You may know we were facing the need to move off the farm. It was being sold and we needed to find a home that felt good to all of us. We were down to the wire, and then good fortune presented us a great place. On this property are both a very clear, free-running stream and a spring-fed pond. The owner recently told me that in the past he had stocked the pond with several breeds of fish, but the birds and other wildlife had wiped them out.
Believable story. I accepted what he said and didn’t think anything about it. In the middle of last week, our 13-year old came in and said he saw big fish swimming in the pond. I was skeptical. After all, the owner said there were no fish.
A few days later, he finally coaxed me to walk around the pond with him. Sure enough, there were a reasonable number of sizable trout swimming around. I began to wonder how often I accept something as true because someone, whom I trust, tells me it’s so. Whether it’s a government official, a teacher, a parent, a friend or, in this case, the owner of this property.
The power of belief is far greater than I realize. I acquire so many beliefs through the simple process of accepting what someone else says as truth. In fact, this process is so automatic that I’m often unaware I have registered another “truth” into my world.
The consequence of this process is a largely unexamined worldview. Most of what I believe about the world around me and the people in it comes from what other people say. If I hold the person offering their opinion in high esteem, then I hold onto this belief for dear life.
I don’t have to look far to see the impact of holding onto beliefs. In the world of science, physicists began to realize that Newtonian physics didn’t accurately explain some of their observations. These scientists were not bound by their previous beliefs, and began to look for new understandings that made sense of what they saw. When they published their findings, many of their peers scoffed at them and said what they found was impossible.
We know the outcome of this story. Over time, the worldview of physicists changed and now the rules of quantum physics are an accepted roadmap. This phenomenon is true in every aspect of life. We hold so many beliefs to be true and fight to keep them intact. We refuse to look at the world beyond these beliefs.
There seems to be a profoundly simple reason that we are locked into this structure. More that anything, we want certainty in our lives. We want to know why things are the way they are. We want to know what to expect from each interaction. We want to know that the next moment will be a continuum of the last moment.
This drive for certainty often produces that which we most fear – uncertainty. How often are we surprised or disappointed? A simple example is the tenuous situation many baby boomers are finding when they consider their financial future. They believed the stories that they should put aside money for their retirement. They trusted the stories of money managers and believed that they would have a secure retirement. Many are finding the long-awaited retirement is not possible and they continue working.
The process of unwinding our reliance on beliefs can be unsettling. We hold on to this need so strongly that we miss out on the real world that is hidden before our eyes.
Today, I begin the process of writing regularly on Thursdays about the road to letting go of the limitations acquired from beliefs, and experiencing a life that is truly beyond belief. This process is a bit like planting seeds. As you read something, it may take a bit of time to germinate. That’s good. By allowing your own timing for learning to be your guide, you can reap the full benefit of what’s offered.