How to take care of doubts and questions in our religious faith (STR) – Episode 39

How to take care of doubts and questions in our religious faith - Episode 39In the last few episodes of The Missing Conversation, Robert has explored the nuances of having our religious leaders share their personal challenges with us and be more vulnerable with their congregation. It is difficulties, fears, and our grief that make us human, after all. When students and followers are able to view their teachers as human and relate better to them, it gives students more insight on how to tackle their own challenges. 

Indeed, sometimes religious leaders allow their students to be human and help them work towards healing with advice, spiritual healing, and teaching. But when it comes to sharing their own personal challenges and how they’re working on them, they often fall short. They give others a chance to show their humanness but very rarely share their own. 

If religious leaders were to share their challenges and how they use religious and spiritual teachings to work towards healing and well-being, then students can also learn similar values and principles. This also allows them to gain a deeper understanding of how to work towards a solution or toward healing. It is you as students who might have to encourage your teachers and ask questions about their personal challenges.

Most religious and spiritual people identify with each other because of their shared faith or understanding. However, in this episode, Robert talks about the benefits of having a sense of healthy doubt, of questioning, so we don’t take our faith and beliefs as the absolute, certain truth. Indeed, there are some things we truly Know, while others, we believe in due to our faith. Without any space for doubts or questions, a black and white belief is likely a way to disidentify and isolate yourself from others and even from yourself. But if we look inward and accept our feelings and doubts along with our essential spiritual values, truths, and attitudes, we can move toward a more complete healing. We can also learn how to face these feelings and how to care for them.

If we don’t take care of ourselves and these feelings, it will turn into a kind of complex with feelings that root themselves in our subconscious. We will then begin to experience these feelings as undesirable enemies. Whereas, if we place it in our awareness, faith, or belief, we can use our wisdom to develop a relationship to care for ourselves in difficult situations. That is what makes us innately human — our doubts and difficulties surrounded by our faith and beliefs.

Mentioned in this episode
The Global Bridge Foundation

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Announcer: (00:01)
The Missing Conversation, Episode 39.

Robert Strock: (00:05)
It’s a matter of being human and then learning how to care for it. Not only for ourselves, but for the benefit of others.

Announcer: (00:16)
On this podcast, we will propose critical new strategies to address world issues, including homelessness, immigration, amongst several others, and making a connection to how our individual psychology contributes and can help transform the dangers that we face. We will break from traditional thinking, as we look at our challenges from a freer and more independent point of view. Your host Robert Strock has had 45 years of experience as a psychotherapist, author, and humanitarian, and has developed a unique approach to communication, contemplation and inquiry born from working on his own challenges.

Robert Strock: (00:54)
So, very happy to have you join us again. And actually, as I say that, I think of a very dear friend of mine, and she believes in a tradition where welcoming itself is a ritual where the very act of saying hello and connecting and not missing that as a formality is so important. So, I really want you to hear that I’m welcoming you to the show. And again, The Missing Conversation, the show itself is addressing the most pressing issues that the world is facing today and where we look for the most practical, inspiring programs and innovative ideas to support a greater chance of survival for our planet. Today, we’re going to, again, finish up, making its as clear a distinction as we can between faith or beliefs on the one hand and distinguishing that from what we really know for sure in our direct experience and seeing how important it is to be able to make this distinction and the impacts for humanity, if we don’t make this distinction. So, I’d like to first start off by introducing my closest friend and partner with Global Bridge Foundation, Dave,

Dave: (02:34)
Again, good to be here and looking forward to this conversation.

Robert Strock: (02:40)
So, through the years, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve had an incredible variety of spiritual teachers, psychics, astrologers, mediums, spiritualists. Those of you that don’t know that, are people who, and I have to add, supposedly are talking to their ancestors and others that have tasked lightworkers, healers. And for a couple of years, we had a new person every Friday night that was about 35 years ago. And the tendency that was overwhelming was to believe something that would be, as I mentioned in the last episode, like a blanket over our human side, wounding ourselves by rejecting our humanness, even though it was unwitting or in some cases creating a sense of guilt or inadequacy for the sides of ourselves that are ye of small faith or human. And what I saw in those days, having been a devil’s advocate dominated by or more, mostly dominated by faith was that the psychics were quite amazing.

