For instance, none of you have to believe in gravity. It's here. It's what is. If you tried to believe that you can physically fly unassisted, reality would give you a very rude awakening. None of you have to believe that the Earth is round either. You can travel around the whole world if you choose. But at one point people's limited beliefs interfered with this understanding. People thought that the world was flat, and that limiting belief stopped a lot of exploration for fear that people would simply fall off the edge of the Earth. Limitation is the nature of beliefs more often than not.
Yet, rather than exploring our beliefs, people tend to defend them and quite vigorously if not violently. Crusades, feuds, and wars are born out of beliefs, and they cause needless suffering and pain. As such, we need to do a better job of understanding our beliefs, the fears that underlie them, and the ego's need to defend its identity if we want to find greater freedom and to truly know what to "defend" in life and what to simply allow to vanish like the immaterial thought that it is.
Let's start simply by looking at what you value. What do you think is important in your life? Write down what ideas come to you. Is family important to you? Is romance important to you? Is having a job important to you? There are many other questions I could ask to point you in this direction. Spend time really looking at what you care about (or at least have been taught to care about). Then ask yourself why is this thing/person/situation valuable to me. Why do I want it or need it?
This is the start of exploring your beliefs.
Identifying Limiting BeliefsYou'll find that most beliefs are limiting beliefs. These beliefs say that you should be one way, which means you cannot be another way. One of the more toxic limiting beliefs on the spiritual path is that idea that you should always be positive. It means you can never feel or act "negatively," which often includes feeling sad, angry, ashamed, or fearful. This creates an emotional shadow side that eats away at people. However, underneath this belief is the judgment system that is a little more hidden. This is also built up of beliefs about how to evaluate yourself and life, and it creates a broader set of limitations. It will often seem very "logical" at first until you start to explore it. You have to peel back to the veil and look at what is running the show.
Because if you don't, the tendency is to become more and more defensive about what you believe and to perceive more and more people and situations as threats to your beliefs and therefore to you.
Limiting Beliefs and Core Beliefs
Growing Defensiveness: The Ego Builds a More Elaborate WallOne of the big signs that the ego is at work is if you feel defensive about something. I'm not talking about if someone is physically threatening to you, and I encourage all of you to not spend time thinking if the words I am saying are wrong. This is another ego tactic. It'll try so hard to justify why you need to have all these beliefs even as you're reading this that you stop really reading. You're judging everything and waiting for a logical misstep to give you a loophole. This is because the ego part of you is terrified of letting go and what lies beyond your beliefs. Trust me. The real you cannot be harmed, and in letting go of beliefs, greater and greater freedom becomes available to you.
Letting Go of Beliefs
The defensive ego is simply building a wall between you and life. That wall, however, is a circular wall with a top and a bottom. In short, it's a cage. It's a cage for you, and it makes it more and more difficult to engage appropriately with clarity and compassion with life. As such, that makes a lot of situations go poorly because you're not seeing what is. You're projecting your beliefs onto the situation and people and are misinterpreting a lot of things.
I once used the metaphor on this blog of an employee who has a lot of self-doubt and fear of losing her job. One day her boss calls her into her office. The employee believes something bad will happen only to have the whole office surprise her with a birthday cake. Some people can get so worked up with fear that they send an email quitting their job because of a fear of being humiliated and never step into the office. This is one small example, but far more detrimental things get created because of how our beliefs color our perspectives.
Making Major Mistakes While Defending Your BeliefsIn no other arena is so much at stake as the political arena. The mash-up of genuine issues with personal beliefs and agendas is staggeringly bad. Many people are out to simply self-aggrandize, and this isn't just politicians. This includes all the news junkies out there watching tons of politics and arguing with friends about political points. It's not about helping communities; it's about the person feeling right. The more someone feels bad about themselves, the more they have to be right even at the detriment of other people. And you can take an important issues such as sexual abuse, and that can be twisted into a set a beliefs that people use to their own ego-gain to make themselves seem like their heroes, to get re-elected, to get whatever it is they think they need by maintaining such a belief.
Now to muddy the waters here, I do want to say that some beliefs are useful. I have a general belief that sexual abuse is bad because it creates a great deal of suffering. But you won't be clear about what are "useful" beliefs until you've really explored yourself. And most people don't want to do this. Instead parents force kids to go to college rather than engaging with their kids in the present moment and honoring where their talents are, which may or may not be college. People defend their opinions on who the best comic book villain is while viciously insulting people who disagree. And world leaders who believe they need to be right and look powerful will bomb and kill their own people and other people just to appear strong. This is the toxic nature of most beliefs, and this error in defending them has led to billions of people suffering over the millenia.
The Truth Arising in the MomentOne of the big fears that arises for people is that if they don't have beliefs, how will they live? Who will they be? The answer to the first question is to simply let the present moment guide you. Listen to your intuition about what is needed in that moment. If it is time to eat, your hunger tells you. You don't need to believe that you need to eat at a preset time. Furthermore, you can listen to your body to tell you what you need to eat and what not to eat.
If you are making decisions on vaccinations, colleges, and setting boundaries with children, pay attention to the moment. What is arising now? This doesn't preclude some amount of planning, but that type of use for the mind should be held very lightly. You plan, but you also stay engaged with life. You don't need to work that hard on the future. The present moment creates the future, and any beliefs you create around the future should be lightly held. Beliefs can't make things happen. We don't make things happen. At best, we co-create things, and there are limits on what we can co-create.
That's why it's so important to let go of limiting beliefs. There are already limits in the physical world and the structures we've created. While some things can be changed, others take a long time to change, and still others can't be changed (I can't fly--gravity isn't going away any time soon). By holding beliefs loosely, we do not defend them when they do not work, and we learn to notice what things and situations are simply irrelevant, posing no real threat to defend against (Like someone insulting the style of your pants--there's no real threat).
Useful Beliefs and Conscious Self-DefenseFor centuries, there have been forms of self-defense, but most are corrupted by ego agendas to look strong and powerful rather than to actually defend something. There are times where we need to defend ourselves intellectually or physically. In this strange Internet age, words can now hurt people's reputations and therefore your careers. But this should be held lightly. We really do not need to defend ourselves that much, and when we must do so, we must try to do it as compassionately as possible. We don't go off on Holy wars to hurt others in some confused idea that we'll save others or protect the faith. This idea is still very much at play in the world political spectrum, and it applies just as much to the non-profit director who thinks their non-profit helping abused children is the most important of all non-profits. Humility helps us to see clearer and not to mix up our issues with real social problems just to serve our egos.
9 Spiritual Truths to Live By
So as you go inwards, it becomes easier to see what is real. From that reality, useful beliefs arise without much work. You don't need to try very hard to see that if you hurt another, they want to lash out at you or at someone else. Suffering creates more suffering. It's easy to see. In this way, the more clear we are, the more evident the truths of life are. And the truth of life is very different from a belief. Because whether you believe in it or not, the truth continues to exist. That's what makes spiritual teachings so consistent for all of humanity. We are all one. We are all connected. These may seem like beliefs, but if you are sincere in your inner exploration, you'll soon see that they are the truth and the truth needs no defense at all.
Today's picture is a gift from my long-time reader, Tingting. Thanks so much dear one!