Humility: The Art of Being Enough

The art of being enough begins with the complete and total acceptance of ourselves (maitri), without labeling our shortcomings or our strengths. There are no credits or debits within the flow of life.

“All streams flow to the sea

because it is lower than they are.

Humility gives it its power.”

 ~Lao Tzu~

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The art of being enough is accepting that we meander with the river of life on our way to the sea. Each horseshoe bend of life is the forgiveness of ourselves and others so essential to the flow of being enough. Each bend reflects a challenge met, yet another way discovered.

Bending with life rather than letting life bend us is the power of humility, a delicate balance of keeping our thinking subordinate to our heart. The strength of humility is not denying our uniqueness but in expressing it, although those waters seem murky at times. Ego will do that.

When we allow our ego to supersede our heart, we cut ourselves off from the flow of life. Essentially, we are saying we are not enough. Continuously, we add up what we are and are not—our debits and credits are never enough–and with our abacus of self, we total up the world’s worth, which also falls short. There is never enough for ego without a heart.

The art of being enough regards life as an adventure with infinite possibilities. Rather than adding up life as a positive or negative, in humility we pursue life for the pure experience of it. We are not trying to mold it to assure a certain outcome; we bend with the possibilities, trusting the flow of being enough.

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How we live our lives is our unique contribution to the oneness of existence. Sooner or later, we become enough. Perhaps the best illustration of this is the story of the Hindu master and his apprentice.*

The apprentice is constantly complaining about life, how it measures up or does not. The Hindu master grows weary of the apprentice’s complaints and sends him to purchase salt.

Upon the apprentice’s return, the master tells him to put a handful of salt into a glass of water and drink it. Immediately, the apprentice pronounces the taste of the water as bitter. The master smiles and informs the apprentice they are going to the lake.

At the lake, the apprentice is told to throw a handful of salt into the lake and then take a drink from the water’s edge. The apprentice says the water tastes fresh. The master tells the apprentice:

“`The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain… remains…exactly the same. But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in.’”

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There is a grace in learning to bend with life, and perhaps in bending, we just may discover that our unique purpose is to do just that, express ourselves in the meandering flow of life on our way to the sea.

In the words of the Hindu master, “`…the only thing you can do is…enlarge your sense of things….Stop being a glass. Become a lake.’”  You are enough.

*The story of the Hindu master and apprentice first appeared in a January 2012 post; all citations are from Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening.