How meditation can help liberate you from your limiting beliefs

Olof Ekman
Feb 22, 2021

Since covid hit, I’ve been meditating more than usual. First just to cope. But it has slowly become something I do willingly and that has benefits far beyond just coping. 

Like many who experience benefits from meditating, I started to read books about Buddhism, tried to get a grip of consciousness, and listen to Sages talk on Youtube. You could say I became engulfed. I can sense my wife’s skeptical looks from afar when I pick up yet another book of some Eastern mystic who has a lot of wisdom to share, but also some rather far-out ideas about death and rebirth. 

So when I listened to an interview with the German philosopher and professor of theoretical philosophy Thomas Metzinger on the Deconstructing Yourself podcast, it hit me where I needed it. The whole interview is great, but one segment stood out.

It’s when Metzinger speaks about belief formation and how people who meditate often start forming certain beliefs around their practice. If you meditate, I encourage you to listen to this 7min excerpt from the interview:

If you found it painful or if you felt defensive, it might be because you, just like I, could see yourself in the person he was describing.

Metzinger says that when you start to meditate and realize the value in it, two things often happen:

  1. You start to think along the lines of “I’m on a spiritual path now. There’s a ladder I can climb and reach the top of. I can become advanced at this. Maybe even enlightened one day.” 
  2. The second thing that often happens is that you start thinking “I need to find a master who can guide me. Someone I can believe in.”

5 degree change

The idea of "being on a spiritual path" can be very enticing. And at the same time, it might mislead you.

I had certainly been thinking I was on a spiritual path. I had entertained the idea of buying posters of OSHO to put on my wall. I had been intrigued when hearing ‘gurus’ talk about enlightenment and how death is just the beginning of something new. 

If someone would have told me that this would be the case a year ago it would have sounded bonkers.

I don’t think it’s harmful to have thoughts like these. Once you start to explore the world of meditation, Buddhism, and mysticism, you encounter many seducing stories along those lines so it’s understandable. But I’m glad I stumbled on this interview now and not at a later stage on “my path” where it may have been too painful to face. 

The danger is to start to believe that something specific will happen and buy into that story. Once you invest in a belief like that or if you start to identify with it, you automatically narrow your attention. You start to seek rather than observe. You are no longer open to whatever you encounter, but instead, look for things to confirm this belief. Search and you shall find. 

Doing this, you might miss many of the beautiful benefits that come with meditation, such as staying open and observing ideas, people, and beliefs from a place of curiosity. 

If you can ‘stay open’ you become aware of your own beliefs. Beliefs about the world, people or, as I found most interesting, beliefs about yourself such as “I’m not good with money”, “I can’t control my anger”, “I will always be depressed”. Meditation can help us see them for what they are, beliefs and not absolute truths. This process can be highly liberating because you start to see that things you thought to be true were just something you had chosen to believe to be an absolute truth.

If you want to explore a belief you have, these questions might help (the order does not matter):

  • Is this belief based on what I’ve experienced myself? (vs something I’ve been told)
  • Have I seen any proof that this belief is true? (What proof do I have that I am bad with money?)
  • Is this the whole truth? (I used to think I was a bad sleeper. Examining that belief made me realize that sometimes I sleep poorly, but most of my life I’ve slept without problems.)
  • Have I dared to challenge this belief and looked at it critically? (If you haven’t, chances are you don’t want to. If that’s the case, ask yourself why.)
  • When did I start to believe this and what is my reasoning behind this belief? 
  • What benefits do I get from believing this? 
  • What would it cost me to let go of this belief?

We all have beliefs and they are worth investigating, as our beliefs dictate a lot of our behaviors. If you believe you are an outgoing person who easily connects with people, connecting with people will come easily for you. If you believe you are a lazy person, chances are you will be lazy. Some of the beliefs we hold support us and some get in our way. Becoming aware of my beliefs, what they are, and how they are formed has been greatly liberating for me. As you continue (or start!) to meditate, I hope it will be for you as well. 

Want to explore your limiting beliefs? Coaching, just like meditation, is a tool for that.

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