1. Buddhist

What To Do When You Lose Faith?

We are raised in a culture that either expects hard work to be rewarded or help from spiritual sources to guide us through a hostile environment.  When something we’ve put huge effort into does not succeed, not even get some minimal acknowledgment, we feel devastated.  When it’s something that we’ve put our whole being into, something we felt we were meant to do, we feel not just devastated but betrayed.

If we have been following a spiritual path, be it Buddhism or some other, we will often say something like, “Where is Buddha now?”  “Where is God now?”  “Where are my angels now?”  Because we feel we have been let down, but also because in our current devastation, we don’t hear any spiritual voice speaking to us, advising us, consoling us.  As a result, we lose faith in our spiritual practice.

If you’ve experienced what I have just written, then there are several things for you to examine.

First, ask yourself whether the expectation you had for your project was a realistic one?  Regardless of its value and the quality you put into the project (whether business, artistic, or relationship), did you understand that it was going to be a long, hard, slog or did you think that people were just going to love it and “fame and fortune” were just around the corner?  If the latter, or anything close to it, you are in for a fall and suffering.

Expectations are tricky things, because on the one hand they are often an important component of the energy we have that goes into a project, but on the other hand, they can lead to our suffering if our expectation was not based on clear thinking.

Ideally, it is best to enter into these things with no expectation.  To have the energy come just from the joy of doing it.  And from faith … not in something specific happening but just faith in yourself.  But if you have to have an expectation it is best if it is on the conservative side; not negative so as to stop you, but realistic as to the reception it may receive.

Second,  we need to remember that whatever spiritual help we have tried to access, it’s not the purpose or task of the spiritual entity to get us what we want.  Whether it’s God, angels, or certainly Buddha, these spiritual entities are there to guide us, to support us, to help us access our inner wisdom, but not to accomplish things for us.    

While we were typically raised in a religion where one prayed to God to accomplish something, that is not part of our new spirituality.  But it’s very easy to fall back into the mindset and when things don’t go right to say the equivalent of the Biblical, “God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”

Instead, our new spirituality is centered on strengthening ourselves so that we can weather any storm, take whatever the hostile environment that is the world we live in throws at us.  And when we feel we are safe in this sense, then we have abundant energy to address the project that is before us, even when things don’t go as we hoped or planned.

Which brings me to the third and critical step: feeling safe, regardless.  This project that you’ve undertaken … ask yourself if it is an exercise of your ego or does it come from your heart?  Or regardless whether it initiated in your heart, has your ego commandeered it so that it now has become a matter of your self-confidence, your self-esteem?  Do you feel driven?

This is a hard one.  We often start projects from the purest of motives, but because we are expending a lot of energy, the ego-mind tends to attach itself to things and the project becomes invested with another type of energy, a not healthy one.  Generally we call it attachment.

One easy test it to ask yourself whether you can say, “If it happens, great.  If it doesn’t, that’s ok too.”  If you can’t say that then you are attached and headed down the road to suffering even just waiting for it to happen, let alone if it doesn’t happen.  Indeed, the waiting process may be so devastating (people not responding to you, etc.) that you just want to give it up.

It doesn’t matter how central this project is to the self-image you have created for yourself, you cannot become attached to the project or the process.  And contrary to the way we’ve been raised, it is not mutually inconsistent to hold something very dear or important and still be unattached.

How to become unattached to something or someone, no matter how dear it or the person is to you?  The key is to feel that you will be ok, safe, regardless what happens.

There are two practices that I have embraced that take me to that place.  The first is The Heart’s Embrace.  When you open your heart to embrace all aspects of your being and experience … past, present, and future … then nothing offends, all internal and external struggle cease to be, you know you have everything inside yourself to be at peace and happy, and you will allow nothing to disturb that peace and happiness.  Read my post, “The Heart’s Embrace,” for a full description of the process.

When you are in that state, you are free of all mental obstructions, and so you are able to see all things directly, with dispassion, free of labels, free of the intervention of the mind, knowing that things are the way they are because it’s just the way it is and that’s all ok.  And so the mind rests undisturbed.  And when the mind rests undisturbed, true faith pervades the mind, you know you have everything you need inside yourself to be at peace and happy, all self-revealing and clear without exerting power of mind.

The other practice is knowing what you need to be happy (see my post, “Happiness – What You Need to Be Happy” for a full description of the steps).  When you know that all you need to be happy is to offer yourself and others joy, to be in the company of loved ones and friends, to respect your mind, to respect your body, to be in touch with nature, and live within you means, you know that indeed you have everything inside yourself to be at peace and happy.  It isn’t a matter of how much money you have and the “freedom” that provides, it’s a question of inner peace and self-respect.  That you are never alone; your true Buddha nature is always there to protect and guide you.

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