In preparation for my BDK YOGA TT with Cameron and Melayne Shayne in London earlier this year. My thoughts and reflections on the podcast below by Cameron Shayne and Mark Baratto:
The podcast describes that as human beings we are stuck in a world of stories told by others and validated by ourselves, which form our reality and experiences. By holding onto these constructs of reality we begin to live by a code of conduct, varying amongst populations and cultures yet manifesting in the same form as beliefs. How is a belief built by a community? To use a building as an analogy of how we seemingly form our thoughts and opinions as individuals, beliefs can be described as the scaffolding. That which holds the shape and structure of the building: our collective thoughts and state of mind— yet can be taken down, taken apart and re-built altogether. So to say, our beliefs come into being through how our conscious mind interacts and tries to understand the world in which we live.
To define reality, categorise and label, is a natural human need in order to hold some sense of authority or feeling of control over our lives— what we do, think, and feel. In doing so we ultimately constrict our experiences by constructing a framework to experience within. This scaffolding of the building is put together with branches of information that we gather and collect and filter through each and every day. How we learn, how we imitate those around us in order to grow and who we look up to for guidance in a world full of contradictions and uncertainty— all contributes to how our beliefs are formed.
The argument is that these structural beliefs can change shape. They can be pulled apart, challenged and re-interpreted to see the world in a broader sense and to experience the world with more freedom and clarity. Whatever experiences we go through and the narratives we associate with these feelings and sensations come from the individual. Are made up by our rational and analytical intellectual minds. Generally, these narratives are agreed upon by a greater community: family, religions, governments, countries, cultures, cities— and socially agreed upon to render them normal. When we collectively agree on the norm it is easy to cast it off as Truth, giving these fabricated narratives more meaning and power.
It is suggested that if we were to empty our minds completely we would simply observe the world around us with detachment, through pure consciousness. Yet that is practically impossible when we are programmed from birth to question, analyse, define and relate. So if thoughts intrude consciousness in its most raw form then so long as we are thinking or attempting to intellectualise anything we are effectively blocking our own consciousness. Here the podcast states that we are actually born empty. Born free of ethics, values, or a moral code. It is the growing, maturing, collecting of information and social conditioning that defines what we think of this world: its beings, actions, consequences— no matter how good or bad, these are made by us human beings, individually and collectively. Likewise, these beliefs are confirmed and acknowledged as individuals and collectively, which dictates the way we live, speak, act and deem others to be different from ourselves.
Still, this idea of emptiness supports how to make breakthroughs for our quality of life from where and how we are today. Rather than happiness or success or anything we want to achieve being an ultimate goal, it is the absence of the opposite — what we do not desire — that gives us the satisfaction of what we are seeking. Just as we sit down in meditation the intention is not to free the mind of thinking but to accept that thoughts are bound to come and go. When we practise non-attachment to this natural process of fluctuating thoughts through mindful awareness we begin to experience a space of calm and serenity from the absence of resistance and control. We experience freedom from disturbances and dialogues that have come to shape our experience of life.
When we are fed by culture and our environment we are telling ourselves how and what to see. Stripping our minds of this scaffolding of stories releases our consciousness of this burden. Making way for nothingness and absence, we give our mind space to breathe by itself. Without intellectual thought we operate on another level of knowing, learning and interpreting. This experience is entirely different. We become aware of the stories that have been told to us since birth. We become aware of how they have shaped us, how they continue to seep into our adult experiences. And even how they encourage us to fabricate further narratives and constructs because that is the way our minds have been programmed to process stimuli. Does it matter what our beliefs actually are? They are not based on lies, they usually hold some truth to them. But we must remember that we have a choice. We decide which stories to carry with us on our journey of life and which ones to dispose of. Once we become aware of those that surround us they do not dissipate instantly, in fact they remain very much intact. The difference is that now our mind is conscious of its structural foundation and the impact of these constructs that we can begin to play with them. To challenge, unlearn, question, review, and even revolt in order to create new neuronal pathways.
The podcast goes on to explain that when we can recognise the absurdity of human life and our existence on this planet we have room to play with our natural intuition. To take it back to a pure “is-ness” where the base of “I am” lies. From here we have a higher ability to access feelings of happiness, and from this place of mental clarity we are able to make countless breakthroughs. We are likely to contribute more to the world and people around us whilst achieving higher productivity in whatever we do.
In saying so, as human beings we desire definition and stability in order to survive. The mind’s pure vastness and uncertainty is so daunting that we can easily lose our minds, or rather get lost in it. So creating structures to make reference to helps us. Definitions draw lines and dictate understanding. Structures also dictate stability, safety, and success. Whether that starts from finding shelter, building a home, food, work, purpose or fulfilment... we seek meaning. So as enticing as it sounds to be able to break free of these constructed beliefs, to be entirely rid of them also strips us of a sense of belonging. As a unique brain and mind that can only communicate so much through speech and language, we come together as one through connection and relation. Beliefs bind us as cultures and peoples. They give us strength when we feel weak, they can give guidance when we are lost. As much as they are fabricated, they also give support and hope. This kind of belief is the most palpable when we share the encouragement to “trust our gut” or “have faith in the goodness of others”. So many commonly exchanged phrases of kindness are built on intangible sentiment. Designed to give structure, and perhaps create control, beliefs can be plucked from thin air and made concrete by the minds of millions. Many do good for us, and have fabricated societal norms to foster goodness in others.
So we can choose for some stories to remain, the constructs of this flexible bamboo scaffolding around the building of our human experience can stay with us. And by recognising this we can consciously make the choice to play along. To live out our lives as a character of this book except now we have a finger on the pen that continues to write and tell stories. With a little more clarity we can choose how we want the chapters to play out, end, and connect. Once we bear witness to our existent stories, like most things in life our awareness of it is acknowledgement that anything can possibly be another way.