In Part 1 we defined what a self-concept is and talked about how your identification with it and resisting “What Is” causes more suffering than your life events. We are actually victims of our own belief systems
Now, we’re going to look at…
In most cultures we’re conditioned to not only not question our core belief system, we’re usually never even taught to LOOK at it, or to even be aware it exists!
Meanwhile, your belief system / self-concept is like the operating system on your computer. It keeps the whole system going and for the most part we don’t even see it.
Your computer’s operating system hums along below the surface, keeping all the pieces – the millions of data your computer processes – functioning together (when all goes well :-). This operating system automatically dictates how you experience your computer.
In this metaphor, your computer’s operating system is your self-concept (made up of your core beliefs about yourself and the world), which you believe IS you, and your computer’s “pieces” of data are all your daily interactions with yourself and the world – basically, your entire life.
Additionally, and unconsciously, we are conditioned to try to keep this self-image and belief system together at all costs.
When you start to look at your self-image and belief system, your operating system, you will most likely experience fear. Why?
We believe our self-image and belief system is an actual entity which we believe IS us and THAT belief generates fear that we are actually going to die if this self--image and belief system is jostled in any way, even if it is a very painful one!
At first, even just looking at it can feel threatening, even though the reality is our self-concept is actually just thoughts. :-)
Generally, we believe:
“I am this body, these thoughts, and emotions. I am my past, present and future. I am a woman / man / child / teenager. I’m an American / Austrian / Costa Rican. I’m a Christian / Jew / Muslim… etc.”
This self-image and belief system is what we identify AS us, as who we ARE. And generally we’re not even fully conscious that we are so fully identified with a concept. This operating system, the collection of beliefs about who we THINK we are, runs in the background, usually mostly in the unconscious mind.
If fear arises as we begin to bring attention to our core beliefs / self-concept, we can LET it arise without identifying with it.
The basic self-image and belief system most of us have is:
“This body is me. I’m separate.
The body over there is separate from me. We are different.”
And what follows from that is:
“What I want and need is out there, separate from me. I need to do whatever I can to get something or someone from out there to make me ‘more.’ I also need to push away anything or anyone I think threatens to take anything away from me or to jeopardize something I’m trying to add to me.”
These core beliefs / self-concept about being separate and alone also spawn variations of the following beliefs for all of us:
“I’m not good enough. I need to get it together and be better. I need to make myself more than what I am.”
Even though you may know of someone who appears extremely self-confident and doesn’t appear to have the beliefs described above, often it is only because they put a lot of effort into trying to make it look that way on the outside.
They may LOOK like they believe:
“I’ve got it together. I’m successful. I’m in control.”
However, often they are unconscious (either partially or totally) of the fact that deep down they are terrified they DON’T have it together, and desperately afraid they have no control over their lives. In truth, none of us do, but that’s a discussion for another time. :-)
Different people act out their core beliefs / self-concepts in different ways.
Variations of the same debilitating operating system are within every human being. No wonder so many people are desperately looking for a depression cure.
We suffer until we fully SEE our core beliefs / operating system and then experience this isn’t what we actually are. This leads to awakening to the truth of who / what we REALLY are.
Even though at the core we all share the same basic core beliefs, it is important to find the particular nuances of these basic beliefs which YOU believe is true about YOU. We need to bring conscious awareness into them – to see what operating system / self-concept you’ve been living by so you can begin to question it and let it unwind.
I’ll show you how to do this for yourself in Part 3.
You are the silent, open field of stillness, the awake consciousness which is aware OF the experience of being embodied as a man or woman, as well as the experience you are having right now in this moment, wherever you are, simply being here.
This here-ness itself is what you are. You were “this” before the body you know yourself to be was ever born.
You are “this” which your self-concept and all your beliefs arise IN. You are “this” which is unchanged, no matter if you have a wonderful self-image and belief system or a painful one.
You are not your thoughts, beliefs, feelings, or experiences, although they arise within you and are made up out OF you. You are pure energy. This entire universe is pure energy. You are all of what IS, the whole infinite entirety of it.
We tend to narrow our attention down like a camera lens and focus on THIS body and THESE thoughts, beliefs, emotions, experiences, missing the underlying spacious peace which it all arises IN.
Instead, take a moment right now and ask within, “Who am I?” Don’t ask your mind. Simply stay here, now, with the unanswered question and notice the place-less “place” where your attention goes.
Don’t do this as a mental inquiry. Rather, the question is just a pointer, to help you to shift your attention and notice what you are, rather than what you think about you are.
By shifting your attention to “this” which is simply here, looking through your eyes right now in this moment, you can begin to know this vast, unlimited aliveness which IS you, has always been you, will always BE you, and all life.
“This” has no problem with whatever arises in it. Your thoughts may come up with problems, but the “this” which is aware of the thoughts and everything else, has no problem with “problems.”
This is the key to overcoming depression, fear, anxiety, and the like: to give up trying to overcome any of it and notice what all that arises IN. Likewise, we don’t have to get involved in trying to change core beliefs. The “trying” only keeps us identified with being a belief system, whether it’s one we like or don’t like.
On the other hand, when we begin to know ourselves as the spaciousness these beliefs, thoughts, and all our experiences arise IN, then, and only then, these energies unwind on their own.
I also recommend the "Am I Here?" Exercise, to help shift your attention to the truth of your being.
Additionally, here is a beautiful and deep pointing into the direct experience of knowing yourself as pure, still aliveness, from my dear Teacher, Adyashanti.
You’ll learn more about him in Part 3: How To Discover YOUR Self-Concept.