I Can Have Doubt & Still Have Faith.
I pray a lot. Actually I pray and talk to God all the time. But today when I was sitting outside meditating under a ravishing silver moon, I asked myself who am I really praying and talking to.
Sometimes I pray and wonder if anyone is listening, or if it’s just a deluded one-way conversation in my own head.
Because honestly some days I really don’t know. I have moments of existential angst where I question everything, especially God. When I see the sorrows of the world, I wonder if everything is random, or perhaps God’s just forgotten about us and left us to figure it all out all on our own.
Deep inside I know that’s not true. I have experienced too many glorious moments of divine synchronicity and inexplicable grace to believe otherwise.
Most of the time, that is.
But tonight, mesmerized by the gorgeous full moon and the iridescent stars dancing across the sky, I thought about my beloved dad, and all I could do was heave and weep.
Sometimes I am so bloody sick and tired of missing my beautiful dad.
Who is it I’m praying to when I feel heartbroken and pummeled by grief?
And tell me, God or Universe or Spirit, if you are listening — where do our loved ones really go when they pass on? I truly want to know. No more guessing or philosophizing.
I don’t mean to get testy, but I want some real tangible answers.
Will we be together again in some utopian existence like in What Dreams May Come, or is it all just a load of pollyanna Hallmark sweet talk?
Yes, I know that it will all be revealed when I cross over. But I want to know beforehand, because truth be told, patience is not one of my virtues.
I don’t want some trite, new-agey platitudes. I want some real answers. I want comfort, solace and reassurance. And God, if it’s not too hard to arrange, I want visiting hours to heaven or the astral realm, so I can visit with my mum and dad from time to time.
I feel so doubtful some days, so very uncertain, and sometimes I seem to ask more questions than there can ever be enough answers for.
If God is the love in my heart, and the life force in my breath — is God also the confusion and the uncertainty that clouds my mind and darkens my soul?
Is God with me when I make mistakes and fail to live up to my ideals? When I try to do my best and still fall short? When I hurt others despite my highest intentions? When I strive for empathy and compassion, but temporarily lose myself to small-minded resentment and blame?
Is God around when the world has lost its moorings and we are besieged by hatred, insanity, greed and suffering? This is where I get really stuck and crazed and pissed at God, so I’ve stopped trying to make sense of the senseless. I have to trust that God in Her infinite wisdom must have it all figured out.
Most of us would give anything to have a crystal ball, so we can look into the unknown future and have it all figured out. Doesn’t work that way for us humans. There’s no map or blueprint for what lies ahead.
It’s not about being famous or winning the lottery. It’s about the simple things really. We just want to know that we and our loved ones are going to be okay.
We humans worry about that stuff — a lot.
But worry, as I have sometimes reluctantly learned, is a complete waste of time with zero benefits. It cripples the mind and robs us of our hard-earned peace and joy. I’m glad to say that as I’ve aged I worry a lot less. I’ve got better things to do with the finite amount of time I have left.
What I want is to feel more joy — pure unadulterated joy. Not fickle happiness that ebbs and flows along with the ever changing conditions of life.
I’ve known that kind of deep, vast joy. And I’ve felt God as that tangible, timeless eternal joy that has no beginning or no end.
I’ve know the majesty and miracle of life and death. I’ve given birth, and I’ve been bedside with both my parents when they passed on. Birth and death are so inextricably woven together, and so profoundly and extraordinarily beautiful.
With heart opened wide, I could barely contain the fusion of all the joy and sorrow gifted to me at those sacred moments.
I feel it in meditation and in nature, music and poetry. I feel it when I look into the eyes of my loved ones and I see the utter radiance of their soul mirroring back my own inextinguishable beauty.
I felt it in my dance class today — I felt vigorously alive, young and happy, as if my whole being was percolating with radiant negative ions and vibrant energy.
Sometimes I can be so deeply moved by a gorgeous orange purple sunset, or the intoxicating scent of a single snow-white gardenia. I immerse myself in its splendor and I feel simple, uncomplicated joy. How grateful I am for those ordinary moments that beguile and inspire. But then unannounced the magic quietly and sadly disappears.
And sometimes so does my faith. Or so it seems. It evaporates into the ether of nothingness when life gets a little too intense, a little too scary, and a little too beyond my control.
Control — now isn’t that one of life’s classic conundrums? We have no control on the outcome of our destiny, but I do know that I get to control the condition of my mind.
This is a bitter pill to swallow at times, but without any doubt I know this is true. No one is responsible for the condition of my mind but myself.
