What does a new born believe in? What does a four year old believe in? What do you believe in?
Are our beliefs mostly helpful or harmful to ourselves and others? Do they reflect the truth of our existence?
Can we live without beliefs?
To answer these questions, let’s look at what beliefs are vs. truths.
Truths are undeniable and universal. The earth is round. The sun is our star and the planets orbit the sun. Gravity works on earth.
Truths have been proven to be true. We don’t need to validate them beyond that.
Beliefs on the other hand are selective, personal and changeable.
Everything we tell ourselves about ourselves, others and the world comes from beliefs.
If you see the world as a violent and unjust place, it’s because you believe it to be so. If you believe you are not good enough, or people are not trust worthy, you will find that as well.
The opposite is true of course. You can believe that the world is a compassionate and loving place. You may believe that you can do anything you set your mind to and that people are overwhelmingly supportive and kind.
As you can see above, such selectiveness can be dangerous. Why? Simply put because we have a negative bias, because of the way we’re conditioned to grow up.
The dangers of certain beliefs
Beliefs masquerade as truths.
Once a belief sets in, it becomes a personal truth; we view the world and our experiences from that perspective only. In other words, we create our vision of reality.
In any society acceptable customs and traditions all turn into beliefs over time. The collective follows what was set out by a group of people in the past. Each society has its own standards of beauty, success, status happiness, and acceptable ways to behave and interact with others. These beliefs become societal truths.
Beliefs require constant validation.
When we believe something, we look for proof that it’s true. The mind is always looking for ways to prove that we are right. And guess what? We will be right, all the time.
If you believe you’re not good enough, you constantly keep looking for ways to prove that you are not enough.
When we feel our way (what we believe in) is threatened, we attack others and their beliefs. We become one with our beliefs; they are part of who we are. So anything that challenges our way of thinking represents an attack on us.
Beliefs create a fixed view of what is and what should be.
Look behind most controlling actions and you will find an underlying belief that something should be this way. Or a person should behave that way. Or I must be doing this instead of that.
Each belief represents a single view that won’t accommodate any other possible position—especially an opposing one. It’s my way or the highway.
Can we live without beliefs?
Can we stop believing? I honestly don’t know.
What I know for sure is that we can become more aware of our beliefs and we can choose what we believe in.
Once we increase our awareness, we can stop following beliefs blindly and do things differently.
Our beliefs are not sacred and can be wrong. We can challenge and question them.
Awakening to the truth: how to let go of beliefs
If we go back to how beliefs were formed, we realize that we didn’t exert any effort. We allowed the expectations of society and the meaning we assigned to certain experiences to repeat over time and seep into our subconscious mind, unquestioned.
To awaken, we can go through these simple but powerful processes.
Stop believing everything.
Whenever you have an opinion, stop before you turn it into a full blown belief about a situation, and think for a moment.
Let’s look at this example:
Someone bumps into me at the supermarket. She looks at me indignantly as if it’s my fault. I immediately think to myself she is rude. Automatically, I extrapolate this view that the world is full of rude and delusional people. What’s wrong with humanity?
Then I start looking for rudeness everywhere—in the parking lot, at the work place, at home. And I find plenty of rude people.
I can choose to stop for a second after the incident before making a judgment that the person is rude.
This short moment may be all I need to diffuse the situation in my mind. If it’s not enough I’ll consider the next step.
Question and challenge beliefs.
Beliefs take a hold because they go unquestioned. At a deeper level we know that our beliefs are not truths; that’s why we keep looking for ways to prove that they’re right.
What if we start looking for ways to prove that they are wrong?
In the example above, I can ask myself how do I know that she’s rude? Well she bumped into me and then got pissed that I was in her way. She didn’t apologize.
Are there any other reasons that this person behaved the way they did?
Maybe she was having a bad day. Maybe she was on medication and not feeling well. Maybe she was in her head and when she bumped into me she was startled. Maybe things happened so fast that she didn’t realize that she needed to apologize. Maybe she’s having problems at work or at home or caring for someone who is sick and wasn’t paying attention.
How many maybes can you come up with? Which one of them is the truth?
I don’t know. Do you? So how can we pick one possibility and make it the ultimate outcome of an experience, then turn it into a truth?
Once you cast doubt on a belief, you disempower it and stop it from running rampant in your mind and heart as a holy truth.
If someone didn’t question that the earth was flat, we would still believe that it was. If someone didn’t challenge racial segregation, we wouldn’t have changed our ways. This is the power of questioning beliefs.
Embrace not knowing.
The human ego is a ruthless dictator. It wants to be right all the time. And in order for it to be right, it needs to know something. Not knowing is considered a sign of ignorance and weakness.
In the example above, I don’t know for sure if the person I bumped into at the supermarket is rude. So why believe my thoughts about the situation?
Another simple example is when you ask someone for directions and they give you the wrong ones because they don’t want to say they don’t know. You can ask a few people and get different directions and then you’re more lost.
Personally, I’d rather someone tell me they don’t know than misguide me. I think it’s fair to assume that most people want the truth vs. made up directions.
We don’t have to believe other people’s statements and opinions blindly—they don’t know, just like us.
Beliefs give us a sense of comfort that comes from the illusionary certainty of knowing. The truth about beliefs is that we don’t know much about anything. We know very little about the world and our existence.
We have suffered long enough because of unfounded beliefs. We can choose to believe as much we can choose not to believe. And that is freedom.
The truth is you are alive now; you have a choice and you don’t know everything.
Open up to life as is. Welcome your experiences with the curiosity and enthusiasm of a child without the bias and trepidation of beliefs. Choose to support yourself and others and let the rest go. When you do this, you’ll heal your mind and heart … you will become peace on earth.