Well, tomorrow, May 21, 2011, is supposed to be the end of the world. Wait, I thought the Mayans said it was supposed to be December 21, 2012? Either way, it gets a lot of publicity. (This post is a good example.)
A Christian Family Radio station in Oakland, Calif. has been spending of lot of time, money and effort letting people know that if they step up and believe, they will be beamed to heaven when the giant worldwide earthquake hits tomorrow, while the rest will be left to suffer.
So what's the truth?
The quick and dirty answer is who knows? But these claims have been made for centuries on end, and each time, the next day comes. So my guess is that the probability of this happening is smaller than I can even imagine.
So what is it about the need to find a definitive date in religious or spiritual teachings when all things will come to an end?
Why strike fear into people's hearts and minds?
It doesn't get us anywhere to judge the people who are lighting up this movement, but it is more helpful to get curious about it. My guess is that it's not intentionally vindictive; there is a deep belief that this is true. If a person who believes is reading these lines right now, it's highly likely that they think I am ignorant and feel sad for me as I will likely go to hell. They're sure of this.
But how does that happen? How do these deep, unshakable beliefs come to be, and how is it reconciled when the next day comes?
I think these are all important questions to ask because to some degree, we all have deep-seated beliefs that we aren't even aware of.
We believe we have to dress and act a certain way to belong. We may believe that deep down we're unlovable, or that we'll never be able to write a book, get that job or lose weight. Beliefs are probably the most powerful subconscious thoughts that exist as they color the way we see life and influence our behaviors moment to moment.
We don't know when beliefs start, exactly, but we do know that from the moment we open our eyes in this world, we are sponges for how things work, and we absolutely buy what we see and hear in our environments. Our brains are in critical stages of formation and the wiring is happening quickly. So we wire together beliefs based on our experience. If you were abused as a child, it's highly likely that you felt unworthy or unlovable. If you were brought up in a loving and attuned environment, you may believe that you can do anything you set your mind to.
However, beliefs can be brought to light, and if they are unhealthy, they can be shattered.
Certainly many African Americans believed deeply that there would be no way they would see a black president in their lifetime, but it happened, and the glass ceiling disappeared.
Consider whether you have any beliefs suggesting you are unlovable or unworthy, or that you just can't do something. See if you can ride the string back to earlier times in your life and see where that message came from. Then each time you experience those thoughts, let the emotion, whether it's fear, shame, etc., as it comes up in your body, ground you to the reality of the present moment. Then see if you can see an alternative vantage point.
Try this out as a practice over and again and see if you start to see cracks in your beliefs. It's through these cracks that the light shines through.
And by the way, if you're reading this post after May 21, congratulations, we've all made it!
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction provides a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
This piece is adapted from Elisha Goldstein's publication on Mentalhelp.net.
Follow Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Mindful_Living