Embracing presence comes with an essential tool: humbleness. And being humble leads to gratefulness. I will try to explain.
We really think and feel we are the ones that do things in our lives, that make our lives happen.
We feel and think we are the ones that chose what kind of job we have, that we are the ones that have decided to read this note, that we are the ones that come to a decision about what to do, what not to do, and how to do it. When things go well we are proud of ourselves and when things go bad we feel bad; in both cases we say: I did it. And of course it is very important to take responsibility for what one does; it is important to feel good and self-confident about ourselves when things go well and to want to learn when things go wrong, but we should accompany that sense of responsibility with humility.
Even if from one point of view it seems we are the ones doing all those things, from a deeper, more fundamental, more real, more universal point of view, we do things because the whole of life, in that particular moment, allows us to move in that particular direction. That is humility and it is something that needs to be understood.
IF we have a desire, and then, IF the whole of life is somehow also moving in that direction, then that desire may come to fruition.
The desire is fundamental; without it, nothing can come. But without the whole of life also moving in that direction, the desire alone is far from enough.
If we look at ourselves, we can clearly see that there are many things we can do, but there are also so many things we cannot do. And why is that?? How come???
I was thinking of all this because a few days ago I received an email from a good friend of mine telling me that she finally finished her studies and became a surgeon. To become a surgeon is not an easy task at all, it is a huge endeavor and one has to have an enormous amount of self-will, desire and power to do it.
But what I find so interesting about this particular situation is that she also is addicted to various self-harming behaviors. We are friends for several years and over time we have talked about these addictions and discussed ways to deal with them. When she wrote me to tell me that she had become a surgeon, she also wrote that ‘those things’, as she calls them, were still there.
How come? Why was she able to finish such a complex and difficult task – become a surgeon – but, although she really wants to, she cannot deal with her self-harming behaviors?
The answer is that life has given her a good brain, a great capacity to focus, a strong will, the ability to push herself beyond her limits; she was given good health, time and money necessary to do what she wanted to do, the right circumstances, and she did it, she became a surgeon.
But life did not give her – at least not yet – the possibilities to get rid of her addictions.
This is just an example. But everything is like that.
You are reading this note right now because you chose to do so; otherwise, you would be doing something else. But to say ‘I chose to read it’ is just to say that you had the desire to read the note. But so many things, some of them not so obvious, had to happen, together with that desire, to allow you to be reading this note right now. Without the desire, reading this note would never happen. But without the infinite other things – starting with the Big Bang, the formation of the galaxies, the exact distance of the planet from the sun, the comet that killed the dinosaurs, the favorable climate conditions, the parents that you had, the parents that your parents had, your particular first experiences, the kind of mind that was given to you, the social-economic situation that exists in this moment, the health that you have, the interests that appeared in your mind etc, etc, etc – without the infinite number of conditions that are necessary for this moment to be as it is, you would never be reading this note.
The whole of life has to happen exactly as it is happening for you to be doing this right now.
Our desire, as important as it is, is only one drop out of the billions of drops necessary for this moment to happen. We can say that our desire is the most obvious cause of this moment, but it is far from being the only one. There is an infinite number of things happening right now, and an infinite number of things that have happened in the past that allow this particular moment to be exactly what it is.
Understanding this brings humility because instead of saying ‘I did it!’, we can say: ‘we did it!’, ‘we’ being the whole of life, the whole of the universe.
In reality, we don’t do things, life does, using us as instruments for that doing, just like it is not really an apple tree that produces apples, but it is life itself that does it, manifesting in the form of an apple tree.
Our desire (and even our desire is nothing but the movement of the whole appearing right now as: ‘I want to do this or that’) is always one of the drops, but a whole ocean is necessary for anything to happen at all.
But we often don’t see that invisible part, that life, that cosmos, that is the actual doer of action, that is the doer of every little movement that we make.
It is very important to have a sense of self-confidence towards ourselves, to feel good about ourselves and our possibilities, but never to be arrogant about what we do or don’t do. We need to feel that intimate sense of humbleness that comes when we see how things actually are.
And when we feel humble, then, something beautiful happens: we become grateful beings.
Or as Meister Eckhart* put it:
‘If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.’
*Eckhart von Hochheim, best known as Meister Eckhart, was a philosopher and mystic born around 1200. His views are very similar to the modern spiritual views of non-duality. One of his most famous quotes is: ‘The Eye with which I see God is the same Eye with which God sees me’.