To answer this question, we’re not going to look at a dictionary. Why? Because…it’s just for fun 🙂
And more significantly than the meaning of humility is what does humility look like in practice, that is how can one identify a humble person or humble spirit?
Humility is apparently a pretty holy way of being in the world. And when i think of it, i think smallness. Humbling is like shrinking. Making yourself smaller and smaller.
Perhaps this making smaller is simply a matter of re-contextualizing that which is around you, so that you open up to the magnificence of your environment and the entire universe.
If we look at ourselves from an ant’s perspective, we’re huge! We’re amazingly powerful and grand. But, if we look at ourselves from the perspective of the sun, we cannot be seen. Even if the sun did have eyes, it still probably couldn’t see any one of us…then again i guess it depends what kind of vision we attribute to the sun. Well, hopefully the point is clear 😉
To an ant, we’re huge. To the entire universe, we’re just about as small as an ant. Physically we’re near non-existent…although there is a certain mystery to the power our thoughts and consciousness yield over the nature of reality…
Perhaps humility is also about realizing that none of the concerns of the physical body really matter so much. Billions of bodies have lived before and billions will likely live on. Bodies are fragile and of fleeting presence. We come and go quickly from the perspective of the universe. We are here for but the blink of a cosmic eye. So in this way, humbling is relating with or even identifying with the perspective of the cosmos, realizing that our own physical bodies including anything physical on planet earth is of relatively little concern. If anything matters to the cosmos, what matters is not anything physical, but the nonphysical. That is, the cosmos must not care so much about our physical world appears, but how the beings in the physical world experience the world. The cosmos would care about how we feel. Do we feel good? Happy? Abundant? If we’re feeling good, the cosmos feels good. Whereas, if we physically weigh 100 or 200 pounds, the cosmos does not weigh 100 or 200 pounds. The cosmos feels our feelings, but it does not necessarily identify with proper up any individual body up on a pedestal and deeming that it should live longer than all others.
To the cosmos, everyone and everything is one. It wants what is good for all. Ego says, “I, this physically body, is of the utmost importance!” The Spirit says, “The experience and quality of consciousness in this present moment matters most. And more than caring about any external circumstances, I’d like to prioritize feeling in harmony with all of it, no matter how it appears.” Notice how human bodies judge human bodies, but Spirit does not judge. To Spirit and to the cosmos, it’s all one, it’s all connected, it’s all as it is, and as it should be. It could be no other way! The ego thinks that things must change, but the Spirit is as peace with how things are.
So an attitude of humility says, “None of the physical world really matters so much. What matters most is what’s inside it all and what is omnipresent amongst all.”
Back to, “What does humility look like externally?” When the intelligence that operates a human body embraces humility, what’s that look like?
For one, i think that means the body is trained to not interrupt another body. It listens. And it keeps on listening until the other body has been silent for 2-3 seconds, and then it responds appropriately. Being able to tame the tongue an the ego from inadvertently expressing itself requires a high level of awareness and a depth of discipline. It’s easy to interrupt someone when we don’t like what we’re hearing or when they’re yelling at us. Ego doesn’t want to hear that! But it requires an inner-strenghth and awareness to listen deeply no matter what, and allow the ego of another to express itself fully, so that the Spirit may finally shine through. I’ve heard that the greatest gift any of us can ever give is our attention, and what more is the gift of our attention than a listening presence?
Fundamentally then, the practice of humility, as far as this brief post comes down to, is listening.
And also, i’d throw in…humility is about living to please God, the cosmos, the highest that is in you. Humility lives independently of any fear of criticism or opinion of others. Humility lives only to please the highest that it knows, and let’s go of concerning itself with what ‘others’ might think. Free from ostentation, essentially. Like trying to use big words, like ostentation, maybe that act isn’t so free of humility 😉 Like when we try to communicate to sound smart, versus communicating so that there is understanding. Communicate to understand and be understood, not impress. That’s humility.
So…what’s the point?
Humility is liberating! It frees us from the opinions and judgments and concerns of others, and it allows us to focus on the best we know. The humility of listen affirms that the Kingdom if Within, and that there is not a necessity to express ourselves verbally – that is almost always an expression of the ego. Of course, if someone asks a question, why not answer? More significantly, if someone goes about attacking or accusing us, there is no need to defend. No need to interrupt, the humble choice is always to listen, seek to understand and to be understood. It’s not about who is right. It’s about the best that you know, come what may. Humility allows us to focus on being and doing our best, and frees from that pesky ego that wants to prove its own worth and defend its existence.
Practice silence a day, that will humble the heck out of anyone. Then again, don’t. 🙂 Deep listening is a wonderful practice…simply try to allow everyone to speak as they desire, and patiently wait 2-3 seconds after they finish speaking to offer a response. Become aware of the ego desiring to interrupt and instead choose to listen and love.
And, for more humility in practice, freely asking someone, “How can I help you?” or “How can I serve?” sounds like a pretty humbling thing to do. You could also pose this questions internally, along with “What can I give to this present moment?” and “What’s the most I can do?” and living by these questions will orient you towards a spirit of giving and service, no doubt humble!