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Everything is okay.

You're living between two worlds. The first is the world of things and stuff and the other is what it all means. All of your experiences outside are colored by what you give attention to inside. If there's a cloud of confusion inside, the outside world is going to look confusing.

Self-doubt is a cloud of confusion. Your attention is glued to ideas of what could go wrong and poor opinions of yourself, and these thoughts loop over and over. Self-doubt can vanish like any other cloud when you shift your attention.

Getting quiet is how you shift your attention.

Paying attention to your own inner stillness creates self-confidence. Whenever there's tension, confusion, anxiety or concern about what's happening, you can become still and recognize your natural confidence. The quieter you become, the more confident you become. It's automatic.

The following practices help you shift your attention.

Follow The Exhale

As long as you're aware, you can be aware of your breath. Your breath is always present and intimate with every moment whether your attention is on it or not. You can use your attention to follow your breath to the most intimate aspect of your experience, which is stillness.

To begin following your breath, sit somewhere comfortable. You don't need to close your eyes, but it helps to avoid getting distracted. Gently turn your attention to your breath. You may begin noticing right in the middle of an inhale or exhale. Take your time to notice the next exhale. Pay attention to how the breath leaves your body, and give your full attention to what it feels like. This is completely natural, so you don't need to become tense trying to figure out how to do it. You're already breathing without having to try.

Notice the exhale again. Follow it all the way with your attention, right up to the moment you begin to inhale. Follow that too, all the way in, as far as it goes without trying to breathe a certain way. Follow it all the way to the point where you naturally exhale again. Notice how the breath leaves your body. You don't have to think about where it's going. Simply notice that your breath leaves your body as you exhale. Feel it. Then notice your body as it automatically draws in air again. Feel what this is like.

Continue following your breath, paying more attention to the exhale than you do the inhale. All you're doing is training your attention like a muscle. If you get distracted, don't worry about it. You might even start to criticize yourself. You haven't failed. You're still breathing. Simply go back to noticing the exhale.

This is the entire exercise. It's up to you how long you pay attention to your breath, but it helps to take 10-15 minutes throughout day to simply notice your exhale and inhale. Like all strength training, you can start with the lightest weight comfortable and gradually work your way to longer attention spans.

Eventually you'll notice that between each exhale and inhale, there is a gentle pause. That pause is the meeting place between who you feel yourself to be and inner stillness. In any moment, no matter how tense or even exciting, you can pay attention to your exhale and follow it all the way to inner stillness.

Noticing Silence

Self-doubt comes from imagining negative consequences and supporting poor opinions of yourself. You're thinking too much about what could go wrong and why you aren't worth it. Not only do you have control over what you imagine, but you can stop supporting poor opinions of yourself.

Anything you can imagine and whatever opinions you have exist solely inside your head. That means they're part of your inner world. They're thoughts, and each thought begins and ends in silence. In fact your whole inner world is naturally silent.

Noticing silence is easier than creating it. Trying to create silence in the middle of your thoughts is like trying to hammer a nail with another nail. You're thinking too much about what silence is and using that to fight off thoughts causing anxiety. It doesn't work. If anyhting, you're giving more attention to anxiety.

You don't have to stress out over somehow getting control over your thoughts. They're out of control. They show up and leave on their own, and the only thing telling them to stay is your attention. You have plenty of random thoughts during the day but none of them stick because you ignore them.

You have complete control over what you pay attention to. Let's play with that a little bit. Take your time and pay attention to what you're doing now. The words you're reading are thoughts heard inside your head. Try reading the next line very slow to yourself.

This. Is. Heard. Inside. Of. My. Head.

The period after each word is a guide. Go over it again and notice how after each period, you immediately become aware of silence. It's that easy.

Another way to notice silence is to use the space around you. Take a moment to become aware of your environment. Listen to what's around you and see if you can identify stuff by whatever sound it makes. This is easy and really fun to do in a coffee shop or at a park. Simply listen to what's happening around you.

