One of the big downfalls that often happens on the path of self-improvement is a bloated sense of pride. Certainly, it helps to look back and gain confidence from what we have achieved so far. However sometimes, after a nice experience or a good spell in life, we can even feel that we have somehow figured everything out on life’s journey, and this kind of complacent feeling can easily lead to our downfall.
Where there’s an up, there’s a down
One of the reasons it is important not to be over elated about any progress you make, is that this idea can be very easily shattered by outer circumstances. One common thing that happens is when someone goes to visit some old friends or relatives, and finds themselves repeating the same negative cycles of behaviour that used to happen before they embarked on their self-improvement journey, despite all the progress they thought they made! A friend told me something humorous she read recently from one of Eckhart Tolle’s books: “If you think you’re enlightened, then go and live with your parents for a week.”
If you attach too much importance to the good times, you’ll attach too much importance to the bad times too, and believe that all your efforts so far were for nought. When it comes to evaluating inner progress, our human mind is a notoriously bad judge. The best thing is just to keep an even keel throughout both good and bad times.
Inner growth and humility go together
Something very interesting happens to people who progress along the road of self-discovery. They may start out by thinking they will obtain these things like ‘inner peace’ or ‘enlightenment’ – however, as they begin to escape from the confines of the limiting mind and live more in the heart, they feel a greater sense of kinship and connection with the world and with their fellow human beings. The focus of everything they so slowly changes from a selfish one to one more geared towards making the world a better place – even their pursuit of enlightenment. Hence when the Buddha sat down at the bodhi tree he vowed to obtain enlightenment not for himself, but for all sentient beings. Real inner growth always goes hand in hand with an increased sense of humility and selflessness. Conversely, an exaggerated sense of pride about one’s achievements tells you quite a lot about the ‘quality’ of those achievements in the first place!
Always have the attitude of a beginner
No matter how far advanced you are along the road of self-discovery, it always pays to have the attitude of a beginner. Every day is a new day, every morning ripe with new possibilities for self-discovery and self-expansion. My own teacher, Sri Chinmoy, meditated for almost seventy years and reached very high levels of meditation, yet he always described himself as ‘the eternal beginner’. No matter what he achieved, every achievement was merely a launchpad for the next step.
“When we start our journey, the first step forward is our goal. As soon as we reach this goal, we achieve perfection. But today’s goal, today’s perfection, is tomorrow’s starting point; and tomorrow’s goal becomes the starting point for the day after tomorrow. Continuous progress is perfection.” – Sri Chinmoy
Having the attitude of a beginner allows you to live in the moment, and get joy from the adventure of self-discovery, instead of anticipating an end result.
Photo: Sopan Tsekov, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries