Beliefs are limiting in many ways.
On the most basic level, they represent a particular view – while existence is far more and different from any view. When we believe a thought (or set of thoughts such as an ideology), we set ourselves up for rigidity and suffering.
On a personality level, a belief in a certain self-image/self-identity, limits how we experience ourselves and the world, and how we relate to the inner and outer world. Some characteristics are “me” and experienced and expressed more freely, other characteristics are “not me” (although also available) and not experienced or expressed freely.
Believing in thoughts also tends to be self-fulfilling. We act as if the world correspond to the thought, and often make whatever we believe in happen through our attitude and actions.
Benefit of Beliefs
There are of course benefits to beliefs as well. There is a reason they exist, and it may be easier to see this in an evolutionary context. When the small self develops, either in human evolution or in an individual, awareness is identified with its content. This seems a necessary phase of evolution – being limited to the view of the small self. And in this situation, believing in thoughts is necessary for guidance. It is obviously imperfect, but still works well enough in most situations. Of course, it also brings much suffering, which is an incentive to find another solution.
The alternative to believing in thoughts is for awareness to become aware of itself as distinct from its content. In this, it experiences its own true nature – spacious, clear and responsive. Where it used to be bound by beliefs, it is now more free to relate to each situation as appropriate.
Some of the tools for aiding this shift are different forms of meditation (sitting as in Buddhism, or in movement as in yoga, Tai Chi, Chi Gong, Breema), as well as Byron Katie’s inquiry process.
Someone I know has strong beliefs related to work, and it is very obvious how these beliefs create the reality he finds himself in and also influences those around him.
This weekend, this came up again. In one instance, someone asked what it takes to practice Breema in Oregon, and he replied – as he typically does – LMT (massage) license. This is a partial truth at best, as there are many licenses that will allow people to practice Breema, and the LMT license is just one of them. And I have seen how this creates mental blocks for other people who would like to practice Breema. If they do not have an inclination to study massage, they block themselves from pursuing other options. Even people who could practice with their current (non-LMT) license, don’t…
The other instance was around work in general here in Eugene. Someone else mentioned to him that he is considering moving to Eugene. And he discouraged him from doing so, for the reason that it would be very difficult for him to find work here. Another limiting belief. When Jen and I moved here, we were told the same by many people, knew that it was just a belief and not at all necessarily true for us, and found wonderful work right away.
So his belief in these limiting ideas limits those around him, as well as himself. His own work situation clearly reflect these beliefs.
I notice that there is a charge around this for me, which comes from believing in a thought that says “people should not limit themselves and others by believing in (clearly false) thoughts and ideas”. I’ll work on that next.