WEEK 19: Choose Empowering Beliefs

“Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.” ~ Bhagavad Gita

For some reason this week’s topic to ‘Choose Empowering Beliefs’ has really thrown me for a loop. I just haven’t been able to figure out what direction to take, and so every time I sit down to write, I find myself going around in circles.

I can’t really put my finger on what is making this one so difficult either. Maybe it’s because I didn’t really like my ‘assignment’ that much. Or it could be that I’ve read so many different things about beliefs that it’s hard to pick one area to focus on.

But whatever it is, the time has come to stop fretting about it and just get started. Hopefully, I’ll figure out the best direction to take as I go along.

Anyway, a couple of years ago I saw this YouTube video of a little girl standing on her bathroom sink, loudly affirming how much she loves everything in her life:

And when I was thinking about how to ‘Choose Empowering Beliefs’ this week, I thought it might be fun to try something similar by giving myself a little pep talk every morning. Simple enough, I thought, and a good reminder about all the things I have to be grateful for.

So I found a list of empowering beliefs on the internet, and picked one that I thought would help me start my day off in the most positive way:

“Anyone can do anything and anything can happen.”

Well, I was a little surprised, at first, to discover that talking to myself in the mirror is not as easy as it looks! When I stood staring at my reflection on the first morning, I was actually a little embarrassed to say anything at all, let alone with the enthusiastic abandon of the little girl in the video. And even though it got somewhat easier as the week went along, I have to admit that I was never really very comfortable.

Which started me wondering whether I was uncomfortable because I was talking to myself in a mirror, or because I just didn’t really believe, deep down inside, that what I was saying was true. Which kind of confused me, because I had pretty much thought that I already believed it! I mean, I love hearing stories about someone who’s done the seemingly impossible…the underdog who’s succeeded against all odds. I’ve probably watched the movie ‘Rudy’ a hundred times and have absolutely never gotten tired of it!

But no matter how loudly or often I would say this affirmation, I couldn’t ignore the little voice in the back of my mind telling me it just wasn’t true. That people do have limits, and so it’s not really possible that anyone can do anything.

What I couldn’t figure out, though, was where this belief had come from. I really have no honest recollection of anyone ever telling me such a thing, so I guess that somewhere along the line I must have done something, or witnessed something, that made me believe it was true. And the fact that I didn’t even know it was there is a little bit worrisome…I wonder if there are other limiting beliefs lurking in my subconscious?

In any case, I started thinking that maybe this is true for a lot of us – that because we don’t always consciously choose some of the beliefs we have, we’re not even really aware that we have them! We grow up with parents who have certain beliefs they pass along to us, which have been passed along to them, and even though we might question them as we get older, it’s probably pretty hard to get rid of them altogether.

And the same way this can happen with families, it can probably happen just as easily with our different cultures and religions. I imagine generations have come and gone with no one ever really questioning the beliefs that have been passed along, because it’s just the way it’s always been.

And, according to Neale Donald Walsch in his book, The New Revelations – A Conversation With God, this is exactly why our world is in such trouble today. Because many of us are really reluctant, whether consciously or unconsciously, to challenge some of those beliefs that have been passed down through the generations. And so we keep making the same mistakes, because we’re unwilling, or maybe just scared, to question the wisdom of our ancestors:

“Your world is facing enormous problems right now, and you must solve the problems at the level of belief. You cannot solve the problems at the level of behavior. Seek to change beliefs, not behaviors…You can take whatever action you want to take to alter someone else’s behavior or to stop it, but unless you alter the beliefs that produced such behavior, you will alter nothing and stop nothing.”

Unfortunately, it seems that we humans have a pretty hard time when it comes to altering our beliefs, even when there’s solid evidence that those beliefs are completely false. For instance, Walsch reminds us, we used to believe that the earth was the center of the universe. When Copernicus, and then Galileo, both offered proof that this assertion was false, they were called blasphemers and heretics. No one believed them. It wasn’t until 300 years later that Galileo was finally pardoned by the Catholic Church and the world accepted this new belief.

It’s amazing how stubborn and fearful we can be when we’re faced with a new way of thinking.

Take what’s going on today with the Occupy Movement. The protestors are being criticized for not having a cohesive message, but I think the message is actually crystal clear. Something is wrong. The world is just not in a good place right now. And whether you’re in the 1% or the 99%, there is just no getting around the fact that our system isn’t working.

And maybe it’s not working because some of our most basic beliefs have become outdated. Economic and political policies that may have worked at one point in history may just not work today. Not necessarily because they’re  wrong, but because the world is changing. And people are changing. And the climate is changing. Everything is changing.

It just makes sense, then, that some of our beliefs about how the world works may have to change too, so that we can adapt to what’s happening and be able to move forward.

