How Do I Discover A Deeper Source of Confidence?
with Amy Edelstein
Regardless of external accomplishments (or lack of), personality verve (or reserve), social flair (or faux pas), most people still suffer from a lack of center. A subtle but pervasive lack of confidence. It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault. It’s deep. And it’s entirely possible to transcend it. But first, we have to start where we are.
Are you one of these people? Let’s take 15 seconds and find out.
Take a short moment. Get still. Drop into yourself.
What do you find?
Do you feel:
- Pretty proud of yourself?
- Slightly anxious about nothing in particular?
- Irritated at being asked about anything like this?
- All of the above?
Or did you experience:
- Relief at letting go?
- An uncaused arising of joy and well-being?
- A subtle sense of boundarilessness and generosity?
- All of the above?
This 15-second test reveals more than we might imagine. It points to our resting place. And it points to where we can pursue far deeper source of confidence. It shows us what we can leave behind. If we know what to look for.
Let’s unpack how we discover a deeper source of confidence, one that is reliable and resilient, and ever present.
1. LEARN THE DIFFERENCE: CONFIDENCE OR ARROGANCE?
If you’ve spent a lot of your time learning (sometimes embarrassingly so) about your own arrogance, self-importance, being just a little too big for your own britches, the notion that a sense of confidence is a good thing can take a little getting used to. And we’re right to be wary. False pride is one of the classic fetters in business, spirituality, and life. But the source of confidence I’m pointing to goes hand-in-hand with humility, flexibility, transparency, and porousness of self. How is that so? Deep confidence is not rooted in the separate self or in any achievements that come and go.
2. ANSWER FOR YOURSELF: DO WE NEED A SOURCE OF CONFIDENCE?
Are you asking why we even need a source of confidence? Don’t we all need to earn our place? Isn’t confidence the result of our actions and achievements? There is a level of self-confidence we develop over time as we prove our expertise, as we gain life experience, as we triumph over challenges, solve problems. We all need to develop through our own efforts; it’s an integral aspect of individual—and spiritual—maturation. But that type of confidence won’t automatically put our existential questions to rest. Confidence in our individual accomplishments won’t necessarily respond to a quiet gnawing in our deeper being. We respond to that yearning by discovering home.
3. LOCATE THE PORTAL: DISCOVERING YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE OF HOME
Take a moment and remember a time when you were deeply happy. It could have been a moment when in the midst of everything, you looked out the window and the shaft of light coming through the trees or the skyscrapers brought with it an unbidden sense of joy. Or a moment as a child, lying on the grass outside looking up at the infinite stars thrown across the backdrop of the night sky. Or waiting for the bus or the subway or the traffic light to change and for no particular reason, an experience of Love wafted through you. These glimpses come for all of us. But we don’t necessarily notice their presence. As we open ourselves up to a curiosity and gentle interest in the deeper dimensions of self, these flashes take on more significance. They point to a home we have never been separate from. They point to a different source of Self.
4. ASK THE MYSTIC’S QUESTION: WHO AM I?
Confidence comes from knowing who we are. We can rest when we know, somehow that we can’t explain, that we have resolved that fundamental conundrum. Mystics throughout the ages pursued the question “Who Am I?” to dislodge their identification with a superficial sense of self. Their writings discoveries, and most powerfully their own lives demonstrate the fruits of this type of search. But their answers don’t resolve our own search. We have to pursue this question, in the labyrinth of our interiors, until we too know that we know.
5. CHECK THE LIMITS OF TECHNOLOGY: IS MYSTICAL AWAKENING STILL RELEVANT IN OUR DAY & AGE?
Technology has replaced many repetitive time tasks for us. It’s connected us across vast distances of space and time zones. It can balance the sides of our brains, erase debilitating memories, light up in Technicolor the pathways of our thoughts and experiences of happiness. Technology can simulate the awakening brain “This is your brain on meditation” but authentic awakening to Oneness, Emptiness, Being is something we each must do by letting ourselves tap into a source beyond our frontal selves. Awakening to cosmic consciousness is what allows us to rest in a confidence that can weather all climates, rain, snow, sleet, hail, mist, and also sun.
6. REALIZE LOVE
Love is not something that happens to us in the way I’m speaking about here, it is also not something we “do.” It is who we are at the deeper levels of self. Love, the mystic heart, is another way to identify the human experience of emptiness, fullness, Being. To find Love, sit back, ever so gently, into yourself. Allow yourself to let go of having to become . . . anything. Open your inner eyes and ears and listen with all your being to . . . everything. Sit back and pay attention, letting your acquisitive mind and self relax. Become inquisitive instead. Take a proverbial or actual deep breath, and pay attention. Experience the greater porousness in your inner self. Experience the subtle fragrance coming through.
7. FOLLOW JOY
Pursuing joy is not the same as the advertisements we hear from credit cards taunting us to consume. It points to what the great meaning maker Joseph Campbell conjured forth when he wrote these now classic lines, “Follow your bliss.” Following our joy has to do with loosening all our senses so we are soft and receptive. Take a moment right now. Let yourself become open and aware. As you soften your senses, can you detect a subtle aroma wafting through you, bubbling up from a source you can’t see? If you look too closely, it’ll disappear. If you clench up trying to capture it, like a child grasping a sunbeam with her fist, it will slip right through. If you soften your gaze enough but not too much so that you become dull, you’ll be able to follow it. This takes dedication. It takes practice. It takes intention.
8. COMMIT TO TRANSFORMATION
Like anything, we cannot become stabilized in our deepest realization without practice. Practice takes time. Commitment does not. One of the biggest reasons more people do not live with the depth of confidence that their deepest insights afford is their inner posture hasn’t shifted. That shift can be slight, but it makes all the difference between depth we can sink into as authentically our own and depth that comes in ephemeral glimpses. Take some time. Contemplate what you deeply believe is fundamental to all the things in life you value. Push yourself to consider this fresh. Dare yourself to embrace a realization and depth that you may feel is currently beyond your reach. Become comfortable with the aspiration for that new level of engagement. Now consider how your own practice and path, whatever that may be, could bear very different fruit with this type of commitment behind it.
9. CONTEMPLATE THE EVOLVING CONTEXT WE LIVE IN
One of the mysteries of a discovering a source of confidence that is nearer than near, that we could never be separate from, is it seems at odds with our understanding of our evolving world. Everything is moving and changing around and within us. Our universe formed from stardust. Our “solids” are more space than matter when we telescope right down to an atomic level. In the foundational utterance of Heart Sutra, the Buddha declared, “Form is emptiness and emptiness is form.” Sit with that paradox and its contemporary version. Sit with the impossible possibility of an infinite consciousness that nothing—including you–could ever be separate from. And sit with the knowledge that the universe is unfolding around and as us and we also could never be separate or stand outside of that continuous process. As we hold paradox, it’s as if our inner being stretches. And the more we stretch beyond our customary boundaries, we may find ourselves in the center and the edges, all and nothing, and strangely, perhaps for the first time, ourselves.
10. GIVE IT AWAY
As essential aspect of rooting ourselves in a deeper source of confidence is motive. Now that you’ve walked through a process of discovery, take some time and dedicate your intention, effort, insights, and accomplishment to the benefit of all. We stretch our heart and capacity by extending ourselves way beyond our limits. Whether we feel gifted with inspiration and friendship, or in need of connection and support, as we make a habit of dedicating our efforts towards awakening and transformation for the benefit of all, we connect ourselves to a vast process that we are inextricably a part of. We are not separate, not other than, no less or more in need than the whole is in need of upliftment, transformation, evolution, and Love.