MSC for strengthening faith, trust and confidence
Session Details - December 19th, 2016. We started with an open awareness mindfulness practice followed by the heartfulness practice of giving and receiving - expanding it to flow far and wide. The discussion on faith included:
- The cycling through of striving, disillusionment and allowing
- How suffering is part of this cycle and plays a role in faith
- Faith not needing to be seen as a belief system or religion
- MSC as a vehicle for strengthening faith in our own basic goodness, wisdom and compassion
So what do I mean by faith?
I follow a similar concept of faith as the Teacher and Author Sharon Salzburg shares in her book entitled ‘Faith’. She feels faith does not require a belief system, it is a verb – something we do. It is founded in our own experience and is the opposite of resignation and despair. Faith speaks of our acceptance, trust and confidence that life is transition; there is rhythm, oscillation and change everywhere. Faith entails the understanding that we don’t know how things may unfold; yet we aspire to positive growth and deepening our own understanding. Faith doesn’t pray for things to be different, it is the steady heart that refuses nothing, it is our willingness to trust things just as they are.
“[the] aspiration to have faith as a steady illuminating glow within is.’”(Sharon Salzburg)
How we can cycle through striving, disillusionment, acceptance (allowing)
When beginning something new (like MSC, a relationship or new job) there is a process we often cycle through - striving, disillusionment and acceptance. This is not a linear process, one where we can just tick the boxes off – done! Learning is life long, but along the way we do continue to experience feelings of acceptance, at times we may even rest in ‘true acceptance’, as in Rumi’s poem The Guest House – until the next thing comes along and striving sneaks in etc. etc. For me, the Guest House sounds like a pretty big call, so mostly I practice opening time and time again to a sense of allowing. Checking in with is my intention, faith in my deepest heartfelt intention, as Pete shared once ‘in MSC we keep strengthening intention – loosening attachment to outcome’. This is where my faith is also strengthened, this awareness, this continually turning up. A past participant shared that this being human was an ongoing series of ‘rupture and repair’. My practice is definitely like this; the repair is not about the fixing but instead about the allowing.
How is your MSC practice right now in regards to this cycle?
Faith in the flow of life:
Having faith in our basic goodness, possibility, aspirations, our connection to all things and our capacity for love. Surrendering cynicism and apathy. Faith is the anti-dote to fear, reminding us of the universal law of all things in transition – arising and passing. Faith allows us to draw close to the present moment, feeling into it as the ongoing thread connecting us to the very fabric of life. Faith opens us to our shared humanity and connection to all.
It takes heartfelt courage to have faith, and yet our faith is in our heartfelt courage. Love will lead us to faith, and our hopes can transform to faith though our love. Love can release our efforts to try and control life, as love opens the heart to be vast enough to hold the unknown, the mystery.
Our warm awareness can deepen the sense of spaciousness in which fear may arise, like a teaspoon of salt in a bathtub as opposed to in a glass of water. Mindfulness can assist us to be aware of what we are not seeing in the picture of the difficult time right before us. Faith in the bigger picture that perspective brings may be the key to enable us to move forward.
Despair seems the opposite state of mind to faith. In despair we feel disconnected / separate and alone. It does not matter what the cause of our suffering is – suffering is suffering. Viktor Frankl shared that we can never compare the depths of suffering, “because suffering is like a gas: it completely fills whatever chamber it is in.” Yet it is in our suffering that we can find faith. We can be mindful of our pain, holding it in our awareness with non-judgment; stripping away all layers of pretense to see clearly what is there.
- Mark Nepo's words
"I keep looking for one more teacher, only to find that fish learn from water, and birds from the sky. If you want to learn about the sea - it helps to be at sea. If you want to learn about compassion - it helps to be in love. If you want to learn about healing - it helps to know about suffering. The strong live in the storm - without worshipping the storm."
Faith in you being your best MSC Teacher
The type of faith we can feel sometimes overwhelmingly for another, such as a teacher or mentor, needs to be balanced by our own self- respect. Weighing what another tells us with our own experience, honoring our own experience is where faith can mature. We need to try things out, cultivate an attitude of wonder and question. Faith is strengthened by healthy doubt. Healthy doubt can bring us closer to our inner wisdom, critical / unskillful doubt drags us further away.
“Belief clings, faith lets go.” (Alan Watts)
We all have the ability to realize our true nature in our everyday life, to find inner peace you don’t need to be a recluse or search within another. We need connection – with others and with ourselves – just as the breath flows out and in, so our faith is within us and then touches outwards to others. Practicing MSC nurtures our inner faith to be self-affirming & self-respectful, from this steady place we can live and love. MSC acts like the safety net below the trapeze artist, the artist can be creative and courageous as he or she knows that a fall is all part of the growth in their practice.
“When we claim our right to question everything, including our beliefs, we can unhook from our dependence on what is familiar and let in the heartfelt, open, fresh quality of faith.” (Sharon Salzburg)
We can all place faith in our awareness; the open nature of awareness can bear anything without becoming damaged. Therefore we can have faith that whatever happens on this roller coaster ride that is life, innate value lies within you – in your awareness and your love.
*This MSC thought is drawn on teachings from Sharon Salzburg in her book entitled 'Faith - trusting your own deeper experience', 2003, Penguin Publishers.
*I also acknowled Chris Germer and Kristin Neff - as I continue to draw on the wisdom of their MSC program