Anxiety and Self-Doubt

Dec 9, 2019

QUESTION

Dear Ven. Robina,

You have been in my heart a lot lately, and I wanted to tell you how grateful I am for your unbelievable kindnesses that you’ve shown me as my teacher. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to help in a small way.

I’ve had a lot of anxiety over the past few months, which I try to keep from leaking out everywhere, which has brought up a strong feeling of self-doubt and inward judgment. It seems like there are more and more people who look to me as a role model at the center, and I’ve had this strong feeling that I’m just faking it for them, because I have had so much trouble feeling anything during my daily practices. I do them every day just reciting without feeling it from my heart, and when I hear teachings on how that’s not really practicing feel really bad. When I try to resolve to do better, it just brings more pressure and anxiety and becomes a nasty cycle. Trying to sit on a cushion is like sitting on hot coals. I have been feeling completely stuck in mundane appearances, totally buying everything my mind is telling me. So I am confessing it and hoping that will help.

I couldn’t sleep this morning, which is very unusual (I typically sleep well and too long!) so got up at 5:30am and tried to make the most of it. I did prostrations to the Thirty-five Buddhas to help calm the anxiety, and tried at least for a little while to look at the “I” that is feeling anxious, and how that “I” is empty. I can’t say I got very far, and don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but at least I was able to sit on my cushion and do a bit better than usual today!

Much love,

V

 

ANSWER

Dearest V,

I understand what you’re feeling. 

First of all, It’s marvelous that “more and more people” at the center are seeing you as a role model. In order to benefit others, we need to have a good reputation; think about this carefully. So: nothing wrong at all with that. I rejoice.

Second, you feel like a fraud because your practice is dry. Hardly much logic there! The first thing I notice is that you are keeping your commitments to your lamas and actually doing your practice. I rejoice hugely, no doubt about it! The number of people I meet all over the world, at the centers, old and new students, who have given up their practice or don’t do it every day – you can’t imagine. It’s heart-breaking. But you do your practice, V. Truly, that is amazing. You should be over the moon with happiness with yourself, and I’m not kidding. 

So it feels dry. That’s very very common. Of course, ideally, realizations come when we have concentration, feel devotion, etc. etc. But there is still huge merit from simply reading the words even. Don’t doubt it. You are keeping your samaya purely and that is everything. You are sowing the seeds, V, and it’s logic that eventually they will ripen in the results of buddhahood in the future.

So, be brave in the face of the people looking to you. Be humble and ordinary and never never never buy into it and think that it means you’re something special. Equally, don’t go in the other direction, which is what you’re doing, and feel bad about it. Accept it humbly. And continue to be a good, moral, kind person. Don’t become like a policeman. Don’t think you have to make everything perfect. Just relax. Be ordinary. Just do your job. And never forget that you are representing Rinpoche, whose center it is. The center needs people like you.

Love,

Robina

 

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