August 23, 2012


I am fully in touch with doubt. I greet it every day. Sometimes I recognize it for what it is; other times I believe the mean-spirited stories. Doubt is one of 5 mind energies that, according to Buddhist philosophy, hinder our clear seeing--hinder our ability to see the truth of the moment. And doubt is the muddiest, murkiest, hardest-to-catch hindrance. Why? Because it arrives wrapped in some story. It sneaks onto the old tapes that play over and over in our heads. Tapes we believe perhaps less and less, yet can still grab us--can still make us doubt ourselves.

Here are some doubt stories with which I've recently worked:

You are having far too much fun this summer; eating and drinking too much; probably gaining weight; far too much happiness to be healthy; you're probably really damaging yourself in some deep way.

You are not busy enough. You need to do more. In fact, you're not at all ready for the new school year. You'll walk in the classroom and be a complete failure.

You are sharing far too much of yourself and your feelings; making yourself so vulnerable is embarrassing; people probably laugh at you and your silly endeavors.

First note: These stories are all unkind. Even if they aren't overly mean, there's an underlying sense of judgment. For me that's a tell-tale sign of doubt. Second note: These stories are all untrue--no truth. This is precisely the way doubt hinders clear seeing. (But they can be so easy for me the believe, especially when I'm vulnerable or tired or tender. They can become my reality for minutes or hours or days.) Third note: I will work with doubt for my entire life. There will never be a time when these doubt stories don't creep into my consciousness. And that's okay; it's human nature. But I recognize the stories just a bit sooner and sometimes I can even smile at the new ways doubt has seeped into my head--smile and think, yay, I noticed.

I used to send myself a snail-mail card any time I prepared a batch of cards for loved ones. It was a practice of loving-kindness for myself. Yet I never put my return-address stamp on these letters, because I feared what the mail carrier might think. (She's sending a letter to herself?) This is definitely a doubt story, as it makes me a huge player in the world (really, the mail carrier doesn't think about me at all; or if he does, I have no control over his thoughts) and it makes me second guess myself (not including my return-address stamp dampens the open loving-kindness practice).

I restored my sending-a-card-to-myself practice just recently. And that's when the doubt story of the return-address stamp hit me. Why wouldn't I use the stamp, just like I do for all the other cards I send? So I did it! And two days later, I had a genuine, no-excuses, filled-with-loving-words, sent-from-myself card in my mailbox:


  1. Ah, yes. Doubt. We are well acquainted. Your notes are well put: doubt never has encouraging, supportive, nurturing things to say. Doubt does not promote my healthy sense of enoughness - either feeling enough or not too much (something I have wrestled with at least as often as feeling not _______ enough). I find gratitude is a good balm for the wounds and scars of doubt. Also, truth-telling and reality-checking with trusted friends. It's good to know our resources, because as you said, doubt will return. I wish peace in the face of doubt for you.

  2. Jet: Thank you for your beautiful, real, supportive, kind words. Yes, we all experience doubt, but that can connect us and bring us together. And we can be grateful for that connection.