Is there room for doubt?
I started the year at the wedding of a dear friend. During the ceremony, before the vows and after the introduction stuff, the woman ordaining my friends said in regards to their marriage, “there is no room for doubt in a relationship like this.” This phrase instantly light a fire of fear in me because “oh my god I have definitely doubted whether the relationship I am in is right for me and him and everyone involved and my future and my future kids that don’t even exist and does that mean we aren’t right for each other and we should just break up now or maybe I’m just a terrible girlfriend and what it I never find anyone who I can be in a relationship with without doubt” and on and on and on like our minds do.
Since that moment that phrase has been replaying in my mind. I don’t know what to think about it or doubt in general or doubt in relationships or doubt in our yoga practice. I was happy to just put the experience out of my mind completely and not bother myself with worrying about such existential questions. Doubt’s doubt keeps following me though. Last week I was listening to this podcast about Mormons who started questioning their religion because of different information they uncovered about the history (i.e. marriages) of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church. As these Mormons started questioning their religion they were made to seem like bullies, like bad people, people who would go to hell because they received reliable information that they could not turn away from. The question about doubt and religion forced me to confront how exactly doubt presents itself in my life and how I should feel about it.
Doubt, in particular self doubt, is part of the human experience. Even the yoga sutras list doubt as a barrier to the practice or full realization. So maybe it is that simple, that in order to erase suffering from our life we must also move past doubt. But another part of this whole “path” is acceptance. And doubt is a part of who we are until the very end. And who is to say there is no room for doubt in our modern world? If you have faith without questioning, without inquiry, without some amount of doubt, then we would all walk around following religion and politics and everything else mindlessly, without any sense of real truth or intellect.
The trick, like most things in life, is to find balance. Balance between intelligent questioning and trusting. Knowing when to question if something is right for you and your life and knowing when something is right, and if it’s right, it’s right...stop second guessing it. Most important to remember that doubt is often rooted in fear. Our fear of change, of failure, of the dark, of no control, of love and on and on, leads to our doubt. I think where we start is with intelligent questions and when the answers lead us somewhere we stop at some point because of fear masqueraded as doubt. From this fear we lose out on love, on change, on spiritual awakening, on life changing failure, on life.
So I guess there isn’t room for doubt if we want to be awake and free of suffering and living a life of great openness and love, which is the answer I was hoping to avoid all along. Nonetheless, the reality is we are all human and most of our experiences based in reality start with a little bit of doubt and questioning. The work isn't removing this initial doubt and questioning, the work is recognizing when that doubt starts to hold us back, how our fears show up as doubt and learning how to move past our greatest fear in order to move towards a life of more trust and confidence.