The Faith Muscle
The other day I woke up feeling anxious. My heart was pounding and my mind was ruminating over what seems like a neverending “to-do” list. It took extra effort to get myself out of bed.
Has this ever happened to you? Where life feels overwhelming, and there’s this pressure to perform but you’re kind of freaking out so you end up frozen in a state of consternation?
It’s not fun.
I can trace back most of the decisions that got me to this point:
I registered for extra classes in school this past term because I want to finish the program as quickly as possible.
I committed myself to more work projects because I was worried about income.
I said yes to more dates because I didn’t want to miss out on meeting “the one”.
I’ve been staying out later than usual and saying yes to lots of social invitations because I don’t want to miss any of the fun
Can you see the pattern? All of these choices were made from a “lack” mentality. From fear that there won’t be enough time, money, love or fun, so I better get my ass in gear and do all the things.
I’ve been through this cycle before and it always leads to a similarly anxious place. In the past it would eventually show up in my body in the form of sickness or chronic pain. I’m grateful to say that I’ve made some progress in catching these cycles before it gets to that point though.
One of the reasons for this change is the concept of faith. The idea that we can simply trust. Faith used to be this thing bogged down by religious dogma that I wanted nothing to do with. However recently I’ve realized that it can be whatever I make of it.
What if we had complete faith in the things we really want? We trusted in their steadfastness and in ourselves for knowing what’s best for us?
We do this all the time in our daily lives to varying degrees. We have faith that gravity works when we get out of bed. We have faith in the food we eat and the air we breath. We have faith in our cars to drive, airplanes to fly, wifi signals to be strong…
Yet we have a tendency of taking it for granted. At least I do. However when I remember to pay attention, I see what a powerful tool faith can be.
What if faith was like a muscle we strengthened and used in different scenarios? Just as we use faith to remember that gravity will keep us on the planet, we can use faith to remember that the things our hearts really long for can be ours. That they’re the right things for us. That we deserve them. Even the really big stuff that seems almost impossible.
What if we based decisions on that faith instead of on the fear of losing something or missing out? What if we trusted that the stuff of life, and the decisions we made grounded in that faith, were all a part of the process of us creating a reality we really loved?
When I intellectualize this, it seems far fetched. I’m a very analytical person who values reasoning as an effective way to make decisions. It’s honestly pretty scary for me to move from a place of faith because it usually requires that I move in a direction I’m not used to going in. However, when I practice making choices based on what my heart wants, I’m pleasantly surprised time and again. I also have more fun, feel more at ease in my body and less anxious.
It’s funny to me that the thing that feels initially scary is the thing that ultimately reduces my anxiety. I suppose that’s what growth is all about though.
So if you’re up for it, I’ve got a little exercise for you that might help strengthen your “faith” muscle:
Sit down with pen and paper (or at a computer) and write down your heart’s desires. All of them. Let it be a free flow and resist the urge to analyze or judge what comes up, even if it seems a little crazy. Anything goes.
Once you’ve got that list in front of you, visualize yourself actually getting those things. Notice how you feel in your body. Get as specific as you can with those feelings. Write them down. Remember them.
The next time you go to make a small-ish decision (like choosing a restaurant to eat at, a social event to go to, a movie to watch, etc), check in with yourself before you do. Does the decision you’re about to make give you even an inkling of the feeling you had when you were doing that visualization practice? If not, is there an alternative that does? Be open and creative with this. Think outside the box! Once you find something, go with that thing, even if it doesn’t make complete sense (and isn’t hurting anyone).
Notice how you feel afterwards.
Repeat steps 2-4 as often as you can. Notice if anything starts to shift in your life. Maybe try it with bigger decisions.
I’m a firm believer that we ultimately know what’s best for ourselves. The desires of our hearts are there for a reason, rooted in our innate wisdom, and we have every right to make choices to make those desires reality. The trick is that a lot of wisdom doesn’t come from our intellect. In fact, when we base our decisions solely on intellect, we can get ourselves into trouble.
True wisdom comes from places beyond the mind. These places have lots of different names depending on which culture or wisdom tradition you’re looking at (Atman, Brahman, Christ Consciousness, the Witness, God, intuition, etc). But they all share a common thread - faith in something beyond what the mind can currently comprehend.
When we have faith in our innate wisdom and use our minds to listen and make decisions accordingly (even if they don’t make intellectual sense), we can transcend quite a bit of conditioning and create some pretty amazing things.
As the popular Einstein quote goes: “The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master”.
Be gentle and compassionate with yourself as you work with this stuff. It’s a process of de-programming deeply embedded behavioral patterns, which means it might take some time and consistency. Lean on support that shows up for you and have faith in yourself and in the process.
You have everything you need to do this. You just gotta believe.