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Introduction

Why is it important to explore beliefs?

Our beliefs dictate our words and actions. Each of us, no matter who we are, influences and affects others. This is no small power!

Many of our core beliefs are learned from our religious and cultural backgrounds. As the world is growing smaller through the internet and travel, cultures are colliding. Ideally, we could learn and benefit from each other. More frequently, we judge and discriminate against our differences, whether they are racial, national, cultural, or gender-related.

Why is that? Often we are unconscious of our limiting beliefs. Much of our thinking and action is based on childhood and cultural conditioning that prevents us from fully experiencing the richness of diversity. An often-heard belief is, "Oh, I'm not prejudiced." Nevertheless, most of us have some limiting beliefs that interfere with our acceptance of differences and diversity. By liberating ourselves from these separating beliefs, we can become peacemakers in our everyday lives.

In the workshop you will be focusing on and identifying limiting beliefs you may be holding in the following four areas:

Gender and sexual orientation beliefs
• Men don't cry.
• Women are emotional.
• Homosexuality is wrong.

National beliefs
• You have heard so many ethnic jokes you began to believe them.

Racial beliefs
• Neighborhood was (or was not) racially mixed.
• How did this affect you?
• Did a member of your family put down people of other races?

Religious beliefs
• What are some dominant separating beliefs you hold in relation to religion? Example: Mine is the only true religion.

You may wish to consider printing the following workshop so you can work with it off-line and/or share it with several close friends.

Write down any beliefs that come to mind in one or all of these areas.

Do the following workshop at your own discretion. You may come up with some emotionally challenging material. CPC is not responsible for any adverse results.

doodad

The Workshop

Exercise 1:

1. Pick a limiting belief that you either now have, or have had, that influenced your thinking in any of the above four areas.

2. Where does this belief come from: childhood, family, school, friends, media, religious affiliation?

3. Get in touch with an experience in your life when this belief was present or played out. How did you feel? How did you act?

Exercise II:

Answer the following questions in relation to the belief you have chosen:

1. How does this belief affect your relationships with others?

2. Do you want to let this belief go?

3. If not, why not?
a. Write about why you feel the way you do
b. What do you get from having this belief? (e.g., feel safe, superior?)
c. Think about what might happen if the belief were to change.

4. If you want to let go of this belief:
a. Is there anything that makes it difficult for you to do so?
b. Is there any fear connected to this belief? If so, what is it?

Fears often lie underneath limiting, separating beliefs. Probing a little further beneath the surface may help you understand why it is difficult to let go. For example, you might have a fear that if you let go of your belief, you would alienate your peer group or community of friends.

Exercise III:

There is a large gap between wanting to let go of a negative separating belief and actually doing it. To do this two qualities are required: Compassion and the use of your will.

1. Close your eyes. Get an image of someone who represents the negative belief you are working on. For example, whomever you feel prejudiced toward. It may be someone you know now or knew earlier in your life. Or someone in your imagination.

2. Tell the image how you feel about him or her. Make sure you get all of your negative feelings out. Don't censor yourself. When you feel finished, look into the image's eyes and ask it to respond to you. And then, if you wish, keep the dialogue going until you feel that everything is said.

3. Now, let this dialogue go. Take a moment to get in touch with an experience in your life when you felt compassion for someone: either someone in your life, on the street, on TV, movies, etc. What was that like for you? Try to re-experience that moment as best as you can. Feel it in your heart.

4. Now, keeping that feeling, bring back the negative image you are working with and try to connect that feeling of compassion to the image. As the image, "What do you need from me?" Let the image respond and write it down.

Was there a shift in your feelings about the person or situation?

The way you can change a negative belief is through using your will to make choices and to take action. Say to yourself, "I really want to change this belief." Say it several times, out loud. As you do this, see if you can experience what it feels like to make this statement to yourself.

This is the energy of the will. Even if it is a very small experience, let yourself feel it because you can apply that energy to a first action that will help you to overcome your negative belief.

Be creative. For example, if you have a prejudice against a particular religious group, your first step might be to go to a religious service of that group and talk to someone there.

Whatever it is, or whatever you do, you can open up and enrich your life and, at the same time, take a step to bring compassion and understanding to the world.

You may want to keep a journal and, several times a week, write about how you are doing in changing your belief.

doodad

What did you think?

We would love to hear from you and your experience with this workshop. Please email us at workshop@centerforpeacethroughculture.org.

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