Doubt and the Existential Crisis

Today in the Sunday sitting group, I finished up the Five Hindrances with a discussion on the fifth hindrance: Doubt. I wanted to make the point of differentiating between the freedom to question the teachers or the teachings (which I believe can be a positive experience or process) and the doubt that leads to dilettante behavior and indecision. Gil Fronsdal, a Theravada teacher, differentiates between “questioning doubt” and “hindering doubt”:

“Doubt as a hindrance is a mental preoccupation involving indecision, uncertainty, and lack of confidence. It causes a person to hesitate, vacillate, and not settle into meditation practice.”

You can read more about his take on doubt as a hindrance here: https://www.insightmeditationcenter.org/books-articles/articles/the-five-hindrances-handouts/doubting-doubt-practicing-with-the-final-hindrance/

Our country appears to be mired in a deteriorating social and spiritual crisis. I cited today’s opinion piece in the New York Times which blamed the 25% increase in suicide to an existentialist crisis. Anxiety, depression and a lack of some spiritual or communal anchor may also lead to an existential crisis. I was moved to talk about doubt and feelings of unworthiness which might cause people to stop meditating. Insight meditation has the potential to lead us toward a more stable awareness from which we can face the struggles and impermanence of our lives with more ease and enable us to feel more connected to our fellow humans, rather than separate and alienated.

Here is the link to materials I used on the Five Hindrances: http://insightmeditationcenter.org/articles/FiveHindrances.pdf (from the Insight Meditation Center, Santa Rosa, CA)

Opinion: Suicides have increased: is this an Existential Crisis?

(please note: the piece is very opinionated, and I sort of liked the comments from readers better!)

And this is really quite good:

What is an Existential Crisis?

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