Confidence is one of the Five Inner Strengths we can cultivate that support us in our mindfulness journey. It is a deeply embodied trust in oneself, conviction in one’s practice, and faith in possibility born of experience.
How do we recognize confidence when its present? As the sage Nagasena said, confidence “makes one serene and it leaps forward” – and as insight meditation teacher Sarah Doering said, “…an open heart that is not afraid to trust… can move beyond the known. It senses the possibility…” At first we get just a peek at the possibilities offered by this practice, then we experience the benefits of it in our own and others’ lives, and finally our practice becomes a true refuge that we can count on.
Wise confidence is not blind faith. As former Buddhist Monk, Steve Armstrong wrote, it is not “vulnerable to contamination by hidden hopes, expectations, ambitions, desires, assumptions, and illusions.” In the beginning we may put our trust in a welcoming practice community or a beloved teacher, but eventually we develop confidence in our own experience to guide us. The possibilities we sensed in the beginning become verified through our own direct experience and this emboldens us to “leap forward” and “move beyond”.
The opposite of confidence is worry and fear. We can be tempted to use these emotions as motivators, but this inevitably becomes an obstacle to our practice. Fear leads to avoidance and mindfulness welcomes the wholeness of what is already here. We develop a capacity to experience life in a ways that create less suffering. Cultivating confidence takes some patience and courage through. It requires us to step outside our comfort zone from time to time.
Deeply embodied confidence gives us the fearlessness to persevere even when we meet difficulties. It’s different from hope, which often contains a strong attachment to a preferred outcome or expectation. When we’re confident, we trust in the ongoing process regardless of the outcome – we believe that we can meet whatever comes our way. Doering said, “It’s knowing that each step we take is an unfolding of our life’s journey, even if we don’t know at all where we’re going.”
Here are some ways we can practice cultivating confidence:
In meditation, practice sitting back into the steadiness supporting you and/or resting in the reliability of the breath – exploring sensory experience without the need to change it.
Notice the after-effects of your practice. If you happen to skip your practice one day, notice how that plays out.
- Experiment with a Fear Contemplation Meditation
- Work on noticing, preventing or replacing, and letting go of unskillful habits (thoughts, speech and actions) and creating and supporting skillful habits
The Five Spiritual Powers by Sarah Doering