Great Faith. Great Doubt. Great Effort.

Great Faith. Great Doubt. Great Effort.
The brides­maids of
an Enlight­ened Life

Great Faith. Great Doubt. Great Effort. — the cor­ner­stones of an enlight­ened life, sug­gest­ed to us by the Buddha.

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Great Faith. Great Doubt. Great Effort.

There’s this thing we could call the leap of faith, which lies direct­ly between con­ven­tion and ful­ly liv­ing. Like many things, there’s a order­ly (or not so order­ly) progression.

Here’s how it goes.

Most peo­ple enter adult­hood as fun­da­men­tal­ists — by that, I mean that they mind­less­ly fol­low the rules and reg­u­la­tions of their tribe, cul­ture, and fam­i­ly.

They have a burn­ing desire to fit in, so as not to ruf­fle feath­ers, or be seen as an out­sider. Thus, every­thing is about doing things “the right way,” even though such think­ing leads to semi­au­to­mat­ic, unre­flec­tive being.

Soci­ety wants us to behave “cor­rect­ly” in all areas, such as:

  1. relationship/marriage,
  2. child rearing,
  3. employment,
  4. political/socio/religious actions and perspectives.
I’ll do what­ev­er you say!

Peo­ple believe that such fun­da­men­tal things as how we relate, how we do “what, and with which, and to whom,” what career to fol­low — in short, who we are and how we think, is graven in stone.

We fear the sup­posed ostra­ciza­tion that we imag­ine will result from disobedience.

And cer­tain­ly, giv­en the last 100 years and geno­cides, there’s no ques­tion that appear­ing dif­fer­ent can lead to extermination.

Possible, yet not likely, for the majority of us.

Yet, many sit in the mid­dle of a great pile of reek­ing dis­sat­is­fac­tion, and spray room fresh­en­er so as not to notice the stench.

The way out is a path, one we describe again and again, in dif­fer­ent ways.

Great Faith. Great Doubt. Great Effort. Really, it begins with a commitment to an article of faith — or, Great Faith.

Faith is described as “con­vic­tion about some­thing unseen, or not cur­rent­ly present.” With­out an under­ly­ing faith–without believ­ing that it is pos­si­ble to engage with life dif­fer­ent­ly, despite nev­er hav­ing tried it–we are doomed to “pile sitting.”

Faith is choos­ing to look close­ly at the rules you oper­ate under, to look close­ly at how you are and who you are, and to grasp the pos­si­bil­i­ty that, if I change my actions, I may get dif­fer­ent results.

This seems so obvi­ous as to be not worth stat­ing, but here is the “thing” that keeps most peo­ple stuck.

We become heav­i­ly invest­ed in the main­tain­ing the sta­tus quo, and in sup­port­ing our cul­ture’s norms, while remain­ing fixed in blam­ing oth­ers for our issues. This exter­nal focus means that, for the major­i­ty, self exam­i­na­tion is threat­en­ing, and with­out an iron-clad guar­an­tee of suc­cess, they’d rather just sit there, thank you very much.

But lets just say that you are sick and tired of your lit­tle pile, and decide that you have faith that shift­ing to anoth­er way of being is pos­si­ble. With effort, but possible. 

How do you move from fundamentalism?

Great Doubt.

The Bud­dha said, 

Believe noth­ing, no mat­ter where you read it, or who said it, no mat­ter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own rea­son and your own com­mon sense.


Do not believe in any­thing sim­ply because you have heard it. Do not believe in any­thing sim­ply because it is spo­ken and rumored by many. Do not believe in any­thing sim­ply because it is found writ­ten in your reli­gious books. Do not believe in any­thing mere­ly on the author­i­ty of your teach­ers and elders. Do not believe in tra­di­tions because they have been hand­ed down for many gen­er­a­tions. But after obser­va­tion and analy­sis, when you find that any­thing agrees with rea­son and is con­ducive to the good and ben­e­fit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

Here’s the key.

Ini­tial­ly, there are 2 things to ques­tion. First and fore­most, you must ques­tion every­thing you have learned from your soci­ety / par­ents. Sec­ond­ly, ques­tion your will­ing­ness to stay stuck, doing the same thing.

Every­thing, each prin­ci­ple, must be test­ed. Note that the Bud­dha pro­vides two are­nas for test­ing.
1) rea­son and com­mon sense, and
2) obser­va­tion and analysis.

Rea­son and Com­mon Sense—Our explo­ration, or Great Doubt must begin with a rig­or­ous self and rule analy­sis. “If I think this way, I act this way. If I act this way, I get this result. Do I want this result? No! OK, then I must change both what I think and how I act, or at the very least, how I act.”

Rea­son and com­mon sense dic­tate that what I say I want, what I do, and what I get should match. Thus, if I say I want good com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and I fail to com­mu­ni­cate, and then I blame my part­ner, all of this might well fit our cul­ture’s habit of blam­ing “the oth­er,” while sit­ting on our pile.

