Writing The Transcendent Life forced me to put into practice its principles. I found that writing a book on humility was humbling. This, of course, does not mean that I am now a humble man. It means I have been humbled, and in the humbling I discovered something I believe is worthy of our attention.
I had a two-month deadline for writing this book. I had written about humility before, so there was a wealth of material that served as my foundation, but I also felt called to come up higher. The call was to rise to a height where I could see what I had not seen before, but I felt the weight of my conditioning and past experience. It’s hard to be humble, you know.
The transcendent life, the humble life, is hard because we make it hard. We hold on when the way to a new life is letting go. The things, experiences, and life that are truly ours come because we let go. Loving relationships come when we forget ourselves. We are lifted up by making ourselves small. It is in this way that we come to understand the true nature of power.
These are a few of the things I learned and put to the test. Putting principles to the test is the key because what I really learned was that ideas are not real until they are lived. The Transcendent Life was written with this in mind. There are powerful ideas within its pages, but there is also a section of the book titled “A Forty Day Guide to The Transcendent Life.” I suggest you read and put to the test the exercises of each day. The basic message of this concluding section of The Transcendent Life is that the humble life is not principles and ideas. It is life, a life you are destined to live.
I sense a way of life unknown to most of us. We yearn and search for it, but for the majority of the human family, it is undiscovered. It remains what could be, a potential that tugs at our hearts and calls to us.
Creativity, compassion, and productivity are the fruits of this life, and their constant companion is a perceived effortlessness. Something comes into being, and it is apparent that its origin is not of the earth. It has the look and the touch of the divine. It is birthed in an unseen place but comes to life as it flows easily from within us. We say, “Of course, this is the way it should be. This is natural. It came without effort.”
On the other hand, some things come into being through momentous effort. We hold them in mind and dwell upon them. We work hard and accomplish much, but often there is also much tension and anxiety. After the task is complete, we feel ourselves less instead of more. We are glad the project is over. We hope to never see it again. This is the tried and worn way that has worn many of us out. In the coming age, we will discover not a way that brings things into manifestation, but a way of life that reveals our true selves and accomplishes the extraordinary work of Spirit.
I believe there is an insatiable driving force within us. Many of us respond to it by trying to improve the quality of our lives, but our greater desire is to are beyond words; there are wisdom and creativity that will shock and enliven us and transform the world. The question is how are the power, love, compassion, and wisdom unleashed?
We wonder about the accomplishments of world renowned people. How do composers like Mozart creatively combine eight musical notes into masterpieces that move people for endless generations? How do writers and orators master language to such a degree that individuals who read their works are enlivened a thousand years from the day the words were uttered or written? For instance, why does the portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians on love (I Cor. 13:1-13) touch the people of our age the same way it did the people of his day?
The physical feats of athletes challenge every generation, but always there is someone who runs the gauntlet and pushes beyond the supposed limits of endurance and excellence. People are even able to forgive and express love to those who have harmed them or their loved ones. Without a doubt, there is a potential within each of us that is destined to be released. The question is how.
Have you ever sat quietly and watched as great birds of prey allow themselves to be lifted by currents of air ascending a cliff or winds rising up a mountain slope ? These masters of flight do not entertain a belief in personal power. Their “work” is not to rise, but to stretch forth their wings and be lifted by an unseen presence we know to be the wind. The birds can sense the rising air. They know its promise when it first brushes against their wings.
Can you feel an ascending power in you? It has called you higher from the day you were born. This power will one day be expressed in and through and as each of us. It awaits a sacred moment when we either feel or acknowledge our powerless or come to know that we know so little. The power is present. Love, compassion, and wisdom are present, closer than hands and feet and breathing. Through the ages only a few have known that these are unleashed by humility.
This insight is not new. Spiritual leaders of the past have always spoken of humility. For them, it was the key that unlocked the power within them. Humility is the master key that is given to the human family. However, the humble life remains one of the least understood ideals to which we can aspire. It seems to make little sense. The people we see that appear to be most successful are certainly not humble. In fact, many speak highly of themselves and their abilities. How can powerlessness lead to the expression of power? What a paradox it would be.
This book explores humility and the paradox it presents to humanity. Humility is worthy of our attention because the promise is that through humility we can live a creative and compassionate life that flows effortlessly from a divine center within us.
