This writing was inspired by a conversation I had with my son Alif. My older boys Aqil and Alif are dreaming into signing up for one of the ‘Ironman 70.3’ events in 2016. Lately, Alif has been trying to persuade his dad and me to sign up too. When I told him that I didn’t see myself as someone who was capable of it ( “it” being, 1.9 km of swimming, 90 km of cycling followed by a 21.1 km run, all under eight and a half hours), he challenged me. He said it was all in my mind and that there were women who were in their 80’s still participating and competing in these races.
This got me thinking about my beliefs around that. For sure, I believe that I am not someone athletic, so I’ve never explored any sport related activity besides the occasional badminton and squash. From this perspective, I didn’t see myself ever signing up for a race, forget a triathlon! I believe that I am not built that way. I am still writing this is in the present-tense since I haven’t changed those beliefs yet. As long as I hold on to them I will never step outside those imaginary boundaries.
Another interesting observation was how I caught myself and others making statements such as – “I am the kind of person who does……..”, or, “I am the kind of person who doesn’t……..” and how we strongly hold onto these statements.
I find this quite amusing. It’s almost like we are playing a certain role in life and we write a script on how we ought to behave, what kind of people we are, what we can’t tolerate, what we absolutely must have, how we speak and how we act. We then go on to playing out those roles, without ever stopping to wonder where we got them from and why we are continuing doing it.
Most of who you and I are today are images that we’ve created based on our belief systems; the ones shaped from our childhood experiences and also the ones passed down from our parents, teachers, other authority figures, the environment, society, culture and of course, religion.
Listing some random beliefs:
Life is hard.
Religion is the cause of all problems in the world.
Men don’t cry.
Vulnerability is a sign of weakness.
I am not good enough.
Money is the root of all evil.
Books are a waste of time, nothing like real life experiences.
Expressing anger is bad.
Women are weak.
Depression is a mental illness.
Consider some of the gender roles too. Men have been generally associated with strength, aggression, dominance, power and women have traditionally been associated with passivity, nurture, care-taking and subordination.
From this perspective it would be useful to notice how we live our lives and we treat our children. Also, who we are in our relationships and what roles we taken on as men and women.
I wonder if we really understand this at a deeper level or realize what a huge impact these unexamined beliefs have on our lives. Some of our beliefs are so deeply ingrained in our being that we don’t ever think of questioning them. Some of them have been to our advantage, so we continue to nurture them. Most times we seem to blindly follow them because we have become immune to it over time.
We never questioned any of these beliefs as children because we were at an impressionable age, absorbing everything around us like a sponge. We accepted a lot of what we saw and experienced it as ‘the truth’, blindly following what was passed on to us, partly because we did not know any better, but also because we wanted to feel accepted and loved. Other times, we might have had painful experiences from adults who were supposed to be our role models. So, holding on to those beliefs also, in a way, protected us.
Have you, as an adult examined any of the old beliefs you took on as a child, to check if they still hold true for you today ? You would be surprised to see that many of them have outlived its purpose.
Living our lives without re-examining our beliefs is like going on ride through a picturesque countryside with all the blinds pulled down, missing the beauty of nature, and the possibilities that await us.
It is likely that we might also be petrified exploring some of these beliefs ; unwrapping would mean creating confusion and uncertainty. It would question the identity we have created for ourselves and lived with until now.
Letting go of beliefs that don’t serve us anymore might feel like being lost at sea with no sight of the shore since we would be walking away from all things familiar and comfortable. But in order to go some place NEW, we have to let go of the old, we have to leave HOME.
What we discover through this journey is a sense of purpose connecting to our true essence-to live a conscious and intentional life.
This is my advice to you and I :-
Please don’t take yourself too seriously, don’t hold on too strongly to your beliefs or identity, leave room to explore, leave room for possibilities. Leave room for new versions of you to evolve every moment. Leave room for a LIFE that wants to be LIVED.
Ending with one of my favorite quotes by Dawna Markova
“I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.”
With Love & Gratitude
October 8, 2015