When we start to investigate reality through mindfulness practice, we may discover that the problems we complain about are self imposed. Seem crazy? Well, see if any of this sounds familiar:
- Feeling as though you never have enough time, but scheduling your days without any breaks, and saying yes to any and every request within earshot
- Feeling tired and irritable, but going to bed late every night
- Feeling unappreciated, but refusing favors or expressions of gratitude from others
- Feeling constantly unsatisfied or disappointed, but never saying what you really want
- Feeling underpaid, but never asking for a raise or taking the steps to make more
- Feeling like you make enough money, but it’s gone as soon as you get it
- Feeling like something bad is always about to happen, even though things are usually just fine
The tricky thing about the story underneath our problems is that, unexamined, it keeps us stuck in the problem, because as long as the story goes unquestioned, we have to keep having the problem to maintain the story. The story might be “can’t succeed without suffering”, “having wealth is dangerous”, “only bad or unspiritual people have money”, or “if I’m not constantly busy then I am (fill in the blank – lazy, bad, worthless…)”. These are some hidden beliefs that might be guiding your life without your permission.
Why would anyone do this? Well, we usually inherit these stories, and are so unaware of most of them that we never even think to question whether we actually believe them or not. We may hold the values of others simply because we haven’t questioned whether we believe them or not. Our parents or others may have behaved in ways that taught us the world was a dangerous place, or that you can’t trust anyone, that you can never get ahead, or that we weren’t worth their attention.
The dangerous part in all of this is that we are unaware. This lack of awareness means we don’t stop and look, we don’t question, and we keep assuming we know everything. We assume everything we think is true, not realizing we may have learned it somewhere and that it doesn’t actually represent our true desires, or us in any real way, even though we are fully identified with our thoughts about life.
The key thing to know here for breaking free of hidden beliefs is that our sense of security and safety get wrapped up in preserving and defending such thoughts and beliefs because this is what we humans do – defend the identity as though it were made of flesh and blood, even when the things we defend are hurting us. We don’t realize that we are seeking data to verify what we know – called confirmatory bias – even for negative beliefs, like “people always leave me”, “people always use me”, or “I am boring”. We find evidence because we look for it, and then the belief becomes even more entrenched.
As soon as you discover this truth about the mind, the first question is likely, “how do I stop it?!”.
You can start by doing some digging to uncover the hidden beliefs and rewrite them – literally write them out and cross out the old ones. Then it will be more difficult to keep doing the same things if they don’t align with your true values.
Another way to stop the cycle of self-perpetuating belief is to investigate the question “what/who am I?” and blow the lid off the whole operation. Can you find a solid identity anywhere when you look? Can you find a “me”? Can you show it to anyone? Who or what is “I”?
Call me if you’d like to discuss what you find as a result of asking these questions, or feel free to share below.