Successful lives can be lived without humility, but the most extraordinary lives that have ever been lived were lived by people who were humble. The individuals we respect the most have or had humility at the center of their lives. Mother Teresa of Calcutta had allowed a power greater than herself to pour through her soul upon the parched lives of people in need. Humility has allowed God’s work to be done and an extraordinary life to be lived. The highest and best one of us can express are not to be a rarity. It is evidence of the way life can be lived. What is achieved by one is the destiny of the many. When one person runs a four-minute mile, a threshold is crossed inviting all milers to perform at this level. When one of us experiences the effortlessness that is the natural result of humility, all of us are called to live a effortless, highly productive life.
However, effort is a prelude to the effortless life. Before a pianist can experience the harmony and rhythm of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 5, much practice is required. There are insights along the way that build upon one another until finally the music seems not to be played, but birthed for the first time within the musician. It is the same way when an athlete enters the “zone” and breaks a scoring record, but has little recollection of his or her efforts. There was only the flow and rhythm of the game.
The point is few if any beginners enter the zone. Effort is our beginning, but through humility we transcend the need to make it happen. We enter a special state of mind and heart that has always been our destiny. From this consciousness come extraordinary accomplishments that are obviously expressions of Spirit.
We were made for this: love, compassion, power, and wisdom flowing through us for the common good. It is vital that as this begins to happen we do not lay claim to it and call it our own. Humility opens the door to this way of life, and it sustains it. Through humility, we are so in awe of what comes into expression that we cannot call it our own. We know that it transcends us. Something mystical has come alive. We have felt the touch of the Divine, and now it reaches out to touch the world.
The Secret Revealed
As a youngster, I felt the power that is at the heart of the humble life. A good friend and I were playing in a housing project under construction in Gretna, Louisiana. Large, deep holes had been dug, and because of the level of the ground water, the holes had filled with water. My friend Stan slipped into one of the pits. At first, I laughed as he struggled to crawl out, but then I noticed the slippery black mud that formed the sides of the hole did not allow him to obtain a hand-hold. He panicked, and while clawing at the muddy bank, he rose and sank several times in the murky water. Stan was in danger of drowning. Without thinking, and without regard for my own safety, I slid into the hole and perched uneasily at the water’s edge. As Stan surfaced, I reached out and grabbed him under his arms and with a strength beyond a young boy’s lifted him straight out of the water and pulled him over me to safety. I did not realize it at the time, but I had felt the touch of the Divine and tapped a wellspring of Its power. I never forgot the incident, but I never spoke about it. It remained a special memory of an unexplained phenomenon. Now, nearly forty years later, I understand what took place that day. Unknowingly, I touched the humility principle and experienced the touch of the Divine.
Many people share a similar special memory, for such events are not uncommon. Nearly every year, someone experiences a power beyond himself as he tries to help someone in need. I once read of such an occurrence. A young wife heard a loud noise in the garage where her husband was working on their automobile. She flung open the door and saw her husband pinned beneath the heavy weight of the car. The weak cries of her loved one and his wide-eyed look of terror called the one hundred pound woman to action. She forgot herself and her “limitations,” and without a thought lifted the automobile from her fallen husband. Each year an account similar to this one is reported somewhere in our country. It is a blatant reminder of an untapped resource that lies within us.
Emergencies may seem to be the prerequisite before a transcendent power is available to us, but this is not true. Divine power is available in times of crisis, but it can also be accessed at any time and by anyone. In fact, a way of life awaits us in which “special memor”Ó are natural and a part of daily living. This is true because there is a humility principle constantly at work in our lives. “for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk. 18:14). Principles are powerful allies because they are eternal, dependable, and impersonal. The humility principle is as available to one person as another. It does not respect one race over another. It is not influenced by social or economic status or education. Its sole measure is intent. Why do we do the things we do? Do we work and live to be exalted or do we live to assist others and the unfoldment of the divine plan?
Our Creator is wise, for It has devised the universe so we gain respect and honor when it is not important to us. This is a paradox and the reason why many people have not yet discovered the humility principle.
