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Sunday 26 February 2012


I once heard a man say, “Beliefs are like tabletops – they need legs to stand on.”
Quite an intriguing if not appealing thought.  I seem to remember he was recalling something that he had learnt via the self-help guru Tony Robbins, and believe me I was listening real close. He continued, “And it’s us that make the legs for that fine and dandy tabletop.”
Great, I’m a carpenter! – Nice, I thought.
“And we make those legs strong and reliable works of art by what we notice, reaffirm and constitute through our senses into our map of the world,”
My goodness, I feel like I’m sailing now. One hand on the wheel, a chisel between my teeth and an old Columbustine world map in my other hand.
“You see,” “he continued, “And I really want you to hear this and get a handle on what I’m explaining…”
This has got to be good, I thought and patiently waited. He lowered the tone of his voice and with a faint smile he said, “We get to prove ourselves right in every moment of every day by our method of filtering.”
What? Coffee? I’ll go with that. I put down my map, proudly lifted my cappuccino and sailed towards a distant new land.
“We all do it; All of the time,” he continued. “And it’s considered possible that in regard to your own personal beliefs… nothing is real, and actually… you know nothing.”
What? Nothing is real and I know nothing?! That hit my sails and stopped me in my tracks. I dropped my chisel, spilt coffee all over my map and let go of the wheel… Excuse me?
“You borrow them. You build them from experience. You make them up.”  
His words sunk in deeply and caused a chain of inner and outer enquiries, some enthusiasm, more uncertainty, sudden curiosity and a desire to understand – along with a compelling need to just turn and run away, right then and there.
“We aren’t born with a set of beliefs, they form as we grow and interact within our homes, families, schools, religions, friends and neighborhoods. Your beliefs are neither right nor wrong and can be, whenever you decide the time is right, personally and individually explored by wondering whether they empower and enrich you or simply hinder and limit your life?”
Talk about responsibility. But that was then.

I now like to think of it more in this way:

In the matter of personal potential, our beliefs act as a door; open - to varying degrees - or closed. They may allow a clear way ahead, restrict to some extent, or block access. The closed door may even be locked. It may even have a rusty old lock, difficult to budge.  The hinges may also be corroded and stuck, and in some cases we may even find the whole doorframe has been painted shut. Quite an impeding thought.
‘Who did this to the door?’ we may enquire in disbelief.
‘What a fool,’ we might even conclude. In truth it’s simple. The closed door, rusty lock, stuck hinges and painted doorframe are 
all pieces of our experiences that we hold onto - the unquestionable proof that supports our beliefs. And they are now our beliefs. Whether we borrowed them, had them transferred to us, or built them ourselves, the door is as it is: Open, closed, stuck or ajar.

What we require is a free-flowing door that can be easily opened to reveal the empowerment and potential that is there for us to behold and revel in.  So…how exactly does the door become closed? Locked? How does the mechanism of the lock become rusty, the hinges stuck and the whole doorframe painted shut? More importantly… how do we loosen the door? Remove that painted seal, oil the hinges, free the lock and then open that door? Well, there’s one thing I’d like to share with you first of all.

“You are the golden key to every door that’s ever been closed. Know this and be yourself.” – Marvin

Our beliefs are the doors. What we notice as true for us - what our filters allow through - becomes the locks and hinges. Our filters enable things through that support our beliefs and filter out those things that don’t. Our beliefs are always strengthened by our filters.

The first thing to say here is that we need filters; there is only so much information we can consciously process at any moment in time. Our filters keep us sane in the world; they let through what we need to notice. They show more of what we deem as important. I myself discovered that I get more of what I think about and concentrate on. Take, for example, the time when I took my son out for the first time alone, walking him in his buggy. Suddenly I noticed countless other dads pushing buggies all over the place. I was shocked. I wondered how I’d never noticed this before? Or like the time I bought my first car - a red one. I thought it was quite a unique choice until I noticed red cars on every road. Then I noticed many of the same models as mine and, to my complete surprise, so many were also in red. It was a joke. In fact, it seemed a conspiracy. All that had actually happened though, in both instances, was that something had become important to me and this led to me becoming aware – as though my eyes had suddenly been pried open – that more of the same or similar was all around me.

Like in every good kettle, our filters are extremely effective. As a human being however, our filters are acutely honed and pay constant attention and true homage to their ruler – our beliefs. And that’s great if you only have beliefs like ‘Ain’t life great’ or ‘I’m a lucky person’, but if you have something like ‘Life seems cruel’ or ‘Nobody likes me’ going on at a deep level of your internal makeup, you’re in for one hell of a ride. Positive or not, our filters just do their job. And extremely well, may I add.

Our filters support what’s in the cup – the tea of our beliefs: what we deem as true about ourselves, our lives, the world around us and our place within it. Filters are NOT a conscious process but are always on, all of the time.

Filter 1.
Delete. - That doesn’t match my belief: I’ll not see/hear/feel/notice it.

Filter 2.
Distort. – I’ll make that fit my beliefs (map of the world) with a little twist, exaggeration, embellishment or trim.

Filter 3.
Generalise. – That’s a bit like the other time when… I’ll make it another of those instances/experiences that always seem to happen.

Beliefs and their effects compose big and worthwhile discussions. To narrow it down, I ask you to give this brief made-up scenario a thought:

Belief: I’m bad. Owned after my teacher told me “You’re a bad apple. Bad to the core.”

Effect: I notice everything to support this belief. I hear a conversation on TV whilst I’m doing my homework: A woman is talking about her bad man and how men are always bad (generalise). I go back to my homework and don’t hear her friend advocate the opposing view (delete). I notice boys scarpering from the vicinity of a shop: they probably stole stuff (generalise). I don’t notice the young guy across the road, kindly helping the lady off the bus (delete). I smell the stench from an alleyway. I don’t notice (delete) the sweet smelling flowers hanging outside shop fronts. I hear the angry shouts of a distant argument. I don’t notice (delete) the choral music coming from the local hall. I see a man crouching down, speaking to a child; he’s probably telling him off for being naughty (distort). I steal. I also do lots of good for others but I remember I’m a thief and I’m bad (generalise). I lie. I also tell the truth 99.9% of the time but I remember I’m a liar and I’m bad.

And another:

Belief: Life is hard: borrowed from Uncle Barry. “Life’s hard, son. You’re born and you die. All you do in between is work and get no thanks for it. It’s a constant struggle.”

Effect: I notice everything that supports this belief. I notice my own and everyone else’s struggles. I delete the ‘thank you’ I get from the lady at the garage or the smile I get from the station attendant. I mentally distort a look my boss gives me into a look of disdain and generalise that every time I think things are going well, at least 3 bad things come along at once to put me in my place. I always seem to be able to busy myself and I work, work, work. In the little spare time I do have, I manage to watch TV shows and read books and articles that support ideas of struggle and mistreatment. I talk about such things with family and friends.

These are exaggerated. They are also true for many. It can be that simple.

We get more of what we concentrate on, all by way of our filters. The great thing is, our beliefs are not fixed and we can change them.

I’m always curious to consider “What core beliefs would you now like to nurture in yourself? And in your children?”

And I often wonder “What are you spending your time concentrating upon?”

Once you choose a new belief, what you are actually saying to your filters is, ‘Show me more of the same’. And that will happen.

Thanks for reading.

Simon Caira
Author - Bish and the Magic Bow & Arrow