October Reflections – Basic Trust

n working with many individuals over the years, I’ve come to realize that the fundamental cause underlying all psychological problems, anxieties, and fears is the lack of basic trust. In Facets of Unity, Sufi teacher A. H. Almaas, founder of the Diamond Approach—a contemporary spiritual path which combines ancient spiritual wisdom and modern psychology—defines basic trust as “a nonconceptual confidence in the goodness of the universe.” This means “there is something about the universe and human nature and life that is inherently and fundamentally good, loving, and wishing us the best” (1998, 22-23).

Jesus speaks about basic trust in his Sermon on the Mount:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on…Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?…Seek first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matt 6: 25-26, 2000, ESV

You might want to substitute the words divine flow or great mystery instead of heavenly Father to discern the validity of Jesus’ words.

Do you believe in the goodness of the universe?

Do you believe in the goodness of the universe which supports you even though your life may seem bleak at times? Or do you believe in an impersonal universe in which events are random and it depends on you to make the best of your life? Do you believe all humans are basically good, even though they may be ignorant, confused, or acting out of their woundedness, or do you think some people are simply bad at their core?

If your basic trust is strong, you tend to be open and curious about whatever arises in the moment because you have a strong sense of safety and security. You are less anxious and therefore can appreciate life more. You’re more able to allow life to unfold organically and spontaneously. You can ask a question and be confident that an answer will eventually come.

How do you increase your basic trust?

Given these beneficial effects, you may want to know how to increase your basic trust. There are several ways you might proceed.

First, review those times in your life when you faced difficulties. You didn’t receive a desired job, an important relationship ended, you unwillingly became divorced, or a loved one died. What were the outcomes? It may take months or years to realize the benefits, but in most cases, they did occur. In this way, you may begin to entertain the idea of a benevolent force guiding your life. I was devastated at age 11 when my father died and cried for many years afterwards. But his death forced me to ask those larger spiritual questions. This sent me on a trajectory that shaped my professional life as a retreat guide, spiritual counselor and author.

Second, contemplate the times when you sought higher guidance. Did you receive an answer? It may have come in the form of a helpful person showing up at the right time, opening a book that gave the answer, a sign from nature or simply an inner knowing on how to proceed. Reviewing the times when you received guidance gives you more confidence that you will receive the answers to your queries. I often find that when people are in a quandary they forget to ask for higher help but when they do, the way opens.

Healing your original wounds

Third, return to those psychological wounds which caused you to disconnect from the underlying goodness of the universe and heal them. According to Almaas, these wounds occurred when your fundamental goodness was not effectively mirrored back to you. Instead, you may have been rejected, humiliated, abandoned or betrayed. Almaas claims that such wounds create holes or deficiencies in the fabric of basic trust at the fundamental level. The ego then unsuccessfully tries to fill these holes as a way to avoid the pain caused by these wounds. For example, if rejected, you may put undue pressure on yourself to achieve great things, thinking you’ll then be accepted. Such exertion unfortunately leaves little room for spontaneity and pleasure. If abandoned, you may act too needy as a way to corral someone to stay with you. Once you heal the original wounds, your egoic ploys can take a back seat, allowing the universe to act more powerfully and effectively through you.

Reading the mystics

Four, reading the mystics is another way to build basic trust because they communicate their direct experience of the underlying goodness. Their writings are difficult to dismiss because their authenticity is so evident. I find reassurance in the mystical experience of R.C. Bucke, as quoted in F.C. Happold’s Mysticism.

Directly afterwards there came upon me a sense of exultation, of im­mense joyousness, accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumination quite impossible to describe. Among other things, I did not merely come to believe, I saw that the universe is not composed of dead matter, but is, on the con­trary, a living Presence. . . I saw that all are immortal; that the cosmic order is such that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all; that the foundation principle of the world, of all worlds, is what we call love, and the happiness of each and all is in the long run certain.

Would you live your life differently, if you truly believed Bucke’s words? How would you live your life if you could increasingly trust this universal love to flow through you?

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