Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

The Trap of Belief

Your belief does not make Truth true 
Truth is ever true and can be nothing else 
All else is false 
And cannot be made true by thought 
So believe or do not believe 
It does not matter 
Truth shines ever radiant 
Seen clearly by the soul 
Unencumbered by mind’s need to know 

I’ve been thinking about the nature of belief lately, which is sort of funny since beliefs are thoughts, thoughts that we latch onto and label true. So in a way, I’ve been thinking about thinking.

Our minds love beliefs because our minds are designed to seek certainty. Studies show that we are more afraid of uncertainty than we are of actual physical pain. That is just the way our brains wired. We’ve all experienced this. Maybe we have rushed to a decision because the stress of waiting for more information or for the clarity of inner guidance was intolerable. Maybe we were quick to believe something about someone instead of pausing to consider that our assumptions might be mistaken.

One time I heard a random sound that my brain couldn’t immediately identify, so my brain told me I heard a dog barking. In the next moment, my brain told me instead that the sound I heard was a train whistle in the distance. It didn’t sound anything at all like a dog barking. When the sound first vibrated in my ear, my brain couldn’t wait one extra nanosecond to identify the sound correctly so it just picked something, anything, rather than wait in uncertainty. What’s more, there was a transitory sense of confusion and anxiety as my brain took in more information and recalculated. It was like my brain, having decided incorrectly, was loath to give up the mistake and endure any hint of doubt.

In the big scheme of life, whether the sound I heard was a dog barking or a train whistle isn’t important. But consider the significance of my brain’s desperate grab for an answer, any answer, and its reluctance to give that answer up in the face of contrary evidence. Consider that significance in the context of things that really matter. Beliefs divide families and nations, bind groups together and exclude others. People will kill for their beliefs. And die for them.

Beliefs are powerful because we are so attached to them and identified with them. Some beliefs are so fundamental to who we think we are that the slightest hint of changing or releasing them threatens self annihilation. No wonder we are such an anxious and fearful species. We have based our very existence on the thoughts and stories that our minds come up with.

Some of us equate beliefs with faith. Beliefs are static. We become attached to and identified with our beliefs. They lock us in. Faith, at least the way I think about it, is a dynamic relationship of trust, whether that is trust in God, or in the Universe, or in our own inner wisdom. Faith does not require belief. Indeed, as Adyashanti says, “belief is an absolute and utter lack of faith.” Sit with that for a moment.

It makes sense if we go back to what we know about our brains. Belief satisfies our mind’s need to know. Belief is safe because it gives us the security of certainty. But there is no peace, because on some level we fear that we have chosen wrongly, and thus we seek constant confirmation, and defend our beliefs with insistence and even anger or violence. Belief needs to be right.

Faith doesn’t need to be right. Right and wrong are meaningless to faith. Faith asks us to trust rather than to know. This is scary, at least to our brains. But our souls rejoice, as faith invites us into the sacred dance of the present moment, singing the music of creation, embracing us with infinite awareness. Then, and only then, do we experience the peace that passes all understanding.

Thoughts take us into illusion. Beliefs imprison us there. …You have abandoned truth for belief. ~Leonard Jacobson

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense. ~Rumi

8 thoughts on “The Trap of Belief”

  1. This is very beautifully said, Galen. I needed to hear this right now in my journey towards understanding my own small world. Many, many blessings sent your way. I want to lie down in that field.

    1. Thanks DJan. I’m glad the post was timely for you. Glad you are healing up. Hope your world, whatever its size, is full of blessings.

      1. Oh right back at you girl-! I have been laughing about it too! What a hoot! You really are a spark that ignites the light! I am so fortunate to have you for a master teacher!

  2. This short essay sheds needed insight on a number of human challenges. I’ll touch on a couple.
    Ms. Pearl: “Some beliefs are so fundamental to who we think we are that the slightest hint of changing or releasing them threatens self annihilation.” Yep, unyielding belief systems stifle contemplative knowing — and kill curiosity = annihilation. Ridged belief systems fuel at their worst toxic forms of tribalism, scapegoating and binary judgments — to the detriment of us all. These same belief systems leave little space for mystery, imagination or humility — putting head above heart, conceptualization over trust.

    Ms. Pearl: “Faith doesn’t need to be right. Right and wrong are meaningless to faith. Faith asks us to trust rather than to know.” Heretical? Anathema? No way! Faith is what allows us to take a sigh of relief and allows Source to be Source… Our role? To be human and as Ms. Pearl so wonderfully puts it, to join ”the sacred dance.”

    I would love to post this piece on my website for more sojourners to read?

    1. Thanks for adding your valuable and valued insight to the discussion, BKT. And yes of course, always feel free to share anything I post. I appreciate that.

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