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Soldiers in LockstepThere has been so much written and expressed about beliefs. We often find ourselves talking about unshakable beliefs or that someone’s belief has carried them through their hard times. We use the word excessively when defending our position or trying to make a point. It’s also almost always at the root of how we describe ourselves to others second only to our career and the functional capacity others see us in. But are beliefs truly cast in stone? Are they something that are unshakable? Are they truly something we can say that we’d die for? Or is that just lip service spoken to stay in line with what’s expected of us echoing all the way back to when our parents made us swear to keep the rules or promise to behave in a way that would earn and keep their love and respect? And even after all those commitments and dedications to what we’ve been taught to believe, do we even know what the word means let alone where it actually comes from? I think not. Most of us are just parroting what we’ve been told is true and have been blackmailed into aligning ourselves with what we’re told to accept as true and swear to uphold. We say our deepest wish is to “do right thing” and uphold our beliefs. But are they really ours or are they just something that we’re trained into accepting as true by others under threat of losing their emotional and physical support? Is our need to belong so much stronger than our wish to grow and express ourselves and what we believe? Truly, what IS a belief? Where does it come from? And why would we swear to uphold it? The word and its meanings are entwined in an internal dance between our need to belong and our desire to express ourselves combined with our perceived personal accountability underlying any choice we make relative to which way we lean.

EinsteinWhen most of us speak of a belief, we hold an underlying assumption that something is true. But what does that actually mean? How does it relate to how we see and live our lives? For some of us our acceptance of what we consider to be true is based on the assumptions the groups we belong to hold. For others, it’s what we’ve been told by someone whom we’ve either trusted or feared. For others of us, it is what scientists qualify as being true by tangible methods of testing. For others of us, it’s based on our own personal experience. What confuses the issue even more is that we can hold a varied combination of these validations based on the situations we find ourselves in and the level of confidence we have in our own ability to assess what is true and our truth concerning others. Yet we’re still no closer to clarifying what a belief actually is. Bottom line is that we choose what we accept as being true for us and for others. We only have two ways of validating what can be accepted as being true. We personally experience something for ourselves or we accept something as being true because we’ve been told by someone we trust and/or fear. Simply put, we base our decision on what comes from within us or from outside of us. In our culture we have been taught, almost exclusively, that the validity of what is true comes from outside of ourselves. Generally, in order to remain in the good graces of any group we belong to, we must acquiesce to the general consensus. But to assume this does massive harm to our trust in our own experiences. We now come back to the idea that a belief is one of choice. Do we accept what we feel, have experienced and seen, felt and tasted or do we rely on what we’re told by others who most influence the groups we belong to and who will either boycott, excommunicate, eject or withhold support from us if we disagree with them, essentially, weakening or even disarming their influence over the group? It is because of this second scenario why I’ve included those whom we fear with those whom we trust.

Monkey & TigerOur ability to choose comes simply from living in a mostly tangible polarized world where everything is arranged in terms of pairs of opposites offering contrast which is needed for any choice. We all have the ability to choose.Imagine two monkeys who could rationalize. Does a monkey in the grass go for a tasty morsel while a tiger is stalking him or does he climb a tree to prevent being eaten? If he climbs the tree, he many never know of the danger of the tiger, unless he’s told by the second monkey in the tree, whom he trusts and who has personally had a life threatening experience with the tiger and escaped. If the first monkey runs after hearing from the second monkey, they’d both be in the tree; one because of his personal experience and one because he’s been told. Which reason is more valid for now being in the tree? Does the first monkey who climbed the tree now have a belief that he’d be eaten by the tiger if he didn’t climb? Or is that just hearsay? Does the second monkey in the tree have the belief that the tiger would eat him because of his own experience? That’s his assumption based on his own experience. What if the second monkey told the first monkey not to worry because he wanted to eliminate the second monkey as competition from pursuing his possible mate? What if the first monkey on the ground trusted him and then was eaten by the tiger? Now, what is really true? What is now believed? We human monkeys do this all the time to each other. Each of our truths are personal, subjective and experiential. There is no “absolute” truth. The validity of it is assigned from within the perceiver. Trusting ourselves will always be true for us. Trusting what others tell us is sometimes true and sometimes dubious. We can’t always know the difference. Our choice is most securely based when our own experience is the basis for choosing rather than the hearsay of others or even from a large group; even science. On some level we always know our own motivation. Not always so for knowing others. So let’s refine our definition. A belief is our choice based on either whom we trust, our own experience or simply the accepted hearsay of others. Which validation we use for what we accept as being true depends on whom we were trained by to trust more in our childhood; ourselves or our parents. We Book Burningwould expect that in growing up that we would learn to trust ourselves exclusively. We can see that our contemporary culture teaches and purports that we trust ourselves but in reality only accepts and expects our trusting of the status quo if only for the validation, security and the “good of the group.”This usually unperceived double standard has caused tremendous confusion in issues between personal and group accountability.

