Monday, September 16, 2019

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, September 21, 2019 - The Company We Keep

What do you really think about who you are? Do you think there is more “who” to you than what you see in the mirror? Do you believe you have a soul? Do you believe you have an electromagnetic field around you? Do you believe in auras? Think about these for a moment. Take an inventory of what you believe about the full nature of your reality. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

So what do you believe? There is no wrong answer. Mostly because it’s not possible to know the answer—at least with any real assurance. But your answer does have implications.

Some believe that we have a soul but that it is limited in volume to the shape and size of our physical bodies. Meaning that there is no more of us than what is contained in this little vessel until the time of our passing at which point, it leaves.

Some believe that we are infinite, and that if we were to measure it in linear terms, only a small portion of the totality of ourselves is “contained” in our physical body. There is more to us than us.

Some believe there is nothing at all to us but our biology and that we simply return to the dust from whence we came.

My job as a minister is not tell you what to think or what you should believe. It is to help you discover what you already believe, either consciously or unconsciously. Because what you believe determines the life you live.

Though some will disagree, it is my opinion that we do not choose our beliefs. In a sense, they choose us. Our beliefs are largely involuntary. They come to us through processes mostly beyond our understanding but which always involve our emotions. When things make us feel good, we have a tendency to believe in them.

When we feel a sense of belonging, we have a tendency to subscribe to the beliefs of those who give us that sense of belonging. Sometimes when we hear something, it rings a satisfying bell of truth in us. We instinctively believe it. We believe in goosebumps. We believe in superstition. We believe what we are told if the way we are told it is either strategic and manipulative or reassuring and comfortable. We believe what we are persuaded to believe.

Of course this sounds horribly dystopian. It sounds as though we have no control over our belief systems. And that we are victims of anyone who chooses to pluck our strings the right way. But that is untrue. At least mostly.

We don’t necessarily have control over our emotions, but we have control over how we process our environments. We have control over whether or not we choose to remain calm or wreak havoc. We have a choice about our self-esteem. As an example, poor self-esteem attracts poor friends who subscribe to the beliefs of those with troubled ideologies. Strong self-esteem knows trouble when it sees it and chooses to spend its time with people who have more loving ways. Our belief systems arise from the company we keep. And that is something over which we very much have control.

Do you notice it when you have a good day? Can you look back on the past two weeks and count how many good days you had? Or can you only count the bad days? Which one of them got more of your attention? We should know exactly how many good days we have in a week and be consciously thankful for them. Don’t forget to notice them. Put a little sticker on your calendar for every good day you have.

That altered vigilance to spend more time noticing the good than tallying up the bad amounts to us ultimately having more control over our own belief systems. Because we believe what we see, in the end. We either believe what makes us feel good or that which reinforces the negativity we’ve been shown in the past. Again, it comes down to the company we keep.

And now that we understand a little bit better about why we should be mindful of our beliefs, what do you believe about who you really are? Is the real you eternal? Are you a spiritual being having a human experience? Perhaps you have seen nothing that could support such a belief. It’s OK.

But know where you stand. Because where are you stand has implications for how you engage with life. The problem becomes when we don’t know what we believe, because sometimes our subconscious beliefs poison our life experience without our awareness.

Wonder about the nature of your true self. Wonder about the implications of that belief on your life. Are your beliefs serving you? Is there room for you to question what you’ve been told?

Any faith system or religious belief worth its salt is not at all afraid of questions, comparison or debate. If your questions about religion are dismissed, question the beliefs of the person you’re asking. They shouldn’t be afraid of answering you. They especially shouldn’t be afraid of your exposure to other ideas. All good ideas reinforce one another by nature. They make excellent company.

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