Choosing the Right Kind of Doubt
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. “ – Bertrand Russell
Some doubts carries wisdom and insight. Having the capacity to reflect on our life choices and experience with intellectual honesty is a gift that brings you more deeply in touch with your feelings and more honestly able to assess where you are in life. This healthy form of doubt spurs us to grow and frees us to make challenging choices.
The other much more prevalent kind of doubt that stops us in our tracks is a fundamental unwillingness to see the reality of things. Often this is associated with a deep fear of life’s impermanence and denial of change. This is a mind that also tends to see itself as fixed and unchanging. We put ourselves in a box and work to protect ourselves from the world that tries to reshape us.
These doubts are like water turned muddy – there is no real clarity about who we are or what path we are following. This toxic doubt keeps us from committing to our dreams. It keeps us stuck in fear. I move back and forth between these doubting places lately. I know where I am when I just feel stuck and unable to move forward, even toward my questions.
As I have been working my way out of a moment in my business life that feels like getting squeezed between a rock and hard place, I work to stay focused on my vision. I know that the opposite of doubt is faith, of believing in a future that I can’t quite see but feel as truth in my heart. Bodhipaksa calls this an act of “borrowing confidence from your future self.” Still there are many days when I get stuck in what seems like a fixed reality and I am lost to my dreams.
One passage that he wrote in his book Living as a River he says “We have to fully accept that we’re also starting from where we are, but we also have to accept that where we are is not a place. We are all arrows in mid-flight, where we are is a moment on a trajectory, not a position at rest.” I love the image of seeing myself as an arrow in mid-flight — that regardless of how it feels at any given moment, it is all motion – this life. Moving quickly on a trajectory, hopefully getting closer to our true selves.