Hello readers! I realize that I haven’t been writing much lately. I’ve been avoiding my social media accounts lately(and my mobile devices by default), mostly because of politics, but also because I have had a lot on my mind lately. The fall semester is coming up, and I think I’m ready for it, but part of me is not. It’s a long story.
Back story: I’m currently pursuing a degree in English with a concentration in writing. My goal is to get into professional writing, maybe for an online magazine or something similar. I got into a small community college right out of high school, but dropped out for reasons I may or may not write about later. I’ve been trying to put that part of my past to rest for a long time. Anyway, to make a short story long, I worked for four years, and realized one day that I should really go back to school if I wanted to get anywhere in life career wise. So I enrolled in a local university, and now I’m starting my third semester. It’s pretty cool, but getting there has been rocky, to say the least.
I’m still trying to recover from last semester. I fell into a deep depression at the beginning of the spring semester, and it really affected my progress. I had to drop a class because I was failing. I’m having to retake another class. It was really hard. My wife and I decided that I should take the summer off to try and recover. That was a great idea. I am feeling much better. I’ve made a lot of progress in my life since taking time off. Having an actual practice has helped. Being able to explore the Buddhist practices has helped me let go of so much of the past that has hurt me and held me back for most of my life thus far.
But now, with the fall semester just over a week away, I’m beginning to feel some of those old haunts trying to creep back into my mind. Trying to get some last minute classes in order has been stressful. I’ve lashed out a couple times. I’ve felt that familiar tension in my shoulders and jaw, locking me up physically and mentally. Worst of all, doubt is trying to make a comeback. My biggest enemy last semester was doubt. Doubting myself, my ability to perform academically, doubting if I was worthy to walk the campus grounds. I often felt out of place. I didn’t go to school like most people. I was homeschooled my entire life and extremely sheltered, so I’m having to figure out how to function in the real world of the college campus, surrounded by people who are all five to seven years younger than me. Those doubts were really crippling. And I thought I had put them all behind me. But they’re trying to make a comeback.
I’ve been relying on my practice pretty heavily these past few days; meditating, chanting, taking refuge, doing prostrations. I did a half day retreat here at home yesterday so that I could really focus on meditation. I think it’s helped. I keep trying to beat myself up about last semester on one hand, and trying to let all that go on the other. Or should I say, let it be. I’ve been learning to observe those judgmental thoughts without really holding on to them. I’ve been trying to focus on practicing bodichitta as best I can, and really taking refuge in my practice. And while I’m nowhere close to being a bodhisattva by any stretch of the imagination, I think I’ve come a long way already. My practice has helped me learn to end my abusive relationship with myself and my past.
Doubt is just one of those habits of my past that I have to relinquish. I have to tell myself that I am worthy. That I am smart. That I do have what it takes to earn this degree. I saw what doubt did to me last year, both to my GPA and my life in general. And I think I can now. I think having a practice will really help me in the weeks to come. My teacher, Khenpo Tsewang Rinpoche, is always talking about how courage, commitment, and confidence are all needed to advance in our practice. I’m going to need all the courage and confidence I can find to succeed this semester. But I think I can do it. I’m learning how to make friends with the constant doubt through meditation. Maybe one day it will go away entirely. Hopefully that will be sooner, rather than later.
If you stuck around and read this all the way, thanks. I’ve been wanting to get it off my chest for a while. And if you find yourself in a similar place in life, I hope and pray that you can find the courage, confidence, and commitment to see past your obstacles. According to Buddhist thought, you and I already have all of those things. We just have to let go of our past karma and obscurations to see it.
May all beings be happy and well,