A belief is any idea which an individual accepts as being true, and all human beings hold a significant number of them at any given time. We have beliefs about the kind of people we are, what we are capable of doing or becoming, and how life works. We also have beliefs of a more spiritual nature, which reflect our stance on whether there is any such thing as a higher power, a human soul, life after death, and so on.
We most often use the word belief to describe a position that we take about matters of a subjective nature, and so there are as many different beliefs in the world as there are individual perspectives. Your journey as a Seeker may therefore involve a study of the beliefs held by various different traditions, as well as a more conscious exploration of your own personal beliefs.
Belief and Reality
Beliefs are important because they serve as filters between the facts of life and your experience of those facts. Just as a photographer can create a sepia or rose-tinted image by placing a correspondingly coloured filter on his lens, so your experience of reality will quite naturally be coloured by the beliefs that you hold.
– Those of you who believe in a higher power which is external to yourself may experience the events of your daily life as things that are being ordained, guided or permitted by that higher power.
– Those of you who believe that you yourself are a fragment of the divine whole may experience the events of your daily life as things which you yourself are bringing into manifestation through your thoughts, words and attitudes.
– Those of you who believe that there is no such thing as a higher power or divine force may experience the events of your daily life as things that happen due to physical cause and effect or random chance.
Now, we cannot say which of those beliefs is factually true, because the concept of god or divinity is a very subjective – as opposed to a scientific – matter. However, we can say that the three beliefs just stated will give the individuals holding them three very different experiences of reality.
‘All that we are is the result of what we have thought.’
Look back once again at my parable of The Island and you will recall how the man’s experience of his environment was coloured by the beliefs he chose to hold after visiting the temple. When he believed he was a criminal, his experience was largely negative. When he believed he was a lottery winner, his experience was largely positive. And when he believed that he was a scientist, his experience was detached and objective. We still don’t know which of those perspectives was true, if any, but we can see how they all had consequences.
And so it is in your own life. Everything that you experience, whether you are at home, work, in the shopping mall or at the gym, will be filtered through your beliefs. If a man believes himself to be stupid, ugly or disadvantaged, and in addition he believes that ‘life is a bitch’, his daily experience will be largely negative, and even ‘good’ events will be reframed to match his belief filter. At the same time, if a woman believes herself to be intelligent, attractive or lucky, and in addition she believes that ‘life is a beach’, her daily experience will be largely positive, and even ‘bad’ events will be reframed to work in her favour.
I will not state here that thoughts are things, and that your beliefs directly create your reality, for those are possibilities which you must consider for yourself. I will, however, state that your beliefs directly shape your experience of reality, whether you like it or not.
Change Your Beliefs and Change Your Life
Since beliefs on subjective matters cannot be proven one way or the other, but their influence on the way you perceive life is readily observable, you would do well, as a Seeker, to take a good look at what you believe and at how those beliefs are colouring your experience. Then, if your current beliefs are not helping you to experience life in a wholly positive way, consider changing them for ones which would.
‘To perceive the world differently, we must be willing to change our belief system, let the past slip away, expand our sense of now, and dissolve the fear in our minds.’
The idea of deliberately and consciously changing your beliefs may sound too good to be true, but beliefs are not as solid, fixed and unchangeable as many people think. They are merely viewpoints, and you can adopt a brand new viewpoint on almost any matter at will. All you have to do is decide to think about things in a different way – preferably in a way that empowers you.
As you explore different spiritual traditions and ideas, try their beliefs on for size in the privacy of your imagination. Ask yourself how adopting a certain belief would change the way you experience life, and if your intuition tells you that it would improve your experience, consider adopting it for a few weeks or months. If your intuition is right then your life will improve and you can continue holding the belief. If your experience of life does not improve, you can continue working with different beliefs until you find the ones that fit you perfectly.
It is no exaggeration to say that if you change your beliefs, you will literally change your life, so consider this idea carefully and don’t be afraid of adopting a new perspective on yourself, on life and on the universe at large.