For instance, this explains why hard work often goes unrewarded. Our motivation is narrow and limited to us. We are supposed to forget ourselves, but we have forgotten the people who share the planet with us. Rather than think about other people, we think about ourselves. We may not think or use the word exaltation, but we work to benefit ourselves. The paradox is that with every step we take, we fall behind. Furiously we try to claw our way to the top, but like Stan, our frantic efforts fail to lift us above our difficulties.
From Effort to Effortless
This is an old story that is repeated again and again. From the human viewpoint, great effort must be expended before great works are accomplished. “Work hard and you will get ahead” expresses the work ethic of the late twentieth century. The problem is that in our age, it is obvious that hard work does not always lead to success. In fact, individuals are realizing that hard work is often prelude to frustration and exhaustion. Part of the problem is that the work is for ourselves. There is no humility or thought of the whole. Our intent is shallow, therefore we falter.
Much energy can be expended, but no work done. For instance, we can push against the wall of a tall building for hours and not move it a single inch. We are exhausted and perhaps frustrated, but by definition, no work is done because nothing is accomplished. A farmer can plow, seed, and, fertilize his fields, but unless there are crops to harvest, nothing is actually produced.
And there is another dimension to consider. The Hebrews built many colossal temples and structures in Egypt, but there was no great sense of accomplishment. How could they, they were slaves. In pursuit of success, we sometimes become slaves to what we do. In fact, hard work can lead to fatigue if it is not joined to a purpose that reaches beyond ourselves.
Whether we work hard and accomplish little or work hard and accomplish much but feel like a slave to our work, there is another way. Remember, the humble life is marked by a feeling of effortlessness. In fact, because of this feeling and the ease of accomplishment, we cannot call the achievement our own.
Taking credit, exalting ourselves, is obviously an error. The effortlessness with which something unfolds and the extraordinary results tell us that a power greater than ourselves is at work.
Understanding the humility principle enables us to work in harmony with it. We can adopt it in a certain situation and eventually as a way of life. The Bible is filled with examples of this approach to living. Not only does scripture tell the tale of the power of humility, it also reveals how the humility principle is activated. The story of David and Goliath is a good place to start our study of the humble life. Let us return to the time David stood before Goliath and heard the giant’s thundering voice shout to him of how the birds would soon eat his flesh. David replied, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand” (I Sam. 17:45-46).
David’s words were an indication of humility. As he stood before the Philistine champion, David did not rely upon his skill with the sling, although it was considerable, nor did he look back at his previous triumphs over the lion and the bear. David’s confidence was not in himself. His confidence was in God, and because of this, an extraordinary event happened. The seemingly impossible came into being.
This confrontation is a perfect outpicturing of the humility principle: “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” This was critical for David. If his confidence had been in himself, he would most likely have died a foolish boy facing a man of war.
Goliath activated the humility principle by exalting himself, and caused the forces of the universe to bring him to his knees. In this instance, the force called upon was David, IsraelÕs boy champion, who humbled himself by acknowledging the power and presence of God. He knew that by himself he could not defeat Goliath. David’s humble spirit allowed a supreme power, wisdom, and calm to be expressed through him.
David’s humility can be our teacher. He spoke the truth of God’s power and so can we. There is, however, no power in the words themselves. The words spoken by David allow us to catch a glimpse of the consciousness of humility and learn more of its ways.
Several ideas are obvious in David and Goliath’s story. When we face a challenge head-on, acknowledging Spirit’s power and giving God the credit before we act, power is unleashed from within us. Our efforts are necessary, for God and we are at work together. Our actions are guided by infinite wisdom, and therefore not our own. In an effortless way, what is needed in that moment is available to us.
A secret is revealed, the humility principle. As we examine the life that naturally flows when we humble ourselves, we will see many examples of the touch of the Divine. Each touch is a gift. Sometimes we are given words to say. At other times, our efforts are guided, and we do the right thing. All of this and more occurs without us taking thought. Effortlessly, we face our challenges, live life, and learn beyond all doubt that we are not alone, that our God loves us and is in oneness with us always.
There is a humility principle at work in my life. He who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
One sign of humility is effortlessness.
Forgetting myself and my limitations and serving the needs of another are forms of humility.
Acknowledging the presence and power of God is a form of humility.
I acknowledge my powerlessness and the power God is.
Humility invites the love, compassion, and power God is to come into expression.