04/24/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Dark Side of Belief: Week Four of "Mental Muscle" Boot Camp

Part six in a series.

On page 62 of "Mental Muscle" by James Mellon, there is this quote:

"In belief, there is no room for doubt."

In 2001, during a rudimentary study of Kabbalah, a fellow student advised, "Do not say you believe anything. Belief implies doubt. Be certain instead; know. Do not believe."

In the nearly ten years since I heard that and agreed, I negated the words belief and believe. The power behind those words ceased to exist. If I ever used either of them, it meant my thoughts were "iffy" or "questionable."

Now the "Mental Muscle" experience is sending me the opposite message; that belief and believing is certainty and the two are equitable.

I was hung up on which definition was correct, so my first step for "Belief Week" was to figure out how I could focus on belief given I had stopped using that word and its derivatives.

Before Spiritual Boot Camp began, I was clear that belief is the exemplifying theme of the entire process. After all, James is always talking about the "belief system" or "b.s." I decided to put aside my previous "beliefs" about the word "belief."

James' directive for "Belief Week" consisted of the following questions: What do I believe about myself? Why do I believe the way I do, and do I want to continue believing that way? Which beliefs serve me, and which don't?

In order for a study of my beliefs to work, I decided to focus on what happens when I mentally feel like crap. I describe these periods of time as "the dark time for the rebellion, although the Death Star has been destroyed." It is The Empire Strikes Back of my mind. All the dark shit hits the fan.

I wrote a list of every lousy thing I feel when the "dark side" emerges. For brevity's sake, here are condensed thoughts from the list. "I am a sad person." "I am a failure." "I am not talented enough." "People don't want me around." "My ego is too big." "People I'm attracted to aren't interested in me." "There must be something wrong with me."

What I've shared here doesn't even scratch the surface of the full list I submitted as a blog that only James and Boot Campers could read. Almost immediately after I pressed the "send" button, I second-guessed whether I should have written it. I suddenly felt slimy and my mood got just as dark as what I'd written.

I thought the mood would lift during the next morning's Boot Camp session, but it didn't. I was completely silent and didn't participate. The residue of the list's muck was all over me.

In their interactions with James, Boot Campers wrote positive beliefs and affirmations about themselves, while my version of Darth Vader, a/k/a/ "Anxiety Monster," rose to full effect. For the first time since starting Boot Camp, I felt distant from the process. All the positives felt hokey and more like "b.s. bullshit" than "b.s. belief system."

It was one big, giant roadblock. I had to ask myself, "Do I believe the 'Mental Muscle' line of thinking, or not?"

From somewhere in my mind came a little "Yoda-like" voice telling me my "dark side" was tainting my perception. After all, when things felt fantastic, I was writing positive affirmations about myself. So, what was my problem now?

I went through most of my day feeling I was failing this process. As evening came, I saw a friend's Facebook status update. He wrote, "I have 800 friends on Facebook, yet [I'm] still alone and I can't get out of my own head. I hate this."

Without a moment's hesitation I responded by urging my friend to look into the practice of New Thought (or Science of Mind). Within minutes, my friend and I were chatting via instant message and he wrote the troubling specifics of his situation. As he wrote, I felt myself go into a very powerful mode of "knowing." My "dark side" evaporated and I offered help with such clarity and conviction.

At NoHo Arts, New Thought Practitioners perform what are known as Spiritual Mind Treatments. A practitioner uses this form of affirmative prayer to "know the truth" for someone who is having difficulty. "Knowing the truth" is essentially shifting belief about a situation.

I caught a glimpse of what it must be like to be a Practitioner as I listened to my friend. I saw that his negative thoughts were not the truth.

Having been in my own "dark side" spiral for several hours previous to the conversation, I had to wonder why I could see this so easily for my friend, but not do the same for myself.

The conversation was meant to serve as a mirror. Through helping my friend I got to the core of what I believe and was able to help myself in the process.

I recognized that when I feel good, there is never a little "Darth Vader-like voice" in the back of my mind that tells me to come back to the dark. This simple truth never occurred to me until I was writing this blog.

If a sinister voice doesn't appear when I feel good, it can only mean the dark thoughts are not the truth. Taking that one step further, it also means only the good is to be believed.

I started my day questioning if I believed the "Mental Muscle" line of thinking. By the end of the day, I had my answer. I do believe it. The truth of what I believe came out when I was talking to my friend. It's simply that it gets clouded when the dark side takes over.

It is all too easy to get stuck in the dark side of belief and feel incapable of following the Yoda-like voice urging me not to give in. I have faith, however, that what I am learning is leading me to trust that belief no longer implies doubt.