The notion of humility as a virtue brings numerous images to mind, some based on culture and some on expectations. For some people, the concept may not be so culturally valued, and for others, humility may have been a lesson learned by their key role models or institutions.  This is the same with the concept of karma. For some people, they follow a life that holds the concept of karma at the base of each decision they make, and for others, it is merely a word that holds no value.

We tend to envision those exceptional individuals who humbly bear life’s struggles while downplaying their own strengths. Yet humility can also be associated with people whose insecurities compel them to judge themselves unfavorably as a matter of course. And karma as a way to justify their choices, with the underlying wish of harm for others.

My first encounter with the word humility was not growing up, nor throughout my training as a yoga teacher, but from an exceptional person that I was lucky to cross paths with. Our biggest teachers come into our life when we are ready.

Sure I had seen the word somewhere before but had never deeply understood what it meant, or felt the desire to cultivate it. The dictionary meaning of humble said, “having or showing a modest or low opinion of your own importance; of low rank; not large or special”.

I thought to myself, “Why would I do that?” Why would this be considered even a good trait? Thinking low of oneself – isn’t that bad?

The true definition of humility, however, does not correspond precisely with either of these images. Humility is not passivity. Rather, it is an utter lack of self-importance. The individuals who embody the concept of humility appreciate that each human being on the planet occupies a unique place on an infinite spectrum of development. Though they can take a certain pride in their own accomplishments, they also understand that the people they interact with each day are as valuable and have as much to offer the world as they themselves do.

When you practice humility, you want to become as accomplished and evolved as you can possibly be, yet you are willing to submit to the expertise of others to do so. You understand the scope of your aptitudes yet you choose to eradicate arrogance from your attitude, and you can distinguish the value you possess as an individual while still acting in the interests of your fellow human beings.

Humility, simply put, is a form of balance in which you can celebrate your own worthwhile sincerely believing that every other person on the planet is just as worthy as you. What a beautiful trait to cultivate. But maybe not so easy in our society?

Does your mind ever alter between the extreme states of “I know everything” and “I know nothing”? For example,  after engaging in a conversation with someone and you come away feeling extremely proud or the reverse, you feel unheard? How do we find that sweet spot between finding a state of balance and practice humility in this pull of emotions?

To be humble is to accept that while there will always be individuals more and less advanced than yourself, those on all parts of the spectrum of development can provide you with insights that further your personal evolution. But we must learn to open ourselves to be able to recognize these insights. We must be prepared to understand and accept that others think and feel differently than us, and their life experiences have shaped them in a very different way than yours have shaped you. But at the same time, you must also accept and honor your differences and goals and be willing to voice them and live with an awareness of your value.

This means that while you may have a greater understanding of some areas, you must always know that others will always be able to teach you something. This does not mean that you take their teachings in replace of your own, but where you find discord, allow this to strengthen your open awareness.  When you cultivate a genuine yearning to know what skills and talents those you encounter have been blessed with, you cannot help but learn humility.

Karma and humility

For those of you who follow a yogic path, the concept of Karma will not be new to you. It is often thought of as  ‘what goes around comes around, or “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”. But I tend to see the concept of Karma more in line with the teachings of Sadhguru, ‘The search for truth means to see how to live in such a way that we are absolutely in truth – in our way of being, thinking, feeling, and in the activities, we perform’.  Therefore if you use your activity to entangle yourself, that is called karma. If you use the same activity to liberate yourself,  that is called Dharma. This I see more in line with the concept of humility. And therefore is within each and every one of us.

Awareness allows us to work through the obstacles towards our goal of Samadhi.