Once we choose to accept something as true, will it always be so? If we’re always having new experiences and adding to or reframing our beliefs after each new experience, how could it be so?If others are also having new experiences and changing their beliefs and what they tell us based on their new assessments and awareness of themselves and us, how could they not change? Beliefs are fluid. They move and change within us as we grow more aware broadening our own experience and awareness. They establish a constantly expanding framework of reference points for our understanding of the world and for us to operate within it while assessing who we are and how far we’ve come. Now we are faced with the uncomfortable Chess pawnquestion of what happens when people are “unable” or refuse to change their beliefs even in the face of the overwhelming evidence of their own experience? Since expanding our awareness almost always leads to changing our beliefs we must conclude that unalterable beliefs suspend awareness. Think about this for a moment and just let that sink in…

Let’s look a little deeper at an added dimension. This comes, not so much from familial training, but from how we perceive our inner and outer world and when awareness is active.

When we’re having an experience, we’re in the moment. When we think about an experience, we’re no longer having it or, at the least, we’re unaware of its continuing movement. The same is true of beliefs. Beliefs are made up of thoughts and the memory of decisions we’ve made about our prior experiences. When we’re using our thinking (introverted activity), our awareness of the outside world is switched off. We’re often “lost in our thoughts” or in daydream mode so we’re often unaware as to what’s going on around us. The same is true when we’re expressing (extroverted activity) our beliefs. We can become so involved in what we want to say that we may become oblivious to the reactions of others. So, our awareness of the outer world is switched off while we’re thinking or expressing much like the flow in a fire hose. If water is Cell phone distractionshooting out, nothing can track back in unless the flow of moving water is shut off. Based on this we can say that when we’re thinking or expressing our beliefs, we are NOT in the moment. We’re self-absorbed and unaware. Conversely, we can say that when we are in the moment, the mind is quiet. Hence, meditation is being in the moment.

So when we say that someone is “closed minded,” what we mean is that someone is totally absorbed with thinking about or expressing their beliefs based on their prior experiences and the decisions they’ve made concerning them. They are neither open nor listening to you or anyone else. While they’re thinking or expressing, they’re unaware.

So let’s return to our title. Absolute beliefs corrupt absolutely. When someone is solid or unchangeable in their beliefs there is one perceived advantage to those of us who are relating to them. If we know their beliefs, we know where they stand and where we stand concerning the subject of those beliefs. We feel relatively secure and generally know what to expect of them. Bottom line; both of us feel in control. They adhere to their beliefs and we know what to expect in relating to them. But when we both need to be in control, we are not allowing ourselves to open to new experiences related to those beliefs. We also actively work at recreating the prior experiences involved in creating them. For many of us who don’t attempt to control the world based on our beliefs, we find those people who do a danger to themselves and, often, to others not to mention the frustration created in our dealing with them. These Crusades-2type of people dedicated to controlling their environment and others are most often found in disciplines of a religious nature based on scripture written ages ago by others who have chosen beliefs that resonate to an archaic time in our social development. We call these people “true believers.” The danger exists in the fact that unchangeable beliefs cuts them, and sometimes us, off from the universal current. Then, our emotional and spiritual growth becomes severely impaired if not halted.

