In some ways, Doubt is the most difficult of the Hindrances. One of the reasons is because it can be difficult to be aware of its presence. Doubt has an ability to appear in many different guises and forms. Just when we think we know what it looks like, it changes into something else.
Another reason Doubt is challenging is that it gives us the impression that it is the truth. “I really am a terrible yogi.” “Everyone else gets this stuff but me.” “That teacher doesn’t seem so enlightened to me.” “You should just give up now, you’re never going to get this.” That last one speaks to Doubt in its most extreme form. That is, we believe it so fully that we actually stop practicing.
So what to do about Doubt? As with all the other Hindrances, but especially with Doubt, the first and most important part is to see it clearly, and name it. “Oh, this is Doubt.” Often, when we can name Doubt, what was troubling the heart and mind is greatly reduced. Once we have seen and named Doubt, we do not have to believe whatever is in our mind at the time, because what is in the mind is going to be Doubt, masquerading as wisdom.
There are no short cuts when working with Doubt. Meaning, we have to start where we are and clearly notice the forms of Doubt that we are able to perceive. We won’t catch them all, but seeing Doubt in one form will make it easier to see it in another form. We can also start to tune into how we feel when we are gripped by Doubt. As we get familiar with that feeling, we may notice it at another time, and get clued in to the fact that a different form of Doubt we have not seen before may be present.
The specific form of Doubt that manifests as self doubt can be voracious and difficult to deal with. “I’m such a loser” can just be so difficult to see past. It’s important to see any form of self criticism as self doubt. It’s just Doubt. It’s not true. Easy to say, but not so easy to put into practice. I’m mentioning this form of Doubt because so many of us struggle with it, and because naming it as Doubt can sometimes wake us up from the spell of believing it.
I’ll have more to say on this particular form of Doubt when we get together and explore it on April 14th.