The Benefit of the Doubt

Well, bugger me. Has it not only gone and happened again? The doubts thing, I mean. A few days after making my last post, I was thrown into confusion, just as happened in February. So I’m now full of doubt, thinking myself a fool, a crazy person, delusional. What the hell? Is this going to be a theme? Am I going to have to put up with this back-and-forth, God or BS, deal every time I write something? Every time I say something?

A few weeks ago, I had an online energy healing session with a friend in the US. I won’t say much about it here except that it was a sweet, sweet experience. We talked a lot, about this and that, about our spiritual journeys, and a day or two later I had that same sense of the ground shifting beneath me, of being unsure about myself and the world around me. I realised that, during that conversation, it was the first time I had ever spoken aloud, using such positive language, and with words spoken with such certainty, to anyone about my developing beliefs. I was in shock. It was one of those, ‘Who the fuck are you?’ moments. For one who has spent most of her life worrying, almost every moment, what other people think, I’m saying some pretty crazy shit these days, right? No wonder the sudden paralysis. I think that is why I began to question. I think that is what might have happened in February. And I think it is happening now. 

It is frightening, this prospect of there being nothing to believe after all. It’s vertigo. It’s dropping into space. But I know from recent experience, this must be part of the process. At least, it’s forming part of my process. Could there not be an easier way? I’ve never been one to settle for what is in front of me; I’ve always had to question. During those months of doubt, I could not dismiss the fact I’d been following a spiritual path, even though it all now felt like nonsense. I needed to look at why I had felt that path worth the following. 

I reviewed my thought processes, behaviour, and the events of the last couple of years, the things that had led me along this seeker’s journey. I have to keep doing it, over and over, to convince myself, at least to my satisfaction, that I am not delusional. Is that possible though, if the questions and their answers are also part of the delusion? Oh bugger. That’s too mind blowing a question just now. 

So anyway, I grouped all that stuff into two categories. The first incorporated the ways in which I’d ‘thought’ my way into belief. I used reason and logic that no doubt would not stand up to scientific scrutiny and its failure of flexibility. I’d been on various little flights of fancy, such as feeling the wind close against my skin, the touch of the air on the very edge of me, making me feel somehow a part of things, my edges blurring into those of everything I saw or touched. Or thinking about humans and all things at atomic level, at particle level, at star-dust level. All of us, all specks of everything in the universe, being formed of the same ‘thing.’ I also thought how everything on the planet, the mammals, the fish, the reptiles, insects, plants, trees, soil, water, earth… how everything, absolutely every little thing, has purpose. Everything is of benefit to something else, from the sun in the sky providing heat and light for life, to bacteria cleaning up the mess that we leave behind. Everything is provided. There is no waste. Nothing on this planet produces total, useless waste. Nothing except humankind. I have to admit, I was at a loss as to what our purpose could be. Perhaps that is why I began to wonder if it might be something other than a purely physical existence, that there might actually be some other reason for us being here. If our purpose was merely to exist on this planet, then something has gone badly wrong as we are the consummate fucker-uppers of our world. Besides which, why have we always, across time and space, reached out and searched for something beyond our physical reality? What physical, evolutionary, survival-oriented purpose could it serve?

I realise that none of these musings, of themselves, rationally lead to the conclusion of there being something beyond what we can see, hear, comprehend. They do not shout out the existence of a god, spirit, or something ‘other.’ They, like everything else, cannot form proof. But I clearly remember the feeling of quiet certainly, of revelation, if you will, that came with each. Perhaps this might what St Teresa of Avila (though not, for now at least, a Christian, I do love a Christian mystic) termed, an ‘intellectual vision.’ And here’s the thing; even now, more than a year since first having some of these ‘‘revelations,’ and re-examining them from a position of sceptics my, that same feeling of warm certainty enfolds me. 

The second category are those events that did not involve thought but pure experience. You know the kind of thing; all those inexplicable little synchronicities such as hearing, seeing, reading about the same subject in completely unrelated places, all pointing something out to you, leading you somewhere. Then there’s the even weirder stuff. Like seeing, twice in a row, the image of an oracle card in my mind’s eye immediately before turning it over, and knowing the name of a character, before it being mentioned, in a movie I’d never seen before. I’ve also had strange and startlingly clear ‘dreams’ during meditation. These could just be dream-state, imaginary things, but they are bloody lovely. And there was a particularly peculiar out-of-body kind of experience where, seemingly awake – I’m not sure as it came a few moments after I thought I’d just woken up from a lucid dream, so it may all be part of the same thing but there was something so alive about it, like being caught up in a strong wind – I felt myself being pulled upwards, feet first, to the ceiling above my bed. There were flowers, like pink lilies, all around the light shade, and there seemed to be people all around the edges of the room. Then came a roar, a rolling gust, and I was slung back down onto the bed. It took my breath away. 

There are other instances I could mention, but I’m going on and on… the point is, that each time I look at what led me, and keeps drawing me back, to the spiritual journey, I come to the same conclusions, and know I would make the same choices again. Almost in spite of myself, this thing keeps tugging at me and tugging and tugging. Incidentally, I have trod these roads before, almost, many, many, pretty moons ago. I never, for one moment, believed I’d find myself back here. 

I don’t know if I could have dealt with this level of doubt and uncertainty a year ago. My mind was fragmented. Although I was exploring new possibilities, I was so clamped into the past that I could not even imagine a way forward. But, after many hours of meditation, lots of working on forgiveness, mostly of self, and being strict with myself about that pesky living-in-the-moment problem, I’m a much calmer person, with a far clearer perspective.

If approached in the right way, with calm and full readiness to accept the answers we present to ourselves, doubts, no matter what they concern, can be transformative. They help us uncover our motives, our modes of behaviour, our real, basic truths. And, if we do it right, we may learn to apply this to others, becoming more understanding and forgiving in the process. Often we discover that doubts, uncertainties, or even just those vague feelings of something being not quite right, relate, not to the here and now, but to some long-ago, completely unrelated situation. So too with anger, fear, insecurity.

It takes courage to discover the depths of one’s own truth, but we can all do it. And when we come out of the other side of doubt, or confusion, or pain, when we turn and reflect, we may see that it was not so much about fear of making doing the wrong thing, or taking a wrong turning, as about inquiry, about discovery and learning. About finding our best approximation of the truth.

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