In case of self-doubt, remember who you really are

14 Comments

robert the bruce in battle, from ‘Bruce and de Bohun’ painted by John Duncan (1866 – 1945)

Recently I found myself feeling dejected and depressed, when a simple thought came into my mind that changed everything. It’s something I want to share with others, because I think it might help them too.

The other day I was out for a walk, and I was mulling over Wildmind’s precarious financial situation. Right now we don’t have enough sponsors to break even, and the bank balance has been dropping alarmingly.

I find it dispiriting, doing something I think is valuable and that not being supported. In my darkest moments I wonder if that means that what I do isn’t valued, and that can lead to me thinking I’m not valued.

These are the kinds of gloomy ruminations that were going on in my head as I was walking. I was feeling pretty down.

Finding the Warrior Spirit

Then, out of nowhere, came the thought, “You’re a warrior.”

I don’t normally think of myself that way. But as soon as the word “warrior” entered my mind, I felt a surge of energy and confidence.

“Don’t complain about your problems,” I thought. “Be a warrior and tackle them head on.”

And that made me think of how I come from a long line of people who have fought for survival.

We’re all the descendants of strivers and survivors

When my dad was nine years old, he father died in an accident. He ended up working at a very young age to help support his sister, brother, and my grandmother.

My dad’s mum had been orphaned at the age of 15, and she and her younger brother ended up in an orphanage. But when she was 16 she got a job as a cleaner, and got her brother out of the orphanage, effectively becoming his parent. She worked so hard that when she was 70 she looked like she was in her 90’s.

Her parents both had hard lives and passed away at the ages of 50 and 40, of infectious diseases common among working class people.

Her grandfather was a ship’s cook on a wooden cargo ship that caught fire while en route to India, shipwrecking him in Mozambique.

Most of the family before then were farm laborers or servants. They all had hard lives. But they all hung in there long enough to have surviving children.

My life is positively luxurious and care-free compared to most of theirs. I really have nothing to complain about.

Remember Who You Are

In fact I take inspiration from my ancestors.

We’re all the descendants of survivors: of strivers and warriors. I choose to emulate them by not letting myself be overcome by self-doubt.

I know that what I do is valuable. I know that I matter. I just have to keep reminding myself that financial challenges are a battle to be fought and won. It’s not that I’m aiming to conquer or harm anyone, of course; don’t take the warrior imagery too literally. But the difficult situation I face is one I turn toward, confidently, like one going into battle.

As the Buddha is reputed to have said on the eve of his enlightenment, “It is better to die fighting than to live as one vanquished.”

So if you doubt yourself — if you experience despair or hopelessness, when you feel like giving up — remind yourself of who you are. You’re a survivor, from a lineage of strivers stretching back four billion years. Take inspiration from the past as you face the future. Be a warrior.

If you feel inspired to help support Wildmind’s mission to teach meditation, and want to know the many benefits of doing so, click here to learn more about Wildmind’s Meditation Initiative.

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14 Comments. Leave new

  • Ellen Robinson-Haynes
    January 20, 2023 10:09 am

    I continue to be deeply touched by your stories and books. My morning study book just now is Living as a River. Your reminder to live as a warrior is an inspiring reminder that I am adding to my intention to be refuge. I hope that you will really remember that you need never wonder if your life as mattered. At least one 75 yr old seeker has been assisted on the path by your work.

    Reply
    • Thank you for your kind comments, Ellen. One day I hope to bring out a new edition of Living as a River. As someone once said, “I’d have written a shorter letter if I had more time.”

      Reply
  • I have been following you for many years, first for meditation and then as I started reading about Buddhism, so you have had a great deal of effect on many people. Times may be hard financially but never doubt yourself.

