Have you ever looked at a lake in the early hours of the morning before the boats are on the water? The surface looks like glass because it’s so smooth and uninterrupted. It’s one of my favorite scenes.

I’ve noticed something about myself in the past year or so. I’ll have moments in life that remind me of those glass lake scenes. It’s the moments when I feel completely stress free. I’ll find myself driving slower without a hint of the usual underlying frustration that comes with driving. I’ll find myself with a semi-permanent smile on my face and almost catch myself in the act of it. I’ll find myself unreasonably at peace in seemingly random moments in life.

Recently I’ve tried to pay attention to what drives those moments.

Clearly it can’t be random. I don’t just suddenly decide that I’m utterly joyful. I don’t have some hidden monkish ability to turn off the usual cocktail of daily emotions. So what is it that allows me to sometimes reach this place of zen? Once I started to pay attention it became obvious.

Humility.

We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility.

-Rabindranath Tagore

These glimpses into a perfect reality show themselves on the heels of humility. When I pause to reflect on my state in those moments I realize that my ego is nowhere to be found.

In my work that means I’m just putting my head down, working hard, and not worrying about the rest.

In my marriage that means I’m taking personal responsibility for the good and the bad.

In my interactions with other people that means I’m assuming positive intent and empathetic to their own humanity.

Think not that humility is weakness; it shall supply the marrow of strength to thy bones. Stoop and conquer; bow thyself and become invincible.

-Charles Spurgeon

But when that humility goes away? The moments of zen go away with it.

I know my own ego is in my way when my work is only focused on myself and my results instead of the work itself.

I know my own ego is in my way when I’m blaming things in my marriage on my wife instead of looking at how I may be responsible for the situation.

I know my own ego is in my way with other people when I’m trying to impress them, or spending too much mental energy on what they think of me.

With pride, there are many curses. With humility, there come many blessings.

-Ezra Taft Benson

Zen. Bliss. Freedom. Peace.

Words describing those moments when we’re unshackled by our own mind and emotions. The key that unlocks these shackles is humility. With ego comes anger, fear, stress, frustration, and discontent. But with humility comes peace.

Call it the absence of ego or the presence of humility. They are one and the same. Ego and humility are mutually exclusive mental positions. They cannot exist together between two ears.

To find mental peace, you only have to start by humbling yourself.

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