Buddha said, “There is nothing more terrible than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that ruins friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts. It is a sword that kills.”
Doubts are fears and live within all of us. It’s what we allow those doubts to do that differs. Do we allow them to rule and destroy our life? Or do we acknowledge them for what they are, limiting fears, part of our spastic and irrational mind, and let them go?
Practitioners of Zen know that doubts live within the “untrained” mind, they are the seeds of discord and unhappiness. In mindfulness, a Zen practice, doubts are sloughed away with other negative thoughts like dead skin cells with a refreshing, cleansing shower. Don’t doubt it.
Mom and Dad – a story:
My mom and dad married later in life, both having suffered through a previous marriage that ended in betrayal, dishonesty and pain. That they found one another and developed a relationship of their own, after their experiences, I consider quite remarkable. Both are very practical people, and I think the thought of growing older alone was ultimately a more frightening prospect than taking another chance. On the day of their wedding, a casual affair at a wedding chapel in Tahoe, as the moment approached, my mom took refuge in the car. Doubts filled her mind and she nearly did not go through with the ceremony, which, likely, would have ended the relationship between her and my dad. A dear friend finally coaxed her from the car and into the chapel. The rest is history, and I was a result of that union a year and a half later.
Mom and Dad had a good marriage. It was not perfect. There is no such thing. They had their differences, their grievances, their doubts and their annoyances. But, in overcoming that initial doubt and marrying, they worked in union for the next fifty years to create a home, raise a child, run a business, share dinners every night, take vacations, retire and care and comfort one another through old age until my dad passed almost two years ago to the day.
Had my mom acted on her doubt, the years of happiness and comfort would not have happened.
A man destroyed – a story:
The man I married was a man consumed by doubt and fear. For years he managed it to a degree that he was able to build a business, we were able to raise two wonderful children and acquire a house, then a home, and, eventually, the ranch we always dreamed of owning. As life progressed and the responsibilities mounted, his doubts and fears grew exponentially. He no longer fretted only over the things most families fret over; bills, retirement, career. His business faltered and died of neglect and he scrambled, in middle age, to build a new career, to follow a passion he’d dreamed of his entire adult life. It too faltered because his attention was consumed by his doubts and not by his passion. His doubts and fears grew to include things so external to us, as a family, and to him, as a man, that he felt completely out of control and unable to act or affect the world around him; issues in politics, policies and beliefs of elected officials. He abandoned his business, he never even applied an effort to the career he dreamed of for most of his youth, he squandered the opportunity at that passion because of his consumption by doubt. He abandoned his children and he abandoned me, not in a literal sense, he did not pack his bags and move out, he just left us. He quit contributing to the family financially, and we resorted to living off savings, equity, then the retirement nest egg we’d built, just to keep a roof over our head. The resources eventually were depleted and we lost all we owned; the ranch, the home, even the pets and animals we adored. In the end, he lost his family. Unemployed and unemployable, still, he spends his time, each and every day, engulfed in his doubts and fears of things far greater than he.
Doubts all around me.
As I talk to friends and people very close to me, I frequently hear of their doubts, often over the person they are with, the person they love. “Are they the right one? I have doubts. I’m not sure it ‘feels right’, I don’t want this to end up like my previous relationships.” Buddha did say, “doubt separates people. It is a poison that ruins friendships and breaks up pleasant relations.” The way I see it, there are two choices when faced with such doubts, we succumb to them and face a life of loneliness and disappointment or we acknowledge those doubts for what they are, the weak and negative chatter of a mind unable to discern the truth and the good from the dismay and deception of doubts.
Doubts are no more than fear and no one ever gained success or true bliss by letting fear limit them. Eleanor Roosevelt is my hero and she has much to say about overcoming fear.
A few of the Eleanor quotes I try to live by:
“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”
“Do one thing every day that scares you.”
“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
“It takes courage to love, but pain through love is the purifying fire which those who love generously know. We all know people who are so much afraid of pain that they shut themselves up like clams in a shell and, giving out nothing, receive nothing and therefore shrink until life is a mere living death.”
Fear and doubt are the same. Both are destroyers. And they are everywhere, within us and around us. Don’t doubt it.
Think of doubt like a cup of poison; if someone put a cup of poison in front of you, certainly you wouldn’t drink it. Perhaps you could not tell it was poison in the cup, certainly if you drank it and it tasted bad or made you feel terrible, you would not drink more. So it is with doubt, why partake of something poisonous that tastes terrible and leaves you feeling terrible? To someone mindful, someone who has practiced identifying doubt and other negative, poisonous and limiting thoughts they have, they learn to dismiss, remove and replace those thoughts with thoughts that are more positive and constructive. They not only resist drinking the poison, the get up and leave the table where the cup was placed grab a glass of clear, cool water and quench their thirst with what they know to be good.
Doubt is not truth. Doubt is irrational thought. Doubt is fear and fear destroys. Don’t doubt it.
I have as many doubts as the next guy. It is human. The key is to learn, through diligent practice, to identify, isolate, and dismiss those doubts, pull them out of our mind like a noxious weed. As we learn to identify and dismiss them, we can soon learn to replace doubts with positive and nurturing thoughts, plant them like seeds for a lovely garden. With practice, we are all capable of this. Don’t doubt it.