Affirmation: I promise to give faith a fighting chance.
I’ve been thinking a lot about faith lately, in that; I’m trying to get me some! If you have a strong religious faith, you can prolly just skip this one because I’m guessing you might have an easier time with it (if I’m wrong, let me know).
I think I’ve mentioned a few times that my faith is a little shaky. By that I mean, I’m not sure I believe that all things, no matter how they appear, are in a state of divine and perfect order ... or that there is such thing as a perfect order ... or a divine, for that matter.
While I have some sense of there being something bigger than us - a spiritual energy out there (or in here), my biggest question has always been - is this energy inherently benevolent? I mean, is it looking out for us … protecting us? In fact, while reading more about this, I found that I’m in good company asking that question. I read that Albert Einstein said the most important question in life is, “Is the universe a friendly place?” ** So, ya know, me and Al, we’re the same…jus' sayin'...
I don't know about you, but I think If we answer that question in "human" terms, I would have to say, "no." The reason for that is … well … the world! There’s a lot of bad shit going down out there. I mean, I have it pretty damn good, but not everyone does, and it’s hard to have faith in a benevolent source when you see the sorrows in the world.
Which is, I think, why we seek a spiritual answer to these questions ... because we want to be hopeful. We want to think "things happen for a reason," or "it's for the greater good;" or that everything that happens is part of our "sacred contract" or "for our soul's growth.” Or perhaps even, as the bard would tell us, "All the world's a stage and, and all the men and women merely players..."
So, if we really want to have faith, why can't we just, ugh!, make ourselves go ahead and believe it already?! Because, I'll tell ya, so far, I haven't been able to. I mean, I have moments, but, like I said, they're shaky. While thinking on this recently, I finally happened upon 2 different articles that really helped me see faith as perhaps attainable ... eventually ... most of the time ...
The first article suggested that, in order to cultivate faith, I should start with hope. She said,
“… we can look at hope like a stepping stone in elementary school and pure faith as
graduate school tests passed.”
I really liked that because I can totally do hope … I mean, not all the time, but the possibility of hope seems easier to attain than the seeming "certainty" of faith. It also helped me realize that it's normal and totally ok if I didn't just wake up one day and have instant faith.
The 2nd article said,
“Faith is something that is cultivated and experienced through practice.”
This made me realize why those folks who grew up with religion seem to come to faith more easily. They have been practicing all of their lives!
Plus, I know from experience that anyone can get better at anything if they practice. And, I also like thinking of it as similar to why yoga is called a "practice;" you are constantly evolving and every day will be different than the last.
What both of these articles made me see is that faith is something we can make stronger. It's not just a "you either have it or you don't" kind of thing; which is so reassuring. So, if you’re anything like me, and you find your faith shaky, here are some practices that I came up with that I think will help us to build our “faith muscles.”
Trust whatever you can.
Start by focusing on trusting whatever you already can. There might be some things you already have faith in like, God, the fundamental goodness of people, the scientific method, your own fundamental goodness, etc. If you're struggling finding something, here are some things that I think we can all pretty much agree on:
Faith in the lessons you've learned - I'm sure you've learned a lot of shit over the years, and you can tap into those valuable lessons to help you with whatever you're dealing with now.
Faith in your resilience - No matter what the future brings, you can handle it. How do I know that? Because you have a perfect record of getting through every single thing that has happened in your life thus far. You are resilient!
Here's what I came up with for myself that helps me believe in a benevolent energy. It may seem over-simplistic to you, but I'm finding it helpful. And besides, I get to draw more stick people!
Say, "how interesting," to reality.
Part of my difficulty with faith is the constant fear that things aren't the way they should be. Because, while things always work themselves out, they don't always work out the way I want them to ... jus' sayin'...
But, I've learned that you can’t change reality, even if you’re completely pissed off at it (trust me, I've tried). And, let's face it, if you can't change it, then why the hell shouldn't we just go ahead and assume that whatever happened was for a good reason? Does it do anyone any damn good to believe otherwise? Of course not! A great quote on this subject is:
"How do I know something was supposed to happen? Because it did." ~ Byron Katie
One of my favorite scenes in the animated movie, Kung Fu Panda (and yes, once again, I am drawing inspiration from that movie - don't judge me!), is when Master Oogway seemingly accidentally chooses Po as the Dragon Warrior, and the Master's response is simply, "How interesting." He has absolute faith in the choice even though he has no idea why.
(click HERE to see the excerpt)
I like the idea of treating unexpected situations like this instead of assigning a value of good or bad to them. And saying, "how interesting" somehow makes whatever is happening less ... I don't know, final or conclusive; it gives a feeling of expectance for whatever might be next. Don't get me wrong, I don't think this is always easy, but, in general, I like it.
Choose your dominating thoughts.
You can choose what you permit to occupy your mind. So make it a conscious practice to decide that you will:
Look for the good instead of the bad (or don't assign good or bad at all).
Make up reasons why things will work out rather than why they won't.
Find something positive to learn in any situation.
Assume good intentions of ... well ... everyone (I realize this is easier with some than others)
While there are about 3 trillion quotes on this subject, here's one of my favorites:
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought.” ~ Buddha
Don’t beat yourself up
If you tend to, like me, beat yourself up for having these doubts, this quote from Anne Lamott's book, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, might give you some comfort because it tells us that having doubt is perhaps a necessary part of faith:
“I have a lot of faith. But I am also afraid a lot, and have no real certainty about anything. I remembered something Father Tom had told me--that the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty. Certainty is missing the point entirely. Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort, and letting it be there until some light returns.”
Repeat all of the Above
If you're doing a lot of this already, you might be frustrated (like me) thinking you should "be there" already. But, maybe faith's very elusiveness is just part of it's essence, and it's totally normal for us to feel like we can't really get a firm grip on it. Which is annoying and reassuring at the same time.
Ultimately, You Get to Decide
Maybe it doesn't really matter what is actually true, maybe it just all depends, at least to some degree, on what you tell yourself is true ... and what you keep telling yourself until you truly believe it's true.
Maybe all we need to continue to cultivate faith is to just keep giving it a shot - keep hoping, practicing, and reaching out for it. Every time something comes along that tries to shake your faith in people, in yourself, in the future (or the past), stop for a moment and take a breath. Recall what you do have faith in; say "how interesting"; or say this affirmation (which was inspired from the song, I Hope You Dance, by Lee Ann Womack): "I promise to give faith a fighting chance." I think it's a great way to say, "I'm not sure, but I'm hopeful!" Which may really be the true definition of faith. Which has me wondering if maybe I had it all along without even realizing it.
Spiral level: Pretty shitty, Meh, Pretty Darn Good, Great!
Use when feeling: confusion, fear, frustrated, uneasy, worried, next level shit, accepting
** Whether or not Einstein said this quote is open for debate. It is often attributed to him, but apparently there is no proof he actually did.