So which is it? Yesterday, I ran into one of those little surprises. I’ve read a little about astrophysics lately. Interesting ideas like the Electric Sun. I love good ideas, so am open to new things that may help explain our world. Yesterday, there was something new that made sense, but there was also a little reaction, a resistance. A little tape started to play that was contrary to this new idea. I had an unconscious story or belief that resisted this new idea. Some past experience had caused me to consider the subject and decide about it, set a belief. The new idea didn’t ‘fit’.
New ideas are not uncommon in science, indeed in life. But if someone has spent a lifetime being a specialist in a specific focus, new ideas that upset the status quo can be difficult. They may threaten our whole belief structure. If we are based in the ego, this threatens our entire sense of who we are. Thus you see the angry debates.
Its important to understand that any system of thought is a belief system, including science. Much as they might protest this, there are few if any facts that are immutable. The more we learn about the world, the more we discover what we don’t know. This is not to say science is bad, only that it sometimes fails to recognize its own nature.
An example that comes to mind is binary stars. With more accurate telescopes, astronomers have discovered that some 80% of stars are actually binary. That is, 2 stars orbiting each other. But no, no, not OUR average, typical sun. (laughs) (some have suggested the orbit of our binary is the source of the Great Year or precession of the equinoxes, but thats due to the wobble of the poles.)
To continue on the theme, how would you feel if I told you the picture you have of the solar system, with the planets on their orbits of the sun, is wrong? Its nonsense actually – a visualization that became a belief in ‘how it is’. The sun is moving through space at over 240 kilometers per SECOND. If we were simply orbiting a point in space, the sun would have departed long ago. If you were to trace the path of the earth through space, we move in a spiral, not an ellipse. We never return to the same point in space. This may seem a minor point but if our belief about the ‘way things are’ is not founded on beliefs that accurately reflect the world, everything we build on those basic assumptions is faulty.
To understand belief more deeply, its useful to understand the source of beliefs, how they are created. Beliefs are formed in the mind. The mind functions in 3 primary modes. The conscious, the subconscious, and the unconscious. The unconscious is our identity structure, a little deeper than this article will go. The conscious mind is the creative thinker but is the slowest processor. Anything we need to use repeatedly is better run from the subconscious, the fast, automatic mind. By making choices, working out our story of the world, and by practice of skills, we program the subconscious mind. We build the structure of our reality.
Depending on the nature of the programming, we give it different names. Belief, habit, story, personality. We could say a belief is a programmed habit of thinking. It is a choice we have made.
When we are very young, our brains are configured to be like sponges, to soak everything up. We run in a kind of subconscious programming mode. This is how we are able to quickly learn motor skills like walking but also meaning values like language. (and why we have few conscious memories then) It is an adaptive mechanism to prepare us for the world into which we are born. Don Miguel Ruiz calls this programming Domestication. Others call it conditioning.
Occasionally we may pick up extraneous (or even fundamental) belief structures that are not in our best interests. Perhaps we had parents who lived through the depression so became fearful about money. Or we developed early story components about anger or blame, emphasizing experiences that supported that belief. Some of those belief boxes may be accepted, copied from our parents and social group. Some we develop ourselves. Into either box type we may place still smaller boxes we accept or develop.
This layered nature of beliefs is like the nested Russian Marushka dolls or like the layers of an onion.
The sum of all these boxes we call the personality or story. We may shift to different box sets for different life roles – parent, worker, lover, etc. – but all of it is the play of our story about who we are.
Many teens go through a rebellion when they become more conscious and see through some of their conditioning. But with few good examples, they sometimes pick beliefs that are even worse. The very nature of the English language is based on a model of survival and the need to be right. It is so throughly embedded in our culture, it is not easy to overcome.
Its also worthwhile touching on risk. Often there is some idea that if we accept the status quo, we are reducing our risk. But any belief is a risk. Do we accept the status quo of a sinking ship or step out of the box and help right the boat?
As the mind is obliged to filter out vast reams of data to make sense of the world, it makes use of our belief structure to set the filters. In my example I gave in the first paragraph, I normally would have simply screened out the data. It didn’t fit the parameters. Just more background noise. But in this instance, I noticed the resistance so stopped to pay attention and saw the dynamic, making the subconscious story conscious. From there it can be replaced or erased.
This is a really important dynamic. Eckhart Tolle talks about this – paying attention to how you feel. Its rather remarkable what this little trick can resolve. Not just old irrational feelings we have long resisted but core beliefs that have gotten in the way of happiness and success.
This is why changing your perception of what already is can change your life. The opportunities for change sit there, in front of our nose, but are unseen as they are outside the belief box.
We have to have some beliefs. We have to have faith that the sun will rise again tomorrow. We have to know that when we say “red” or “icy” to someone, they will know what we mean. Otherwise we cannot communicate. The Tower of Babel. We have to believe in a relationship enough to commit so it can go long term. To risk, we have to trust and that takes faith or belief. No matter how much you doth protest that your life is without belief, you are missing the layers upon layers your world view is structured on. Even the choice to not believe in something is just another belief. For example, to say one doesn’t believe in God is to say one believes in the absence of God. Even if we don’t believe we have choice, that is our choice.
The key is in being aware that our world is a construct of our own and shared beliefs. This allows us to relate to others and the world. We can let our beliefs run our life or use them as tools to choose the life we want. Simple observation of our responses is once again the trick. This is how we see our choices and change the ones that are in need of tuneup.
You can believe this or not believe it. But you still believe.