It’s not just “true believers” that cut off this flow. We also do it to ourselves when we accept truths about ourselves that are essentially only the opinions and perceptions of those who raised us that might be contrary to what we innately feel about ourselves. It’s imperative that changing from accepting the truths and beliefs of our parents and elders must change toward establishing beliefs about ourselves based on our own experiences if we are to emotionally and spiritually mature and broaden our awareness. There are no conclusions about our growth; only our current arrivals at stages of awareness destined to move on to broader perspectives. Absolute beliefs are a poison to our well-being. The beliefs we establish operate best when fluid and changeable based on our own individual experience and are dropped when they no longer serve our higher nature.

Shapeshifters-Tiger PantherSo much has been written about why we are here in these bodies in this time. Since most of us cannot remember not being here, the only thing we can do is proffer assumptions, suppositions and theories as to why we are here. And since the why is so prevalent, how we make the shift and its consequences is rarely addressed. The larger part of our contemporary Western civilization works from a perspective of altruism (to serve others or a deity at the expense of personal benefit or expectation) which is at the root of most Judaeo-Christian beliefs. The fact that the Western world inundates us with an altruistic belief system at an age where our ability to reason or make personal choices has not yet been developed accounts for the fact that it is so prevalent in our culture and so difficult to think past or recognize any alternate perspectives. In view of this altruistic saturation of our culture’s perspectives, considerations of any other belief systems offered as alternatives are few and far between at best. Please understand that there is nothing wrong with having an altruistic perspective, however, more of a balance that allows for an individual’s pursuit of an enjoyable personal life and livelihood without our current subliminal and implied application of guilt based on selfishness is sorely needed. The bottom line to this type of thinking is that we have been trained into believing that any value we hold about who we are and what our worth might be is determined, not our own assessment, but by others and their perceptions of “what” we’re worth and to whom. So, in a nutshell, the world determines first, who we are, what we must aspire to become and how we must act while “getting there.” Once we realize this we end up asking ourselves, “Doesn’t my opinion matter?” What’s ironic is that our opinion does matter but only in reference to valuing others. It’s almost like we’re forbidden to apply value to ourselves except in view of how we relate to others and they to us.

The need to be able to take care of our own needs is certainly of paramount importance; however, to focus on ourselves within the purview of others almost always gains a label that somehow infers selfishness which, in recent years and is most visibly apparent in almost all of the contemporary “spiritual” disciplines. It has gained tremendous momentum in equating any selfishness to having a “negative” or undesirable connotation. This often subliminal undercurrent coupled with our Judaeo-Christian perspective makes it seem that if we don’t have a dedication to the cause of those who are “less fortunate” than us that we are somehow deficient, immoral or insensitive. This has grown into a subtle and subliminal oppression making it very difficult for us to gather and maintain motivation for formulating and adhering to a life path that benefits us and those similar to us without applying an underlying guilt that by doing so we are depriving others who might be in “need” of our assistance. This dynamic operates well beneath our threshold of awareness for most of us in our Western culture. Our financial and political systems have geared themselves exceedingly well to this subtle dynamic and have played us mercilessly. So much so that the dynamics of altruism and its effects have become so deeply ingrained in our psyches that it has become almost impossible for most of us to recognize its deprecating effects on our own personal happiness. When we feel that we have no space, let alone allowance, for us to have a way to express our own individualism and creativity, a pervading wave of depression steeps us in helplessness permeating our general consciousness.

The Fountainhead-2There have been pioneers who have put forth literary examples of how to free ourselves from the constricting effects inherent in living within an extreme altruistic envelop but they have met with the same accusation of selfishness, immorality and insensitivity toward the “needs” of others. Among them are literary works such as “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand who has gained some attraction among a small following but has not done enough to raise our consciousness enough for us to be able to perceive and remedy the oppressive stronghold that altruism has invisibly held over our culture. However, where anything is oppressed always has a resulting resistance and acts much like a bubble in the wallpaper simply moving under the pressure until it can find a point of release. Another approach has been slowly growing momentum in the “spiritual” field producing a method for release and slipping past the moral “watchdogs” of altruism potentially freeing us from our unconsciously nagging waves of depression and occasional hopelessness. One such approach is the growing momentum in those who learn and use the “Law of Attraction.”

