Transcending limiting beliefs
Have you ever had a moment when a long-held belief you always considered as true, suddenly turned out to be not true? Do you remember how it felt? Such an ‘awakening’ can be rude or liberating, depending on how attached you were to what you believed in.
If you believed in the sanctity and eternity of marriage for example and you suddenly ended up divorced and alone, your firm beliefs were undoubtedly shattered. Or if you always believed that marriage is between men and women only, and you discovered one day that you or a very near and dear one was gay, your traditional beliefs would be equally shattered. Such strongly held beliefs are called paradigms.
A paradigm is a widely accepted example, belief, or concept. It basically means that we as individuals, or collectively as a group, have accepted certain things as true, and make life decisions based on this belief. We can’t even conceive that certain things can’t be true. And therefore we don’t even think about these fundamental ideas we have unconsciously accepted. Paradigms are so deeply rooted that we hold them as self-evident. Such is the force of paradigms.
The secret of inner progress and freedom is to undo these paradigms. There is no end to this shedding of paradigms. These paradigms are like the layers of the onion, and with each layer we shed, the closer we come to the core of what constitutes true freedom, and….reality.
We can say that each layer is a layer of conditioning that we inherited from our parents, environment, and genes. These layers determine how we think, feel and act. Many people never investigate these layers of conditioning and hence are ‘perfectly adapted citizens’ of society. They comply and follow the rules and regulations of society. And, accordingly, are easily manipulated by the layer of society they identity with, be it family, church, politics, or hometown. Since family, church, political identity and hometown is their entire world, and for them there exists no other world outside this world, they cannot conceive of doing anything that would upset it. There is nowhere else to go. Accordingly, they adapt to it willingly. They don’t see they have any other choices. Their consciousness is trapped by the limitations of the paradigm. They are in a bubble and can’t see that life exists outside or beyond the bubble.
The real ‘trouble’ starts when you refuse to comply with the rules of life within the bubble, or have an internal realization that no longer represents the state of consciousness that is the norm within the paradigm. The trouble is two-fold. On the one hand, you have to deal with the inner turmoil of feeling that you suddenly don’t fit anymore and would have to find a new ‘home’ outside the only world you know, and secondly, you have to deal with the people or culture around you that don’t tolerate your ‘out of the norm’ beliefs.
It takes a lot of courage, at this moment, to stand up for what you believe in and choose a new path. Be it changing your religious beliefs, your sexual identity, your lifestyle and so on. It can be extremely scary, for the very fact that you actually don’t see another life beyond your current one. You’re not only attached to your old habits, but you are also equally fearful of the unknown, the apparent vacuum that lies beyond what you currently know.
But paradigms run much deeper. By investigating what holds us down we realize that our conditioning is strong and multifarious. Take the idea of rebirth for example. When I start to believe that who and what I am today is the result of my actions of the past, I am forced to fundamentally change the way I live. I am suddenly confronted with the realization that what I am now is not merely the result of random situations, produced by my birth. Instead, I am forced to take responsibility for my situation, accepting that what I am today is of my own making, and realizing that who I want to be tomorrow is also my own responsibility.
Such a realization can be severely upsetting, especially if I feel sorry for myself and have created a self-identity like feeling victimized around this past suffering. It can also be extremely empowering if I am determined to change. If I’m not part of the problem I can never be empowered to be part of the solution. It would be out of my hands from the start.
Peeling away the layers
We can peel away the paradigm ever further, to realize that even reincarnation is a relative truth and that our true Self is neither born nor ever dies and that we are an eternally free soul, swimming in the ocean of divine consciousness.
The further you peel away the illusions of your beliefs, the greater the implication for your mind and life. Each shedding of layers of conditioning forces us to think about life in a fundamentally different way and puts us at odds with the established and conservative ways of people around us, as well as our own old comfortable ways of doing things. It, therefore, requires an increasingly strong mind to deal with the implications of such realizations.
For many people, losing a strong layer of conditioning is too hard to bear. Giving up a narrow-minded church community or religious or political belief for example would automatically mean having to give up the alleged support such a group provides. An insulation layer is ripped off, and a sense of belonging lost. They are not capable or willing of doing this and can’t conceive of the benefits such a change could provide. Growing often means distancing yourself from limiting beliefs, stepping into a new self-image and self-belief that requires a new state of self-reliance and self-responsibility. Often it’s easier and more comfortable to just rely on the approval of a community, group, sect, family or even country. Independence would require too much energy, too much growing up at once, and requires strength and vision that has not yet been developed.
As we develop teh required strength
But we need not fear to make such changes. As you shed the limiting beliefs and make these paradigm shifts, you automatically develop the strength to cope. As a matter of fact, by making these changes you willingly allow and force yourself to grow. Though at that very moment you may not yet feel strong enough, it’s only by placing yourself in such a situation that you create the muscles required for it. The courageous ones therefor know that change is good and willingly seek it.
I speak from personal experience. I lived in 5 different countries, each time starting anew. Early on I adopted a distinct Oriental spiritual belief system while living in a small narrow-minded strongly Christian Southern Dutch community. In those days, ideas of yoga were unknown and considered weird, and not fashionable like they are today in certain areas. By always following my heart and my dreams I never allowed the environment to hold me back and determine what is good and proper for me, but instead looked within and beyond, letting the heart determine what is righteous and proper. Did that mean that I had to sacrifice certain things, like the approval of my hometown, country, even race? Yes, but why hold back when in a return you gain internal freedom that makes you a world citizen, teaches you to relate, appreciate, and love all people of all sexes, colors and ideas. All that you do is enlarge a small family for a much larger and much more interesting family circle. The reward of shedding limited ideas and associations always expands your world, internally and externally.
So don’t hold on. Don’t be afraid. Let go and see how your world expands. Happiness follows suit. The larger the heart, the greater the capacity for happiness. If your current situation suffocates you but you are too afraid to let it go because you can’t see what is waiting for you once you do, trust me, it is always going to be a better world for you. Freedom and internal expansion (i.e. happiness) are on the other side. It is priceless!
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