Robert Strock: (04:14)
Some of them, and they’d hit three areas out of 20, and there were three areas that I was amazed by, but they’d be wrong 17 times now that was enough to inspire a certain level of faith, but here a certain level of faith and led me really down the path of appreciating, not knowing for sure. And certainly this also applied to TV evangelists, which I had more doubts stored, people that are hardcore, exclusively Dharma, which is softer-core or yoga hardcore, which is also a softer-core. But still each of these has a tendency to say, well, I’m a teacher now, usually when there’s a statement that I’m a teacher, it implies that you’re going to be in a mindful state. You’re going to be in a peaceful state. You’re going to be in a quantum state, as a very dominant feature. And of course that’s not for all people, but in my experiences, it’s probably true for a very high percentage where as part of the teaching, they’re not really revealing a big part of their doubts. If this is a predominant faith they’re teaching.

Robert Strock: (05:56)
But they also have a human side. That part is left out. Now I’m not suggesting that all of these teachers should become therapists. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is all these people should be human beings. And all of these people have challenges and that whatever these great teachings are, which they are. Yeah, one of them I’m not going to say in the same category is as great, but I won’t mention a name. What they all need to do from my vantage point is saying, and I’m a human being and I have challenges and preferably would include some of those challenges and show as we’ve emphasized a lot in prior episodes, how they’re dealing with the challenges as part of the teaching, which hopefully some of the challenges would be their uncertainties, so that everybody that’s a follower, doesn’t feel like they’re a flunky.

Robert Strock: (07:01)
If they have doubts, because guess what happens when you suppress doubts, you’re going to doubt somebody else. You’re going to doubt another group. You’re going to find a scapegoat. So, we need to do both. So, I have been with overly confident astrologers, Christians, Jews, Muslims, anti-religious agnostic, atheist. The whole range of being sure is itself a way of cutting off your feelings. Because even if you believe that dust is to dust, it’s a way of shutting down and more accurately. If you’re certain that dust is dust, it’s a way of shutting down. So, we all need to be aware. Do I absolutely know that now I related very much. My first religious movie I went to was the 10 commandments. And I related to Charlton Heston saying, I don’t want to just believe. I want to see it with my own eyes. You know? And I, he had to see the Burning Bush. Didn’t see the Burning Bush. There ain’t no God, unless I see it myself, I’m not very good with voice changing, but you have to forgive me. So, this distinction, which that was a great movie, I think I was eight years old, maybe one of the things that influenced me along the way.

Robert Strock: (08:43)
But I also, actually in my early childhood, had all those years filled with going to sleep at night and wondering, pardon the expression, what the fuck, what’s going on? How come people aren’t talking about it? How come it’s not part of the conversation? Does anybody know? Unfortunately, I had parents that did not proselytize me and admitted they didn’t know anything, which made it easier for me to exist. And I remember I got a report card from my Saturday School, being raised Jewish, before I was bar mitzvah’d. And I got an F and it said, Bobby seems to think Saturday School is a playground and I’d gotten kicked out of the class because it was right there in the Old Testament. It said, God is all. So, I said, well, if God’s all that means I’m God too. So, I think that, um, I’m just gonna do whatever I want to do.

Robert Strock: (09:48)
I can think the way I want to think. I’m God, God’s all, that’s what it says. And I got thrown in the hall, sent down to the, whatever the rabbi’s office was, I don’t remember. The key is, doubt was there really from the beginning? And the interest was really there from the beginning and it was obvious that it was not a popular topic of conversation. It was not a popular subject of TV. It was not a popular subject of movies. So, we weren’t raised to live in an uncertainty. We were raised to have black and white views about things. We had faith that we didn’t have faith. We were raised to be married or not married. We were raised to be successful or not successful at least to go for it. But this relativity of being able to stay open, to devote ourselves to the most essential spiritual values and actions and attitudes, and still recognize our imperfections and our challenges. So crucial.