    Reply
    • Thank you. Self-doubt is just one of those thing that tends to arise from time to time. When I read the scriptures, and for example encounter Māra telling the sick Buddha that he’s lying there being useless, I assume that’s saying that even the Buddha was prone to thoughts of self-doubt arising. What is different about the Buddha is that he always recognizes those thoughts as Māra. (Incidentally, that’s a practice that I do too, although sometimes, as in this case, I forget to employ it.)

      Anyway, the thing is to be on the ball enough to recognize self-doubt and not let it take root in the mind. That way it doesn’t become an actual problem, because any suffering it causes is momentary, if that.

      Reply
  • Bodhipasksa, I use your recordings daily in my meditation practice. Your voice and teachings have enriched my life enormously. Thank you, Beth

    Reply
  • We warriors need to complain from time to time. Yes, we have it better than our ancestors, but as you make clear, self-doubt and despair are an inevitable part of the human path. They are important teachers. I have considered you one of my teachers since the inception of Wildmind, because you mirror the full range of being human. I love this teaching, Remember Who You Are… you are the goodness that inspires and holds it all. Thank you, dear friend.

    Reply
  • James Thompson
    January 22, 2023 9:59 am

    While I appreciate the essence of your message, I am increasingly resistant to the WARRIOR metaphor. For me it only reinforces what I personally feel continues to be human nature’s most self-destructive addiction – WAR.

    When I want to return to who I really am, I prefer to think outside the WARRIOR box and find strength in less aggressive, competitive, domineering actualizing practices.

    As central at that metaphor appears to be in much spiritual literature, I believe it has taken us down the path of annihilation so apparent today at the personal, environmental and international even cosmic levels. Our current culture is saturated with this metaphor and we are desperately hungry for something new. Sorry but for me WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER and a warrior is not who I am.

    Reply
    • Obviously if a metaphor doesn’t resonate with you, or resonates in a bad way, then don’t use it.

      The Buddha frequently used metaphors related to war, weapons, and warriors, as when he compared the ideal monk to a warrior or said “fortifying the mind like a citadel, attack Māra with the sword of wisdom, guard your conquest, and never settle” (Dhammapada verse 40). The Buddha was uncompromisingly committed to non-violence (as am I) so I don’t see any necessary connection between the metaphor and actual violence.

      Reply
  • Jacqueline Nelson
    January 22, 2023 11:12 am

    Dear Bodhipaksa.
    Thank you for your openness and the reminder to keep up the good fight and believe in our own worthiness and know we have value. Remembering to lean on our ancestors fir support and inspiration.
    I am also a Dharma teacher, Meditation teacher and a mindful body movement teacher. I struggle with knowing I’m valued and it is very challenging to make a living doing what I love so much. But the Dhamma is about letting go… and keeping my walk on the path, seeing when I’m attached to outcomes and when I’m suffering g from
    Attachment or greed.
    I appreciate you🙏🏽
    With gratitude
    Jacqueline

    Reply
    • Thank you. It’s a common problem among spiritual teachers. It’s a very important practice to separate our sense of worth from what we do and how well we are rewarded for it. And doing that isn’t easy.

      Even if we avoid that, though, it’s just difficult to deal with not having (or barely having) enough to live on. You don’t have to be attached to money in order to suffer because you don’t have enough of it to cover your living expenses.

      Reply
  • Hello Bodhipaksa,
    I subscribe to your App on iPad. I found it after using your audio book with mindfulness of breathing. You’ve been a path for me back to meditation after many years away. In one of your meditations you say ‘you can only start from where you are right now’ and that has stuck with me. I manage a charity and repeat that to team all the time which I’m sure gets annoying :) Thank you for your work and dedication. It has made a big difference to my life. Oh and I am particularly drawn to The six element practice which is a little addictive but I’m not sure why. Very best wishes,
    Dawn

    Reply
    • Hi Dawn.

      I’m glad to hear that you’ve found an enduring benefit from the meditations I’ve led.

      And thanks for subscribing to Bodhi Mind. It’s much appreciated!

      All the best,
      Bodhipaksa

      Reply

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