Questioning our beliefs is the beginning of freedom. It starts by asking, “has it ever occurred to you that you might be wrong? See why you need to ask this question.
The most profound questions are those that challenge our boundaries of belief. We begin every meeting in our blended learning platform with the question, “if what you believe is wrong, can you change your beliefs?” Why is this such an important question? It’s the gateway to freedom.
The Beginning of Freedom
Your answer to this question tells a lot about your readiness to learn and your ability to explore new ideas. If you cannot question your paradigm, it is likely because you fear losing your sacred ground. It’s a fear that ties in with relationships and our identity. So, it takes courage to dig up these beliefs.
“Has It Ever Occurred to You That You Might Be Wrong.” — Charles M. Schulz, Peanuts, Snoopy’s title for a book on theology.
“If you have a belief and you come against an experience which the belief says is not possible, or, the experience is such that you have to drop the belief, what are you going to choose — the belief or the experience?
The tendency of the mind is to choose the belief, to forget about the experience. That’s how you have been missing opportunities when God has knocked at your door.” — Osho
Fear Holds Us Back
When you find something that conflicts with your worldview, it’s a prompt that requires us to make some big decisions. But, the fear of crossing the boundaries of belief can interfere with rational decisions. (1)
“Fear causes us to slam on the brakes instead of steering into the skid, immobilizes us when we have the greatest need for strength, causes sexual dysfunction, insomnia, ulcers, and gives us dry mouth and jitters at the very moment when there is the greatest premium on clarity and eloquence.” (2)
No wonder people are so reluctant to change their minds. They will remain stubborn in the face of overwhelming evidence. So, is there an upside to challenging our sacred ground?
If your beliefs about something are wrong, you need the ability and wisdom to change them when you get better information. Challenging your assumptions is how you grow. The fear you face is the beginning of freedom.
“The constant assertion of belief is an indication of fear.” ― Jiddu Krishnamurti
“If you keep your mind active, regularly take on mental challenges, and continually think about the right things, you will develop the disciplined thinking that will help you with whatever you endeavor to do.” — John C. Maxwell
Has it Ever Occurred to You that You Might Be Wrong?
When you entertain the notion that what you believe may not be accurate or correct, it opens the door to other possibilities, which is a good thing. It’s a sign you are open-minded, maybe even a freethinker.
Are you willing to change your beliefs? If you answer yes, you are ready for the adventure of your life. This adventure is what we call spiritual exploration. Joseph Campbell calls this quest The Hero’s Journey.
“Noone is more frequently wrong than those who will not question their beliefs. So, do you think you might be wrong about things?” — Guru Tua
The Inner Quest is Not Always Unicorns and Rainbows
The inner quest is the road to enlightenment. But this path is not always rainbows and unicorns. On the contrary, it is a destructive process.
“Do not flinch from experiences that might destroy your beliefs. The thought you cannot think controls you more than thoughts you speak aloud. Submit yourself to ordeals and test yourself in fire. Relinquish the emotion which rests upon a mistaken belief, and seek to feel fully that emotion which fits the facts.” — Eliezer Yudkowsky
“I don’t want to believe. I want to know.” ― Carl Sagan
Spiritual exploration has several elements that work together to open doors of perception and consciousness, but not everyone is ready for this adventure. On the surface, the spiritual quest sounds like a pleasant excursion. But you’ll soon discover inner work can be challenging.
Some people believe that spiritual exploration will be like a boat ride on a gentle river. However, it’s more like “base diving” off a cliff. To ask if what you believe is right or wrong takes courage, but it’s the beginning of freedom.
To entertain the idea, we must question the validity of our sacred ground. We must then be able to move past the boundaries of our beliefs. You cannot move forward if you can’t give up your holy ground of faith.
When you examine your beliefs, it gives you choices. If what you believe is wrong, you can still hold on to them, or you can change or discard them altogether. If you do not examine them, you miss the opportunity for change and growth.
A skeptical mindset is the hallmark of a healthy mind. Healthy skepticism isn’t pessimistic; it is a prudent approach. Be ready to learn and change. The world is constantly evolving. So, always be prepared to accept new facts, then adjust your thinking to the latest data. It keeps you in a beginner mindset, always willing, and can change your mind based on the facts. Strive to be a beginner and never an expert.
The Beginning of Freedom is a Confrontation with Belief
Our blended learning process begins with a readiness assessment. So, participants become accustomed to identifying their beliefs. This assessment helps us ensure the applicant will benefit from this learning experience. It also helps applicants understand their learning style, default personality, instinctual thinking tendencies, and potential challenges.
We also use the tactic of alternating movement with silence. For example, we start the meeting with an experiential component, a basic seated centering exercise. This exercise in silence brings centering. We do this before we engage the mind in an activity. We don’t immediately associate thinking with movement, but that’s why thinking makes us tired.
At the first meeting, we go from identifying beliefs to investigating them. So, it’s the first time many have confronted and challenged their worldview’s validity. It can bring up intense emotions like fear and anger. So, we design the meeting with emotional check-ins and time for normalization.
Our first meeting is the opportunity to compare the main concepts of your paradigm. We use a system of comparative religious study we call comparative analysis. It provides a structured approach to compare beliefs. It’s a way of asking the question, has it ever occurred to you that you might be wrong?
When possible, we use a public library with many free resources. It also makes sharing information with others in the group easier. Also, accessing those resources online is sometimes hard without paying for them. The challenge is finding and confronting data that provide opposing views to their belief systems.
We are not asking them to give up anything. We want people to get used to examining their beliefs and weighing them against the facts. We want them to see the boundaries that will be obstacles to their intellectual and spiritual growth.
The reason for this is simple. The more spiritual boundaries and beliefs you have, the less likely you will learn new spiritual processes. You must be able to challenge your sacred ground.
To become a spiritual explorer, you must learn to question your path. You must ask yourself, is it possible that what I think or believe is wrong? At first, the prospect of always challenging what you believe seems scary to many. But it becomes fun once you learn to change what you think and believe based on new facts. Try it now. Do you think you might be wrong about the culture, about spiritual reality?
“If the truth conflicts with my beliefs, I change my beliefs.” — Brad Stine
It’s like skydiving. The first time is the scariest thing, but also enjoyable. The more you do it, the more you enjoy it. It’s the same reason people like amusement parks or scary movies.
Use the Emotional Check-In Process
Another critical component of the spiritual explorer’s toolbox is the emotional check-in strategy. Emotional checks are a strategy to help minimize triggering negative emotions when you encounter ideas that conflict with your beliefs. Using the emotional check-in process will increase the accuracy of our research by reducing emotional interference.
Enhance your Critical Thinking
One of the best tools to overcome the boundaries of cultural programming is to enhance your thinking capabilities. The “critical thinking” toolkit includes logical reasoning, the truth-seeker’s axioms, and spotting logical fallacy. These tools will direct you to research using sources outside your religious paradigm. You’ll be well on your way to determining fact from fiction.
Questioning the cultural narrative takes courage. It is essential to be prudent and safe in your resistance. We may never find absolute truth, but we get closer by discarding human-made fabrications.
The beginning of freedom begins when you ask the right questions. The hard questions are those that challenge our beliefs. Has it ever occurred to you that you might be wrong? Spiritual exploration is all about getting comfortable saying I don’t know.
(2) Risk as feelings. Loewenstein GF, Weber EU, Hsee CK, et al. Risk as feelings. Psychological Bulletin 2001; 127:267-286.