|Read through my blog below by simply scrolling down the entries, or check out the essays below. I've chosen ones that I particularly enjoy--maybe you will too.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Cynicism vs Doubt
Let’s begin with a very useful idea: adult spirituality. This is a concept I learned from meditation teacher Paul Muller-Ortega. Child spirituality is marked by the belief in the infallibility of a teacher, leader, or parent (“Does My Teacher even go to the bathroom?”). Adolescent spirituality is flavored by the conflict between attraction to the teachings and resentment of the human qualities of the teacher (“I heard My Teacher eats meat. How un-yogic!”). Adult spirituality honors the divinity of the teachings and the humanity of the teacher. Adult spirituality recognizes that someone doesn't have to be a deity, a perfected being, to teach you meaningful lessons about the nature of life. In fact, the WAY the universe teaches us is through the complex, multi-faceted, mortal human beings we find around us.
Cynicism is a feature of adolescent spirituality. Doubt is a feature of adult spirituality.
What do I mean by that?
Merriam-Webster defines cynicism: "An attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others." I love the word jaded. It means, "made dull by surfeit or experience".
In my experience, distrust is learned. Life in the womb encourages trust; baby gets everything it needs from the mother via mechanisms it knows nothing about. Distrust comes later. Your needs aren’t met as an infant or a child. One day, or maybe repeatedly, a parent, teacher, or coach lets you down or belittles you. At some point you learn the word “hypocrisy” and recognize it in the adults around you. Maybe later in life, you are disappointed in love. You learn what it is to disappoint yourself. The buffeting winds of Life extinguish your belief in Her fundamental beauty and promise. You feel that only a fool would continue to believe in Love/other people/Life/himself/Spirit/Goodness. You’re suspicious of anyone espousing the idea that Life is Good.
In this life, I have goals. I want to live a meaningful life. I want to be of service. If I talk optimistically in yoga class, it’s not because I am optimistic by nature. No, by nature I am cynical and maudlin. But I am also pragmatic, and cynicism is a lousy strategy for living a meaningful life. Is it easier for me to practice faith, meaning, and trust in other people’s intentions? HELL, NO. There are times when it is as painful emotionally as Hanumanasana is physically. But it’s more EFFECTIVE. I am a better wife/friend/daughter/teacher when I do this. I serve better. And I’m happier. Amazingly, after 10 years of Anusara yoga, I can say that I am improving! I’m a better practitioner of faith and trust.
Why am I getting better at it? In part, because my teachers have always encouraged me to doubt. Last year on retreat, Paul explained that there will be times when we doubt the validity of our practices and our path. I leaned over to my wise friend Cindy Lusk and whispered, “I can’t imaging ever doubting this! How can this not be true? It all makes so much sense.” Cindy looked at me and said, “Wait five minutes.” Sure enough, five minutes later I was looking around the room and thinking, “who are all these people? Why am I at this hippie resort in the middle of the desert? Do I really believe that this Universe is an explosion of a Divine Consciousness that takes the form of everything around us, including myself? I wonder what’s for dinner.”
Doubt can be a blossom or a root of faith. Paul says doubt takes you deeper. John Friend has always encouraged us to do our own research, to explore and discover on our own terms. In doubting yourself, your teachers, your practice, your beliefs, you are forced to ask: what’s really important? What really works? Whose teachings are truly addressing what’s in my heart? There have been times when I felt disappointed by my teachers. But in serious, intimate adult relationships, we sometimes feel disappointed. What’s more important is that I’ve also been inspired, delighted, fulfilled, informed, loved, respected, and allowed the space to grow.
As I’ve grown, I’ve learned the difference between cynicism and doubt. Even when I doubt these human beings, I love and respect them. These days, I never doubt that they care for me. I never doubt their sincerity. I know they mean what they say. I know they are trying as hard they can to use the brief span of time they are allotted to love me and make my life more meaningful. In the case of my yoga teachers, I know they’re doing this for countless other lucky people.
What’s the opposite of cynicism? Optimism? Sincerity? Trust? Faith? Whatever it is, my teachers have always extended it to me.