We tend to think of experience as superior to belief. But there’s a phrase that gives it away – Seeing is Believing.
The mind creates concepts about the world based on what we’re told and our own experiences. With a few repeats, these are programmed into the habit mind. Future experiences remind us of prior ones, creating associations which are applied to the current situation. We are constantly relating events and self-reinforcing our interpretations of same.
This can work very well for things like ‘tigers are dangerous’ and ‘look before you cross the street’. We would be seriously handicapped if we had to consciously decide every little thing. Should I take a breath now? Time for a heartbeat? Talking, walking, eating, driving – all of it takes habituated behavior.
The problem arises when we save concepts that are wonky, false, or even dangerous. Or associate things that don’t belong together. We all collect some of this. It’s called conditioning. It also determines our world view or our “story” about life. Are strangers safe? Is money evil? Do I have enough? The list goes on and on.
When we look at “experience” a bit more closely, we notice a few things. Experience is only really in the moment, only true in that instant. As soon as it is no longer the moment of the experience, we are now interpreting the experience. We are already in the past a moment after something notable has occurred. We’re interpreting it based on the associations that arise. The strongest prior beliefs.
In other words, what we mean by “experience” is usually just a mixture of a memory of our interpretation of an experience and beliefs. Put yet another way, new beliefs and old beliefs. Most of our life is seen through belief habits.
What happens when the mind is silent? When there is no longer a need to tell a story about everything? We just have an experience and it is what it is. We can respond in the moment, unencumbered by the baggage of our past.
Of course, we all have a history. Memory associations and reactions will still arise. But if we don’t believe the story about them anymore, they will just bring us reminders and waves of feeling. Not a burden of fear. Just a natural response to what is present in the moment. A neutrality that takes the pain out of living and lets what is rise in our awareness. That sweet richness that underlies life.
This can give you an idea how much simpler life becomes when the story winds down. How much closer we can move to just being present, in the moment. We simply settle the mind by moving more deeply into being. Then life falls into the moment, out of the shadow.