Question Everything

First of all, off topic, I want to say a big thanks to kdkh from the Peace With My Life blog, who nominated me for a Sunshine Award. As I’ve previously noted, I’ve given up on going through the steps for these awards (see post), but I always feel grateful.  In this case I’ve received one before so I’m going to refer you to that post for other bloggers, etc.  Please be sure to check out Peace With My Life for lovely posts.

I’ve been thinking a lot for a while about a post on “questioning everything”. Every time I try to work on it I wind up realizing that it needs to be divided into more than one post. I’m loathe to commit to some regular time to keep putting up additional thoughts on this topic so I finally decided I’d just throw out an opener and tell you I’ll be coming back to this but not on a schedule.

I first started thinking about this topic in line with the “create your own reality” idea that seems to have been replaced with the “law of attraction”. I found over time that unconscious beliefs often have more impact on reality, or what you attract, than what you’re consciously thinking. Once I started exploring belief systems I realized that the ideas that bind us are far more widespread than just what we learned from our families and have many roots so deep in societal, religious, and cultural beliefs that most of us are held in place by beliefs so ingrained we don’t even question them.

In spending a lot of time exploring Buddhism after those initial thoughts, I came to feel that those beliefs are also a big part of what practices “detach” you from and that belief structures are obstacles to success on pretty much any path if you don’t become conscious of them and find a way to step outside the structure.

In several past posts I discussed why I think some sort of mindfulness practice is crucial, made suggestions on a variety of ways to achieve mindfulness and added ideas on how to give your thoughts new directions. So I’ll just reiterate here that I think you not only have to dig around in your consciousness to understand all that you believe but you also really have to learn to be mindful, which is Buddhist speak for being in the moment. Without mindfulness it’s unlikely that you can track your thoughts well enough to note when you’ve stumbled upon a belief to address, nor will you be able to focus your thoughts well enough to stay in the moment being present and unattached to all those beliefs that direct your thoughts.

I’ll open with this thought that arose for me in Bali. I was stunned to discover that the Balinese don’t really have a concept of individual pursuit of happiness (at least they didn’t – I have my suspicions that the explosion of visitors from the west is probably changing that…). Life there is centered around the temple and first allegiance is to serving the temple and next allegiance is to serving others. That simple difference between putting community first and putting self first blew away my assumptions about life and the pursuit of happiness and the rightness of putting the individual first. And I realized how many differences in world view flow from that one simple difference in belief. I don’t know if all visitors realize how much of the beauty and the absolute charm and kindliness of the people there is the direct result of that belief in putting others first. But it’s magical.

I can’t say that I’ve completely changed my attitudes about individual rights but that single experience opened a window for me and a breeze has been blowing through ever since, leading me to see how many assumptions I make because Americans make them or Southerners make them or middle class people make them, etc. How many thoughts and actions are conceived because I accept a whole array of beliefs about how life works or what one must do. Once I understood that none of those beliefs are set in stone, nor are they universal truths, I saw how limited my thinking is.

I also saw how easy it is to embrace a new spirituality that is far from the mainstream and to imagine that you’ve thrown off all those fetters. In actuality I still find quite often that on the one hand I hold beliefs that are far outside the norm and at the same time I operate from so many learned assumptions that arose from class and country, etc that it’s unnerving. As I let go of all those “musts” I become more peaceful. What beliefs do you hold about action, inaction, love, war, peace, ownership, service, etc. that you learned from your school or town or family or country?

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14 thoughts on “Question Everything

  1. I agree our unconscious thoughts have a huge impact on what we draw into our lives. And I love the story about the Balinese. I’ve spent a lot of time in Asia and there is such a different concept of happiness than we have in the West. It’s all about being there for others, the collective whole matters more than the individual.

    • Yes, my impression is that you can scoop up very different world views from all over the place. To me, they all work for those who believe in them but it helps me see they are just beliefs that we can choose to have or not… That notion of serving the whole makes such a difference.

  2. Beautiful post. In answer to your question, nothing specific but I consciously let go of old beliefs often. It’s amazing how deep old cultural beliefs go and how many there are. Sometimes its serious things, but other times, it’s not so serious things. Like why does dinner have to be served at the same time every night? Why does the patio furniture have to be arranged the same way all the time? Even though things like that aren’t serious, it’s all a part of that “questionning”, its a pattern, a way of thinking, feeling and being. Once I started looking inside myself for my answers, I applied it to everything. And my life is far more peaceful. — Great post, very thought provoking. Love & Light.

  3. Great post. I suspect sometimes when people throw themselves into different non-mainstream spiritualities there can be the illusion that by being different they are being/expressing their individuality. Which is a trap way of thinking.

    Michael

  4. I am delighted to find your blog. It speaks to many issues that have been important to me over the years. Also, want to share it with a small group of friends, mostly teachers and writers that get together to share our various explorations of the spiritual. None of us sees the diverse spiritual traditions as either/or. Nor have we found any that have a lock on spirituality. Most of us came from traditional Christian religions, Methodist, Baptist, and Catholic, but realize their limits and the institutions tendency to make the institution into an idol. I don’t think Christianity has actually been seriously tried since Constantine made it the state religion. Probably because it calls for dying to self, or laying down your life for others.
    Affluence seems to make that very unpopular! Anyway, I’m looking forward to following your blog.

    • Oh, that sounds like a group I’d love. I’ve long understood that the original Christianity and the Gnostic Gospel were very different from what the institutionalized church became, but I’ve never looked very far into it. I enjoyed my first glimpse of your blog.

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