But if I exer­cise Great Doubt, I might notice that the part I have con­trol over — whether I com­mu­ni­cate — is right there, for me to do some­thing about. But only if I exer­cise my doubt by get­ting rid of the “blame oth­ers” rule, AND then do some­thing different!

Obser­va­tion and analy­sis—I can’t actu­al­ly observe “just think­ing about” some­thing. I can only observe some­thing phys­i­cal. (Imag­in­ing a piz­za is not the same thing as observ­ing a real one.) 

I may have all kinds of fears about what chang­ing a behav­iour will lead to, (like the old joke, “Why don’t Bap­tists have sex stand­ing up? Answer: “It might lead to danc­ing.”) but I won’t know what actu­al­ly hap­pens unless I do some­thing dif­fer­ent. This is what the Bud­dha meant by not sim­ply buy­ing into new ideas. Rather, it was, “Try it out. If it does­n’t work, then drop it. But if it DOES work, you know what you must do!”

We use Great Faith in the process we choose to live by, and Great Faith in peo­ple we trust who seem to be liv­ing as we would choose to, as the cat­a­lyst to begin chal­leng­ing what we believe. Great Faith dances with Great Doubt.

Great Effort is demonstrated in behaviour (obviously!)— and this is the leap of faith.

Don’t you just love circles?

The rea­son it’s a leap of faith is that you are by def­i­n­i­tion required to exert effort doing some­thing new — com­plete­ly new — with no assur­ance that you’ll like the result. You do it because you KNOW you hate what you are get­ting, and hate sit­ting in your pile. But mov­ing through Doubt to Effort requires actu­al­ly doing some­thing, and that’s scary.

So, here are three observations:

Assum­ing that a leap of faith is across the chasm between uncer­tain­ty and sta­bil­i­ty, it is best

1) to leap unbur­dened by a backpack,

2) to not attempt to make the leap in two jumps.

3) to not strad­dle the gap.

Leap Unburdened

Bag­gage? What Baggage?????

You can’t take any­thing with you — not your sto­ries, not your friends, rel­a­tives, partners.

They can also choose to leap, but leap­ing is a solo event.

Many want to bring their vic­tim sto­ries along, sim­ply out of attach­ment to them. “My mom nev­er loved me.” “My dad abused me.” “Every­one betrays me.”

These things are the waste prod­ucts of your for­mer con­fu­sion, and have no place “on the oth­er side,” where the rules are dif­fer­ent. You real­ly must drop all your stories.

There is effort enough required to leap — bring­ing along a life time of sto­ries means a nose dive into the void.


Can I try that again?

There is no half way attempt.

Many are the peo­ple who want to try a bit, have a rest, take a week or month or year off, an then try a lit­tle more. They did­dle, divert, and play at change.

The gap is there, and it’s real.

You can’t walk across, or go across in stages. A leap of faith, Great Effort, is a leap, sin­gu­lar. You back up, run like hell, and leap. You engage ful­ly, no excus­es, noth­ing held back.

You open every cell of your being, open every part of you, and fling your­self heed­less­ly into the gap. Leap, and you will land unscathed on the oth­er side. Dick around, fid­dle around, daw­dle, and it’s nose dive into the void time.

Un-straddle Yourself

Great Faith. Great Doubt. Great Effort.
“Just hang­ing around. You?”

Great Faith. Great Doubt. Great Effort.

And then there are those who want it all. One woman I knew, a ther­a­pist, want­ed me to train her to do body­work. I said, “Well, why don’t you have sev­er­al ses­sions first, and see first hand what it’s about.” She said, “You mean me? I don’t want to do it, I just want to learn it! ”

This leap means leav­ing every­thing behind, includ­ing what you pre­tend you know.

You must trust (have faith in) your path, unbur­den your back, and let every­thing go. If you attempt to strad­dle the gap, keep­ing hold to, say, a dys­func­tion rela­tion­ship while engag­ing in anoth­er one, you are going to get pulled in half, (or end up doing a nose dive…)

The leap of faith is just that… a leap. You typ­i­cal­ly land on the oth­er side, in a heap, alone and unbur­dened. The ter­ri­to­ry is new and strange, and you are unsure and pan­icky. What to do, what to do?

Look around. Like­ly a guide is right there, ready and will­ing to give you some direc­tion and a sense of what works “over here.” And a gen­tle touch to heal your raw­ness, and a word of encour­age­ment, and a kick in the ass. Because now the liv­ing and the walk­ing start in earnest. Into a world where you ques­tion every­thing, trust your­self, and act like you’re whole, open, vul­ner­a­ble and complete.

Because you are. Even if you don’t quite believe it.

Leap, and you will.

Great Faith. Great Doubt. Great Effort.

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