photo © 2007 Dr. Wendy Longo | more info (via: Wylio)
All of us have our own set of beliefs. As we pass through life, some of these change, some even drastically. Also, they change in different ways for different people. If you have moved around and interacted with people, you would have seen how many varying beliefs different people have.
Think about your own childhood beliefs. I believed that my father was the strongest person in the world, I believed my mother when she told me that if I didn’t behave, an old man would take me away in his sack. When I played hide and seek, I would close my eyes while hiding. I believed that made me harder to find! These, and a lot others, seem so funny and foolish now. But at that time, these were infallible truths for me. I suppose every child has those beliefs that get shattered as he/she grows up.
So when does this process of finding new truths stop? Does learning have an end? I believe not, not until we reach self actualization. I still consider myself a student of life. To me, this implies we may find a lot of our current beliefs unfounded later in life. Think how many of your beliefs can look funny 10 or 20 years from now! Even your deepest, core beliefs may look foolish later. Of course that doesn’t seem possible right now. But then I know that if my current self had visited me in my childhood and told me that hiding my face doesn’t make me invisible, I wouldn’t have believed myself.
To become aware of the fact that your understanding of the world today may be flawed, changes the way you look at things. It may make you feel insecure. A lot of people cannot accept that they can be wrong because it can take away the feeling of security they have. It’s scary to think that the truths you have based your life and decisions on, may not really be true. A lot of people deal with this fear by going into denial. They won’t accept they can be wrong. Haven’t we all seen such people? Maybe you do the same yourself. I often catch myself doing it.
What are we to do if we can’t believe ourselves?
The idea to constantly question your own beliefs is not as scary as it seems. In fact, this is the first step towards living a fuller life, towards conquering your fears. Like it is with making any good move in life, your first step here seems the scariest. The good thing is, once you take it, you realize it was not as bad as it looked. In fact, you later thank yourself for taking it. Almost all my friends who joined college with me and had to move in to the hostel, hated it in the beginning. They longed to go back home. But once they got used to hostel life, most of them did not want to go back! Most of them think today that it was a good learning experience and has helped them in their life.
Your life becomes an adventure of revealing one secret after another. It’s like a treasure hunt! And you become better and better!
Constantly questioning your own beliefs is way better than refusing that your beliefs can be false. You don’t have to spend your life trying to defend your beliefs, sitting in a closed hole, closing your eyes to anything that points away from your beliefs. There are ample examples around each one of us to learn from. Look at older people around you who are unwilling to question their faith. How happy do they seem? When you question their beliefs, do they become interested and explain and listen with enthusiasm? Or do they tighten up, and start defending with all they have? Is there a sense of ease and flow to their reasoning, or do they make you feel like changing the topic or running away.
What to do?
Let go off the fear, or rather, act in spite of it. There is a new, better life ahead!
Start by questioning some of your beliefs. You will have to question everything. EVERYTHING! If you try everything together, it will become overwhelming, start with the easy ones and build up as you go along. Use progressive training . The whole thing is about trying different perspectives – take one belief and try seeing things with a contrasting belief for some time. Which one feels right? Which one feels better? This is core personal development – testing things on your own, being your own teacher. This is pure self inquiry.
Here are some sample beliefs to question. I am also providing some contrasting beliefs to try. These are inspired by the questions I have asked myself. There is no reason why you should not try others. In fact, try what ever you can think of, whatever applies to you. The whole idea is that of questioning and self enquiry.
1. What my parents say is best for me. Try believing they are just humans and can be wrong.
2. My life depends on a lot of factors out of my hands. Try believing that your life is totally in your hands. Whenever an event turns up that seems totally created by others, ask yourself once how you could have caused this.
3. God will punish me for my sins. Try thinking God is friendly. He will just smile at your mistakes and wants you to learn from them. He won’t be mad even at the biggest mistakes, as long as you learn from them. Or maybe try this – God does not exist, He is just an idea to make life and death seem less scary.
Did the last statement make you tighten up? Think this – God wouldn’t mind if you search for truth, would he!?
4. My religion is the best. Try this – religion is just an idea used by a few to keep the masses ignorant and to make the masses do whatever they want. Maybe it just gives a false feeling of security. Maybe it is what Marx calls it – Opium for the masses.
5. Money will make me happy. Try believing happiness is a choice independent of any external factors. Just decide to be happy and see how it goes.
6. It’s difficult to see eye to eye with the opposite sex. Believe for a while that it all depends on trying and setting up communication. Maybe it’s just another human with different ideas.
7. Newspapers keep me informed with what is happening around the world. Try this – Every article in a news paper gives me the perspective of one person or of a small group of people. It may not be the complete truth, even if it is about issues of national importance.
8. Nationalism is a good thing. Try this – All sentient beings form a complete whole. We do well when we think of all of us together and not in terms of regions, states or even countries.
These are just some suggestions. I will leave it up to you to take on other beliefs, compare them with existing ones and decide what’s best for you. I don’t know what the results will be for you, but one thing I can promise you is, you will have a feeling of intense aliveness when you do these experiments. Good luck!