Doubt is holding you back

Doubt is holding you back

The path of inner cultivation clears the dust of conditioning from the body-mind. As our practice unfolds, a type of clarity naturally dawns and we see the hidden lies in so many things. Religion. History. Politics. Academia. Science. Medicine. Spirituality. It becomes evident that hidden agendas too often distort the truth. Much of what we’ve been taught is simply not so.

When clarity begins to emerge, an overwhelming sense of doubt arises. We realize that most ideas we see propagated in the world are simply not true. Looking within, we come to distrust the authority of even our own beliefs. We see that the basis of our own thinking is steeped in assumptions and projections, concepts that are pre-established by our culture’s dualistic worldview. Clarity gives us the ability to observe our thoughts closely. We are free to believe them or not. During meditation, as we watch intently, it becomes apparent that we are not our thoughts. We understand that thoughts are temporary, changing and relative, and can never represent the whole of universal truth. Doubt becomes very useful here.

Freedom from identification with our own thoughts is a healthy sign that the knot of self-delusion is starting to untangle.

However, doubt is incomplete without its partner. At some point we must come full circle and rediscover doubtlessness. After the initial stage of awakening matures, the usefulness of doubt wanes. To rely on doubt exclusively produces a new kind of cleverness. Spiritual cynicism. “I’m too awake to be tricked by dogma and spiritual fantasy. I don’t believe in anything anymore.” Although this kind of razor sharpness is helpful in not falling prey to spiritual materialism, it becomes a new kind of guarding, a new limitation. It causes the heart to constrict. Doubt gone stale turns out to be the greatest undermining force for mature spiritual practitioners. Becoming doubtless is the next step we must take on the path.

This requires even more audacity.

There is only one way to become doubtless. Contrary to popular assumption, faith and belief are not the way. Anything that requires faith is somehow defective. Universal truth is self-evident. The need to believe in something co-arises with the intuitive sense that belief is contrived. Belief is unreliable because it is based in thought, and thoughts are always changing.  Behind our most cherished beliefs, we intuitively understand that we actually do not know. Rather than admit “I don’t know,” we try to silence this non-knowing with the boisterous voice of conviction. Yet the silent watcher within us knows that this is a slight of hand. Belief requires a corresponding concept. Concepts are mind-made models of an incomprehensible reality. They are incomplete. We manufacture beliefs to give ourselves something to clutch to, because we are secretly afraid of the scary three-word phrase: I don't know.

Behind extreme confidence is extreme doubt. The outward display of conviction always co-arises with secret inward doubt. Self-doubt. Perhaps this is most obvious in fundamentalism. With a quick scan of history, it is easy to see how belief in ideas, especially ones set forth by charismatic leaders, can disengage people from their humanity and innate wisdom. Under the spell of concepts, people easily lose their human-heartedness. Ideals place a wedge between you and the immediate moment. They block your ability to feel. And feeling is your umbilical cord to Life it self.

An honest seeker must confront fear and doubt, and go directly to the one thing they can actually be certain about. Certainty must come from our own direct experience, nowhere else. No book, teacher, or doctrine has any business here. This is an intimate and personal meeting between you and the great Unknowable. All spiritual paths lead here: to the moment you confront what mystics call Divine Ignorance. To know that you do not know. You must realize that the observer, limited to the point of view of “I,” cannot comprehend the whole of reality. Only when the certainty of “I don’t know” dawns will you pass through the tunnel of "I" and become truly doubtless.

It is disastrously ironic that the one thing that can restore true courage and establish doubtlessness is “I don’t know.” This is the antithesis of what religion, politics, academia, and advertising have so desperately propagated. Our cultural addiction to ego-glorification makes the story seem believable. Self-obsession lives within the domain of the hope-faith / doubt-belief conflict. This is the proverbial struggle of good and evil, based in the erroneous assumption of a divided world. God above. Hell below. Sacred. Profane. Such distinctions only exist in the conceptual mind.

To place full confidence in “I don’t know,” and to no longer harbor the secret feeling that something is wrong with you because of it, is the great leap beyond illusion and self-doubt. It opens the gateway to doubtlessness. Once we are doubtless about the fact that we do not know, we can discard hope, faith, belief, and all other spiritual playthings that once kept us separated from the immediacy of our direct experience.

When true doubtlessness dawns, we are free to play the ball where it lands. Unfettered by the exhausting game of needing to conceal our doubt with cleverness and contrived confidence, we can live our life with unprecedented openness. We can relate to people and situations with natural presence, and embrace life with an unguarded heart.