Life is so unpredictable. Our world is changing so quickly. Having something solid to believe in can be very comforting. I remember the warm, safe feeling of being in Sunday school as a child. The teachers painted a picture of Jesus as such a loving deity to whom we could turn for safety, for succor, for soothing. It felt like being enveloped in goodness.
Sometimes when people first discover meditation, they want to make it a solid thing, something that will save them, something that will take us beyond uncertainty. I heard a prominent podcast on mindfulness in which the very enthusiastic host asked his guest, “Don’t you think everyone should meditate?”
Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche speaks of Buddhism as a science of mind. It is questionable whether Buddhism can truly be defined as a religion. The Buddha taught us not to accept the teachings with blind faith, but to test them against our experience. Still we are all seeking something that will protect us in this mysterious and ever-changing universe. Over the many decades that I have spent practicing meditation and studying Buddhism, I continue to uncover semi-conscious beliefs that I have used to create some kind of stable foundation to placate my ego: Buddhism is true; Buddhism is the best path for everyone; if I just do the meditation practices enough, I will become enlightened. Isn’t that how it is supposed to work? Unfortunately for our egos, no, it is not that simple. The spiritual path is to open to uncertainty, to recognize that our quest for protection and comfort so often takes us further into selfish and confused realms.
The third century Buddhist teacher, Nagarjuna, said, “If I had a view, I would be mistaken.” This points to the truth that any fixed view, any cognitive structure that we hold to be unequivocally and always true is necessarily false. Words and thoughts can only approximate reality. They can only point to a fleeting experience.
How can we open more and believe less?
This is how it works for me. First, when I notice that I am fixating on an idea—investing in it, believing in it—I pause and look at that belief. I deconstruct it, play devil’s advocate with myself, until eventually, I can see, “Oh, this idea of mine is not exactly true and certainly not completely true all the time.”
After that, I rest quietly for a few moments, relaxing my body, seeing how much I can relax into the groundlessness that follows deconstructing a belief. This relaxation is necessarily an opening. A feeling of openness arises when we let go of our fixed views. It feels so good when I find my way to this last step and can open to this moment right now, without trying to pin it down and control the future. Ahhh!