A few years ago I hiked to a popular waterfall with some friends. The waterfall is situated in a deep canyon gorge with a couple abandoned mining shafts beside it. We had to trek down a long steep road, wade waist-deep across a river, then journey down a twisty trail towards some big boulders. We carefully scaled them, being careful not to slip and fall into the river below. The reward for our hard work was a breath taking view of the thundering waterfall that suddenly came into full sight.
We sat down and shared a flask of tea, admiring the beauty that lay before us: the waterfall was roaring down, landing in a teal blue pool at the bottom. Surrounded by boulders, moss, trees – the area had a damp musky smell to it. As I took in the surroundings my focus shifted upwards to the enormous rock cliff face that shot up above us some 200 feet. I observed the many distinct layers of rock, and thought about how they built up over time, pressing on top each other. It started with one simple thin layer of silt at the bottom, as this area had once been under sea millennia ago. Over time another layer of silt was added, then another, then another. Heat, friction, compression over millennia. After building upwards hundreds of feet it was then eroded and chipped away by time, water, air, temperature changes, as if being excavated back down to the root of where it once started. That rock face felt very heavy and oppressive to me, as if it were symbolic of something heavy within my own internal environment.
The heavy layers of rock reminded me how my beliefs and perceptions built up over time. They started with one single thought. Just one. At a very early age when I was heavily impressionable by my environment and those around me. Each time I recalled a thought I unknowingly reinforced it’s belief. Gradually over my life time I added another layer of reinforcement, then another and another. Each layer reinforcing the original belief, but also obscuring it’s original form. Gradually ending up as a pile of layers, compounding the original message and squashing it into a thick mass of oppressive oblivion. The original thought now obscured and transformed into the misperception my ego wanted me to believe is true.
In this case I was recalling a feeling of being abandoned. It had the same heavy oppressive feeling as the rock cliffs. I had this image in my head of me standing there, 2 years old and crying, waiting for someone to pick me up and pay attention to me. Yet nobody was coming and I felt alone and scared. I felt like nobody wanted me. I didn’t understand that my needs couldn’t be met right away because my care givers were preoccupied with something else. Nobody was at fault here. It’s just how I understood it in that moment with my 2 year old brain.
My ego felt it had to be on the lookout for similar “threats” and notify me when abandonment was happening again. As a toddler feeling like nobody could help me, my ego searched for similar situations throughout my life to reinforce that belief that I was abandoned. This belief kept reinforcing itself into my childhood and teen years. I was unknowingly solidifying this thought into belief. One that would unconsciously pin me down with shame and prevent me from developing confidence to move forward and accomplish my dreams.
At least, until I caught on to what was happening.
A single thought – a single layer of silt – if left to percolate in its environment – creates something more concrete. Something that is resistant to change and takes a lot of chipping away at it to dissolve its formation. When the thought is not a healthy one, it compacts and affects our well being. Most of the time we are unconscious that this is going on. And here I was, 40 years later, looking up at the rock face. Contemplating how my beliefs had compacted and impacted me over the years. Crushing the confidence I so desired to latch on to and get creative with.
If ego were a separate entity it’s job would be to keep us down and under its control. It wants to live and will do anything to keep alive. Kind of like a parasite blood sucking organism. Why do we get so wrapped up in its spell, when we recall these downer beliefs? We really know it’s not true but feel stuck and don’t know how to get out from its spell.
To challenge an egoic belief – one that no longer serves our highest good – is threatening to ego’s livelihood. It doesn’t want to die and will tell us anything to keep us in its control. It’s beliefs and thoughts becomes so ingrained they become part of our identity.
How many of us feel as if we’re not good enough, strong enough, smart enough, etc etc etc?? That’s just the virus this blood sucking entity wants us to believe. Truly, when we are born into this world we are just an innocent babe that forms its mindset over time based on what happens to it. So when challenging the ego gremlin to change and reframe, there are 4 things to keep in mind when dealing with ego:
Don’t fight with it.
Don’t forget it.
Don’t fuck with it.
Forgive it. Forgive the beliefs and thoughts that hold you back. They may have started forming when you were a toddler, or high school student, or a young parent. When you were in a place in life where you didn’t know any better. When you chose to believe someone else’s words and took them on to be your own. Forgive it. Make peace with the ignorance and innocence of the situation. You are a wiser version of yourself now. Take your innate wisdom into the future as you explore and rediscover your self. Of your rock face, what it is made of and how it came to be formed that way.
In mindfulness work I am constantly on the lookout for misperceptions within that are in need of healing. They must be worked through and dissolved in order for me to becoming a stronger wiser version of myself. If I choose to do nothing, the misperceptions continue to show up until I acknowledge their presence. In reframing a belief such as abandonment, I choose to sit with it as if it were a lost friend in need of a safe comforting space. I sit and listen to what that part of me needs to express. No judgment – just honoring the innocence that wants to transform into something healthy. I do not distract myself. Rather, I allow it to be, to feel, and be heard. I cry, I yell, I surrender. I let that energy out. For in doing so its power diminishes. And I can start to redefine my belief into something like this:
I am loved, loving and loveable. My needs are always taken care of.
Interestingly, I have known this all this time. I have had this proven to me time and time again. But in reframing the belief I can finally begin to FEEL it, and not just intellectualize it.
Looking up at the rock face and acknowledging my journey of redefining my belief from one of abandonment to one of love, I burst into tears. I was grieving the lost years wrapped up in the misperception that had oppressed me for so long. But also crying tears of joy to be arriving on the other, positive side of the coin. Knowing it wasn’t true, I was never abandoned, yet it had held me captive under its heavy weight for so long. From this revelation I gained a greater clarity of how misperceptions form. Of course, this revelation held a blessing, a reaffirmation that indeed, I am truly loved and surrounded by beautiful souls in my life
As we stood up preparing to hike back I silently gave thanks to those heavy rocks, for allowing me to honor this part of my journey to wholeness. That negative beliefs can be eroded away and reformed into beliefs that support our lives positively. By getting in touch with my inner self I was able to allow my old layers to crumble a little bit more. Sometimes we have to let old things crumble in order to form a solid new foundation that will support the next leg of our journey.
-Paula Smith, ECPC