Negative Capability – when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason – John Keats
At some point in the journey of growth, feelings of doubt and discouragement may set in. These feelings can be oh, so sticky, and can send us down a spiral where we want to throw our hands up in the air and give up on the whole enchilada….
How does doubt show up for you?
Self doubt – and its cousin shame – is the trickiest part of the journey for me. It rips the ground out from underneath me, the ground of my basic goodness. When I’m caught in doubt, I feel small and separate and alone, cut off.
When I’m caught in doubt, it helps me to remember that doubt is experienced by us all – in fact, we’re in very good company.
The last test of the Buddha was doubt.
Jesus was tested in the desert, not just with riches and earthly pleasure, but with doubt.
Leonardo Di Vinci’s dying words were, “I have offended God and Mankind, by doing so little with my life.”
Mother Teresa privately struggled with doubt. In a letter to a spiritual advisor she wrote, “…the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.”
Doubt is not personal.
The voice of doubt can show up in many ways – despair, discouragement, hopelessness. Or it can show up when we doubt our goodness, our wholeness – who do you think you are?
What keeps us going when we feel discouraged? What gives us faith when we feel like, “nothing’s changing?” How do we care for those voices that say to us, “I knew you wouldn’t follow through….this is just like all the other times…”
Dear one, let us find sweet refuge when we’re feeling caught in doubt, despair, discouragement or hopelessness.
We find refuge in several ways – by remembering that our feelings and thoughts are not us, and are temporary. We can find refuge by noticing all the ways we are changing – something we can forget when we get hijacked by fear and panic. We can find refuge in our own hearts, in the Divine and in each other.
It helps to remind ourselves that every situation is workable. It’s not as dire as our brains think it is. When we’re caught in doubt and discouragement, our brain is hijacked by fight or flight. That sweet, tender part of our brains is, again, saying, “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”
So when we’re feeling like “nothing’s changing” it’s helpful to remember that it’s just a feeling….and it, too, will pass. Even though the feeling of nothing’s changing feels real it’s not necessarily true or accurate. It’s just what the scared part of our brain is thinking and feeling at the moment…..
Doubt, frustration, discouragement are a part of every journey. We don’t have to make them wrong. We can pause, step back, and bear witness. We can bear witness, we can wrap our doubt in love, and when we can, we walk forward.
Lezlie Oachs writes:
real and right and raw
is welcoming the Mystery,
Im sowing uncertainty,
waiting without reaching.
Someday something green
will sprout in this place.
Something small and moist and soft,
open to the sky.
Doubt can soften us. When I open to doubt, it is a vulnerable, tender place. As Lezlie writes, it is moist and soft. How do I water doubt? I water doubt with my tears.
I feel my sorrow. I feel my helplessness. I feel my hopelessness. I cry my tears. I call on love. I feel my human vulnerability, my earnest heart that wants to do good; the accompanying anxiety that I’m not doing it right, my sweet desire for control, the times I’m able to let go – all the ways I want to protect myself from hurt, all the ways I want to protect others from hurt. Sometimes this creates chaos. Sometimes there’s healing. I see the whole human gig – the mess, the love, my good intentions, my mistakes – all of it intertwined.
And on my knees, once again, I forgive it all. I forgive myself. I forgive my doubt.
I once had a yoga teacher who said, “When you’re lost, you can always find your way back again.”
Doubt is not the end of the story. We can walk our way back home. One baby step at a time.