I was raised to believe that doubt was a sign of intelligence.

In the 1980’s I was taking classes in meditation and spirituality in NYC offered by Hilda Charlton, a wise and beloved spiritual master who helped and guided thousands during her lifetime.

Every Thursday night about four hundred of us would sit with Hilda. She would love us, entertain us, and then challenge us to look at ourselves and our limited beliefs and identities.

One month Hilda seemed to talk a great deal about her communications with beings from other planets. She casually mentioned that they appeared in her living room and conversed with her about spiritual matters.

Each time she broached the subject, my mental “Bah, humbug!” screamed at her. My mind was closed tightly when it came to ET’s, and I didn’t see how intelligent people could believe that visitors from outer space were available for fireside chats.

One evening Hilda seemed to focus her gaze directly on me as she addressed the group: “Do you want to know why I’m spending all this time talking to you about the Space Brothers? To get you out of your little mental boxes, that’s why! There’s a whole universe out there teeming with life, dimensions upon dimensions! Open your minds, kids!”

In that moment I saw clearly my doubt masquerading as intelligence, and how tightly I was holding on to it for my safety. I prayed for help in freeing myself from that rigidity and for support in opening myself to my natural curiosity and childlike wonder.

I felt a shift, as if my inner doubting Thomas said, “All right, I have to admit that there is nothing dangerous about having an open mind about this. Who knows what’s possible?”

Two weeks later a friend called. “Scott, I know you hawk different things on the sidewalks, and I just discovered two hundred T-shirts in my basement. I’ve had them for years, and I’ll give you a great price! Would you like to sell them?”

I politely declined, believing that T-shirts in November in NYC would not sell at any price. “Oh, that’s too bad!” he said. “They are so nice! They have a picture of a UFO landing on earth and they say “I Believe” on them.”

My head started spinning and I thought I heard The Twilight Zone music playing in the background. The doubt chimed in and said, “Calm down, Scott. It’s just a coincidence.” But this time I could not retreat to the comfort of negation. I let the experience rattle my cages and open my mind. I ended up buying his ET-shirts and selling them outside at Hilda’s classes. I sold out in two nights.

On another occasion, a friend who was struggling with having to find a new place to live at the last minute asked for some help. I led her through a visualization in which we imagined the perfect living space coming into her world quickly and easily. We mentally toured the rooms of her new home, giving thanks for what we declared would be the easiest move of her life. As we went through the process we both had some resistance, internally muttering, “This is such metaphysical mumbo jumbo!” We voiced the doubts and laughed at ourselves, admitting, “Hey, this can’t hurt, it might even help, and it sure is fun!”

Two days later my friend, while fetching the morning paper in her bathrobe, noticed a For Rent sign on the lawn of her next door neighbor to the left. She investigated the situation and ended up moving into the house next door, quite literally the easiest move of her life!

These, and many other experiences, have gradually inspired me to make space in my head for a universe filled with magic and infinite possibility, one that works with me and supports me fully as I learn to think in harmony with the infinite and leave behind my addiction to doubt, skepticism, and the paralysis of analysis.

Do you believe in life on other planets? And, more importantly, do you believe in life on this one?

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