Dave: (10:57)
Just want to, uh, share a similar story and then ask a question. I, um, was bar mitzvahed and then for whatever reason, stayed on to become confirmed also in the Jewish religion. And I remember at that point I was 16. I could drive, took a wrong turn, arrived for my pre-confirmation interview with the Rabbi and explain why I was late. And he said, you know, I guess you’ve been taking wrong turns your whole life. And I felt like this was a person I didn’t even know. It was maybe the, you know, the first time I’d ever been one-on-one other than him being on a podium. And, and he’s telling me this and it hurt, you know, it was like, I, I really felt judged. In fact, I was being judged by somebody who had no clue who I was, which is, which is part of what I see here. And I know you’re going to, I believe speak about some teachers that may, may have a, an element, uh, of what you call missing in these other, other teachings. Uh, but it’s just so amazing to me. And, and I, and I guess the question is what value given that our religious experience, our, our spirituality, the people that are teaching us are so locked in to not showing their humanness, what benefit is there? How does one set aside that really, the inadequacy, or describing that so significant and get benefit?

Robert Strock: (12:45)
It’s a great question. Uh, I think the key thing is to recognize that when, when we’re facing our challenges and we’re facing our humanness, number one, it’s not going to be as likely that we’re going to project it on our neighbor. Number two, it doesn’t live in a desert that we have the ability to face these feelings and to learn how to care for them. Now, in, in my other podcast, Awareness That Heals, or the book, truly the whole thing is about, how do we face our challenges and find a healing direction. And I’m emphasizing not find healing, not the answer, but at least we’re an arrow moving in a direction. And so, it becomes a, the source of identification with every other human being on the planet. And if we don’t have those feelings, it’s a way to dis-identify and isolate. And then secondly, it gives us a chance to care for something that if we ignore it, it’s frozen, it’s fixated in our unconscious and it’ll brew there and it’ll make enemies.

Robert Strock: (14:09)
Whereas if we leave it in our awareness, whatever faith, whatever trust, whatever path, whatever wisdom we have, we can utilize that to develop a caring relationship to what is difficult. So, it’s just a matter of being human, end of story. It’s a matter of being human and then learning how to care for it. Not only for ourselves, but for the benefit of others, it’s very much like taking the COVID vaccine. It’s like, we’re not only doing it to care for ourselves, but we’re doing it because we don’t want to kill someone else. So, it’s so crucial that all have what I would call a healthy doubt.

Robert Strock: (14:59)
No, my experience is being the doubting Thomas, as much as I’ve been through the years has been companion with a side of me. That’s devoted, that’s committed. That really wants to get everything I can. And that doesn’t mean I’m clinging to my doubts. It just means, I don’t know. And that not knowing, has gotten softer and softer and softer. I think through the years and the faith and the trust, I think has gotten deeper and deeper as well. And being able to recognize I’m never going to get over my human experience. I’m always going to have fears. I’m always going to be have times where I’m angry. I’m always going to have times where I’m insecure. You know, when I get a flash of what my, my health is, I’m going to have a rush. If when I have to go into my mini procedures or face the medical challenges that I have currently and past and much more in the future, unless I die suddenly, it’s going to be scary. I’m going to need help. That’s going to allow me to appreciate others rather than having this illusion of just being a self-sufficient animal or God. So, yes, I think having healthy doubts is crucial.

Dave: (16:25)
So, as I’m sitting and I don’t mean, I, I I’m, I am no longer sitting in front of a teacher like this, but I know many people in the audience are whether it’s in a traditional setting or maybe not a traditional setting. And they’re, they’re recognizing the person that’s giving them messages that are important to them are the same people that may not have any disclosure, any transparency whatsoever. So, I think part of what I’m hearing from you is go for the message. If it, if, if it’s a value, recognize your humanity or you have, or you’re going to end up in trouble and have the courage, if you, if you can, to disclose, to ask to do the things you’ve been talking about, but there’s no guarantees of disclosure or transparency, and it can be very frustrating.

Robert Strock: (17:26)
It’s, it’s yes, to all that and it’s yes to what you were saying before that if you have the courage to do what you did in your confirmation, you may get nailed. Now in fact, it’s pretty likely you’re going to get nailed, even if you do it well, you’re going to be seen in an extreme way. So, it’s important to be like a chess game where you have your second and third move lined up. Okay. I’ve absorbed that and then you say, actually, I’d like to stay focused on you possibly sharing some of your challenges. Would you mind? Well, that’s just not what we do in this tradition. That’s not what we do. Okay. Well, you know, I thought about it quite a bit. I think it would be a good idea, institution did it. Well, that’s just not what we do now. That’s not what we do here. If you want to do that, go to therapy. Well, I hear you, but I don’t think therapy is going to give me the values, the principles and the depth that you’re giving me here. And I would love for you just to share some of your challenges so I can get the best of both worlds in one place. Would you mind, or I’m going to share mine whether you do it or not. So yeah, yes, to all of it and yes to what you said and the last one as well now, of course,