Atlas ShruggedMy first encounter with LOA was in 2006. During that time I was still wrapped in the mindset of “poverty consciousness” which was well connected to the followers of any metaphysical or contemporary spiritual practice. Altruism was, and still is in many cases, well ingrained in these and like disciplines. So my perspective then was that this was just a new gimmick and a group of people geared up toward “acquiring stuff.” So, I simply passed over it as a fad much the same way I did for the shaman wave in the 05’s and the angels fad in the 09’s. Little did I know…

The VortexIn 2013 I came across a CD about LOA called “The Vortex.” It hit me like a ton of bricks. Once I listened through I was hooked. Something in it resonated strongly within me but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. I listened to it a number of times and the underlying meaning penetrated to my core giving me a self-clarity I had never had before. Not about whom I should be. Not about how good or bad I was. Not about rules, regulations, dogma or discipline but about recognizing the inner urges that were my indicators and directionals about where I should look to find the validation I needed to allow and empower my Self-Trust and to fuel and maintain my motivation to express, create and enjoy life in spite of the endlessly perceived outer moral and cultural directives replaying within me like a tape caught in a repetitive mental loop. I found my childhood programming challenged with a perspective that allowed for more of a balance between my inner and outer worlds. Personal expression and acknowledgment of its value had become more of an option. I was psyched.

law-of-attraction-1For the next two years I downloaded and played all I could from YouTube.com. I saturated myself with the teachings. Slowly, a subtle but very strong shift grew in my understanding about the altruistic path I had been following and a different approach which included what was needed for the people in my circle of friends and acquaintances but still allowed me to pursue what I wanted guilt free. However, implementing it would involve excommunication from many of my friends and connections until a shift toward those more aligned with my personal path could take place. The basic premise behind the whole approach is that what I think about and focus on will be what comes back to me. So, if I resist something that I’m afraid of, I will attract more of what I’m afraid of. If I think about what I don’t have, I will attract more of the emptiness. If I complain about what I don’t like, I will attract more of what I don’t like. The Law of Attraction is very simple. Energy and manifestation simply follows thought. So the bible was right after all. “As a man thinketh, so he is!”

So now you’re probably asking, “How can focusing on what I have an urge to do or be answer what my new neighbors, friends and connections might need?” The answer is very simple but it’s an explanation that takes a ride around the corner from what might be expected.

At Your ServiceWhen I align my thoughts and energies with what I feel the urge to do and be, not what my culture deems is appropriate and “proper” for me according to its rules and traditions; I attract people to me who resonate with the new path I have chosen. The people already in my space and who expect me to provide them with what our culture tells them they should get from me will not receive what they expect. This will disappoint them severely and I will receive subtle accusations of being selfish or insensitive to their needs. They will wait a short time for me to “come around” and perhaps pressure me a bit more strongly to realign with providing their needs. Eventually, they will seek the support they think and have been told they should get from me, elsewhere. The new people who resonate and are aligned with the path I have chosen for myself will get what they need through their aligning with the same path that I have chosen. We will then serve as models and examples of refining our growth and alignment with the path for each other. In this way, doing what I love and have an inner urge to do will benefit the new people who are attracted to my preferred life paths and life styles as me.

The most difficult part of the above process has been losing the perceived security and acceptance I thought I had gained through attempting to provide my family, friends and acquaintances with what they were culturally trained to expect from me and that I was trained to provide to them before I began to follow my own path of growth following my own inner urges rather than acquiescing to what was traditionally expected of me. The gap between losing my family and friends’ acceptance and support and connecting with new people who resonated with my newly chosen path developed a void which left me feeling very lonely and disconnected. I could say that this was part and parcel to my journey through the abyss or my “dark night of the soul.” Simply put, I had moved from wanting to belong, be accepted and validated by those who weren’t aligned with my inner urges to attending my own dharma and personal growth in spite of the tremendous external cultural pressure. But the rewards of aligning with others who have common interests, goals and beliefs as my own has freed me from the guilt of feeling that I must be my brother’s keeper as I was trained in my childhood. fork in the road-1Instead of being outer responsive, which represents the larger sampling of our western culture, I have allowed myself to become more inner directed and balanced with my own urges and intuition. It is my belief that in the end we will all have to come to terms with making a choice between the security of belonging and the uncertainty of our experience born of awareness.