"What do you believe?" "Do you believe?" "Are you a believer?" "I don't believe that."
What do we mean when we use this kind of language - the language of belief?
Where do our beliefs come from? In some cases you may say it's something
that you instinctively know. For example, you may believe that if you walk
to the edge of a cliff you will fall off. In fact, you might say you know this to be
true. But as a small child you would not have known this, so is it something
that you have learned? Could the same be said about other beliefs that you hold?
Perhaps you believe that someone who is speaking kindly to you really cares about
you. What if they are speaking kindly to you because they want something from you?
Maybe someone is angry or upset and we believe it's because of something
that we've done. What if it's because they are struggling with something, having
a bad day, or have been triggered by something that is bringing up this anger?
We could come up with all kinds of scenarios in life where what we believe feels
like a "known" when actually it's a "learned." How much of what we believe is
is a result of our perception of the world around us, our thoughts about a situation,
person or thing?
Now think about some of the things that you have "learned" from experiences in
your life and how they have affected what you believe. If you have been hurt in
relationships, you may believe that relationships are hurtful and damaging.
If you have been raised in a home where people don't talk about their feelings, you
may believe that talking about feelings is wrong, or a sign of weakness or
that feelings should be kept private. If you were raised by someone who is
racist or prejudiced, you may carry a belief that "others" are different than
you, or lesser than, or worse.
Take a few moments and make a list beginning with the words "I believe...."
Now, spend some time writing about these beliefs - why do you believe this?
can you determine when you first began believing this? who and what
influenced this belief? has this belief changed over the years? did you used
to belief something different than this belief you now hold? what events
or experiences in your life have reinforced this belief? are you willing to
change this belief or be open to a new belief on this particular subject?
If you take this practice seriously, and spend some time in contemplation
and reflection, you may find that much of what you "believe" has been
placed upon you by parents, significant adults in your life, your environment,
the media, educational or religious institutions....you may notice that many
of your beliefs are "perceptions" of the world around you, based on these outside
One of my mentors suggests that the practice of meditation is, at it's core,
the practice of reality. There is no other true reality than what is happening in
this moment, and yet we carry with us many "realities" of what we
perceive to be real, that is to say, what we believe.
What would it be like to strip away all of our beliefs, to return to the purest
form of experience in this moment? We can have a taste of this "reality" in our
practice of meditation. As we practice being present to each moment, we find
that many of our former "beliefs" begin to fall away, our tolerance and
acceptance of others increases, our understanding of the world, in all it's diversity,
expands, our compassion for ourself and others intensifies and we
find ourselves without a need to hold tightly to beliefs. Does that sound
I have been given a bumper sticker that says:
"Don't believe everything you think." It feels like a mantra that
I carry with me(literally on my car) and want to share with others. Don't believe
everything you think. Question your thoughts rather than take them at
As Jon Kabat Zinn says, "We only have moments to live." Live them well.
This week my friend posted this entry from a blog that I had forgotten about.
This was and is how I attempt to be in the world. It is a daily practice.
If this speaks to you, join me in Being Light.
When I allow myself to Be Light,
I live from a place of compassion.
I feel at peace.
I want people to feel welcome, heard and accepted.
I feel whole.
It is easy to accept others as they are.
I am not stuck or struggling because the Light holds me up,
embraces me gently,
permeates my being,
clears away all the blockages to Light.
My Being Light means that others around me are reflected in that Light.
I see them differently.
I feel the Light emanating from them as well.
Light knows Light.
June 30, 2012
My house was created as a place of retreat - no T.V., no internet and for some reason cellphones don't work here most of the time. People stay here for a few days to unwind, disconnect, renew & return to their lives with more clarity and purpose perhaps. Offering my home this way helps me to pay the bills, but more importantly it gives life - to me and to the people who share this space for a brief time. I stay elsewhere while the house guests are here. Inevitably, when I return, my heart fills up - usually until it spills over in tears. People are amazing when they are allowed the time and space to be amazing. I have a guest book where people have written songs, poems, and lovely thank you notes. Over time, my home itself has become a sort of guest book. It is taking on a life of it's own as each person that enters leaves something of themselves here - sometimes in just the way they've folded the towels, left a walking stick by the door, weeded part of the garden or eaten every last one of my favourite Morning Rounds with a note saying, "They were too good. We had to eat them all." Other times, someone has felt moved to leave an item or artwork in the house or to send something along in the mail after their stay. Everytime I sit here and say to myself - "People are amazing."
When I tell my friends about this they say "Well, you've created a wonderful space for people so of course you're attracting amazing people." I get that in part. My day job as a spiritual director is very much about creating space - a space for people to sift through the details of their lives and find what is life giving and what may be draining the life out of them, what feels connecting for them and where they are resisting connection, and how their struggles are affecting and shaping them. We discuss & share practices that support them to be grounded, conscious, intentional and sometimes, to stay sane! But, we talk about things. They share, I listen, they reflect, I give perspective. When people enter the retreat house, there is no verbal communication between us. I leave. They enter.
I find myself wondering what it would be like if everywhere we went felt like we were entering into a welcoming, inclusive, and inspiring retreat space. As I go over in my mind some places that I frequent, I realize that they are full of amazing people. This is where I meet up with a local farmer, artist, musician or someone who is exploring their passion and purpose. I see posters about local fundraising events, ads for holistic services, pictures of the pet of the week from a local rescue shelter, and opportunities to volunteer or serve the community in some way. At the same time, my mind wanders into spaces I've been where I felt no inspiration and a lack of authenticity, places that increased my level of stress or decreased my sense of worth, my sense of self.
A space can take on many forms. It can be a retreat house, a private confidential session or a place outside in the natural world. It can also be a space created in time - where we listen to someone's story, sit down with some art supplies or a musical instrument, do some stretching or meditation or to be quiet and still. A space can also be created by opening up our hearts and minds - to a new idea, a fresh way of seeing, an alternative view or simply by making room for someone to be their best, to offer their gifts, to shine. People are amazing if we create a space for them to be amazing. You are amazing if you allow yourself the space in which to be amazing. Be amazing. Be amazed.
Soul in the World