Mark Spiro: (18:52)
And I jumped here for a second, just, just to throw out two little things that I think that’s just as beneficial for the teacher, as it is for the student, in terms of when you share your challenges, uh, as a teacher that you transformed to. I mean, and if we get back to that Christianity thing, what’s that verse where there, wherever there are two or more gathered in his name there I am also, that shows like that little holy Trinity of stuff. And then, um, even in 12 steps, um, you have, uh, admitted to myself and to another person the exact nature of my fellow firearms–I mean to God and another person. So you have it there, too. So, It’s like that’s when two plus two equals five. When you have a teacher that’ll, that’ll become transparent and the students same time, and I think that’s phenomenal.

Robert Strock: (19:48)
From your mouth to many, many teacher’s ears, and may they join with students and may they see what you’re saying? Because what you’re saying is so on point, and it’s maybe too much to hope for. I honestly think it’s going to have to start mostly with students, uh, to really encourage the, the teachers. Yeah. And yet what you’re saying is absolutely on point. So, that’s not to say there aren’t some beliefs and some teachings that are inclusive and are sharing the faith and the trust and sharing the humanness. There’s a, a very well-known Buddhist teacher that is doing that. And she’s well known because she’s the one that’s doing. And then there are various other that have their local congregations that also are doing it, have written books about it. And especially books emphasizing emptiness and the emptiness of the soul. And that, that is a very common theme. So, this is not a hit on all of everything or anything. It’s, it’s a encouragement to try to be inclusive of our human side when we’re dealing with beliefs or faith. So . . .

Dave: (21:24)
I’d like to amplify that in one other way. And I, and, and this is from current and past experience that the set of people who are studying with, or have, uh, people that are saying they are enlightened, have stories of have, had an enlightenment story often where they will discuss what they went through, the horrifying experiences in their life, uh, and describing it in terms that may even be far more suffering than the experience that the students find themselves in. And they have arrived in their view. And so, they are in a sense showing some place where they can empathize at the same time, but not currently. And so, There they are giving a permission and I’m trying to amplify another part of this group you’re talking about. They are giving a permission for humanness, but not currently sharing their own.

Robert Strock: (22:31)
I think that they’re the majority of those teachers who are sharing vulnerability that, that used to happen 30, 40 years ago. Um, wouldn’t be that high on my list because it still is giving the emphasis on being more enlightened, being more awake, being more consciousness, being more, uh, present, uh, being more mindful. And yes, that’s a little bit helpful. But it’s actually one of my pet peeves too, where, oh yeah, I relate to you 30 years ago. It’s still fosters that idealization of arrival and I’m not enlightened myself. So, I can’t say for sure if somebody is enlightened or not, but I sure as hell hope that if I became enlightened in this life, which I have very strong beliefs, I’m not going to, that I would not lose the relationship to the human side because I’ve had it my whole life so far. So, it does seem like if someone was really enlightened, they would be wanting to talk about the unenlightened side.

Robert Strock: (23:49)
They wouldn’t want to be talking about the enlightened side so much, at least that’s how it seems from my own unenlightened view. So, my very favorite definition and I, in this case, I don’t mind using a name, came from J. Krishnamurti, and he described the religious person as being, or the religious way of being, as being continuous skeptical investigation. And I really believe that’s probably more like I was when I was talking about the person where I did the videos earlier in this podcast whereby skeptical, I think he means unsure or not believing, or, uh, like a, a soft skeptical investigation. There wasn’t an edge, but there’s kind of a not knowing that is really, really revered. And the whole theme of these last couple of episodes is absolutely go for the faith. Absolutely go for the trust and the understanding and the compassionate compassion, and mindfulness and presence, and maximize that to your maximum potential. And yes, those are the best values that one could have, but don’t let it be a blanket. Don’t let it cover the human side and let your still self stay open to keep looking at where might I be unaware? Where can I be aware of being unaware and keeping that alive until the day that we die. So, I want to thank you all for your attention, and it’s great sharing with you and look forward to more.

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