Announcement: I'm on a spontaneous holiday! It started yesterday and I don't want to stop yet. It looks like going straight on through my birthday in New York this weekend. I'll be back next week with a new article; in the meantime, please enjoy Manifesto 1.0, from July 2013. One of my most popular posts.
(Manifesto 3.0 is in the works, by the way.)
And if you like this sort of thing, you would probably enjoy my weekly newsletter. I write about weight loss and ending compulsive eating from a shame-free, anti-diet, feminist perspective.
Believe nothing, question everything, don't take anything personally.
That's some of the best encouragement I've ever received. It comes from my Zen teacher, Cheri Huber. (My Zen non-teacher, actually, as I've just written.)
I know a lot of behavioral change / habit creation / lifehacking folks are all about identifying negative or limiting beliefs, and replacing them with beliefs that are more helpful.
I'm not in love with that idea. I like to dismantle old crappy beliefs, absolutely, but I prefer not to replace them with anything, insofar as that's possible.
Although I don't merely believe that's possible. I don't have to believe it, because I know it's true. I see people like Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle doing it. And during my own week ok five days of enlightenment, I experienced the bliss - there's just no other word - of belief-free living.
(I also noticed I never watched my back during this time. That alone was a mind-blowing experience.)
So I don't want to pack in new beliefs, because I like the feeling of space there. Space in which something creative can arise in response to whatever's happening.
Even if it weren't possible to avoid having beliefs, I don't want to put conscious effort into "creating and clinging" to new ones, as I remind myself on my cushion each morning.
As you probably know, a statement of beliefs is a very popular thing for a coach to post on her website. These are usually quite uplifting, which, oh, just, barf. I loathe anything "motivational." So that's not what I've got for you, but here are some things you might like to know about me. These are things I don't believe:
Unlike most coaches, I don't believe I was put here to heal people. Much less the planet.
It's not my "mission," because I don't believe I was chosen by God or singled out in any way.
I'm not on a "crusade," because I paid attention in fourth-grade history (probably on account of my insufferable friendship-killing need to Please Teacher), so I know that "crusade" is English for "jihad." And although there were certainly holy wars before the Crusades, I don't think you have to stretch too far to understand that the holy wars of today are causally related to the holy wars of so many centuries ago.
I'm quite a bit smarter than most. But I don't think that makes me special.
I like animals, but probably not more than the next person. I can communicate with animals, but probably in a way that you can, too - if you want to.
I can perform compelling acts of shamanism, but so can anyone who has the inclination and the interest, probably.
I don't even believe I have any kind of special life purpose. I don't actually think "life purpose" is a helpful concept. It's like believing in soul mates. How stressful. Why only one? There's 7,000,000,000 people on the planet. I think we could each probably be happy with a few of them.
The only deep desire that I've had since childhood is to be Nancy Drew. Or to be at least as good at finding and interpreting clues as Nancy Drew. I am pretty darn good at that, but I don't think I can elevate that desire to "life purpose."
I don't believe in "deserve." I'm not here to help you create the life you deserve, because there's no such thing. Believing in "deserve" requires belief in some judging body. This for you, that for you. Believing in "deserve" requires belief in reward and punishment. I prefer the idea of consequences. Causation.
(Martha Beck, Michael Brown and others say that nothing happens to us; everything happens for us. I like that.)
I think it would be more fun living on this earth if we weren't raping and killing each other. And if everybody had enough to eat. And if Virginia Wade were on the pound note and Dan Savage on the dollar bill. And if there were less strip-mining, fracking, and the like. Fewer Deep Water Horizons and Exxon Valdezes. But I don't think these things mean there's anything wrong.
And I can show you how to lose weight, but more important, I'd like to show you there's nothing wrong with you.
Clinging to beliefs naturally leads to a sort of uberbelief in one's superiority, which, blearrrrgh. Beliefs require correctness, and correctness requires mistakes and wrongness, the way "forgiveness" requires someone to be "wronged" and someone to be a "wrongdoer." It just feeds the illusion of separation.
Which is how holy wars start. Obvs.
So I could be wrong about all of this. But I notice I'm happier when identifying beliefs to undo them, rather than identifying with them.
Here's a belief I've created and clung to: As a person who's a recovered binge eater, I need to get a lot of protein. I don't do well in situations where someone else is in charge of the meal plan. Especially a vegetarian someone. I don't like going on Zen retreats for that reason. It's a lot of low-quality, low-protein stodge, in my opinion. A few days of that, and I'm running through the woods.
So I don't go. I also chose not to attend a two-week shamanism intensive in Virginia this year on account of the vegetarian offerings and the lack of access to shopping.
But I'm questioning that now. Does it serve me to believe that I'd be running through the woods, perhaps bingeing on wild-caught chipmunk, if I have to rely on Jeweled Tofu Rice and Tempeh Jambalaya? Might serve me to dismantle that belief, too. (No reason not to bring a bag of almonds, though.)
Don't take anything personally
In the immortal words of Havi Brooks, Shit is not about you.
I have a lot of evidence for this. Shit is not about me.
So if I did want to create and cling to a belief, it'd be this one.
If you like this sort of thing, you would probably enjoy my weekly newsletter. I write about weight loss and ending compulsive eating from a shame-free, anti-diet, feminist perspective.