Humility on the path of awakening

Any coach worth their salt will practice what they preach to their clients: bringing awareness in an integral way to each area of their life, committing to notice and work with their own blind spots, their triggers and their biases.

That is what one might call a path of awakening: waking up to the reality of ourselves and our world.

Our conscious self-image – our collection of beliefs about ourselves – is only partially accurate. What’s omitted from that image is usually the stuff we don’t like. Whether our self-image is predominantly positive or negative is curiously irrelevant here: it's just as hard to admit our positive qualities as our negative ones, if those conflict with the self-image we've become attached to.

So if we’re committed to waking up to ourselves and to our world, intentionally noticing our own reactivity and confusion, the things we notice are going to be uncomfortable. Each insight can be liberating, but they’re also likely to be painful – sometimes excruciating. 

Sometimes it feels like thisWhy bother?

If this so-called path of awakening is so painful, why bother walking it? Each person’s answer to that question is individual, but for me, it’s because I don’t like the idea that my own unconsciousness might trip me up without my even knowing it. To quote R.D. Laing: 

“The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change.”

I can only succeed at anything if I can see reality accurately. In many areas I’m unconsciously blinded or biased, so I might behave precisely contrary to my goals, despite my best intentions. And having taken a few steps on this path already, I can see that I do exactly this, alarmingly often. Most often, that hurts me and others. The prospect of continuing in that way is nauseating. In continuing to wake up, of course, I aspire to do it less and less.

Do we have a choice?

Coaching is, in part, a process of walking with someone on their path of awakening. It can be scary, so gentleness and trust are critical. And yet, unless we are fully insulated, fully committed to remaining unconscious, we have little choice about walking that path. Because whenever we engage in the world, we can’t help but reveal ourselves: our wisdom and our ignorance, our beauty and our ugliness, our maturity and our childishness. Everyone is in this together, some more willingly than others.

Reflecting on that, for me, brings humility. Part of my precious self-image is that I’m especially special, uncommonly wise. And so my path, time and again, shows me the ways I’m neither special nor wise. Ironically, the act of accepting that would be both wise and special – but that is beside the point. Our egos are going to trip up, and trip up again, and again, until we stop clinging to them. If we can recognise this and practise a little humility, that would itself be a letting-go that would make it all a little easier for ourselves and one another.