Doubt (written 2002)
A labyrinth is an apt symbol for this mindful journey that leads in and in to a blossoming in the centre. The habits of doubt and desire are strong and it is so difficult to let them go. Thus, there are still days when I cannot help but look constantly around to see how far I have come. And then, doing this, I feel both despair at my apparent lack of progress and doubt in my own capacity to make any difference in my own life or in the world.
It is such a day today. I see that I have once again taken on too many commitments and that I’m feeling harried and worried about meeting them. That I do not seem to change the patterns in my life. Our household still produces too much garbage. My children still yearn for too many “things” as if these will make them happy. My cupboards are still too full of unused dishes and my fridge overflowing with every variety of condiment, fruit and vegetable we crave. We seem to be living still the prescribed western life of middle-class affluence. And yet this is not in harmony with what I believe.
When friends tell me they see repeating destructive patterns in their lives, or my children mourn about mistakes they keep making over and over, or someone comments that even though we know we’re destroying the environment, human beings don’t seem to be changing, I like to use an analogy: How long does it take to stop an eighteen wheel semi truck? Even if the driver is desperate to do so? There’s a lot of momentum there. And what if the road itself is slippery? No, this isn’t an easy thing to do. And it may not happen as quickly as the driver wishes.
Awareness and contemplation precede the right intention and eventually, the right actions. With big changes, both stopping and turning around are cumbersome. Patience is required.
When I sit for awhile and follow my breath and then watch the thoughts that arise and pass, I see what is real. That I am causing my own suffering now by desiring the stop and turn to be immediate rather than letting this process be, moment by moment. Right thought, right action. This moment and then this. Change not only will come but is inevitable. It is what mortal life entails. My task is only to stay mindful and let the rest follow.
So I sit and watch the clouds of doubt and desire move through. I keep my grasping hands in my lap, softly open, and do not reach for the clouds as I have been doing, pulling them over my head, cringing in the rain they bring. Breathe, let them pass and smile. The middle way is not a shortcut and not a quick fix. It’s a way of being.