“It is only since the eighteenth-century Enlightenment that the Christian West made “belief”—the acceptance of certain creedal propositions—“the first postulate” of religious life. In the West, we have developed a culture that is rational, scientific, and pragmatic; we feel obliged to satisfy ourselves that a proposition is true before we base our lives upon it, and to establish a principle to our satisfaction before we apply it. In the premodern period, however, in all the major world faiths, the main emphasis was not on belief but on behavior. First, you changed your lifestyle and only then could you experience God, Nirvana, Brahman, or the Dao as a living reality.” Karen Armstrong, in her Introduction to Patrick Leigh Fermor’s, A Time To Keep Silence.
“First, you changed your lifestyle” rings very true with me. Powerful ways of doing this (among others) are meditation and psychotherapy.
Meditation that is not just 10 minutes in the morning or evening with nothing else changing, but meditation that itself becomes a lifestyle – both in formal sitting periods and for the rest of the day.
And Gestalt psychotherapy, being experientially focused, is a practice for changing behavour. By bringing into awareness beliefs and actions that have become marginalised into the unconscious, we expand consciousness and become more present. This is very different from mentalising and holding beliefs.
It’s interesting to note also that our “rational, scientific and pragmatic” culture is in some quarters having to reassess itself, due to some breakthroughs (or at least questionings) in quantum physics that have begun to attack the very foundations of this rationalism.