Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Moving Beyond Belief

The amazing capacity of the human mind is what distinguishes us from all the other critters on the planet. The refined ability to reason and make complex plans, to postulate, to question, to debate--these are skills that set us apart. (Not to imply that other animals don't have amazing mental skills, some of which are comparable or perhaps even more advanced than our own.)

It amazes me that we don't use our mental skills more mindfully. It seems these are our greatest gifts and yet we most frequently use the powers of the mind to alienate, destroy and degrade. We create mental constructs, like "consumerism", " partisanship", "economic growth", "us versus them" in all of its forms--all kinds of destructive belief systems that bear little resemblance to reality.

As I enter my fifth year of seriously practicing voluntary simplicity I notice that beliefs are becoming less and less important to me. What people think, all the mental gyrations they go through in response to something--that really doesn't matter much to me anymore. What matters is what IS. I'm trying to learn to experience just that, without turning on that machine in my head that wants to spin and spin each experience, turning it into fixed belief. I waste much less time lost in my head and I spend much less time worrying or caring about what other people believe.

My greatest teacher on this subject has been my buddy John. I met him when I first moved out here four years ago and we've been great friends ever since. But the thing is, belief-wise we couldn't be farther apart. If beliefs were all that mattered we should be constantly at odds if not at each others throats. But we just never go there. We've never argued or debated our beliefs. And you know what, it's made for a very pleasant relationship. Ignoring beliefs lets me just experience this guy directly--his kindness, humor, generosity, helpfulness and his thoughtful ways. Focusing on our beliefs and our differences would blind me to what really is. So tell me, what actually matters--what he thinks about an issue, or how he actually lives in each moment?

I think we could all live more graciously with each other if we quit focusing on beliefs and paid more attention to what IS. Couldn't we all benefit from learning (or re-learning) to live directly, without creating all this spin in our heads? Wouldn't the world be a happier and healthier place? Wouldn't we move a step or two closer to harmony and peace?

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