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Monday, May 2, 2011

Humility: 'Blessed are the Meek' and Humbled

A  friend of mine who is a long-time spiritual seeker told me the following story of an encounter he had while on a retreat with his spiritual teacher, Andrew Cohen. While my friend is non-alcoholic, it nevertheless has a lot to say about alcoholic addiction, and specifically with the alcoholic addict's life-altering encounter with humility.

Cohen, who is Jewish by birth, underwent a radical spiritual awakening with the help of a Vedantist guru in India, who himself was from the lineage of the great sage Ramana Maharshi. Cohen now teaches a cutting-edge brand of postmodern non-duality, which he calls "Evolutionary Enlightenment." Yet, on this retreat Cohen asked this group of non-alcoholic spiritual seekers what Jesus meant in the Beatitudes when he said, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

The meek, in popular thought, are likely seen as the person who always yields to other people, to their decisions and their interests, even when their own views and interests are far different. The group apparently gave Cohen a number of such 'Uriah Heep-like' definitions which he found unsatisfactory.

Andrew Cohen, Editor-in-chief,
EnlightenNext magazine.
"The meek," Cohen reportedly told the group, "are those who have been humbled by life." Then, he made the observation: "That is why alcoholics or addicts in recovery are amongst the luckiest people in the world. They've been humbled by life and they have the opportunity to wake up, right now, and inherit the earth in the here and now."

I went home and consulted my dictionary, knowing what I would find. And sure enough, when I looked up 'humble,' I got a circular definition. (Humble, humility; humility, humiliation, humiliated; humiliated, humbled, etc.) But then, when I looked up 'meek,' right at the end of the definition it said, "meekness=humbleness." At last! And then, when I looked to the definition of 'meek,' it said, "free of self." I get a chill now remembering this.

But what is it to be humble, to be meek, to be free of self? Perhaps. the best definition of this is on a plaque that Dr. Bob kept on his desk. It reads:

Perpetual quietness of heart. It is to have no trouble, It is never to be fretted or vexed, irritable or sore; to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me.

It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised, it is to have a blessed home in myself where I can go in and shut the door and pray to my Father in secret and be at peace, as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and about is seeming trouble.
"It is to have a blessed home in myself where I can go in and pray to my father in secret and be at peace." This, of course is a reference to Matthew 6:6-14, where Jesus urges his followers to use meditative prayer and what has been known since then as "the Lord's Prayer."

Going into an  "inner room" and closing the door being a parable for meditation, meditative prayer is recommended in the following terms:
“But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
“And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him."
[Matthew 6:6-9.]
And thus it is that prayer and meditation are both necessary as we patiently try to perfect our spiritual condition, knowing that we will fall short. For anyone who has tried meditation for an extended period will be humbled by just how raucous and noisy their ordinary egoic self-consciousness is. But with persistent effort, the alcoholic addict can and will improve his or her conscious contact with God, as God can always be found in the quiet; particularly when one is alone with the door to the sometimes seemingly calamitous events of our life closed behind us.

"There is a direct linkage among self-examination, meditation and prayer," we read in The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (at page 98). "Taken separately, these practices can bring much relief and benefit. But when they are logically related and interwoven, the result is an unshakeable foundation for life. Now and then we may be granted a glimpse of the ultimate reality which is God's kingdom."

And that is humbling. Truly, we alcoholic addict's in recovery are, as Cohen told his students, "among the luckiest people in the world."

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