Saturday, February 5, 2011

Humble Pie, Anyone?

I’ve just returned from a week’s vacation, and I’m thinking about humility.

At the start of my journey, before I was 3 miles from home, four things had gone wrong~~three minor annoyances and one more significant. Anxiety perched on my shoulder. “I wonder what else will mess up,” she whispered in my ear. “Maybe it’ll be a bumpy flight~~if we even make the plane. Maybe things won’t go so well all the way around.”

I watched the process. I noticed a tightening in my chest as negativity gained momentum, a closing down of experience as I braced for trouble. And then I made a choice. I chose to open.

I reassured my frightened self who was, after all, only trying to prepare me for disappointment. I explained that the mishaps thus far were simple reminders that neither of us was in charge of this trip. By the time I was 6 miles from home, I’d vowed to welcome whatever came my way. An excellent perspective for a vacation, as well as for the small moments of each ordinary day.

My time in the wintry northeast was rich and meaningful, with soul~feeding interactions with several amazing women I’ve known for decades. The terrain of their lives varies, yet each is doing her best to walk the path before her with grace.

One flies high, freed by challenges successfully met and lessons gleaned. Another purrs along in a lovely life that has recently thrown her a few curve balls. A few are in the midst of deep suffering. It was one of these dear souls who articulated the idea of humility.

This woman sensed that if she could allow herself to be humbled~~a true humbling, not an angry capitulation or a weary resignation~~a softening would occur. And in that softening, a new approach just might be found and a more harmonious pathway delineated.

It’s natural to tighten up when difficulties arise. Yet this tightening can bring a rigidity that closes us down to life. I humbled myself when I accepted that I was not in control of my trip. What had rapidly been growing rigid in my heart, mind and spirit softened, allowing me to embrace a journey that would unfold along its own trajectory, with or without my consent.

Being humble is not much in vogue these days. The dictionary defines it as “a feeling of insignificance, inferiority, or subservience”. Not very inviting. The definition of “modest” seems more palatable.

There is a force at work in this world that is larger than our small wills. Whether we conceive of it as a personal God, a karmic flowering, or just “the way things are”, when we embody humility, we open ourselves to be changed, even transformed, by our experience.

An image from my trip comes to me now as I type these words. I stood alone outdoors on the top deck at the bow of an early morning ferry. Snow whirled in a biting wind. Shades of grey surrounded me~~the pure grey of snow~giving clouds above, the deeper green~gray of ocean below, the colors of ship and small island to my right muted into still more shades of gray.

I offered my face to the chill and gave my entire being to that moment. The holiness of the Now flooded me. The words insignificant, inferior, and subservient washed over me as well. And I found they didn’t rankle a bit.

No, I bowed before those words, before the beauty of that monochromatic morning, before the experience itself. I humbled myself before the All, and relished being released once again from the burden of my own importance.

Blessings to you all!

Loanne Marie


Stirling said...

Thank you, Loanne Marie. Humility has definitely been out of my life recently, and I realize how much I need it. Your article will help me reconnect to it as I ride the ship of life.

Loanne Marie said...

Yeah, many of us have difficulty with this one. I'm glad reading the essay was helpful for you. Please know that writing it was likewise helpful for me!

Humble pie~~destined to become a new staple in our diets? Hope so! I just googled "food pyramid" and found one model that had, below the standard base set aside for grains and other healthy carbs, another layer showing the 8 glasses of water we need daily. Perhaps we can visualize a new layer below that, one specifically for humble pie to be taken with each conscious breath.

Thanks for writing, Stirling!

Carol said...

I love this! What a beautiful rendering of something known, at some level, but previously unable to be verbalized. Thank you.

Loanne Marie said...

To me, humility feels like one of those things that we're finding our way back to. Our ancestors through time, I'm guessin', certainly understood their rightful place in the overall scheme of things. Indigenous folks never lost it. Humility has been an accepted virtue, one worthy of cultivation, throughout most of human civilization~~or perhaps so accepted that cultivation was unnecessary. Did that all change with the sixties? Or did it begin with the Enlightenment period?

I think that shift of consciousness was absolutely essential, whenever it occurred. Perhaps now we're needing to bring humility back, but without the 'lowly sinner' connotations. Our small wills may not run the show, but it seems to me we each have a part to play, tiny though it may be, in the grand play. As long as we keep our egos aligned through some form of humility, balance is maintained. We can then play our part, never forgetting to bow down before the grand design itself.

Thanks for giving me food for thought, Carol. And thanks for writing!

Gayle said...

Hi there,

I sure cannot know the mind of God, or the Holy Spirit. When I was much younger, I wanted things 'my way'. Didn't 'go with the flow'... usually got what I wanted but never acheived the happiness I thought would go along with those things.

When I started to ask for God's will to guide my walk, I have always gotten the desires of my heart but in ways I never could have imaginged. It is kind of like that country song, "I thank God for unanswered prayers".

Just living out this human existence day to day, reaping some of my karmic consequences but not as many as I deserve, due to the grace of the Holy Spirit, life is so alive and interesting!

It is a trick to sit back and watch the show...

Loanne Marie said...

Yes, a trick indeed!!! What I find challenging is determining when my desire for action is motivated by my 'little ego', for lack of a better term, and when it comes from a larger place. I'm finding two clues. First, there is a different quality to ego~driven intentions, a "pushing the river" feel. Second, the response I get from those beings/forces around me is different. Like you suggested, when I act in harmony, things kinda flow and work out, often in ways I couldn't have foreseen for, as you also said, how could I know the "mind of God".

I think learning to make these distinctions and to use our energy accordingly is part of our work here. Not denying our will, but putting it under the guidance of that larger force. Being humble enough to offer our energies to something larger and acting in harmony with that.

Thanks for writing, Gayle!

Anonymous said...

As always, your essays evoke lovely images. I've just returned to peeking at online profiles, since its been over a year since I've dated, and had just emailed someone about humility before reading your insights (in the context of a discussion about why spirituality is important). I think of it as the awe-inspired awareness that we are part of something much, much greater, like the wave upon the ocean - it feels empowering rather than limiting.

Namaste and hugs,

Loanne Marie said...

Awe-inspiring works for me! And your image of the ocean and the wave is one that brings to mind a riff Thich Nhat Hanh does on that metaphor. The wave doesn't compare herself to other waves, doesn't fear dying or look back and worry about the path taken thus far. She also doesn't need to seek water. She knows water is who she is and, when she meets the shore, she will be reabsorbed into the ocean she never left in the first place.

What's limiting about that? Nothing. What's awe-inspiring? Everything!

Thanks for writing!

Anonymous said...

I loved the phrase "a karmic flowering" and the images it evoked. When I head out to shovel snow in a bit I will be lifted from the labor to offer myself to the beauty surrounding me. Thank you!

Loanne Marie said...

And I love what you've done with this image. What a wonderful example of spirituality in action. I love to imagine you out shoveling that abundant white stuff, feeling the effects of your labor, and offering it all to the beauty that surrounds you. Thank you for reading, for writing, for offering us an example.

monica wood said...

Humility is missing from our culture right now, and your essay is so timely. Thank you, Loanne.

Loanne Marie said...

And I'm so impressed that no one groaned! Or I guess I only know that no one who commented here groaned at the idea that there is a place for feeling insignificant, inferior and subservient.

Maybe it's just me, with my training as a psychotherapist. One of my intentions in that work is to help folks come into their own flowering, since~~as Galway Kinnell expressed so beautifully in his poem, St Frances and the Sow~~"sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness." But I know it is possible, even essential for our individual and collective healing, to come to an active awareness of our own beauty while still knowing how to bow down to that which holds us all.

Thanks for writing!

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Leia Marie