Try doing the same thing, but with your eyes closed. Take your time. Do it again, but don't identify anything. Just listen.

Notice how everything you hear interrupts silence. It doesn't matter if it's happening inside your head or somehwere in your environment. If you hear it, you heard silence first and you hear silence afterward. Siilence is the context for everything you hear.

Silence and stillness are the same thing.

When you notice silence, you are noticing your own inner stillness. Just like everything you hear interrupts silence, everything you see and feel interrupts stillness. There is open space for everything to simply happen. Silence doesn't change when there is a noise and stillness doesn't change when something happens. They both continue to be the context of your world.

Noticing silence and stillness is helpful to do anytime you're feeling anxious about what's happening. It's also helpful to practice noticing silence and stillness 10-15 minutes throughout the day. Simply allow yourself to become aware of silence and your own inner stillness. They are both always available.

Peel Off Labels

Labels are words and ideas you've collected along the way to provide a sense of identity. You're already aware of some, like political preference, cultural background and being human. Others you may not be aware of. They could be labels you were given a long time ago and are now holding onto to support self-doubt.

The strongest labels are those you strongly identify with. Your name is an example. When you hear your name out in public you automatically pay attention. It doesn't matter who it is. A total stranger can call your name and you'd pay attention because you feel like your name is you.

None of your labels are you. The only reason they stick is because you feel like they're you. Let's assume you've had the same name since childhood. Someone gave you a name, told you what it was and you believed them. You were given a label and learned to own it.

You can peel off any label by not identifying with it. Anyone who's changed their name knows this. If someone called you by your old name, you might flinch out of habit, but if someone used your chosen name, you'd give your full attention. You selected a new label for yourself and learned to own it.

You don't have to figure out what your labels are. Some of them are as simple as your name, while others are more complex, like sexual orientation. It's a lot easier to change your name than it is to change who you're attracted to. The more complex labels you tend to hold onto because they provide a sense of safety.

Let's play with your name for a little bit.

Take a moment to simply be with yourself. Just be here for a minute and feel what it's like to be where you're at. You don't have to look around and think about it. Just be here. Now carefully examine yourself and pick out the part of you which is your name. Don't be so quick to say, "well my name is me." Play along.

You can look at your right foot and know it's not your name. You can tap your left shoulder and know that it's not your name. You liver isn't your name. None of your organs or bodyparts can independently claim ownership over your name. The only reason your name is you is because you feel like it's you. It's a reference.

Your true identity is who you feel yourself to be without describing yourself. Every label you've ever identified with is a reference, including labels you've adopted that aren't so great. You are much more than any label you've ever recieved.

Take 10-15 minutes throughout the day to feel what it's like to be you without any description. You don't have to look for a label to peel off. They'll loosen up and come off automatically. The only thing you need to do is take time to feel where you're at.

Knowing Everything Is Okay

These exercises help you build a relationship with your attention. You can learn how to gradually shift attention away from self-doubt and give it to natural confidence instead. Natural confidence is simply another way of describing inner stillness. They're the same thing.

With enough practice you'll notice that inner stillness doesn't go away. Your attention may shift elsewhere, but when you're ready, you can always shift attention back to your inner stillness and see that it hasn't changed. It's fundamental to every experience you ever have, good or bad. This is how you know everything is okay.

There is an aspect to your experience which cannot by affected by whatever is going on. This fundamental aspect of your experience, which is inner stillness, is not separate from you. In fact, it's the very foundation of where you begin. The only separation between inner stillness and who you feel yourself to be is the experience of noticing it. You are inner stillness.

Resting as inner stillness is the quickest way to dissolve anxiety, confusion and doubt.

Everything begins with getting quiet. Get quiet, notice inner stillness and allow your attention to rest there. Anxiety, confusion and doubt slip away as you fall into a natural rhythm. This natural rhythm is sometimes called the Tao, Holy Spirit or my personal favorite, The Flow. True confidence is living in The Flow.