When I first began exploring spirituality I was really turned off by the word “faith.” It seemed to have such religious connotations. I imagined some angelic figure looking to the heavens with a beatific smile, and this was simply not me. I was educated, not religious. I’d been raised in a household that put no value on religion and was dismissive of the church. I was a rational being. What use did I have for faith?
I didn’t even feel that I needed it. I’d been tossed into the path of an Enlightened Being at an early age and had been exposed to very powerful empowerments that were beyond convincing to me of the power of meditation and the truth of the spiritual path. These early experiences set me to the core. I was convinced, from the inside out, that Enlightenment is real, because of the way it had touched me already.
Yet I encountered others who had had similar experiences and yet who did not believe the way I did. They were questioning and skeptical and even doubtful.
Skepticism and caution are very important on the spiritual path, and any true teacher will tell you that you must find out for yourself if what they say is true. All you can go by in navigating this world is what your inner voice tells you.
What happens when that inner voice is caught up in the addiction of doubt?
Because doubt can be an addiction. It can be as corrosive and destructive as any other ego-fueled pattern.
Our American culture is very approving of doubt. In the era of worshiping science, anything spiritual and internal can be scoffed as not real. The ego is rewarded by looking with suspicion; it’s what the outside world expects and condones.
Doubt is often the safest reaction when you’re faced with something new and potentially threatening.
Doubt is bred into us. We are animals after all, and being careful is what keeps the organism safe.
If you see something in the road and your brain identifies it as a snake you will run.
It’s best not to question that instinct. You need to survive, after all.
Perceiving danger is what the brain is trained to do.
But if it turns out that the thing in the road is a rope, then your misperception and your instincts led you to react the wrong way.
Some people have brains that have a hair-trigger alert system for danger. This is common and it’s not to be faulted — but it’s something to look at and examine.
If you always react in fear as your first instinct, then sure, you may stay safe (maybe) but what might you miss out on?
If you have a brain that’s wired towards doubt as the predominant channel, then it could be you’re in a hypervigilant state that’s not serving you.
As the beautiful being Byron Katie says, the universe is friendly. If everything is doubted, then it’s not leaving space for that possibility to manifest.
Have you ever doubted the doubt?
What if doubt is what’s keeping you in the dark? What if the unreasonable doubt causes suffering? What if the doubt is preventing you from realizing your potential, from embracing the mystery and living in enough uncertainty that the next phase of your life is not quashed before it begins?
It’s impossible to say, “Okay, I’m not going to doubt anymore.” If you’re someone who’s currently got anxiousness wired deep into the operating system, then it’s not like you can one day flip a switch and turn it off.
But what you can do is notice.
Notice when you are thinking fear thoughts. Trace them back and examine: Is this fear real? Is it justified?
You can even ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?”
If the thing you’re fearing is true, then what does that mean? What is its significance? Why does it hold so much power?
Examining the processes of doubt can be incredibly useful.
Faith is a powerful force, but it’s not something that most people can simply assume. Just like you can’t tell yourself not to be fearful, it’s unlikely you can tell yourself you should have more faith.
Or you can, but it’s probably not going to come about in your life solely by saying it!
Instead, start to notice the patterns.
When you perceive something “bad” and you start worrying about it, what is the nature of that fear?
When you are skeptical of what you hear from a teacher, that’s good — and take it all the way to the source, and validate for yourself why you don’t buy it.
What is your underlying belief that you feel is true, that is in conflict with what you are hearing?
(Do it now — while reading these words! If you feel any internal pressure against what I’m saying, follow that back. Identify what YOU believe to be true, that does not mesh with the statements I’m offering.)
Faith opens up incredible vistas of spiritual experience. Faith is necessary to start on the path — or perhaps more precisely, being open to ideas is the mandatory pre-requisite to begin. Then, you need to maintain enough openness to allow for the next level of experience to absorb you, and that is done by examining and deciding what is real.
If you’re suffering from doubts that are taking you away from your nature, then stop. Look. Listen. Pay attention to the WHY underneath.
Allow yourself to be open and non-judgmental. You are safe in this Universe. Let it take you where it wants you to be.