My wife and I had the most unexpected, eye-opening, and wonderful conversation with a wine tasting room manager the other day. As wine club members, we visit this spot pretty frequently, so knew the lady by name. This time, at finding out I teach yoga she lit up and started sharing her spiritual journey with us. She’s compiling a book on practices and beliefs from various traditions that resonate with her, and talked about things like reincarnation, chakras, white magic (i.e. blessings), and astral projection. While I don’t necessarily “believe” in a good chunk of what excites her, we had a magical time with her. I think it’s because HOW we believe trumps WHAT we believe.
In the U.S., and much of the West, I think we’ve become very head centric, which means we generally favor our beliefs and thoughts over our actions. We value our religious, political, and philosophical notions above how we treat others(though it’s possible I’m projecting my predisposition on the masses. 🙂 Picture yourself as a container. The circles I grew up with said, what you put IN the container is way more important than the shape of the container. In other words, what we think in our brains matters more than what we do with and in our bodies.
Now don’t get me wrong, of course what goes “in” our minds doesmatter, our beliefs are important and do have the power to shape us. If I truly believe “greed is good”, for instance, odds are I’m going to become a pretty unkind person. It just seems to me when it comes to the category of beliefs, the “how” of our beliefs is more important than the “what”.
For example, what happens to us after we die? Some people believe that’s the end of us, the “screen goes black”. Others suppose we will eventually be resurrected in glorious bodies. Different folks trust we’re perpetually reincarnated until we reach enlightenment. While there are other notions on our post-death status, and further details to what I shared, I’m guessing you get what I’m saying. With that said, bring to mind “what” you believe happens after we die.
Now, say you’re in a group of diverse people discussing this topic, and consider “how” you’d engage others, and even yourself, on the belief. Would you like it if someone who disagreed with you did so with certainty, rigidity, superiority, fear, hostility, argumentation, guilt, shame, and such? Or would you rather to be approached with kindness, curiosity, interest, and a willingness to grow, change, and shift? In many ways all I’m saying is I’d rather be wrong and kind, than correct and jerky … and I have a hunch you would too!
If I’d met our wine tasting room friend 15 years ago our time together would have gone MUCH differently. Since I was formed by a culture valuing the whatof beliefs FAR above the howwe believe, and most of what this beautiful lady said was “wrong” according to my tradition, IF I had even bothered to engage her it would have been with certainty, argumentation, superiority, and such. I shudder to think how that conversation would have gone. Can you imagine? Suffice it to say, I bet the “weirdness” of her views, to me, would have led to frustration, judgment, and worse. Fortunately, though, since Lisa and I chose to connect with her from a place of kindness, curiosity, and love, we had a glorious time that left her, Lisa, and I bubbling with excitement, glowing from being seen and valued, and feeling blissed and blessed!
With all this in mind I have a proposal for us: What if day-by-day we decided to favor HOW over what we believe? What if we connect with people with different viewpoints than us with kindness, curiosity, truly seeking to understand, and even a willingness to change? Wouldn’t politics, families, communities, religions, and more be drastically different for the better? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!
Grace and peace,