“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” ― Ernest Hemingway
As we begin 2022, here’s the word, or personal quality really, that I recommend we keep at the forefront of our yachay (mind), munay (feelings), and llank’ay (actions): humility.
Hemingway, in the quotation above, zeroes in on why humility is a worthwhile developmental goal: it’s a growth pattern that takes us from past to present, and from present to future in our conscious evolution. The Andean tradition is nothing if not practical, and humility keeps us focused on improving ourselves while also not inflating ourselves. After all, as French philosopher Michel de Montaigne aptly reminds us, “On the highest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own bottom.” That sounds so much like the paqos! Reach high, but be real.
Humility is a step in the development of munay. Don Ivan Nuñez del Prado says that to develop our munay to the highest level, we first learn to care for others, then we learn to develop virtue, and then humility. He explains humility’s relation to munay this way: “Humility is the recognition of not having something. If you recognize that you don’t know or have everything, that makes room in you to acquire it. It’s related with atiy [action and refining our impulses]. So, the ultimate thing in your humble way of being is that it is going to give you the possibility of [understanding] what you are missing, and then you are going to make room for those things.”
Atiy is action, the ability to move beyond base impulses to higher ways of thinking, feeling, and being. Being humble is the engine of our atiy, because humility allows us to see ourselves truly and realistically. We recognize how far we have come in our development—and how far we have to go. Then with that self-awareness, we take responsibility for improving ourselves. Our atiy and our increased self-awareness can then fuel our ayni. Ayni is intention and action. Put another way, it is rimay (our thoughts and how we communicate them to the world) externalized through our atiy, our capacity to take action. Without atiy we have no confidence: atiy is the “I can do it” attitude and energy that allows us to express our intentions through action. As don Juan Nuñez del Prado says, when you combine your rimay and atiy, the only one who can stop you from achieving whatever you want is yourself.
In these ways, rather paradoxically, to see ourselves as “humble” and to have “humility” as human beings (and as paqos) is to describe or name capacities we are both aspiring to and continually practicing. In many spiritual, religious, and philosophical schools and traditions, humility has a wide range of associations, even contradictory ones: from having a low regard for ourselves, even to the point of feeling unworthy, to having a strong sense of self-worth and even personal power but not being arrogant or prideful. From our Andean perspective, there really is no contradiction. To cultivate humility, we recognize where we are heavy without judging ourselves as unworthy, and we undertake a process of self-refinement that increases our sami without inflating ourselves but being realistic about the growth we have achieved. From a paqo perspective, humility can be viewed as a process of increasing access to our Inka Seed, which holds the capacity for our enlightenment, and a refinement of our capacity for munay—the choice to express love. Since we can only love others in proportion to how we love ourselves, this developmental enterprise by necessity starts within.
That “going within” process starts, as I have already indicated, with being real and realistic. Being humble means acknowledging both our gifts and our challenges, or even our deficits. It is about letting go of pretense and taking off our psychological and emotional masks—both the ones we show to the world that make us appear as “less than” we really are and those that present us as “more than” we really are. Humility means allowing ourselves to be who we are, just as we are, right now. In other words, be real! Charles Spurgeon, a nineteenth-century editor and preacher, expressed this idea succinctly and directly: “Humility is the proper estimate of oneself.” From that proper estimate of ourselves, humility helps us cultivate increased self-awareness, which at heart means we stay vigilant about being bringers of sami rather creators of hucha. Whenever we put intention into action we are acting in ayni with others and the living universe. We can’t fake our ayni. So, in practical terms, striving to create sami instead of hucha means that while we are who we are, we are also trying to live from our Inka Seed, which holds the potential for our expression of all that we can be as human beings. As the cliché goes: Practice makes perfect . . .
Learning to cultivate humility accelerates our growth toward that most precious of human qualities: integrity. Integrity is the core characteristic of our Inka Seed, because although the word “integrity” can mean several things, at heart it defines the condition of being whole. To be whole and undivided is to harmonize of the energy of our Inka Seed—to follow the truth of that inner compass without difficulty or constraint. Humility leads us toward this kind of integrity. It can be like a force, lifting us up the qanchispatañan, the stairway of the seven levels of consciousness or human development. We can be happy and live a fulfilled life at any level of consciousness if we are keeping our poq’po (energy body) sami-filled and resonating with our Inka Seed. One level isn’t better than another level, but it is different. What’s different? Our access to the full measure of our capacities. The way I look at the qanchispatañan is that at each higher level we find more within ourselves what we are willing and able to express. We’re not, as Hemingway says in the quotation that leads this post, “superior” to our former selves from self-aggrandizement but from self-awareness, and from gratitude and choice. As Mother Teresa said, “If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.”
And when we know who we are, we tend to allow others to be who they are. Writer Vicki Zarkzewski, director of the Greater Good Science Center, expresses beautifully how humility can have such a profoundly sami-filled impact, both on ourselves and others: “When I meet someone who radiates humility, my shoulders relax, my heart beats a little more quietly, and something inside me lets go. Why? Because I know that I’m being fully seen, heard, and accepted for who I am, warts and all—a precious and rare gift that allows our protective walls to come down.” Such is the gift we can give ourselves, and, more importantly, we can give each other through cultivating our humility and making that aspect of ourselves a core part of our ayni interchanges. As don Juan Nuñez del Prado reminds us, as paqos, “Our work is not hard, it’s just nurturing what is already inside us.”