Shifting Paradigms (Part 2)

Dr Rishi Vivekananda Saraswati

The core beliefs of life

As mentioned in the first part of this article (printed in the January issue), our life paradigm is based on our belief system, and there are some beliefs that are fundamental to it. Dr Carl Simonton, who has worked with helping people with cancer by teaching them yoga, spoke about this in a lecture he gave some years ago. He said that our health is influenced by our beliefs about certain areas of our lives. He called these our 'core beliefs of life' and said that the main seven are our beliefs about:

  • The nature of humankind
  • The nature of the universe
  • The nature of life
  • Illness and pain
  • Health, happiness, joy, love
  • Purpose of life
  • Death

What does a personal paradigm consist of?

Beliefs; especially Core Beliefs (Simonton)

The mind then influences:

Surface level Perception Emotion Behaviour
Psychic level ESP Projected emotions Psychokinesis


Of course, the core beliefs are the powerful substrata of our paradigm systems. What we believe in will influence our whole life, for better or for worse.

1. The nature of humankind

If we believe that human beings are selfish and only interested in exploiting others for their self-gain - the cynical approach - we will have very different relationships from the person who sees good in others and tries to encourage it. The relationships of the former will have a negative quality, not only from the person themselves, but in the responses of the people with whom he or she relates - life is a misery. The opposite is the case with the person who views people as worthy and basically good, for whom life is a joy of warm human relationships.

In addition to this, as Simonton points out: "For example, to believe that humans are basically evil by nature is quite unhealthy. It is much healthier to believe that we are basically good by nature. If I believe that we are evil by nature, at a deep level of the unconscious, I believe that I am evil by nature. If deep down I believe that to be true, then I won't be willing to allow myself to unfold and evolve. I am not going to allow my natural self to come out. I will put my energy into suppressing myself - my nature - because I am unconsciously afraid that evil will result. So we can begin to see how my belief about the nature of humankind influences my own personal health."

Yoga takes this even further. According to the teachings of yoga, humans are not just good by nature, but are divine. A person is in essence a spiritual being who is in a human body undergoing life's roles, and identifies with the body and the roles to a greater or lesser extent. So, no matter how a person acts because of that identification, he or she is always godlike at their centre. The yogi continually strives to 'see' that divinity in everyone.

2. The nature of the universe

If we see the universe as just a lot of bits and pieces scattered around in a random way without a plan - the materialistic approach - our attitudes about our place in the universe will be very different from a person who feels aware of a great divine consciousness behind the immaculate pattern of the universe, and the grace that flows from it. Of course, we are talking here about God - the ineffable cosmic force, which is complete reality for the person who has managed to open to its radiance and experience that grace and love. This core belief is the keystone of a person's 'life paradigm', and strongly influences how one treats oneself and other people, one's deep feeling of security, one's attitude of self-worth, and the perception of our place in the universe.

3. The nature of life

If we consider that human life is just an accident, that we come into this world as a bunch of bodies, live our personal lives, pay our taxes, get sick, suffer then die, we will live a different life from the person who sees life as an ongoing learning experience, and strives to find the lessons in our experiences - 'good' or 'bad'. The former person becomes caught up in the endless pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of the unpleasant. They complain bitterly about all the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune", and continue to complain when they can't attain a desired pleasure or have it taken from them. This is the dilemma of raga and dwesha - there is no peace in them.

There is peace for the person who believes that "life is a loving teacher, that we're here to learn - to learn who we are, and that life is teaching this to us in a loving way, even though we feel pain, and baulk at many of the lessons." (Simonton) This person copes with life's problems much better. As Swami Satyananda said, "Life consists of ups and downs, but to the yogi every up is a joy and every down is an adventure."

4. Illness and pain

"One healthy way to view these is that it is a 'negative feedback system' intended to bring us back to our nature, to give us information to stop doing things that are contrary to who we are." (Simonton)

5. Health, happiness, joy, love

"These are components of a 'positive feedback system', indicators that we are moving in the direction of who we are, that we are connected to our purpose in life." (Simonton)

6. Purpose of life

To quote Simonton again: "Our purpose is our own individual, unique unfolding that is built into each of us. As the nature of the rose is built into the rose, the nature of each of us is built into each one of us individually. And as we unfold, we are guided along our unfolding by the emotions of desire, passion, joy, love, happiness, and fulfilment. We are helped to move from erroneous paths of unfoldment by illness and pain, both physical and mental. The cause of illness is trying to be who we're not, and the cure for illness is opening to who we are. How do we open to who we are? We make the decision to open to who we are, and then we ask for help. We open ourselves to help from the entire universe, and we proceed with enthusiasm and positive expectancy, directed by desire and passion, and guided by the inner and outer wisdom that exists within and outside of each of us. In this way we move away from pain, physical and emotional, hopelessness, resentment, worry and frustration, and go in the direction of joy, love and happiness as we are intended to go."

In this statement he includes many of the yogic concepts such as dharma, divine guidance, meditation, sankalpa and prayer.

