How do you deal with self-doubt?

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Brev
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How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by Brev »

Recently, I've been overcome with doubt regarding my fitness to practice. Some of it has to do with lifelong challenges in relating to other people and fears of incompetence. And this surge of doubt has coincided with a big work change that's requiring a lot of effort and worry to get going and stabilize.

Have you guys experienced anything similar? What do you all recommend for combating it? Reflecting and meditating on the qualities of the Buddha is what comes to mind.

Thanks for your thoughts.
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jundo cohen
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by jundo cohen »

Brev wrote:Recently, I've been overcome with doubt regarding my fitness to practice. Some of it has to do with lifelong challenges in relating to other people and fears of incompetence. And this surge of doubt has coincided with a big work change that's requiring a lot of effort and worry to get going and stabilize.

Have you guys experienced anything similar? What do you all recommend for combating it? Reflecting and meditating on the qualities of the Buddha is what comes to mind.

Thanks for your thoughts.
Hi Brev,

I do not know your particular Practice Path, so you should speak with your own Teacher.

However, "doubt" is right between your ears. Who is "doubting" if not you, your little self? There is no "doubt" otherwise. So, in the various Zen schools, we make "doubt" one Koan of all Koans. Sometimes, one pushes through "doubt" to some way of seeing beyond and right through all "doubt" and "no doubt". In the Rinzai (in my understanding) the doubt can grow so large that such shatters into clarity. In the Soto (as I teach it anyway) we let the doubt be, sometimes big and sometimes small, without grabbing on, dancing with it or giving it the time of day... and thus we are not prisoners of doubt. It is just your dream of "doubt", the mind playing games of "doubt", so why need you play along with the silly games? Wake up to the dream. Then, we can learn to see such Great Solid Foundation, beyond and right through all "doubt vs. doubtless", that sweeps away and right through all little human doubts.

Let the "doubt" be, let it go, drop all hope for "beyond doubt" in contrast to your "doubt" ... and sometimes we come to a way of seeing where there is just "No Doubt", none in the least ... even as we have very little idea what tomorrow will bring, or the "other people", or life's challenges.

Gassho, Jundo
Priest/Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha. Treeleaf Zendo was designed as an online practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen Center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or work, childcare and family needs, and seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Zen Buddhist Sangha, all fully online. The focus is Shikantaza "Just Sitting" Zazen as instructed by the 13th Century Japanese Master, Eihei Dogen. http://www.treeleaf.org
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明安 Myoan
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by 明安 Myoan »

Self-doubt is sometimes my biggest challenge. In the past, I followed it from school to school, practice to practice, even to the doors of other religions. "I can't do this, my mind is too crazy, I don't have enough time, I can't/don't/won't..."
In the end, no matter where I went or what I did, that same not-quite-satisfied feeling lingered.
You can probably guess where I'm doing with this.

Self-doubt is painful and anxious and confusing; in a word, suffering.
Sometimes, it's not so bad, and sometimes things like work make it even worse; in a word, changing.
And most frustrating of all, it comes along uninvited, from an unseen source and no clear way to hurry it along to the exit; in a word, not a concrete thing in our control.
Aren't these the Three Marks? This is what they look like in real life: your present situation and difficulties.
It's just what the Buddha was talking about 2,500 years ago, now in your life in 2015.

So if self-doubt is suffering, why follow suffering to escape suffering?
If self-doubt is better some days, worse others, why build up hope?
And if self-doubt arises without your permission either way, why strive to control it?
Once you know doubt is there, its Three Marks are apparent, so you can't be fooled by stories anymore.

We can't stop living our lives when problems rush in, or choose a different life. Seems obvious, but I was trying to do just that for a long time by chasing doubt around with a fly-swatter.
So the question in responding to my own self-doubt and anger and lust hasn't been "how do I deal with/get rid of X?" but "what is the direction of my life?"

I personally think the Four Bodhisattva Vows are just such a direction.
This plain old problematic life finds its way in the contradictory tension between
"Beings are numberless" (and yet) "I vow to save them."
"Delusions are inexhaustible" (and yet) "I vow to end them."
"Dharma gates are boundless" (and yet) "I vow to enter them."
"The Buddha Way is unsurpassable" (and yet) "I vow to embody it."
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

Reciting the Nembutsu and believing in birth in the Pure Land naturally give rise to the Three Minds and the Four Modes of Practice. -- Master Hōnen
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

I think self doubt is fine--if you're doing Pure Land type approach to practice. In fact it might even be a asset, strange as that may sound. If you stop trying to "make it work" yourself and surrender your expectations and fears you might find that a partnership is available that will do for you what you could not do for yourself. All you have to do is your part. Other Power will do the rest. It's a dance, not a task.

