We spend our whole lives living with ourselves. It is the longest and most intimate of all relationships we will ever have, and the one we take most for granted. Yet it's extraordinary how often we feel as if we're living inside a stranger, such as when we get ill or get surprised by ourselves, such as falling in love with the least likely person. Realistically, we should know ourselves better than knowing anyone else, but more often than not we tend to dislike ourselves, are constantly finding fault, and so reject what we find. Then we look for love anywhere other than with ourselves.
How totally sad that we should dislike the person we spend our life with! We have the opportunity for the deepest and most sustaining love affair of all, and instead we criticize and invalidate, dismissing our own thoughts, ideas, and needs as unimportant. The Buddha said there is no one more deserving of love than ourselves. That's a big statement and can be hard to actuate, especially as it appears so much easier to love others. But can our love for others really be genuine if we're not loving ourselves?
Self-doubt brings fear, such as the fear of failure, of the dark, of being out of control, of not being good enough. We fear loving because we doubt our ability to love and so fear rejection; we fear being generous because we doubt our capacity to generate more and fear we will not have enough. We fear sharing our thoughts or feelings for doubt that we will appear wrong or stupid. Doubt brings mistrust, which appears real, even though it may have no real substance. It arises when the ego is threatened or undermined. Such doubt creates worry, nervous disorders and even paranoia. It is the enemy of real happiness.
But all is not hopeless! In every moment we have a wonderful opportunity to believe in ourselves by growing in awareness and self-compassion and by discovering that the essence of who we are is not dependent on anything outside of us but is always within. Confidence is not always the opposite of doubt, as it can be superficial and hide a deeper layer of insecurity. In Tibet there is a wonderful word, ding, that means knowing and feeling at home within oneself, comfortable in one's own skin, and this "at-homeness" really is the opposite of self-doubt.
"As we increasingly wake up, we become skillful in navigating the emotional terrain of anger, fear, worry, doubt -- all the ego-dominated perceptions that cause us to think such feelings are real and justified," says Michael Bernard Beck with in our book Be The Change. "Emotions of all kinds arise, but we are that which witnesses them. We become aware that we are aware. We realize that we have a body but we are not our body. We witness the thinking mind, but we are not the thoughts that are passing through. Our essence remains the changeless witness to that panorama."
In times of stillness and meditation (see Be The Change Meditate e-Conference) we create a space where self-doubt, fear, mistrust, sadness, anger, confusion, or any other emotion can come and be seen and pass through. If we deny any of these then they will follow us wherever we go; if we hold on, then it is the ego holding onto the need for some form of recognition.
When we witness without attachment, then doubt and fear are acknowledged and once acknowledged no longer require attention. Even more, when we are established in meditation and stillness then the feeling is so powerful that doubt doesn't even arise. It is a knowing that transcends all knowing. Making friends with the content of our own minds shows us that behind even the darkest difficulty lies the happiness that is our true nature.
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Be The Change Meditate e-Conference will uplift and inspire you. It includes Marianne Williamson, Congressman Tim Ryan, author of Mindful Nation, Sharon Salzberg, Robert Thurman, Gangaji, Joan Borysenko, Seane Corn, neuroscientist Richie Davidson who proves how meditation affects the brain, Gabby Bernstein, Tara Stiles, and us, Ed and Deb Shapiro, authors of the conference companion book, BE THE CHANGE: How Meditation Can Transform You and The World. Expect your life to never be the same again!
For more information: www.edanddebshapiro.com.