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8 Pillars of Joy: Humility

Peggy Burt, Spiral Heart Yoga 9.11.22

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I recently rediscovered The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu et al.

A key anchor of the book are the 8 Pillars of Joy: perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity.

Pillar of Joy 2: Humility

This week I am exploring humility. Humility shows up on the yoga mat most directly in the “humble warrior” poses.

I have always enjoyed the juxtaposition of these two words – the gentleness of humility alongside the fierce power of a warrior. Perhaps when we blend these two aspects together, we can get a glimpse of the balance between light and dark, between sun and moon.

Our yoga practice is always humbling, as there is always more to learn – whether that be a physical pose, a breath practice, the depth of mindful awareness or an enduring sense of groundedness.

The Dalai Lama speaks of a Tibetan prayer-

“Whenever I see someone, may I never feel superior.” This is the second pillar of joy.

In our culture, the word humble can bring to mind the idea of meekness or timidity- not necessarily the qualities we wish to cultivate to shine in our most authentic brilliance. And yet we know that when we are trapped in false identification with the ego mind – what the yoga tradition calls “asmita,” we can make all kinds of foolish decisions and run over other people’s needs and feelings. We seek validation and praise instead of staying in a place of service and grace. Asmita is the second of the five kleshas, a set of challenges or obstacles that obscure our understanding of our own true nature, our true self. When we identify with the ego instead of the true self, we may end up following a path that leads to suffering.

Yoga teaches that our true self or essence remains stable no matter what the circumstances may be. It is like the quiet steady place in the eye of a storm. The eye is actually the calmest section of any hurricane. The strong surface winds that converge towards the center never reach the eye of the hurricane. Our body, mind and emotions are always changing, like those strong winds, but the true center is a constant place of calm.

In the beloved children’s book, “Charlotte’s Web,” the spider spells the word "humble" in her web to describe Wilbur the pig. When asked by Templeton the rat what that meant, she told him "not proud." Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing to have others describe us as humble? Humility brings us to curiosity, to a love of learning, to a place where we are open and receptive, to a place of compassion and giving, and to where we are very clear that we don’t “know it all.” For most of us, as we grow in age and grace, we find out that we still have a lot to learn.

"We are all connected. What unites us is our common humanity..."

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

On the mat or off the mat, may we feel that sense of humility that allows us to approach each new day as a gift – with the beginner’s mind and the bold heart of a humble warrior, for a deeper connection to our true self and to others.

The 8 Pillars of Joy from The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

By His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu et al. Random House Publishers.

Zen Garden photo at Huntington Gardens, Pasadena by Peggy

Photo of Peggy by Gerry Puhara

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