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Humility and Happiness

These days I am slightly obsessed with Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan friar ordained to the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church in 1970. He is an internationally known inspirational speaker and has published numerous recorded talks and books, Yes, And...: Daily Meditations, Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, and Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi.  He has a new book coming out this month that I cannot wait to get my hands on entitled The Divine Dance. Here’s the description on his Amazon page:

“What if changing our perception of God has the potential to change everything?
God is not what you think. Visions of an angry, distant, moral scorekeeper or a supernatural Santa Claus handing out cosmic lottery tickets to those who attend the right church or say the right prayer dominate our culture. For many others, God has become irrelevant or simply unbelievable. In The Divine Dance, Fr. Richard Rohr (with Mike Morrell) points readers to an unlikely opening beyond this divinity impasse: the at–times forgotten, ancient mystery of the Trinity―God as utterly one, yet three.

Drawing from Scripture, theology, and the deepest insights of mystics, philosophers, and sages throughout history, Fr. Rohr presents a compelling alternative to aloof and fairytale versions of God:
One God, belovedly in communion, as All–Vulnerable, All–Embracing, and All–Given to you and me.

The Divine Dance makes accessible and practicable the Christian tradition’s most surprising gift…

God as Dance.
Are you ready to join in?”

Provocative right? I know. I will join in Richard! I think I love him. (Insert Partridge Family song.)

I really wish I could get him on the podcast. Hmmmmm…

This seems to be a question on the minds of a whole lot of us, based on the number of books out there on the subject. The numbers of people suffering with addiction is staggering. Depression is an epidemic. And the deep dissatisfaction that is manifesting in violence on our streets is sadly an everyday thing on our mainstream media.

According to a 2013 Harris poll just 33% of Americans report being happy and that was down two points from the 2009 study. 

What is it we are missing? I ask this all the time in different ways to some of our guests on the Happy Healthy You! podcast. My basic thesis upon starting the podcast was that happiness arises from a healthy balance of mind or mental health, bodily health and wellness and regular spiritual practice and connection. I still firmly believe this after three years of doing the podcast, maybe even more. But perhaps I need to dig a little bit deeper.

So, for my yoga teachings and for some of the podcasts I am going to dig in and look more deeply at some of the ways we get in the way of our happiness and some of the more specific ways we can enhance it. I like going deeper. In fact I rarely enjoy being on the surface. It’s intense to be me. Maybe I will even lighten things up with some meditation and prayer. 
Sounds like a party to me. Woo hoo! You in?

Lets talk about humility and happiness, shall we? What is the connection? How can awareness of our prideful, egoic natures help us find more satisfaction and ultimately happiness, maybe even joy? Lots of people have had opinions on the subject.

First we should look to the experts for a definition of the word humility. Wikipedia's an expert, right? OK, sure why not. Here’s what whomever cared enough about humility to write about it there: 
Humility is the quality of being humble. In a religious context this can mean a recognition of self in relation to God or deities, acceptance of one's defects, and submission to divine grace as a member of a religion. Outside of a religious context, humility is defined as the self-restraint from excessive vanity, and can possess moral and/or ethical dimensions.Humility, in various interpretations, is widely seen as a virtue in many religious and philosophical traditions, often in contrast to narcissism, hubris and other forms of pride.

Back in 1918 Rabbi Shalom Dover delivered a challenging discourse on the subject of pride or ego and happiness. According to Rabbi Dover, "...the channel for receiving joy from above is a sense of nothingness before your Creator. Wherever there is that nothingness, joy shines from above. And wherever there is a keen feeling of self, there is no joy.

In yoga we practice humbleness by allowing the postures and the breath to transform us in mind, body and spirit. We empty ourselves and the yoga does it’s magic.  In the final relaxation pose, savasana, or corpse pose, we surrender the ego and let the practice sink in. Yogis believe that, at its core, humility is the fundamental respect towards all living beings, and the acknowledgment that in our essence we are all divine beings with the inherent capacity for greatness. Practicing humility dispels our egoic mind, purifies our soul and produces true knowledge and wisdom.
Child's pose is a nice posture to practice humility and surrender.

“We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.” 

Anyway back to Richard. May I call you Richard? (That’s me pretending to interview him on the podcast). Richard Rohr is singlehandedly bringing thousands of people back to the church with his somewhat radical (not for me) views of God, religion and spirituality. He’s an embracer. He says “yes, and…” instead of no. He is open and honest and awesome and above all, humble. You might not get the humble thing at first glance because he’s pretty confident about his beliefs and his teachings. He knows Jesus is “the man” and his theological expertise is beyond impressive. I think what draws me most to Richard Rohr is his realness. In his writings and books he gets to the root of who we are in such a way that I believe he and I are having the same essential struggles. He’s genuine, loving and very, very human. Yet he’s a Catholic priest. Now if’s that’s not enough to get one’s knickers in a knot, I'm not sure what would.

What does Richard have to say about humility? Here’s one thing:

“People who’ve had any genuine spiritual experience always know that they don’t know. They are utterly humbled before mystery. They are in awe before the abyss of it all, in wonder at eternity and depth, and a Love, which is incomprehensible to the mind.” 

