Friday, 13 August 2010

The cessation of doubt

The cessation of doubt is the beginning of fearlessness. Doubt also has a purpose - overcoming your own doubts gives you the tools to challenge and overcome the doubts of others. Doubtlessness is an extremely powerful and healing state but it is not to be confused with bloody mindedness. Doubtlessness is also a state without the crazy commentary we have in our heads. It is without the monkey mind. It is pure unadulterated awareness.

It is said that a situation will continue as it is until the lesson is learned, doubt is a good measure of thumb to know if you've learned it yet. We have to answer all our questions and grey areas to gain conviction. Oh and we have to have humility too, without that we won't necessarily have the grace to achieve our goals. Humility is an openness to possibilities, it is a friendly disposition towards impermanence, it is recognising that our not knowing is the truth and all of our knowing is rooted in that single unique mystery of existence. Explain that and you explain all things. Except most of us try and explain the things and leave out the biggest question.

My biggest doubt was 'Should I be this happy when others are suffering?' Both my perceptions of 'I' and of 'other' were wrapped up in this. In essence it was the lesson I had to learn. I had reached a place of doubtlessness, or quiet; a place where I was not suffering (not simply that I wasn't ill - I was at the time quite unwell) it was a place where I didn't have the anguish that accompanies suffering or the pain itself even. Somehow I recognised that my 'I' was not that. As a Tibetan teacher once said when he went to the dentists and didn't use anaesthesia and the dentist asked him if it hurt; although he himself was not hurting he answered 'The glass over there is...' He had removed his identifying with himself to a much broader version inclusive of all things and so the pain was displaced. Pain is something we 'identify' with. To be capable of fully lovinng something Amma says we need to lose the 'I' and 'mine' the past and the future. So there's a measure with which to check yourself - is there an 'I' in this problem, is there a 'my' in this problem, is there the 'past' in this problem or is there the 'future'. Then you can be truly present, fully loving and no doubt the answer is also waiting there for you. Freeing yourself up from those things provides a great deal of space around any issue, any suffering that you may have.
The reason I stumbled upon this place was because I wanted to find for myself that place without suffering that I understood existed according to all those enlightened people's experiences. I pursued it with great determination at a time when I was in unbearable pain and discomfort. In fact I didn't have a lot of recourse. I had understood that in any human state, at any point in time it was possible to free ourselves of suffering. One of the greatest tools for this was a single pointed mind, a focused mind, the other was self reflection - the mind looking at the mind so to speak, then a great wish for freedom and a wish to help others.

For many months I lived in that state of 'no thought'. I had no preconceptions, no commentary, no filter, no judgement. It did not mean that I didn't speak. The words came without any precursor or thought. It was much more like I was living in realtime as opposed to a step behind as we are when we filter everything through our 'experiences and judgements'. I also had a great sense of well being and bliss, I knew exactly what I needed, I knew exactly what level of vitality I had, I was helped with both western and chinese traditional medicine. It was the confidence I had that was most remarkable as though that is our natural state. My vision also changed, things seemed to emit their own light, and were absolutely beautiful, I could not separate myself, nor could I call something inanimate - everything was vibrating with a life, an essence that ran through all things. As my mind remained peaceful and still, so my body calmed. I even looked at 'my' self in the same way, its kind of an intrinsic detachment if that makes sense. i could treat myself in the third person and approach otehrs with the same care and attention I used to reserve for myself.

This state went on many months until one day I had one thought. My first thought in all those months. On that day I thought 'Should I be this happy?' I did not answer it, my mind returned to its clarity and stillness like a pebble has just landed in the water. The next day the thought continued 'Should I be this happy.... when others are suffering?'. And in that way my thoughts continued to grow right back up to monkey mind again. That chattery non stop commentary upon life and experience, only this time I was watching. I am still watching. It was an unusual doubt that interrupted my repose, but I think actually that it holds within it many answers.

Conviction overcomes doubt but sometimes looking for and finding the truth can be painful. Having the humility to capitulate when you're wrong is a marvellous trait leading to learning and peace. But one should not capitulate if your awareness would remove the suffering or the ignorance of others. Yet it doesn't mean you're there to proselytise; a silent example is enough, a word of warning, just as you would teach a child and even then, even if you have the ability to move mountain of ignorance, sometimes the right thing to do is to let them make their own mistakes.

You'll always be there for them, the rules are - you can't always take on their burden of suffering. Sometimes it seems we have to carry our burdens until we have exhausted the results of an action and then we can put it down. The act of carrying it, of butting our heads against the obstacle in frustration, the fighting, the loss and the despair, all of these can be great and pure lessons; the main obstacle that we are repeatedly confronting being ourselves. We have to step aside. One thing such suffering teaches us is empathy for others. We will help others, we will carry the bags of a stranger, we will share what we have because we know what it's like to suffer, or we understand we could be there too. And lastly there is a disentanglement from the self; much of our suffering is a direct result of our concept of 'self', remove that and a whole swathe of types of suffering fall away.

What is left when there is no doubt is a beautiful state of confidence. It is always there. My nan used to say 'Trust in providence'. Our confidence is profoundly shaken when we have an 'I' and the rest of the world, an 'I' and the other. What a frightening place to step into when we are so separate and so alone. But step into a place where everything is intrinsically connected, where your 'I' is not in bits, not an island, and then you're not alone; your awareness stretches out through all time and through all existence. It reassuringly blinks back at you. We are in a world full of mirrors of the same awareness.

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