Humility is Kind of a Super Power
It’s been an interesting couple of months.
I was solo hiking when I rolled my ankle, heard a “pop” and fell to the ground. I couldn’t put any weight on my foot and had to wait for a kind stranger to come along and half carry me back to my car. I drove myself home, only to realize I could barely make it to the house without crawling. After a bit of an internal struggle, I called some friends who shuttled/carried me to urgent care. Luckily nothing was broken, but I’d sustained a pretty severe sprain, and was given an immobilizing boot and instructions to stay off my foot for at least a few days, and to take it easy as much as possible.
If you know me at all, you’ve probably gathered that “taking it easy” isn’t something that comes naturally to me. However sometimes life strongly coerces us into doing things we’re not used to. In my case that was a very swollen and painful ankle.
I ended up having to cancel a workshop, miss classes, postpone coffee meetups and call on friends to help me out with all kinds of “adulting” stuff like dog walking and grocery shopping.
I wrestled with shame a lot. There were days when I felt pretty damned sorry for myself and didn’t want to leave the house. I was embarrassed to get up and teach in front of people with a boot on because I couldn’t it do it with the maneuverability I’d had before. A maneuverability that I’d taken for granted.
It was very humbling.
Then, at a certain point a realization hit me - humility is kind of a super power.
There’s this Niyama (personal observance) in the Yoga Sutras (a fundamental text for Yoga) called Santosha. It essentially means “contentment”. It’s the ability to be with what is, including our thoughts and feelings, and not react. Not resist. It sounds pretty simple, but in practice it can be rather challenging. However when we cultivate this skill, we remember that we have a choice in how to approach a challenge. We can do so with ease and compassion if we want, which in turn reduces suffering.
There’s also a parable from the Buddhist tradition that talks about suffering. There are two arrows. The first arrow is the painful thing that happens to us. The second arrow is our emotional reaction and resistance to that painful thing. We can avoid that second arrow by choosing contemplation over reaction. Through that non-reactive observance, we are able to choose how we move through that painful experience.
So how do we begin to incorporate these practices into our lives? By simply noticing.
In the case of my sprained ankle, it was noticing my prideful identification with being independent. Noticing the shame that came up every time I asked for help. Noticing my resistance to the thing that was slowing me down.
As I noticed these patternings, a cool thing started to happen - the patterning shifted and I saw the situation in a completely different light.
I realized that because I was reaching out to my community for help, I was connecting more deeply with others. I discovered more empathy and compassion for those around me who might also be going through painful experiences, which injected new inspiration into my work. I realized I had within me the resources to figure out how to move through life in a way that supported my healing, while still getting stuff done. I also realized it was OK to let some stuff slip through the cracks. People still loved me even when I wasn’t “doing” stuff.
I was able to settle into just “being” for a bit.
I was able to have this breakthrough because I surrendered to the humility in it. I let it strip away my false-identification around being a person who earns her keep. Who isn’t a burden to others. Who can muscle through any challenge all by herself.
I let myself be vulnerable.
And through that vulnerability I found a depth of strength I’d forgotten about. The kind of grounded, loving strength you might encounter in the forest or in the mountains. The kind of strength that makes you feel tiny and like a superhero at the same time.
If you’re going through a humbling experience right now, I encourage you to surrender to it. I realize that might conjure up some fear, but give it a try anyway. In order to break old patterns we’ve got to try something different. Why not try something wisdom traditions have been teaching for thousands of years. There’s lots of support out there. Why not open up to it and see what happens?
If I can be of any support, please reach out to me here.