A. Cultivating humility is something that westerners need to be careful with, as it is something that doesn’t come easily to us. If we ‘try’ to be humble, we enter the danger zone. Who is it that wants to be humble anyway? We could so easily become one of those self-righteous, not to mention judgmental, types of people, ending up with an even bigger ego. So how do we bring this essential quality into our practice?

Humility is that quality that begins to grow of itself through time in practice. Our willingness to contain our habitual outflows and to not go down the familiar road of reactivity is to deny the self, to deny its desire to reinforce itself and to be in control. This containment is the actual surrender of self; so the turning away from the self’s desire for fulfillment in this way naturally becomes the cultivation of humility. Not as something you do, but the natural consequence of not bringing the grasping nature of self to whatever the situation may be. By practising in this way we slowly begin to become familiar with the experience of not wanting to have things our way all the time. And we begin to waken up to the reality that not wanting things our way actually begins to open up a freedom of being that can genuinely change our lives.

To encourage the development of this quality still further, I’ve discovered that the act of bowing can be of profound support. Humility is to accept that there is something far greater that is beyond ‘me’, my possessions and my desire to control. Whilst bowing in front of a Buddha rupa, in your mind gather up all possessions and notions of self and hand them to the Buddha. All of them, including those possessions that you regard as spiritual insight and wise. Unload yourself of everything and ask the Buddha to help you to give up all of these sticky possessions. In that emptying, there will not be the void that you may imagine, but the warmth of humility when you realise that beyond the blindness of self, a vista of something profound and far greater than ‘me’ opens up. Oh, and don’t forget also to hand over the one that is doing the handing over!