Friday, September 14, 2012

Embracing Humility

Humility: modesty or respectfulness: the quality of being modest or respectful
This past weekend I spent up in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area with 5 wonderful friends. In my personal experience, there truly is no place like this borealis wilderness; with the mist of the lake, the bright bright stars, the eerie loon songs and the smell of the regal pines. There are few experiences richer than being in the heart of nature with good company.
The boundary waters are a place that inspires contemplation of the spiritual. It is a thin space where God and wonder are closer at hand than usual. One time our group was paddling across a small lake in the pouring rain, and it was if a spell in the hiss of the silver rain had been cast on our surroundings. I feel God spoke at multiple times during the trip to each of us in separate ways- bringing tears, laughter, wonder, peace and revelation.

First night in the BWCA on lake Tuscarora. I have wanted to
go back to this lake since I was about ten and finally got to!
Well worth the long portages

During the trip I received a fresh lesson on humility. I went into the trip assuming the role of leader, guide and camping expert. Quickly I learned however that not only was the group much more competent then I originally thought, but also that one of my fellow campers experience and wilderness knowledge far surpassed mine. When it came to camping I was fully outdone- Nate knew more about navigating, canoeing, setting up camp and how to use the wilderness itself. I did eventually get over myself and did my best to give him the lead (Im sure succeeding sometimes more than others). When I did succeed it was a treat to learn from him more about the wilderness I loved, and different methods of camping that were altogether more efficient and effective than the ones I knew. Furthermore, I was especially grateful for Nate’s leadership and encouragement after I became ill at the end of the trip - as his energy made a big difference to everyone’s morale and well-being.
Ironically enough Nate is a champion for genuine humility and respecting others. His recent campaign platform was all founded on the idea of true respect in politics. We need more leaders in the world like him today- sticking to values of how to treat others and fundamentally get along amidst severe differences in opinion.
I think I learned that humility is directly linked to active respect and appreciation of the people and things around us. It is letting God and others in instead of operating under the pretense you have it all figured out. I was so lucky to be with a group of people that not only were so easy to respect, but were also skilled at respecting and appreciating others. The amount of hugs amidst all trip members throughout our journey seemed to be a good indicator of abundant mutual respect and appreciation.
And I was truly humbled by my contemporaries, each one exhibiting profound attributes and attitudes surpassing my own. One girl Elena got tipped into the water twice by her canoe-mate, and still managed to keep a positive attitude without exhibiting anger towards either canoe partner. Lydia, our smallest team member was the fastest on the trail always willing to carry the heaviest pack- even if it brought her to tears. Her inner strength was often evident through the different parts of the trail. Nathaniel’s openness to newness was astounding, as he flew up from Chicago never being to this area before and was game for whatever the experience brought him. His loyalty as a friend and willingness to give his time to us was also a humbling and appreciated sacrifice. Finally John also was impressive in his positivity and support throughout the trip. When I was sick he wordlessly began taking a pack and a canoe on the trail so that I would not have to carry anything.
The boundary waters in its mix of trials (cold, hunger, fatigue, wetness) sometimes brings out the less pleasant in people (complaining, grumpiness etc.). With this group, it somehow brought out the opposite, and it was fun to see a little adversity bring out the better face of humanity. Here is a photo of the groups reaction to the sun coming out after a full day of paddling in the cold September rain:

When I returned home reality slammed into me and right away new concerns have clouded my mind into a foggy darkness of tunnel vision. Realities at work, home, in relationships and regarding my health all bombarded me from different angles. It was if I was in a canoe that I was gently paddling and without warning suddenly vaulted me overboard into a cold and windy lake.
Today I re-centered, and did my best to remain thankful and humble. Writing this helped me remember my friends and their strengths and how lucky I was to recently spend several days with them in the wilderness. I was also reminded of an article Nate wrote on faith in the wilderness recently published in the Huffington post. I will paste the link below:
I think this peace beautifully articulates one of the real-world intersections of spirituality and religion. My favorite quote from this article is:
“Spirituality is a big part of my life. I go to church every Sunday, I wear a silver cross around my neck, and I pray before every meal. But these actions are not what it means for me to be spiritual, they simply remind me of my faith. My faith comes from the wilderness.”
 I count myself very lucky to have learned from Nate and my other friends in skill and in spirit, and have newly realized the blessings humility can open up to us if we let it in. As the ups and downs of life continue, I hope I can endeavor to practice true humility and let it be a guide to living life intentionally and in tune with God.
Our intrepid group- from left to right Elena, John,
Lydia, myself, Nathaniel and Nate


  1. I loved this post; the photos, the story of your trip into the Boundary Waters, the learnings that have given you have a humble and teachable spirit. I liked the article by Nate too ~ he sounds like an invaluable companion on your wilderness adventure. Thanks for taking me on your journey!

  2. What a great experience, I loved hearing about it, sounds like a great crew and a wonderful, growing experience! Thanks for sharing!!