I've seen plenty of guys (not so much women) that are full of self-will and try to bully their practice into working. That approach does not seem to work so well. But then saying that says more about my karmic perspective than anything valid across the boards. Practically nobody else here will agree with me on that. :cry:
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)
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tomschwarz
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by tomschwarz »

dearest smcj from beginningless time! ))))) I am the undesputed grand master of the fear of rejection and the fear of failure!!! it was so important to me that at age 17 I changed my name to raef fo eruliaf! that is the name I used to register for university! )))))))

now things have changed. I have none of those fears. and the great antidotes where not the ones I originally devised, running around naked, and so on... the greatest antidote to the fear of rejection is expressing heart level, absolute and selfless loving kindness. His holiness the dalai lama explains quite clearly that the single and only way to trust in the safe feeling around others is to be good to them. And to truly be good to them you must train in the greater absolute truth and lesser absolute love (meaning that absolute love is a great part but none the less a subset of the absolute truth, I think....)

on to fear of failure! for that one the great antidote is giving up your personal territory! let your false sense of independent self vaporize! disolve! there is no "you" to defend! there is no reputation!
i dedicate this post to your happiness, the causes of your happiness, the absence of your suffering the causes of the absence of your suffering that we may not have too much attachment nor aversion. SAMAYAMANUPALAYA
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

Hey tomscwarz, if that has worked for you, that is wonderful. My karma left me being crippled by fear of failure. I felt "safer" not trying and telling myself I could do it if I tried rather than actually trying. That way I avoided the pain of failure. I was "takng refuge" in my own unawareness. It was only as an old man I realized that trying and failing was totally ok, but not trying at all was unacceptable.

There are some advantages to being old! :rolling:
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)
gloriasteinem
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by gloriasteinem »

Monlam Tharchin wrote:Self-doubt is sometimes my biggest challenge. In the past, I followed it from school to school, practice to practice, even to the doors of other religions. "I can't do this, my mind is too crazy, I don't have enough time, I can't/don't/won't..."
In the end, no matter where I went or what I did, that same not-quite-satisfied feeling lingered.
You can probably guess where I'm doing with this.

Self-doubt is painful and anxious and confusing; in a word, suffering.
Sometimes, it's not so bad, and sometimes things like work make it even worse; in a word, changing.
And most frustrating of all, it comes along uninvited, from an unseen source and no clear way to hurry it along to the exit; in a word, not a concrete thing in our control.
Aren't these the Three Marks? This is what they look like in real life: your present situation and difficulties.
It's just what the Buddha was talking about 2,500 years ago, now in your life in 2015.

So if self-doubt is suffering, why follow suffering to escape suffering?
If self-doubt is better some days, worse others, why build up hope?
And if self-doubt arises without your permission either way, why strive to control it?
Once you know doubt is there, its Three Marks are apparent, so you can't be fooled by stories anymore.

We can't stop living our lives when problems rush in, or choose a different life. Seems obvious, but I was trying to do just that for a long time by chasing doubt around with a fly-swatter.
So the question in responding to my own self-doubt and anger and lust hasn't been "how do I deal with/get rid of X?" but "what is the direction of my life?"

I personally think the Four Bodhisattva Vows are just such a direction.
This plain old problematic life finds its way in the contradictory tension between
"Beings are numberless" (and yet) "I vow to save them."
"Delusions are inexhaustible" (and yet) "I vow to end them."
"Dharma gates are boundless" (and yet) "I vow to enter them."
"The Buddha Way is unsurpassable" (and yet) "I vow to embody it."
Sorry, I feel "suffering" is used too vaguely and too encompassing in the west. I think when Gautama went out of his castle for the first time he saw sick, poor, old, not doubting people. I don't really think being doubtful is a kind of profound and tremendous suffering that Buddha called "suffering" and wanted to address in his teachings. If being doubtful is either the result or the cause of employment insecurity, than ok, this might be a cause of suffering but having doubts in itself is not suffering to me.
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