Joy and misery are inside jobs.
The more I realize how little I really know, the more l feel like a beginner. Searching, wondering, wandering. A little lost, but more at home with myself than ever before.
And when I travel, I love to wander and walk with no real destination in mind. Sort of like my metaphor for life.
As I get closer to death, I feel both ancient and as curious and excited as a little child.
Sometimes I imagine what it must be like to leave the body and transition to the Great Sleep. To be free from the weight of human suffering. To be reunited with loved ones.
But I’m in love with life — with all its messed-up craziness, with its mystery, magic and incredible richness. I want more time, not less. I don’t want to leave my beloveds behind.
And I’m in love with people I haven’t even met yet — and places I’ve yet to travel to.
Who are they, what will we share, what will I learn about myself? Where will I go and what awaits me there?
One thing I know for sure is this — I want to live fully spent and engaged in life till the very last breath. I want to drink life dry every single day with gusto, levity and downright pleasure.
When we die, we don’t get extra points for all the ways we denied ourselves pleasure.
And yet I know that when the clock inevitably stops ticking and my time is up, I will be ready for the next wondrous adventure.
What I’ve come to understand after more than five decades is that I can feel so much all at one time — and I find that quite refreshing really. Sometimes it’s conflicting and contradictory, but then so am I.
It’s not a moral issue to me. Being true to myself is my preferred religion. That, along with kindness as the Dalai Lama teaches.
Isn’t radical self-acceptance a rather marvelous thing?
It takes time, but well worth the wait.
I can be grateful and still not be content.
I can be content and still be restless.
I can have enough and still want more.
I can be at peace and still have desires.
I can love and still feel anger.
I can feel deep sadness and still feel indescribable joy.
I am human, after all.
And so back to where I started — I can have doubt and still have faith.
I can feel enormous gratitude and still at times feel afraid.
I can question and yet feel the gentle flutter of answers birthing inside of me.
Without doubt I wouldn’t need faith.
Without fear there would be no need for courage.
Without betrayal I wouldn’t know the comfort of the healing transformative power of true love.
Without darkness, surely Light would not be as incandescent.
I have learned to love and value the dualities in life and in myself.
I can talk to God and still feel like I’m blindly talking to myself.
Maybe that’s who God is — I, Me, Myself.
I can glide in light and goodness, and sometimes still feel as if I’m trudging through thick dark mud.
I can fail miserably and still keep rising above. I can fall and transcend again and again. I can forgive and I can atone. I cannot change people, but I can change myself.
And maybe, just maybe that’s more than good enough. Maybe that’s pretty darn grand.
I can be a doubting Thomasina — and still know beyond the shadow of doubt that beloved Spirit, Divine Mother lives, loves and breathes within and as me.
Imperfect. Flawed. More than enough. So ridiculously more than enough. Beautiful me.
That I am worthy and deserving of the best and highest — I staunchly believe that too.
I also believe that doubt is good for the soul, and that questioning is necessary in building faith.
Perhaps I will always question. Maybe it’s just my nature. I am an Aquarian after all.
But it has occurred to me that age has brought with it the blessing that I no longer question myself. I value my own counsel. I am my own guru, my trusted companion, and my most loyal friend.
It took a lifetime to feel this way, but learning cannot be hurried. There may well be questions that will never be answered, no matter how patient or curious I strive to be.
I can live out the rest of my days at ease with that understanding. The not-knowingness of life doesn’t scare me as much anymore. I know what I need to know and that serves me well.
The rest I gladly release and give to Spirit — because deep inside I know that God always has my back. And knowing is vastly more important and epic than mere believing.
Even when my heart feels battered and my spirit bruised, when life is heavy and harsh — even then, my doubt is as valuable and as much a part of me as my faith.
I have faith in myself. I have faith in the God in me.
“It’s not the answer that enlightens, but the question.” ~ Eugène Ionesco
Angela Paul is an author, model, speaker and life coach whose main focus is on relationships, marriage, life transitions and graceful aging. Her most recent book, The Beauty of Aging: A Woman’s Guide to Joyful Living, inspires and empowers women of all ages to fearlessly embrace the wisdom and beauty of aging. Angela was born and raised in Yorkshire, England, lived in Tokyo for many years and currently resides in Los Angeles. She is a long time meditator of over 30 years, travels extensively and spends as much time as she can at the beach in Malibu. A lover of solitude and nature Angela considers herself to be a Highly Sensitive Person who also joyfully exhibits occasional shades of a wild extrovert. She rarely Tweets, but you can follow her on Facebook or check out her website.