Facing Doubt On the Spiritual Path

sillouette of woman standing by ocean with arms outstretched towards sunset

Written by: Ananga Manjari Dasi

When I first opened my eyes to meditation, I was just coming out of the worst depression of my life. I was 28 years old, had my dream career, made good money, was in a good relationship, and had plenty of close friends to share my life and have fun with.  

But something was missing.

The worst part was that I had no idea what it was. 

Then through the intervention from the Universe, I accidentally tried meditation in a lecture that a friend was giving. This experience finally woke me up to something bigger that exists within us. It let me have an experience of the spiritual energy that’s inside of us and I was hooked. 

After this experience, I kept searching for “spiritual meditation” everywhere. I tried everything from Reiki, to energy sharing, to healing circles, to extraterrestrial chanting (that was an experience I never want to repeat), and downloaded dozens of meditation albums on my iPhone that would listen to any chance I got. 

It wasn’t until I found Atma Kriya Yoga and meditated with the mantra om namo narayanaya that I felt like I had found what I was looking for. It felt familiar, like I had known it and chanted it many times before. In this mantra, I felt like I was home.

Once you feel like you’ve come home, you can finally rest. You don’t have to keep searching anymore.

Once you feel like you've come home, you can finally rest. You don't have to keep searching anymore. 

And so I rested in this safe place that Atma Kriya Yoga provides. 

My spiritual search went into hyperdrive with the power of Atma Kriya Yoga and it quickly helped me find my satguruParamahamsa Vishwananda. This gave me further rest and reassurance that I was being taken care of. 

I could trust that I was on the right path.

WHEN YOU HIT A SPIRITUAL PLATEAU

My Atma Kriya Yoga teacher, Swamini Karuna, often used to say, (paraphrased) “On the spiritual path you will often plateau. In the beginning, you will get higher and higher and have intense experiences. Then you will hit a plateau and it will feel like nothing is happening and you are stagnating. You must keep up your spiritual practise even when it feels like nothing is happening. In time, you will climb again and reach the next level.”

In my case, this was true. I plateaued a few times and luckily I didn’t give up my practice. 

What Swamini Karuna hadn’t mentioned is that to rise out of a spiritual plateau and go up to the next level, you normally have to go through a big challenge and pass a test. 

It’s kind of like a video game. Before you reach the next level, you have to battle the biggest monster you have battled yet. As you level up, the monsters keep getting bigger and harder to defeat. 

YOUR INNER MONSTERS THAT RISE UP ON THE SPIRITUAL PATH

The monsters I had to battle so far on my spiritual journey were manageable. They took the appearance of other people or experiences, for example, an ex-boss who fired me and gave me an extremely traumatic experience, and an ex-boyfriend who didn’t believe in God which broke my heart into a million pieces. 

I happily thought that my spiritual practice and my faith were unshakeable. 

That was until I had to battle the biggest monster of them all: the one that took the appearance of my teacher, my guide, my satguru.

WHEN DOUBT MAKES YOU QUESTION YOUR FAITH

The big monster came in the form of doubt. 

Because of certain experiences I had, doubt burst into my mind and into my heart like a flame. Just like a real fire, it nearly burned down all of my faith. 

In the words of a friend of mine who also has battled this monster, doubt gives you an “icky” feeling. It makes you feel like something is not right within you. It makes you feel stupid for trusting your spiritual path and everyone who has guided you on this path. 

When the doubt is strong, it consumes you. 

Just like your faith permeates every aspect of your life, so does doubt.

Just like faith gives meaning and joy to every little action that you take, doubt strips all the meaning from your actions and leaves you sad, confused, and angry. 

For me, the doubt triggered the second biggest depressive episode I’ve had in my life. It took nearly two months to get out of it. 

When the doubt is strong, it consumes you. Just like your faith permeates every aspect of your life, so does doubt. 

Ironically, it was my spiritual practice and meditation that gave me the strength to get out of the depression that my doubt had thrown me into.

TRUSTING IN YOUR OWN SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES

People can tell you a hundred things about spirituality, but until you have your own spiritual experiences, it doesn’t fully make sense. Once you have had those experiences, no matter what anyone says, they can’t shake you from it. 

Paramahamsa Vishwananda and the teachers in Bhakti Marga Academy say this often: there’s book knowledge or things other people tell you and there’s personal knowledge, what you learn and understand from experience.

Once you have a certain understanding of something, nothing can take this understanding away. And the best part is that even your own doubt is powerless in the face of your own experiences. 

USE YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES TO DISSOLVE YOUR DOUBT

After weeks of being down and depressed because of my doubts, I made a commitment to practice Atma Kriya Yoga more diligently. 

I made a greater effort to do the pranayamas to balance the activity in my brain and slow down my breathing. I tried to find a few minutes in the middle of the day to practice the Main Kriya. 

Being the full-time mother of a young child doesn’t give me predictable times to practice meditation so I ignored wanting to have a 'perfect meditation'. I just squeezed in whatever I could during the day. 

Bit by bit the doubt started to get weaker and my faith started to get stronger.

I started remembering the guidance and the care I received from the Universe, aka the Divine presence in all of life, over the past few years. 

Being the full-time mother of a yo ung child doesn't give me predicitable times to practice meditation so I ignored wanting to have a perfect 'meditation'. I just squeezed in whatever I could during the day.

I started noticing again that there are many things in my everyday life to be grateful for. 

I actually started being grateful again and saying something I often used to say when my faith was strong: 'Thank you, Guruji.'

YOUR EXPERIENCES ARE STRONGER THAN YOUR DOUBTS

When doubt hits you and places its chains around your heart, go back to your experiences. 

Think about the presence of Divine help that you have received on your spiritual journey and in your life. Think about the gifts you have received in your life and how your life has been guided and shaped by what you’ve placed your faith in. 

Be willing to acknowledge that the good outweighs the bad and be open to saying 'Thank You.' 

Ultimately, your doubt will bow its head to your own experiences of Love and those things that birthed the faith in your heart in the first place.