Embrace it, accept it.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low
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明安 Myoan
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by 明安 Myoan »

Gloria: to me, suffering encompasses everything from the endless rounds of birth, illness, old age and death to the most ordinary stress and dissatisfaction of the hindrances in daily life and practice, of which doubt is the fifth (vicikicchā).
I recommend Brev look into this further if the posts here aren't enough to get started.
I also found online that in the Mahayana tradition, doubt is one of the "Six root unwholesome factors" which would be a good place to start.
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

Reciting the Nembutsu and believing in birth in the Pure Land naturally give rise to the Three Minds and the Four Modes of Practice. -- Master Hōnen
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

It's also one of those things that the more you struggle with it, the more it wins. Samsara is like that. So don't struggle with it, and don't give in to it, but the middle way.

That's why I spoke of the Other-Power approach. It works!
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)
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Mkoll
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by Mkoll »

Brev wrote:Recently, I've been overcome with doubt regarding my fitness to practice. Some of it has to do with lifelong challenges in relating to other people and fears of incompetence. And this surge of doubt has coincided with a big work change that's requiring a lot of effort and worry to get going and stabilize.

Have you guys experienced anything similar? What do you all recommend for combating it? Reflecting and meditating on the qualities of the Buddha is what comes to mind.

Thanks for your thoughts.
You see yourself that this arising of self-doubt was conditioned at least in part by a big work change. I think this is looking in the right direction: you're looking for the causes for what is. I find that if I dwell on certain things, certain other things arise with certainty :P So if you can find out what you're dwelling on that's causing self-doubt, you can work on not dwelling on that. Noticing when self-doubt is present and when it's not is an important part of this. Notice where aversion arises to this self-doubt. Is it helpful?

Just my 2 cents. :)
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
SeeLion
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by SeeLion »

If you have confidence in the practice, that leaves much less room for self doubt. At least for me it does.
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by gloriasteinem »

Monlam Tharchin wrote:Gloria: to me, suffering encompasses everything from the endless rounds of birth, illness, old age and death to the most ordinary stress and dissatisfaction of the hindrances in daily life and practice, of which doubt is the fifth (vicikicchā).
I recommend Brev look into this further if the posts here aren't enough to get started.
I also found online that in the Mahayana tradition, doubt is one of the "Six root unwholesome factors" which would be a good place to start.
Yes, it is unwholesome and therefore can lead to suffering but it is but it is not suffering itself. Also please don't tell me dissatisfaction equals to suffering. I don't think in ancient times they even had word for dissatisfaction. Probably even the Roman senators were sometimes dissatisfied after long nights of jolly, drinking, eating and sex but that is a bit rude to be qualified as suffering. "I want that candy not the other one because the other one wouldn't satisfy my taste enough" does not qualify exactly as suffering. Maybe we need a new Buddha to talk to us about dissatisfaction as a separate issue but still it is excessive to call dissatisfaction "suffering".
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by tomschwarz »

dearest smcj, I too am old ))) also let me tell you what my dear father told me, he was a psychoanalyst ))) ....tom! why do you care so much what other people think of you? you give them so much respect. @#$^ 'em! )))) ....that would be about fear of rejection. ...then about fear of failure.... tom! you are torpedo-ing your own efforts! you are afraid of falling so you knock you self down!

now if you feel, ah, that I can relate to! your father was a wise man! ))))) great, I love him too very much
and I respect his compassion ant anti cruelty, he was a very noble man.

but! if you want to get serious about truly utilising this short life for real liberation for all sentient beings including your own tormented soul (a
k.a. mind here) then you have to check that psychology at the door because we are not about finding you self, we are about loosing it, which is the only way to truly care for others on their own terms. and if you want the heart of a lion, meaning unconditional confidence, self realization and self understanding are the opposite of what you need. of course only you can say what will prepare you to be ready/able to begin shedding your ego.
i dedicate this post to your happiness, the causes of your happiness, the absence of your suffering the causes of the absence of your suffering that we may not have too much attachment nor aversion. SAMAYAMANUPALAYA
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明安 Myoan
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by 明安 Myoan »

"Dukkha" can be translated as suffering, anxiety, stress, unsatisfactoriness, dissatisfaction...
Suffering is the tapestry of human life, from top to bottom, from the pain of death to ordinary jealousy and pointless pleasure seeking.
The body is always uncomfortable, the mind always making friction.

