“The seeker of truth should be humbler than the dust.” – Gandhi
There is a common dynamic in most world religions, that one must go “down” before one can go “up.” It’s counter-intuitive and certainly counter-cultural, but many wisdom teachers including Jesus pointed to this pattern. Sadly, much of the world views this approach of humility as weak, fragile, or feeble. In a society that puts power before thought, it’s no wonder this path would seem less desirable. GOOD NEWS!! There is nothing to fear about spiritual humility! In fact, when we train ourselves to enter into a space of humility we find we can more easily access the fruits of the spirit-such as love, JOY, peace, patience kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When we go inward (or down) and find our truest self we can rise into a new consciousness.
Lent provides the perfect space to slow down, look inward, and then move outward into the world again-hopefully a little changed. Humility is not about shame or guilt. Humility is about “grounding” oneself in the truth of things. The Latin humus, literally means ground or dirt! When we root ourselves in the truth we can move more freely and love more deeply. Humility is one of the four vows of my own religious community, The Community of the Mother of Jesus, and I practice a number of different exercises around humility. The best place to start is to listen more than you speak. I find that I am able to perceive wisdom much faster when I am simply listening to what is going on around me. Truth revealed through humility is rooted in the present moment, the way things really are at that space in time. Only then can we move into another great exercise in humility: seeking and expressing gratitude (this is where the joy comes in). Each time we can orient our minds and souls to the many ways we are grateful we bring ourselves more and more inline with the very nature of God. To operate from sincere gratitude is to operate from divine love.
Think about the dust that Gandhi mentioned in the quote above. It exists exactly as it is, and even when it is blown about by the wind it is unchangeable-its identity is secure. So when you hear the words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return” on Ash Wednesday, how will you reflect on that truth? I hope you will allow yourself to be grounded in the wonderful reality of God, that all things come from and return to the Creator. And remember, dust is eternal, and so are you.