Owning Your Nobility

Practice of the Week
Owning Your Nobility

Category: Slogans to Live By: Practices for everyone to keep in mind and pay attention to. These practices don't require setting aside a separate substantial chunk of time. Just have the intention to grow stronger in each of these areas as you go about your day, and sometimes make one of them the focus of your daily journaling. The titles of these practices are guiding slogans to live by.

Mind training begins with getting in touch with our deepest, best motivation. As human beings we are inherently noble -- inherently motivated to see life truly, generously, magnanimously. This is our human birthright, our human capacity. It is why every human community from the dawn of time to the present has had some form of wholesome, salvific spirituality. But the pressures of life and the persistence of human folly, embedded as these are in our societies and our communities (and therefore also in our own minds and hearts), can obscure our noble motivation to be wise and compassionate. That's why we need to remind ourselves of our noble heritage as human beings and step up to embody it.

Probably our biggest challenge in spiritual practice is not that we don't have the time or the talent or the focus or the right atmosphere or setting. Probably the biggest challenge is simply that we don't take ourselves seriously enough. Though we may believe that spiritual practice is a good idea and self-transformation a possibility, when it comes down to it, we don't really think it's possible for us. Or maybe we actually don't want to transform. Of course we want to transform -- especially if our lives are noticeably unsatisfactory. But at the same time, we don't. Our motivations are mixed. So we can't be truly serious about our practice. Owning our nobility, we step into seriousness.

It is a rare and precious thing to be a human being. That's why we send money overseas in times of disaster, why we know it is wrong to take a human life. It's wrong not just because it is illegal, but because human life is sacred, precious. The heritage, the legacy, of being human is to manifest wisdom, compassion, and lovingkindness, to be fully worthy of our lives, worthy of admiration and celebration. This is your nature, my nature, the nature of every human being. In this we are all the same. No one is more worthy, more sacred, than you are. And you are no more worthy, or sacred, than anyone else.

Given this as a basis for our life, we can be perfectly aware of our many faults. Faults are perfectly natural, like earthquakes or floods. They may have bad consequences sometimes, but they are to be expected. The more we can learn to anticipate their periodic eruptions, the better off we will be.

But along with these various faults, at the same time, deep within us is this beautiful, noble human heritage. The reason for honoring and attending to our great saints and spiritual exemplars the world over is not to set up their supposed perfection as a reproach to us. It is the opposite. Their example shows us what we could be and what we are. To own your nobility is to remind yourself every day of who you really are. None of the world's great spiritual exemplars has ever said, "Look at me, how great I am; pay attention to me!" All have said, "I am what you are."

True nobility is not about lording it over the peasantry. For example, the Dalai Lama is owning his nobility when he says, as he often does, "I'm just a simple monk. I'm trying my best." I believe he really means this, and he's embodying noble simplicity. He's trying his best to practice. And if we admire him, what we are really admiring is not him but this potential within ourselves for such humble nobility.

For Journaling

Describe how and when, in the last 24 hours, you owned your nobility.

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For list of all weekly practices: "Spiritual Practice Directory"

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