In Buddhist terms, all of the six realms are suffering, including the heaven realms. Even the luxurious Roman senators died. The cycle of birth/death remains.
We should not be like a leper telling a cancer patient not to complain.
Everyone needs to be free from sufferings big and small, and help others with their sufferings big and small.

The particular suffering Brev writes about is doubt.
It's well described in the sutras and familiar to many of us.
Doubt as a Hindrance with a capital H is not something to be underestimated.

In my own life, Doubt of this kind had many effects:
* mistrust of what other people said and their intentions, including friends and family, leading to alienation and depression
* a feeling of inability, that my Buddhist practice was vain and useless, so I often abandoned it or looked elsewhere, leading to helplessness and thoughts of suicide
* ultimately, Doubt in the teachings as active aversion to the Dharma. I didn't like that it treated my doubt as a hindrance instead of whatever Big Issue it was cloaked as at the time, "who cares about doubt? I need to find the right practice I can do because nothing has ever worked and I'm wasting my life!"

In short, if we follow the momentum of Doubt, we become disarmed, disabled, and confused.
One spends one's life vainly aching for better answers yet having no idea which way to turn.
The Buddha compared it to being lost in a desert. Eventually, bandits find and kill you.
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

Reciting the Nembutsu and believing in birth in the Pure Land naturally give rise to the Three Minds and the Four Modes of Practice. -- Master Hōnen
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by Herbie »

Brev wrote:Recently, I've been overcome with doubt regarding my fitness to practice. Some of it has to do with lifelong challenges in relating to other people and fears of incompetence. And this surge of doubt has coincided with a big work change that's requiring a lot of effort and worry to get going and stabilize.

Have you guys experienced anything similar? What do you all recommend for combating it? Reflecting and meditating on the qualities of the Buddha is what comes to mind.

Thanks for your thoughts.
Hmh ... self-doubt is conditioned by education, socializing, taking up values of others. See it is just that there are no norms, no standards in contrast to what society, friends, family etc want to persuade you to. That's all. Rely on yourself and on nobody else. You are the only person you can rely on. You are the only person that will accompany you until death. that's for sure. Friends get lost, family disintegrates, wifes separate ... all you have is yourself. If you do rely on others more that on yourself than you are lost.
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

Not to be flip, but you deal with it by practicing AFAIK. One simple example is to pray 'may I and all sentient beings be free of self doubt', then fake it till ya make it.

That is advice I've been given, for similar questions, sometimes when things gt hardest it opens real possibilities.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by Herbie »

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Not to be flip, but you deal with it by practicing AFAIK. One simple example is to pray 'may I and all sentient beings be free of self doubt', then fake it till ya make it.
Why pray? You can be sure that there is no reason for self doubt.
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

Herbie wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:Not to be flip, but you deal with it by practicing AFAIK. One simple example is to pray 'may I and all sentient beings be free of self doubt', then fake it till ya make it.
Why pray? You can be sure that there is no reason for self doubt.
When self doubt is strong enough, IME it cannot be 'logic'd' or 'viewed' away, only transformed into something spiritually productive.

All my own experience of course, but there is a reason to practice with the relative Lojong slogans and similar things I think, no matter how high-falutin' you think your view is. Sort of the whole point of relative practices isn't it, sometimes you are attached enough to whatever is going on that you really have no choice but to see it as "real" for now and make use of it.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low
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Re: How do you deal with self-doubt?

Post by 明安 Myoan »

Related to Johnny's message, when my doubt was (and sometimes is) really strong, praying with a mantra is just the thing.

If you can't see the nature of the doubt, and feel completely seized by it in body and mind, then that's a sign that you can't "solve" it and probably shouldn't try to simply ignore it.
"Okay I clearly can't figure this on my own. So instead, I entrust myself and my doubt to..."
And your choice there. The Three Jewels are a great option.
For me, it's Amitabha Buddha.
Get up and bodily prostrate with your doubt in front of the Three Jewels over and over, if you have to.
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

Reciting the Nembutsu and believing in birth in the Pure Land naturally give rise to the Three Minds and the Four Modes of Practice. -- Master Hōnen
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