Albert Einstein put it this way:

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Maybe if all of us, both individually and collectively, would consciously choose to consider some newer, more empowering beliefs, we’ll be able to see which of our old beliefs may be holding us back. And perhaps then, with that newfound awareness, we’ll find ourselves at a new level of consciousness where we can start solving some of our problems.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I definitely think it’s worth a try.

So I’m going to start by choosing a slightly different empowering belief to say to myself in the mirror every morning:

“Anyone can do anything, if they truly believe that they can.”

I think even the little voice in the back of my mind can believe that.

WEEK 17: Make Yourself Happy

“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” ~ Aristotle

When I started to think about the kinds of things I would do during “Make Yourself Happy” week, I couldn’t wait for it to get here. I mean, how often in life do you get an opportunity to spend a whole week just doing things you love to do…and not even have to feel guilty about it?

But as the week got closer, I realized that a lot of the things that I was thinking I might do to ‘make myself happy’, I pretty much already do…albeit a bit guiltily at times. So when I received an email from my new ‘like-minded friend’ (Week 15) about a workshop called ‘Inner Space’ that was being held at a nearby Feng Shui Center, I impulsively signed up. I’d been learning a little bit about feng shui and thought that really diving into it at a weekend workshop would definitely make me happy.

Or, on the other hand, maybe not.

Sadly, the whole weekend was a pretty big disappointment. Instead of making me happy, I was actually fairly unhappy from the minute I walked through the door. First of all, and this is totally my fault for not reading the whole email my friend sent, the workshop had nothing to do with feng shui, even though it was at a Feng Shui Center. It turned out to be about finding the ‘inner space’ in yourself, not in your home, which is all well and good, and probably something worth learning about, but it wasn’t what I was expecting at all.

Secondly, I didn’t really care for the teacher. She seemed ok at first, but as the weekend went along she started to show some alarming passive-aggressive tendencies by picking on a poor woman who’d been a few minutes late to the class. Not exactly inspiring.

So ok, live and learn. I guess it’s a good idea to do a little homework before signing up for a weekend workshop!

But I will say that the experience got me thinking that perhaps ‘making myself happy’ is less about doing and more about being. That maybe what’s important is finding a way to be happy even when the circumstances surrounding me are not so great.

So instead of grumbling about how the workshop wasn’t what I had expected, and the teacher was a bit psycho, maybe I should have tried to focus more on what was good about it. Because, actually, there were a few things that weren’t so terrible. For instance, I learned that pine trees have psychic energy. That’s kind of cool. And I met a couple of nice people I wouldn’t have otherwise met. Plus, I did something I had never done before by signing up to go on my own.

There were actually quite a few things that could have made me happy while I was there…I just chose not to see them.

The thing is that it’s sometimes really hard to make yourself happy when you’re in an unhappy place. A couple of weeks ago, for example, I was worried about a zillion things, and no matter how hard I tried to talk myself out of the negative zone I was in, my mind just kept circling and circling from one bad thought to the next. I couldn’t find my way out.

I’d read somewhere that sometimes it can help to write all your worries down when they start piling up. That somehow putting them down on paper can get them out of your head…kind of releasing them to the universe, I guess.

So I tried it. I sat down before I went to bed and wrote down every single thing that was troubling me. And a few things that I didn’t even know were troubling me! Then I tore the piece of paper into tiny little pieces and threw them away.

Did it work? Well, I think so. I was able to fall asleep at least. I can’t say that I was happier – that would have been a pretty big leap – but I definitely felt better. And I think that it was by taking that action, by asserting a little bit of control over the negative vortex I was swirling around in, that helped make the difference.

According to Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project:

“The feeling of control is an essential element of happiness…a better predictor of happiness than, say, income. Having a feeling of autonomy, of being able to choose what happens in your life or how you spend your time, is crucial.”

The problem, though, at least for me, is that it’s hard to always have control over what happens in my life, so I need to try to remember that I do have control over how I feel about what’s going on. Maybe I couldn’t control the fact that the workshop I went to wasn’t what I expected, or that the teacher was a passive-aggressive nutcase, but I certainly could have shifted my focus from the bad to the not-so-bad while I was there, and not ruined the whole weekend for myself.

And so I’m realizing that it’s never going to be the weekend workshop I sign up for, or the cute new sweater I buy (believe me, I’ve tried that!), or the better job, nicer car, bigger house, etc. etc. that will ‘make’ me happy. None of those outside things can bring me happiness if I haven’t found it on the inside first.

Helen Keller, one of the most inspiring people I can think of, put it this way:

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”

I guess, in the end, if I’m looking to ‘make myself happy’, I just have to remember where to look.