So What Do You REALLY Believe?
Experiencing a pandemic makes you focus on what’s really important in life, doesn’t it? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I find myself thinking about these things that really matter and what I believe about them.
Being well past the half-century mark I was surprised when confronted by the question, “What do you believe that no one told you you should believe?” “Well,” I thought with some bit of disdain, “I know exactly what I believe. Why would you even question it?”
But as I pondered the question and searched for answers, I wasn’t so sure.
I grew up in a family that had definite ideas about everything. They weren’t pushy about it but there wasn’t much room for equivocation, either. We believed in God and country. We believed in absolute right and wrong—things were either black or white with almost no gray. We believed in marriage and that it was for better or worse ’til death. You know the drill. Solid values to be sure. But had I chosen them or merely accepted them without thinking?
I was taught not to talk back to my elders; to be seen and not heard; to work hard; to be honest; to follow the rules and not color outside the lines. Sex is dirty but in marriage, you have to “do it.” The man is head of the house and women are to take care of them, the house and the children. Keep everyone happy. Peace at any price (to her).
Hmmm. What’s wrong with this picture?
Imagine my surprise when I learned that all the world doesn’t operate this way.
So, what do I believe?
So I had to think through and come to some decisions about what I believed about God, country, home, marriage, work, pleasure, sex, relationships, and on and on. I’m not finished and I imagine it will take me some years to get this done. I’m in my eighties now so I’d better get it together.
I realize now that these beliefs are at the core of everything I do and the way I react. I am learning to be flexible and more tolerant of myself and others. I am working to drop the judgment of other people and their actions. It’s that old “walk a mile in his/her shoes” thing. Knowing what I believe and allowing others to believe the way they choose is such a relief and allows for so much more peace in my life. It allows me to just “be” and to let everything that happens be O.K. I’m not finished—I’m still a work in progress and imagine I will be until I’m 110 years old but I like the feel of it so far. It’s like taking off an old dress that no longer fits and putting on something comfortable.
Ahhh. That’s nice.
The starting place
So where do I/you start? Make a list of the things that are important to you. (and these may be different for each one who does it). List things like:
- Identity (who am I?)
- War and Peace
- Spirituality and/or religion
- Death and afterlife
- Service to others
- Responsibility to self and others
And now that you have a list, you deal with each of the listed items. You may find that as you do this work, the list changes. You may add or delete items as you need to. There are two great approaches and I suggest you do both.
- Meditate. Don.t make this hard. Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed, get comfortable, and allow your mind to become as still as possible (Trust me, it will most likely still chatter). Ask yourself the question you want to ponder. For example, if you grew up in church, you might want to start with, “What do I believe about God? Have I ever thought it through? Sit it for a while. If nothing comes to you, don’t worry about it. It takes time. Answers will come but perhaps not now. Don’t worry about the clock. Take as much or as little time as you need. Stay on a subject until you are satisfied. If you get stuck, move on to the next item and come back later to the one that has you stuck.
- Journal. Get a notebook that you use only for this work. After you spend time in meditation with an item, write down your thoughts and emotions. Don’t worry about grammar and punctuation. Just write. You might want to divide you journal into sections with several pages for each item. Then, as thoughts come to you later, you can write them down. This gives you a chance to see how your thoughts develop and change as you do the work.
So what does this have to do with self-improvement? Everything. It will clarify areas for improvement, help you grow, and most likely give you great satisfaction. It will help you make some subtle changes that you may find quite delightful.