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?