The Value of Honest Doubt

500_honest_doubtHave you ever run yourself mentally haggard trying to convince yourself to see a spiritual truth more deeply or clearly than you actually do?

It’s easy to do. After all, the fundamental principles behind the human experience are quite simple to articulate. According to Sydney Banks, Mind is the infinite formless intelligent energy behind all things. Consciousness is our ability to know reality and our ability to understand how our reality is created by thoughts. Thought is a source of all mental activities and source of all feeling, actions and reactions.

Our experience in any given moment is created by the interplay of these principles.

When I first came across Syd’s teachings, I was frankly underwhelmed. I didn’t disagree; I just didn’t see anything earthshaking. I had studied intensively with Byron Katie, and the notion that thought generated our experience seemed obvious.

Still, I kept returning to Syd’s work because of the profound changes I saw in people who had been influenced by him. And one day my own understanding shifted, deepened, expanded, and what had seemed obvious and verging on trivial started to blow my mind.

I’ve shared many of the insights that have emerged from that in previous blog posts and videos, but I want to take a little different look at things today.

You see, there’s a way in which we can become addicted to knowing. We can chase insights as if our wellbeing lies in having more of them.

When actually, our wellbeing is nonnegotiable. Invariable. Innate.

Our essential wholeness does not depend on our moment to moment experience of life. As I’ve written before, we don’t have to feel okay to be okay.

But damn! I don’t know about you, but sometimes all I really want is to feel okay. Which last week had me wrestling with this notion of essential wholeness. I was frustrated by feeling fragmented and, frankly, stupid. Where was my innate wellbeing? Where was wisdom?

How could I get there from where I was?

What good does it do me to have a theoretical understanding that I am okay when I feel cornered by the limits of my current thinking?

And then something funny happened.

It occurred to me to simply doubt.

To drop the gospel.

To quit trying to feel or believe or find wholeness and wisdom.

To drop my story that I should trust it.

And to drop into my honest in that moment experience of WTF? Where is it?

To ask in an open hearted and abandoned way, are we really whole? Does God or Mind or whatever you call it have our backs?

Where is wisdom? Is it really always on, only sometimes obscured?

I dropped into the questions, which had a whole different feel from struggling to believe in the answers.

And I can’t account for just how or why, but as the days passed, I started to get a glimmer.

A felt sense of something beneath the surface.

Not an intellectual understanding, but the barest shimmer or breath of a feeling that something is there.

Dim. As yet unknown. But palpable.

I don’t know what, if anything, that does for you, but it did a lot for me. Somehow out of my honest doubt I had touched bedrock.

I don’t know what the bedrock is. What it means. How to talk about it.

But I know down to my toenails that it is there.

Thank you, doubt.

Your turn: What’s your experience with what Byron Katie has called trying to live beyond your current level of evolution? What might doubt have to offer you?




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The Body You Have Is the Right One

I had a huge aha the other day while ruminating about my various aches and injuries. My standards for my body are entirely made up. Accepting your body is a matter of recognizing that the idea you have of how it should be is made up, but only entirely.Accepting your body is a matter of recognizing that the idea you have of how it should be is made up, but only entirely.

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You Write the Rules of the Game of Life

Sometimes we lives as if the rules of the game of life are set outside of us and our fates are determined by those rules. But the reality is that we get to make it up. What rules are ready to be changed in your life today?

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The Problem with Prescriptions for Being Good or Happy

no-prescription-for-happiness-3315748907_5445d270cb_zAt the grocery store this morning I complimented the young woman who was packing my bags on her cheerful glittery headband and lanyard. That created a nice feeling between us, and I reflected, not for the first time, on how simple it can be to create good feelings with others and how much difference it can make in my experience of the day.

That got me to thinking about how easily the description of doing something cheerful can turn into a prescription and how the vibe of a prescription changes everything.

The vibe of a prescription says, Do this, and life will be better. You will be happier, more whole, more okay. Implicit in a prescription is the recognition of something to be improved, healed, or completed.

The vibe of a description is simply celebratory. How cool is this!

A prescription turns the experience of having a nice moment into something to be accomplished or achieved. Something we produce when we are doing life “right”.

A prescription implies that we are doing something wrong when the prescription doesn’t seem to work or when–heaven forfend!–we resist employing it.

It is so easy to infer from the celebration of one nice moment that one should do certain things to produce other nice moments.

Thus it is that we have some 450 forms of therapy, each with a prescription for managing the human experience to produce health. And then there are countless religious rites and practices, prescriptions developed over the years based on descriptions of what was going on when a given prophet or teacher experienced insight.

If you’ve employed some of these prescriptions, you know that sometimes they seem to work, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes plopping your butt down on a meditation cushion produces peace, and sometimes all you get is a keen appreciation of the noisiness of your mind.

Sometimes complimenting the bagger feels great; sometimes the very idea makes you gritchy.

But what if life doesn’t want or need to be managed from dawn to dusk? What if we don’t need prescriptions for manipulating our moods and managing our experiences in order to be okay?

What if there is no aspect of the human experience that is disallowed?

To paraphrase Walt Whitman, We are large. We contain multitudes. Or in the words of the Roman slave turned playwright: I am a man, I consider nothing that is human alien to me.

The prescription to say kind things seems benign, but there’s a way in which it can actually insert distance between us. As anyone who has been approached in a bar can tell you, there’s a vast difference between the energy and impact of a spontaneous compliment and that of a canned come-on.

And I know for myself that when I’m feeling edgy, the idea that I should be nicer, friendlier, more easy going makes things worse, not better.

Oddly, our chances of making authentic connection with others are impaired when we make policies and prescriptions out of kindness and enhanced when we relax our vigilance and let our true colors shine through. A bit of unguarded crankiness can be the basis for connection, provided we aren’t preoccupied with covering it up.

I’m grateful for the good feeling I experienced in the grocery store over a compliment, but I’m even more grateful for the insight that I’m okay–as are you–whether I’m kind or cranky. That there’s no part of the human experience that we have to escape or avoid for any reason.

The bottom line is that it is all okay. Really all. All the time. And it doesn’t always feel that way, and that’s okay too.


Photo by Philippa Willitts via Flickr

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The Anxiety Attack I Forgot to Finish

Like every other experience, anxiety comes to us via thought. And if we don’t make anything of it, it tends to be replaced by other thought. So it is that one day I simply forgot to finish having an anxiety attack.

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