greater divine radiance. So, we struggle to keep this mask-self safe, closing our eyes to the flow of the divine presence through our lives. Seeing all of this, even a little, we begin to see the futility and childishness of so many of our self-important dramas; and, with the resulting humility, we begin to let go of the ego games and begin instead to focus humbly and joyously on our connection to others and to the greater divine reality.
3. JUDGE NOT. Looking with an open heart at the cosmos, we may begin to see, even if dimly, the presence of a boundless divine power that supports all of existence, guiding the planets in their orbits, causing the flowers to grow, holding all of the law of physics in the palm of a hand, and supporting our very existence. But, when we grasp after our ego-mask self, and forget our own inner spirit and its connection to the greater divine presence, we begin to make judgments, limiting and defining God, ourselves and each other. We think that we know better — indeed, we think we “know” what is really going on — but the mystery and wonder of existence is beyond any knowing. We do not know, for instance, the truth of another person and where he or she is on the spiritual path. Indeed, we do not even know who we are ourselves. How, then, can we presume to judge others and where they stand in God’s plan? How can we truly judge ourselves? And, even more importantly, how can we judge God, the ineffable foundation of all existence and non-existence? Seeing all this, even a little, we can only begin to humbly let go of our limited, ego-based judgments and open our minds and hearts to a gentle faith in the divine, in ourselves, and in each other.
4. SPIRITUAL PRACTICE. So, how do we come to see all of the above and cultivate a joyous spiritual humility? Each must find their own way. For me, it come from a gentle spiritual practice:
(a) First, I try to be mindful of the interconnection of all life, as well as of the impermanence and transience of my own ego-mask self. Then, with a little inner quiet and stillness, I try to watch for the presence of ineffable wonder; I listen for the quiet whispers of my own inner spirit; and I open my heart to the rumblings and reflections of the presence of a boundless God beyond all knowing or grasping.
(b) Next, each day I try to practice a little kindness and unconditional love, as best I can and with as much wisdom as I can muster, quietly shining some light in the darkness on myself and those around me. We all can open a window in our hearts to the divine and let the divine presence shine through us, as if through a glass darkly — but we can polish that glass each day to let in more and more light.
(c) I judge God, myself and others so much. So, I practice not judging by being mindful of how much I do judge, and examining how much of that judgment comes from my own arrogance or insecurity. I then think about the the mystery and power of the divine presence — and the preciousness and miracle of all life, including my own — and stop for a moment and acknowledge, as best I can, that the divine presence is boundless in ways I cannot begin to fathom or judge.
(d) Finally, I try to find reasons to be grateful: for the presence of wonder, wisdom and light, even in the darkness; for the preciousness of my own life and that of others; and for the blessings, sometimes hidden, that grace my life. There are so many opportunities to express that gratitude to those around me through words and deeds; and to God in my prayers and in the songs of my heart. Finally, I try to express gratitude to myself in the words I use in speaking to myself. We all can begin to appreciate more our own inner, luminous spirits. Humility in the face of the overwhelming wonder of the universe may cause us to begin letting go of our ego games, but it also opens our vision up to the magnificence of the cosmos and to the luminous wonder of our place in it.
Simple Inner Truth by Steven Jay