Thursday, March 4, 2010

Doubt as a Motivation: Living with Self Confidence

Where do we get the idea that we are supposed to be certain about so many things all the time, anyway? Is that what makes us think we are valuable, smart, competent? Doubts often look like a lack of confidence, uncertainty or even a lack of will. I think doubt is a way of expressing a lack of certainty in a projected outcome or in an assigned meaning or interpretation. Doubt can simply reflect not knowing and get confused with a judgment that one "ought to know" and therefore is not competent or trustworthy or ready for whatever is called for in that moment. Translate "doubt" into "I do not know for certain" and doubt can become the source for the energy of inquiry into possibility.

Is it possible to let go of judgment and simply give ourselves the space to be open to the possibilities? I think that self confidence is possible without ego dominance and in that context, doubt can be an inspiration. It doesn't take much to notice that my legs are shaking in a revolved lunge. Without putting a negative spin on it, I can enjoy that resistance and even discover ways to release more of the tension. I can find out something about myself in that process: watching my mind, observing my body, continuing to trust in my breath to keep me opening to the sensations. This happens, I think, because I am accepting myself in that moment, giving myself freedom to act directly from a nonjudgmental source in myself rather than from my constructed and judging ego. I could load myself with judgments, "How can I be a real yoga teacher if my legs are shaking even in revolved lunge?" or "I have to hold this longer in order to prove that I am good at this" or "I must be doing something wrong since I'm not finding this easy." All of this judging is built on the idea that somehow perfection in performance is required to qualify me to be who I am, not the actual experience itself. This is what I mean by projected outcome and assigned meaning. If I continue working through such a judgmental mind, I will disable or truncate my possibilities and my experiences.

A friend posted on Facebook this quote from His Holiness the Dalai Lama: "With the realization of one's own potential and self-confidence in one's ability, one can build a better world. According to my own experience, self-confidence is very important. That sort of confidence is not a blind one; it is an awareness of one's own potential. On that basis, human beings can transform themselves by increasing the good qualities and reducing the negative qualities."

An awareness of one's own potential is like opening all the shutters and curtains and letting the light flood into the room. The light falls equally and fully on everything it reaches. This level of awareness is where that self confidence draws from when in the face of uncertainty or struggle, and most especially of what we do not or can not know. Of course the light will shine on disturbing aspects too, equally brightly (those shaky legs or human cruelties or past sorrows). I think H.H. Dalai Lama is speaking to that as well, that this awareness accepts the entirety and that openness enables us to make choices between the negative and the positive.

Thinking of my garden buried under the snow, I imagine the longer hours of sunlight are affecting the bulbs in the ground, starting to generate the slightest bit of energy towards root growth for those tiny snowdrops, wild hyacinths, daffodils and jonquils. The dandelions are also finding this longer day stimulating. It is my choice to think of harvesting the new greens or of pulling out those deep roots. Sitting here next to the woodstove I do not know which action I will choose, and could easily doubt that I will take either action, simply allowing the beautiful bright yellow blooms to emerge and outshine the bulbs I planted until the first cutting of the grass.

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