But there’s lots more. There’s also this: 

Practicing yoga at the Monastery in Santa Barbara. Humbling to be there.
“The only people who grow in truth are those who are humble and honest. This is traditional Christian doctrine and is, in effect, the maxim of Alcoholics Anonymous. Without those two qualities—humility and honesty—we just don’t grow. If we try to use religion to aggrandize the self, we will end up just the opposite: proud and dishonest. Humility and honesty are really the same thing. A humble person is simply someone who is naturally honest about their own truth. You and I came along a few years ago; we’re going to be gone in a few more years. The only honest response to such a mystery is humility.”

I agree Richard. Humility is essentially being honest with oneself and others. Kind of the same thing. There is nothing to hide because we have laid down the ego. But how does this humble honesty help with our happiness?

I think what Richard would say is that happiness is not something we can actively chase. It is something that happens to us almost spontaneously when we least expect it. And it can arise out of a practice of humility and surrender. 

“Happiness is an inside job” is a quote of Richard’s. It’s also one of mine. Uh oh! I wrote my book Back to Happy in 2014 before I had read anything of Richard’s and I wrote the same thing. Sorry Richard! I didn’t know you yet. Totally accidental. Or was it? Maybe we were tapped into the same wisdom. That’s a humbling thought.

There’s another benefit of humility, with it, creativity flows like a river. We can just get out of the way and trust that what’s coming through comes from a higher source. And that’s the essence of happiness. It’s a gift from God and we might not deserve it or understand it but there we are being served up heaping healing helping of love from the Creator. Again, pretty humbling if you ask me. 

Oh yeah, Richard said this: 

“Faith does not need to push the river because faith is able to trust that there is a river. The river is flowing. We are in it.”

Faith and humility is a no-brainer. When I lost my daughter and life was almost too much to bear, humility was the only thing I had left to offer God. I write about this in Back to Happy. One day in my living room I literally got down on my knees and proclaimed that I couldn't do this grief thing on my own and asked God for help. It was humbling. It was surrender. It was the last best thing. Faith was the fruit of that surrender, for sure.

“Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change. In fact, God loves you so that you can change. What empowers change, what makes you desirous of change is the experience of love. It is that inherent experience of love that becomes the engine of change.” 

                     Richard Rohr

Love. It’s the happiness secret. It’s our deepest longing as humans - to be loved and to love. We need love, maybe now more than ever. We also need humility more than ever. (Can you say election year ickiness.) We need to be so humble that we love each other as equals - all of us - no exceptions. 

“Until we learn to love others as ourselves, it's difficult to blame broken people who desperately try to affirm themselves when no one else will.” 

And what is true intimacy without humility? We bare our souls before our beloveds and take the chance that we are still lovable to them. We love with all our hearts and hope and pray our hearts will not be broken. It’s scary stuff but to live fully as humans we must take the risk.

And yet our hearts do get broken. And we do miss the mark here and there. And we get caught up in the false reality of the world and believe the hype. But we have another choice. 
We can practice humility. We can be real with each other. We can trust that God has our back.  And we can love with no exception. 

I cannot wait to read Richard Rohr’s new book The Divine Dance. I hope you will check it out too. I’d love to hear what you think.

And now for a short practice:

Sit comfortably and feel the support of the seat or mat beneath you.  Sit tall from root to crown, shoulders back and down and neck slightly tucked. Allow the eyes to gently close, the brow to soften and all tension to drain from the body. Be at peace. Allow the breath to flow in and out slowing down more with each round of inhales and exhales. Slowing down. Notice any thoughts that might be coming up for you and just let them be, noticing them but not giving them story or energy. Simply experience you as awareness right this very moment. Take a few long deep breaths.

Now, bring to mind a mildly challenging issue that is going on in your life. Keep it simple and not too difficult. Bring it to awareness but don't build any kind of story around it. Just notice the subtle shift in your body as this challenge is brought to light. Where do you feel it? Wherever you notice an impact from your challenge imagine a golden white light forming, starting in that area and spinning and growing until it fills the entire body and extends outward to circle around the physical body. Notice how this feels. Just notice. Now imagine the challenging issue forming into a ball. Notice the color of the ball, the size, the weight. See the white light forming a circle around the ball and circling faster and faster around it until it gets smaller and smaller and finally disappears into the ethers. Notice your response as the challenge is released. Do you notice a shift in the mind? In the body? Be really honest about what you notice. Try to let go of any expectation and just see what comes through for you with respect to the issue you chose. Let go. Humbly be grateful for whatever comes up.

May you be happy. May all those you love be happy. May all beings be happy, healthy and humble.

Blessings and Namaste,


Anonymous said…
Beautiful Connie...just beautiful. "tapping into the same wisdom" i LOVE it...and definitely true. Thanks for all you share with us!
p.s. Connection always brings me to my happiness.
Connie Bowman said…
Thanks Lois! Humbled to be connect with you! XO

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