Acknowledge your inherent ignorance and limitation and suspend your current sense of knowing. Make space for something new and the unknown, and invite your guides and teachers to show you the way.

In our western world, we all want not only to merely survive but also to succeed. To succeed we feel we need to demonstrate knowledge, to control, to be the leaders of our destiny. When we embark on a spiritual journey, we come to the search with pride, confidence and a businesslike approach, as if this is one more project for us to accomplish. We bring all our drama and fuss and think we can strike a bargain with the unknown, and bring it to its knees. We strangely believe that if we apply simple diligence and repeat to ourselves enough times that we want to reach enlightenment, it is surely going to happen.

But the spiritual path is an entirely different realm and it doesn’t open up to the proud and over-confident. You might think you are already halfway to enlightenment, while never realizing you haven’t even been walking in the right direction.

So, to enter the maze of the spiritual search, you are asked to suspend and renounce all that you think you know about yourself, about life, about reality and the truth, and acknowledge your profound ignorance and conditioning. This is not to make you weak or impotent, and it is not to cripple or disable you in any way; however, the doorway to the path is low and narrow, and you cannot pass through it walking erect and burdened with all your worldly knowledge and belongings. You have to lower yourself and empty yourself enough so you can cross the threshold and enter the kingdom of the spiritual maze.

The first lesson of humbleness

This is your first lesson, and it takes place even before starting the journey (and often during the journey) – the lesson of humbleness. You agree to bow your head down, and admit that all your previous knowledge and experience, all your sophisticated thoughts and ideas, are just irrelevant and a disturbance. You are ready to ‘hand over the keys’ and let someone else ‘drive your car,’ meaning you are prepared for a higher source of guidance to point you the way and lead you for a while. By agreeing to lose your apparent control and let a more experienced traveler direct you, you are following in the right direction toward the center of the maze.

You might think this lesson is easy and mistake it as quite superficial. Beware! The lesson of humbleness will require a very honest admission and its consequences are great. It is almost as if you are defying the instinctive urge to survive because part of our survival includes control and the sense of knowing. Agreeing to relinquish everything you have ever learned, and becoming more like a question mark rather than an exclamation mark, is your first anti-gravitational step toward self-realization.

My first surrender

I remember when I first met my spiritual teacher, I tried to impress him with my life experience and the sophisticated accumulated knowledge I had gathered from spiritual books. I was a lawyer and thought that spirituality was like academia – you just needed to memorize and learn hard enough and you could just get it. It didn’t take long for me to see that this attempt to impress and be someone who already ‘knows’ the truth was standing in the way and making me look ridiculous. My teacher quoted Jesus from the New Testament, who talked about the innocent ones who will enter the kingdom of heaven, and pointed me to this great lesson of humbleness.

He taught me how to fall in love with this internal state of pure not knowing and to let go of all my inner possessions. At one point I remember telling him I acknowledged my ignorance; that I could see I am made of the past, of society and all of its conditioning and that I could not expect myself to see the path. This honesty helped me to become available to genuinely being guided, with trust and joy. I did not doubt that a day would arrive when my teacher would tell me I can trust my eyes and mind again.

So being humble and admitting one’s limitations is crucial to the starting point of this fantastic inner journey and is vital on every step of the way. After all, awakening and liberation are the opposite movements to accumulation and addition. It is all about subtracting and releasing all that you thought was true so reality can appear instead.

So here are some practical tools for you:

  1. Write down all the things you think you know about the path and the truth; all the things you have read, experienced and heard others talk about. Make a list, if possible, of all your accumulated knowledge and feel the possibility of letting it all go, even if it scares you to be left with nothing that might make you seem important and impressive. Make a small ritual like burning the list or shredding it to bits – anything that might best symbolize to you your readiness to release this unnecessary baggage. Allow yourself to become light and weightless.
  2. Ask yourself the next questions and take your time before you answer. It is about being honest with yourself, so don’t rush:
    1. Am I ready to see that at this point I don’t know the truth? If so, why? How can I know that?
    1. Am I prepared to admit that my so-called knowledge is all based on the past, and is mostly about how I can best survive or experience a constant state of pleasure? If so, why?
    1. Am I ready to let go of the reins and become a true disciple of truth?

If you can say YES to these questions, you are ready to enter the maze.