Your mindset—what you think, believe, feel, and imagine—is the most powerful operating system for your life. I call this system the belief window.
Your belief window has a filter—literally. Inside your brainstem is a group of neurons referred to in science as your reticular activating system. This filter is an evidence-finding machine. It doesn’t care about truth or facts. Its job is to reflect back to you what you already believe. If you believe you have to worry about everything, this filter will look for evidence to prove you right and will ignore evidence to the contrary. In other words, it will bring more of what you already believe, not necessarily what you want, into your view, and therefore your life. This is why just managing your anxiety triggers or trying to control conditions doesn’t always work. You will just continue to experience the trigger if you keep your belief window as is.
Mohini was a regal white tiger who lived for many years at the National Zoo in Washington DC. She spent most of her time in an old 12-by-12-foot lion cage with bars and a cement floor. The zoo desperately wanted to give Mohini a new home, one that represented her natural habitat. Biologists and zoo staff worked together and made it a reality. Her new home was expansive, with several acres of green grass, hills, trees, and ponds. With excitement, they released Mohini into her new space. But Mohini was conditioned. She settled into a corner of the environment where she remained for the rest of her life. She paced and paced, and over time, she wore a 12-by-12-foot area into the grass.
Because of your reticular activating system and other conditioning, you, like Mohini, become a prisoner to your belief window, which you’ll remember encompasses your programming, thoughts, imagination, memories, stories, emotions, anxieties, and fears. You become blind to a new life even when it’s right there in front of you.
To further explain your belief window and how it influences your life, imagine three circles lined up horizontally. In yoga psychology, the circle on the left represents your soul, the circle in the middle represents your belief window or mindset, and the circle on the right represents the world.
Your soul circle, on the left, represents the part of you that is eternal, all-knowing, joyful, confident, and whole. It is the part of you that is totally free from self-doubt, uncertainty, anxieties, fear, and attachments. It’s this part of you that is meant to be in the driver’s seat of your life because it is your inner guidance system. Some people call this circle God, Purusha, Siva, Energy, Love, Source, Consciousness, or Universe.
Your belief window circle, in the middle, represents your mindset, or the lens you see the world through. It gets clouded or blurry, and your vision becomes limited because of old residue left from past experiences, what we call mala in Sanskrit. Your belief window also stores everything you have ever created in your imagination about your past, present, or future and everything you already believe and feel. This circle is the place where all of your fears and anxieties developed, what we call vikalpa in Sanskrit. As residue on your belief window builds, your soul circle gets blocked out, and suffering ensues.
Your worldview circle, on the right, represents the world you see. The world does not look the same for any two people. Your worldview circle reflects back to you what you are already projecting out from your belief window circle. Remember, life is happening from you, not to you. You always see the world as you are, not as it is. Anxiety and fear will only originate from this worldview circle if you are in actual danger; otherwise, all of your fear and anxiety—which you often perceive as being caused by other people, places, and things—is being projected from your belief window or conditioning.
Name Your Soul Circle
A central part of living with more trust and joy (and less anxiety) resides in your relationship with your soul circle, one that becomes core to your life and happiness. For now, consider and choose a name for your soul circle that is meaningful and powerful for you. Here are some examples: God, Universe, Seer, Love, Light, Peace, Joy, or Consciousness. Give your inner guide a name that resonates with you. Your relationship with who you truly are is essential to your healing and well-being.
On a piece of paper, write down everything you have believed, up to this point, about your soul circle. You will likely notice some of what you believe has been conditioned and defined for you by society, family, or peers. You may notice that you are holding onto beliefs and ideas that don’t ring true for you today. You might also discover you have beliefs about your soul circle that are blocking your joy, or sense of worthiness. Give yourself permission to let these go. Moving forward, you get to determine, decide and define what you believe.
Now, on a new piece of paper, write down what you want to believe about your soul circle. How do you choose to define this loving and all-knowing part of yourself? Think about how you want to feel in your life; then ask yourself, is your definition of your true nature, your soul circle, congruent with that desire? As you move forward in life, allow your relationship with your soul circle to be fluid, open, and changeable. Your relationship with your soul circle will grow and develop, as you grow and develop.
In the words of the Swami Muktananda, the founder of Siddha Yoga, “For your spiritual development, all you need to know is your Self. If you get to know your Self, you will get to know everything. The first and foremost question is ‘Who am I?’ Everything else comes later. Self- discovery is the root of all actions, all duties, all religious practices. First, know your inner self.”
What’s on Your Belief Window?
Svadhyaya in Sanskrit means the practice of self-discovery, or spiritual reflection in order to understand and know your true self. I want you to practice svadhyaya by sitting quietly and writing down any reoccurring thoughts, emotions, beliefs, memories, or stories that show up on your belief window that limit you or activate anxiety and fear. Another way to do this is to journal for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night. Just empty your mind onto the page.
Now look for themes in your writing; notice if the same thoughts, beliefs, fears, or stories come up more than once. This residue blocks the light of your courageous, confident, and joyful soul circle from shining forth in your life. Your belief window is where anxiety arises and gets stuck. The more your inner light is covered, the more your anxiety will increase.
Remember, you are always writing the story of your life. When you engage in earnest self-discovery, you will see yourself and your true nature from a different perspective, make positive changes, and learn to rewrite that story.
This post is excerpted from Joy’s book, If I’m So Spiritual, Why Am I Still So Anxious: The Soul Seeker’s Guide to Reclaim Your Joy, now available on Kindle. The paperback will be released March 2; when you pre-order the book, you receive one month of free access to Joy’s private membership community, Soul Subscription.
Joy Stone is a Positive Psychology Life Coach and a yoga teacher. She combines the yoga tradition with modern positive psychology to help people move beyond anxiety, fear, and overwhelm, without medication or traditional talk therapy, so they can move forward in life and thrive. Joy works with individuals and groups from all over the country via phone and Skype, and locally in the Nashville area. Find out more at joystonecoaching.com.