True humility, wisdom, and greatness are inseparable. Those who are wise cultivate humility.
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Qualities of the Awakened Heart
It's always helpful to have a spiritual practice that supports living consciously every day, but it becomes undeniably essential to our well-being in difficult times. We need to discover deeper resources—resilience, patience, equanimity, wisdom, creativity, compassion, and more. We need that now.
Victor Frankel wrote: When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
We have deeper resources—they are divine qualities innate to the soul. When the heart and mind are purified through spiritual practice, those resources or soul powers naturally emerge. Paramahansa Yogananda points that out when he notes that through Kriya Yoga (the spiritual discipline for Self- and God-realization), we can function on a higher plane. Then divine qualities such as devotion, wisdom, compassion, or peace arise spontaneously to guide our thoughts and actions.
There is a beautiful description of these qualities in Chapter 16 of the Bhagavad Gita. 16. 1-3
Fearlessness, purity of heart, abiding in yoga [samadhi], along with knowledge, charitable giving, self-restraint, and holy offerings, study of sacred texts, austerity, and uprightness. Nonviolence, truth, absence of anger, renunciation, serenity, freedom from finding fault, compassion for all beings, absence of cravings, gentleness, modesty, steadiness, vigor, forgiveness, fortitude, purity, freedom from malice and from pride; these are the endowments of those born to a divine destiny. 
The first message in this series was about one of those qualities—self-discipline—and how it can happen on two levels. It can either occur through self-effort and self-correction or through spontaneous right action flowing from higher consciousness when established in the soul's peace. When attention and awareness are anchored in our essential nature, we experience the peace that is natural to the soul. With that peace comes clarity to make wise choices that are in harmony with the soul. It is not a matter of effort; it is due to the clarity of awareness.
All the divine qualities work on those two levels—the level of disciplined effort, taking corrective action—and the higher level, which is spontaneous cooperation with the Infinite.
The Spiritual Role of Humility
This week's focus is humility. The Gita verse refers to it as freedom from pride. Pride is a trait of the ego, a function of the mind that imagines itself as the doer and owner of experience. It's the "I," the "me," that is proud of myself and whatever I think is mine.
An ego-based identity is fragile. Because it is not rooted in truth, it is insubstantial. It continually needs to be propped up. When we mistakenly identify with the false self, we need to believe that we are right, that we are appreciated, competent, good, and more. We need that because we mistakenly tie our sense of existence to it.
One helpful practice to cultivate humility is asking ourselves (especially in the heat of the moment): Do I need to be right? Do I need to insist on being right?
Humility makes us nicer to know and easier to live with, but the spiritual role of humility is something more significant. The spiritual function of humility is receptivity to divine support. When we get over "I did it, I own it, I am this or that," we can be open to the true Source of all that is. We can be receptive to grace. We can let go of trying so hard to be what we are not and be what we are, which is divine.
This brings us to an interesting tension point. How can we recognize the divine truth of our being and still be humble?
A Teaching on True Humility
A story from the Jewish tradition says that Rabbi Simcha Bunem had a practice for this. He always carried two slips of paper—one in each pocket. On one, he wrote: for my sake, the world was created. On the other: I am nothing but dust. Then he would take out whichever slip was necessary to remind himself. True humility is recognizing both the insignificance and the magnificence of what we are. Complete emptiness and fullness. Empty of ego yet radiantly full, as the divine Self shines through.
First, we cultivate humility by getting over "egotism," the false sense of pride or superiority in all its forms, or its flip side, inferiority. Both are ego-based problems. Getting over egotism, an overdeveloped sense of self-importance is usually not that difficult. A little honest introspection, discernment, a good friend, a spouse, our children, our spiritual path, or just life itself will let us know we are not really that hot.
The second level is more difficult, more tenacious. This is getting over "egoism," the fundamental obstacle on the enlightenment path of mistakenly identifying with the body, mind, and the roles we play in life. Freedom from "egoism" is the primary focus of Kriya Yoga. Self-realization is liberation from avidya, the false sense of identity, and realization of the true divine Self.
There is infinite freedom in Self-realization and the humility that accompanies it.
Consider or imagine having freedom from the need to control circumstances or other people and the freedom to be happy for no reason. The ability to be comfortable with uncertainty. Grateful and appreciative for all that is given every day. The ability to accept others as they are, ourselves as we are, and life on life's terms.
Start by letting go of clinging to opinions. Watch what happens.
Many years ago, I had a conversation with my spiritual teacher, Roy Eugene Davis. We were talking about a man who was a very successful minister in the New Thought movement. I mentioned to my teacher that this minister told me that he "got his start by studying Paramahansa Yogananda's teachings. He benefitted from them and then moved on from there." I was indignant. I said to my teacher, "How could anyone move on from that?” My teacher quietly replied, "I think Master [Paramahansa Yogananda] would have been very pleased."
No clinging. No pride. Very pleased.
Some words from the Third Patriarch of Zen:
The Great Way isn't difficult
for those who are unattached to their preferences.
Let go of longing and aversion,
and everything will be perfectly clear…
If you want to realize the truth,
don't be for or against...
Not grasping the deeper meaning,
you just trouble your mind's serenity.
As vast as infinite space,
it is perfect and lacks nothing.
But because you select and reject,
you can't perceive its true nature…
Don't keep searching for the truth;
just let go of your opinions.
 Bhagavad Gita 16:1-3, in The Eternal Way: The Inner Meaning of The Bhagavad Gita, trans. Roy Eugene Davis (Lakemont:CSA Press, 1996), 240.
 Seng-Ts’an, The Mind of Absolute Trust, The Enlightened Heart, Stephen Mitchell, Ed. (Harper and Row: New York, 1989), 26-27.