A while ago I was talking to a spiritual friend, discussing how we were doing. Not for the first time I told him that I still had a lot of self doubt in regards to my teaching. “You seem very attached to your doubt.” he said and I suppose in some ways I am. I am constantly very aware that despite all the growth and experiences that I have had I still have great doubt.
A few years ago at a workshop I had an unusual experience. The workshop consisted of everyone sitting in a circle and the workshop leader, Michael Bradford going to each person individually and asking what they were here for. He used dowsing as a way of testing answers and intuitively led people into past life scenarios, involving others in the group to act them out. Generally he spent quite a long time with each person. When it was my turn he asked me why I was here and said no to my suggestions. He then told me that my only purpose here, in this lifetime, was to learn to trust. It took two minutes if that and it was my only involvement during the weekend.
Whether Michael’s intuition was right or wrong is not important. It is very clear to me that I can never learn to trust unless I have doubt. If everything is clear and straightforward then there is no need to trust. Doubt for me is the perfect tool to learn the lesson of trust. Each of us have weaknesses and problems which allow us to learn the lessons we need. If we can understand the lesson we are learning, then we can appreciate the gift in the weakness. Only when we have fully learnt can the weakness disappear.
It seems that we are challenged to act as we would choose to act, despite weakness and uncertainty. For me the option is to act anyway, despite the doubt, and choose to demonstrate trust. If I have doubt from my human side the option is to do nothing or to act from trust in the spiritual truth behind what I am doing. Doubt seems to me to be essential to all of us.
Doubt can be a gift for us all, to be felt, experienced and overcome. For me it is to be overcome with trust in everything that I have experienced. It is interesting how the significance and importance of certain moments in my life becomes clearer and stronger the more I learn to trust. Whenever I doubt, I always come back to the direct experience. So it is always good to fully absorb experience, because over time it is easy for them to become diminished, even completely forgotten about. Learn from your experiences, absorb them, remember them, even write them down, keep them as treasured gifts which help to overcome the times when doubt overtakes us.
We should also recognise that the skills and abilities we need in spirituality are also appropriate to our need. I look around at the people I know and see remarkable skills and abilities way beyond my own. I also recognise that skills and abilities that I have in order to do what I do. If I were to have some of the skills of my friends e.g. absolutely clarity in my connection, then I would know much more than I do and have less doubt. As it is, I tend to operate in a fog of uncertainty. The old Christian text “A Cloud of Unknowing” describes it very well. But again the skills I have seem perfectly appropriate to what I need. The qualities of holiness seem to arise as needed and as lessons are learnt and we should appreciate the skills we have and not think ourselves lacking when we observe others.
The opposite side of doubt is certainty. While aware of my own doubt I am also aware that I feel uncomfortable when people talk about spirituality as though they are absolutely certain. There may be a time when we experience absolute certainty but for most of us it is not yet. For me certainty in spirituality is often an expression of lack of knowledge. People either don’t know themselves very well or have not yet gone deeply into spiritual understanding. The deeper we go in spirituality the less we seem to know. Doubt and uncertainty grow as there is less pretense. If someone is sure then usually they don’t really understand or there is an element of pretense in their knowledge.
Doubt and uncertainty are gifts. They allow us to choose. When we are in doubt we have the opportunity to choose. We can either be affected by doubt or we can choose to trust. Spirituality is a choice, we either stay with that part of us that doubts or we choose that part of us that feels connected. Making a choice is only valid when there is something to choose between and without doubt there is no choice.
Doubt and trust are aspects of yin and yang. In all spirituality the quality we develop has a shadow. When we know the shadow then we can truly develop the quality. “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” It is in the experience of the yin that we find the quality of yang that we need to develop. I am not attached to doubt, but I appreciate its quality, in the knowledge that one day it will disappear.