What is yours and what is not?
I heard a great quote this morning. “Your first thought/feeling is what has been imprinted on you, your very next thought/feeling is who you truly are.”
This quote isn’t about second guessing a gut instinct or questioning your intuition but this quote speaks volumes to me about imprinted belief systems and understanding our truth.
I can recall hundreds of instances when I thought or felt something in response to an encounter or a conversation and then immediately adjusted or changed that thought/feeling. I’ll provide an example. Not long after 911, I was boarding a flight to San Fransisco. As I took my seat, a tall middle eastern man wearing a turban walked onto the plane and opened the overhead bin for his carry-on bag. I instantly felt a sense of fear. As I recall the feeling today, it was more suspicion than fear but nevertheless, born in fear. I was immediately disgusted with myself. Where did this bias come from? When did I become so narrow-minded and suspicious of an entire set of people? Was it the media? Was it 911? Was it justified? The answer to my last question is no.
Where is this shame coming from?
He explained to us that our church was a “white church” and that my friend, who was black, has her own church. I was instantly ashamed. I felt I had disappointed my beloved reverend. And then I was mad as hell. That initial feeling of shame quickly turned into anger.
Another example goes even deeper. When I was 9 years old, I lived in the South. Segregation had been abolished less than a decade before, but I lived in a town that was slow to make changes. My school still had separate water fountains and bathrooms for blacks and whites. As a child, I found this odd but didn’t question it, it was our “normal”. In those days, attending church 3-4 times a week was also considered normal. Listening to the word of God and revering our pastor and his sermons was an unspoken expectation. That summer, I invited a friend to vacation bible school. I was so excited to bring her to the opening day festivities and to share my beloved church with her. As all the children lined up to enter the sanctuary, my pastor approached and asked me to accompany him to his office. I was excited by his request because I loved my pastor and felt special that he wanted to talk to me. I grabbed my friend’s hand and proudly walked with him past all the other children. When we reached his office, his demeanor changed from happy to sad. He explained to us that our church was a “white church” and that my friend, who was black, has her own church. I was instantly ashamed. I felt I had disappointed my beloved reverend. And then I was mad as hell. That initial feeling of shame quickly turned into anger. Even at my young age, I recognized the hypocrisy and it enraged me. This was my first experience with injustice and I railed against it.
What experiences have you had with imprinted beliefs?
Have you ever automatically thought, “I don’t deserve that” and then instantly told yourself you do? Have you ever experienced fear, shame, or defeat and then rejected that thought/feeling or belief?
Beliefs are as necessary to us as our physical organs. We cannot exist without them. We need them as parameters to interpret what is happening in our life. One could never be without beliefs, nor would you want to be. What you do want, however, is to consciously decide the beliefs you want working for you. To choose the lens you will view the world through.
You are not at the mercy of your past experiences, unless you believe that you are. You are free to break away from imprinted beliefs the moment you choose to question them. Questioning them is not to say you should examine your past. Examining your past is spending time in negativity, it leads you into the habit of seeking negative examples that verify your old belief. Your past has been distorted by the lens you have chosen to examine it through. The question isn’t “Where did this come from?” or “Why do I feel this way?” Our question is, “Is this true?” “How does this belief affect me?”
Stop for a moment and realize that the present is your point of power
When you’re thinking about the past or imagining the future, both these actions happen in the present. When you act upon your life, it takes place in the present. In fact nothing you can do will ever happen outside of the present. So choosing in the present to re-frame your past and future is incredibly powerful.
What is imprinting?
Well, can you recall your ABC’s? How is it that you are able to sing the Alphabet song no matter how many years it’s been since you first heard it? What about multiplication? How is it that you automatically know that 2X2 equals four without having to think about it? Will you ever forget? No…because these and many other things have been imprinted upon you. You need not practice them or refresh yourself – they are there for life.
You can do the same thing with beliefs. What you have done with the multiplication tables can also be done with new beliefs you wish to permanently imprint into your consciousness. The process is exactly the same, and the repetition equally important. For five or ten minutes a day concentrate your attention as vividly as possible upon one simple statement. Choose carefully and decisively. Feel the power and implication of what you are saying. Let it become alive within you. Repeat it over and over, allowing your mind to absorb its message. Claim it as yours. If countering thoughts or old beliefs creep in, banish them as false and continue focusing on your new belief.
Responding to your new beliefs in this way is sending a strong signal to your subconscious that new realities are beginning to take hold, that you are willing to change, that you are cooperating with the process, that it is in fact already happening. The initiative must come from you. Challenge yourself to find ways to demonstrate your changing reality. Your present is now. Your new beliefs are here and now.