7. Death

If we believe that our consciousness is produced by the body, and that therefore when the body dies we die, our attitude to life and death will be very different from the person who believes that "I am a spiritual consciousness." The yogi identifies as an individual consciousness who is using this body during this life to interact with the world and who continues to exist even after the body has died. The latter person lives their life feeling much more secure and considerate of other people and of Planet Earth itself. Such a person is conscious of their responsibility for their actions long after death, and can easily see the reality of karma. They also approach death not with fear and trepidation but with a peaceful mind and an eager expectation.

According to our beliefs about these important elements, we will each have different paradigms from another. If we have different paradigms we will have a different mindset. If we have a different mindset, we will have a different lot of opinions about all sorts of things - ourselves, other people, and all aspects of life. Our attitudes will be different - can I love other people, can I love myself? Our assumptions - the points of View that we just assume are absolutely correct -will be different, and often they will be wrong, though we 'know' they are right. The expectations about ourselves, other people and the broader sweep of our lives will differ. Because of these, our decisions and behaviour in any situation will be different. What decisions do we make? I am in a certain situation and I have to decide what to do or not to do. What do I decide? My decision will be determined by my personal paradigm, which has been derived from all those beliefs. Because our actions in the world result from the decisions we make, our every action is powerfully influenced by our paradigms, and this determines our social relationships and the way we treat Planet Earth, this home of ours.

Even our perceptions of our world will be different. We can all look out on the same scene, and the way each of us perceives it will be different from another person. One person will derive meaning from one aspect of it, another person from some other aspect of it, so that the same situation will have different meanings for each of us, according to the paradigm we take to it. This can especially be caused by our attitude and mood. If you notice a lot of smiling faces around you, it's quite possible that you have a little smile on your face; if you notice a lot of cranky faces around you, you'd better have a look in the mirror. The expression on our face and our posture reveal a lot about our attitudes and mood, which then impact on others around us, and the whole thing develops into a circle, either a vicious circle or a virtuous circle.

All the above are just aspects of our conscious existence. There is also a whole group of these at the psychic level, and they are influenced by our paradigms, which in turn are influenced by them - and we don't even know it's going on! Some of these are extrasensory perception (such as clairvoyance, telepathy and precognition), subtle projections of emotions, and various forms of psychokinesis.

Why shift paradigms?

We need to shift our life paradigm to one that allows us to be mentally better, emotionally better, physically better, socially better and healthier. This is a self-evident group of benefits, not only are some paradigms conducive to better health, but they make us better emotionally, mentally, physically and socially. If we have what you might call the 'agnostic-materialistic paradigm', changing that paradigm opens us up to our psychic and spiritual realities.

How to shift one's paradigm in the best direction

1. Avoid the influences of the old paradigm: Stop associating with the influences that reinforce the old paradigm. Obviously a person trying to shift out of a drug addiction-related paradigm should get right out of the 'drugscene'. One of my patients who had stopped drinking alcohol, because it was rotting his liver, went against my advice and continued to associate with his friends (and drink lemonade) down at the pub. He was drinking alcohol heavily again in two weeks. An even more pervasive influence: the 21st century Western industrialized paradigm uses TV and other media as its methods of indoctrination. It is very powerful and it is spreading throughout the world. Of course, for people who are immersed in that paradigm, that worldwide influence is a good thing because they see their paradigm as the best. Indeed many of them see it as being the only worthwhile paradigm, and insist that the rest of the world change. It is inconceivable to them that their perspective is very narrow, because they know no other, and all the people and influences around them constantly reinforce their shared paradigm.
We can start to think outside of that paradigm if we give ourselves a rest from the messages of reinforcement, and structure our time in other ways. Changing those associations are a start, although they are a little like painting our prison cell a different colour - it's a bit better, but we are still in the prison. What is needed to radically change a paradigm are more fundamental and deeper influences such as:

2. Take on a new paradigm - e.g. yoga: Many of us have done this; we have come from a Western paradigm and adopted the philosophy and lifestyle of yoga. Even though there is still a lot of the old paradigm left in many of us, it is being slowly eroded away, and as it begins to influence our whole life, we think, feel and behave better and better.

3. Practise techniques that shift it - e.g. yoga: The practices of yoga shift these beliefs, attitudes, expectations, assumptions and opinions by giving us insight into them. They move them out of the unconscious realms into the open where we can deal with them. Yoga allows us to become the 'witness' or observer of these qualities within us, so that we can decide in the 'light of day' whether we want to be influenced by them any more.

4. Move physically away from the places of the old paradigm: Go and stay in an ashram for some time. Even in the West, our ashrams function under a different paradigm than that outside, and they have a powerful effect for the good, on our old paradigms. For instance, it helps to break the unconscious psychic influences of our family, social group etc.

5. Get an expert to shift it for you: The most effective of these experts is the guru. Of course, good psychotherapists can, over time, change a person's paradigm for the better, but the problem here is that the therapist can only change parts of the person's old paradigm, because he or she is usually also caught up in the same paradigm as they are, and also doesn't know it! The guru doesn't have this problem - the guru doesn't have a paradigm - he or she has transcended them all. Because this is so, the guru can see all the paradigms as if from above, and understands them all, including yours.