One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying. Joan of Arc
Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and Sikhs, would beg to differ with St Joan’s assertion that you only live once; Plato and Socrates were also said to believe in the reincarnation of an immortal soul. I’m not here to debate the veracity of those beliefs (although I have participated in two past-life regressions, both of which were illuminating. The Roman Catholic nuns who taught me at the Hollies Convent FCJ Grammar in the early seventies would have me branded a heretic!); what I’d like to consider here is how and why we form our beliefs, and what that means to how we live.
There’s no doubt that we all hold beliefs, more often than not inherited from our families, our culture, our societies; we maintain those beliefs to fit in, to belong. Many of our beliefs are so ingrained in us that we feel they are part of who we are; we’re not aware that unconscious, limiting beliefs are directing our lives, often to our detriment. These unhelpful beliefs can be exhumed, exposed for the falsehoods they really are, then extinguished to make space for beneficial beliefs that will support our evolution.
Staying with the topic of religious belief, although it is a complex subject which can’t be adequately examined within the confines of a blog post, I asked my son what he thought about belief, and his immediate response was that it is ‘dangerous’. When I asked him to explain, he gave me the example of ISIL and their perversion of Islam for their own purposes. He could have equally referred to Bible Belt fundamentalist ‘Christians’. Both sets of extremists are intolerant of anyone who opposes their rigid viewpoints; that they inflict violence in the name of what is supposedly holy (‘morally and spiritually excellent and to be revered […] consecrated, sacred’ The Oxford Dictionary of Current English) is considered abhorrent by those who don’t subscribe to either sect’s dogma.
Fervent religious belief comes about, I’d suggest, through indoctrination, which is employed, in my experience, to control rather than to edify. Take, as an example, the Roman Catholic Sacrament of Reconciliation: Confession. I can’t have been any older than seven when I was made to prepare for my First Confession; I recall with clarity my confusion at being schooled to disclose my ‘sins’ to the parish priest. I was a bookish, well-behaved child; I hadn’t committed any sins, so I made one up (ironically committing a sin for which I did not seek forgiveness). I went into the confessional and admitted to stealing sweets from a local shop, then dutifully recited the Our Fathers and Hail Marys that would save my soul from the eternal fires of hell. Is it any wonder that I grew up with conflicting attitudes about myself that for so many years left me disempowered, directionless and depressed?
I have no idea what is taught in Catholic schools these days, but I sincerely hope that the approach has progressed since the sixties; why would anyone want to convince a child (or an adult, for that matter) that they are inherently ‘bad’? I long ago abandoned my Catholic conditioning, opening myself to diverse learning that I could assimilate and use to enhance the formation of my own opinions. These days I prefer to define my beliefs, spiritual or otherwise, on what I know to be true based on my own experience and intuition, rather than blindly agreeing with what I am instructed to submit to.
There’s the saying: Don’t believe everything you read in the papers. Despite that, so many people do. Daily I encounter information on the internet that highlights how deceiving the mainstream media can be. Fox News, by all accounts, is a perfect example of ‘yellow’ journalism, its unflinching ignorance providing ample material for satirists in both the U.S. and the U.K.; there are also publications/sources that tell the truth about unimportant matters, then when a significant event needs to be reported they can authoritatively mislead the public. There was a time when the B.B.C. was considered an honourable institution; Operation Yewtree has brought the Beeb’s reputation into disrepute, it can no longer be held up as a paragon of unbiased comment.
A perfect example of the power of belief to accomplish your desires can be found in Bailey Matthews, an eight-year old Yorkshire lad who didn’t let cerebral palsy stop him from completing a triathlon. Bailey’s achievement earned him, deservedly so, a Pride of Britain award and the Helen Rollason Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year ceremony.
To identify your limiting beliefs, try the following:
- In the present tense, state an outcome you would like to create, for example: I write and publish a novel.
- Write a list headed ‘Why I can’t achieve my desire’; don’t stop writing until you have emptied your mind of the reasons why you can’t have what you want.
- Read your negative beliefs; how does your body respond to each one? Is there a strong gut reaction, or does the doubt seem insubstantial now that it’s out of your head and on paper?
- Question each of those beliefs; how do you know for sure that they are true?
- Ask yourself, ‘What would I have to believe in order for [your desire] to happen? List some creative beliefs.
- Take action based on your supportive beliefs. Start as small as you like, just commit to at least one action per day and gradually build momentum.
Formulate beliefs that align with your essence, and create for yourself a more meaningful and fulfilling life. Acting in accordance with enlightened, heartfelt beliefs, rather than destructive, debilitating ones, uplifts your spirit and gives rise to a magical reality.