…[the practice] will also hold up a mirror time and again, to show us what we would rather not see.
Zen is not just about waking up, but growing up. “Owning our stuff.” Being prepared to recognize our interpersonal and emotional habits. Going through the gritty work of not immediately projecting our “stuff” onto others – generally the first thing we tend to do if we feel bad, blaming something or someone outside of ourselves. Which from our “awakened” perspective we know to be nonsense. After all, who is the “other”? Yet we do it.
Often if we don’t blame others we may tend to lambast ourselves – as sub-standard, inferior, even globally incompetent and generally despicable human beings, whenever some small personal failing, shortcoming or setback shows itself. Rather than accepting our natural human fallibility, we may put ourselves down. Which also, from our “enlightened viewpoint,” is nonsense – what self is it that we are so eager to damn? Yet we do it.
We are not great. We are not ghastly. Others are not great. Others are not ghastly. Instead, we are all fallible human beings with both a limitless, luminous potential, and with eons of habituated flaws and unskillful ways of acting and functioning. We’re actually all doing our best.
The practice may throw open windows and doors we didn’t know were there to be opened. Yes, fine. Good. But it will also hold up a mirror time and again, to show us what we would rather not see. It is both patient and persistent. It will keep holding up that mirror until we give in, acknowledge whatever it is, fess up, apologize if necessary, and humbly return to our endless path of practice, with a sometimes chastened but grateful heart.
Any time things aren’t feeling so good, we can remember to check out where our humility is at. Humility is a reliable barometer — and doorway. It pretty much always welcomes us back into the ancestral halls where we belong.
Without humility, no gratitude.
Without gratitude, no peace, love or joy.