Over a decade ago I was home sick with stomach troubles. My friend Joelle suggested I order up papayas to help heal my belligerent belly. So, from a cramped-up position on my bed, I ordered up papayas from a local Manhattan bodega.
“Um…. Excuse me,” I told the delivery guy when he arrived at my door, bag in hand. “These aren’t papayas. These are mangoes. I need papayas – for my tummy. I have a tummy ache.” I patted my stomach. “Sorry, but, can you please bring me some papayas instead?” I handed him back the bag.
“No, no, these are papayas,” the delivery guy insisted.
He was a young guy – in his early twenties – with dark brown curly hair, just like mine. I suddenly felt like his older, wiser sister.
“Um… sorry…. but no, those are mangoes,” I corrected him warmly. “I need papayas – because papayas are good for the belly and I have a belly ache,” I re-explained.
He plucked one of the fruit objects from the bag, re-offered it to me for re-inspection. “Nope! You’re wrong. This is a papaya, lady, ” he insisted.
We passed the fruit object back and forth a few more times, until finally I decided to knock on my neighbor’s door.
Pam (of “Barney and Pam” ) answered, looking about eleven months pregnant, and in no mood for a fruit discussion. But I needed to know.
“Excuse me, Pam,” I said, “Can you help us out here. Is this a mango or a papaya?’
“Papaya,” she said.
“Papaya?” I repeated.
“Papaya,” the delivery guy repeated.
Both Pam and the delivery guy nodded their heads up and down – like those little wobbly-necked toy doggies. Although their heads were saying “yes, yes, yes” – my mind still kept thinking “no, no, no.” I couldn’t believe it! How could I have lived over 30 years on this planet believing papayas were mangoes?
I humbly accepted my bag of papayas (extra-tipping the delivery guy for his extra-patience ). When I re-entered my apartment, I found myself feeling very philosophical. I wondered: If I could enter into my thirties still believing a papaya was a mango, how could I trust that I knew anything for certain? How many other things had I learned all wrong and thereby age wasn’t bringing me more wisdom, but instead simply reinforcing my stupidity!
My love life in particular popped into my mind as a perfect example. It seemed obvious at that point in my thirty-plus years of life, that in the same way I could not distinguish a mango from a papaya, I still could not recognize love from its dangerous doppleganger: lust.
I remembered how back in school they’d hold you back if you weren’t learning at the appropriate pace. Well, at that point in my thirties, I felt as if I should have been held back from getting older due to my inability at learning love lessons. I should have been kept back for remedial romance skills.
Later in my forties, I finally figured out how to better tell the difference between love versus lust – which inspired my writing both Prince Harming Syndrome and The Bounce Back Book. In my research for both books, I learned a term called “Iceberg Beliefs.” Dr. Karen Reivich, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, described “Iceberg Beliefs” as deeply held limiting belief systems – which float beneath the surface of your consciousness – powerful forces that can significantly influence your sense of self and choice in actions.
Some typical “Iceberg Beliefs” Reivich gave as examples:
1. “Things should always be fair.”
2. “Women should never show their anger.”
3. “Boys should not cry.”
4. “Never let them know you are hurting.”
5. “If you don’t do it right, it isn’t worth doing.
6. “People need to be appreciated for what they do.”
7. “You can’t depend on people to do things for you.”
8. “Relationships are always full of struggle.”
By the time you’re an adult, your brain is filled up with lots of beliefs it’s picked up along the way –all those labels, judgments and opinions on how things should be.
What’s interesting about this “Iceberg Belief List” above: Often “limiting beliefs” can pass themselves off as positive beliefs or seemingly harmless beliefs. Limiting beliefs are not always negative. Some of your “limiting beliefs” are even somewhat correct — but stubbornly single-minded. And so all of these various kinds of “Iceberg Beliefs” wind up limiting you – because whenever you hold too tightly to a belief, you constrict your view of the world and keep yourself on a tight reign of behavior that limits your experiences and opportunities.
This month in yoga teacher training at ISHTA YOGA we talked about the dangers of holding on too tightly to limiting beliefs. I learned a new Sanskrit term for this lack of awareness: “Avidya.”
“Avidya” roughly translates to “ignorance of the truth.” It represents those blind spots which keep you stuck – and distract you from seeing yourself and world clearly. Similarly to “Iceberg Beliefs,” “Avidya” doesn’t have to be negative beliefs. It’s simply whatever mental chatter is filling your mind and hypnotizing you to think and act in a way which is not fully conscious. “Avidya” blocks you from being pure “you.” It blocks you from being in full connection with your soul, intuition, people and the intelligence of the universe.
According to Alan Finger, co-founder of ISHTA YOGA (along with his wife Sarah Platt-Finger) our mental distractions originate from the programming of the three lower chakras: muladhara, svadhisthana, and manipura – all of which govern our survival, likes and dislikes, and ego. The limiting patterns developed in these three aspects of our being not only create blockages in our lives – but blockages throughout our bodies – which can then choke the “Shakti” in us – our “mother nature force” – the energy force which inspires us, inspires our cells, and even tells our cells what to do.
The storehouse of Shakti energy is located at the base of the spine. For this reason, ISHTA offers many empowering tools to particularly help break down the energetic memory that’s locked in the spinal area of the body – so you can also unblock whatever’s limiting you in mind and spirit – and thereby limiting your happiness!
3 Tools To Help Break Through Limiting Beliefs (also known as “Avidya”) – So You Can Understand And Stop Painful Patterns
1. Asana: These are yoga poses which are meant to help bring the body into equilibrium. In particular, they’re meant to align the spinal column and create stillness in the body which then helps to create stillness in the mind. Plus doing yoga is also meant to prepare you for tool number two – being able sit in meditation for an extended period.
2. Meditation – Eighteen Minutes of “No-thing:” ISHTA believes it’s essential to take time to sit quietly in meditation for eighteen pure and cleansing minutes on a daily basis, concentrating on one point (a mantra, your breath, your chakras) for this extended period of time. With this in mind, Ishta teaches Pranayama, a range of targeted breathing techniques, which help to distribute prana (life force energy) throughout the body and direct prana inward – to create heat – which helps wiggle-up the release of “Avidya” in your spine. One recommended breathing exercise is “Nadi Shodhana.” This is when you alternate nostrils – breathing in through one nostril, exhaling through the other. As Alan Finger explains: “The electricity in the air stimulates the nerve endings in the nose, brain, and your entire system.” Another recommended breathing tool: “Ajna Bhedhana.” This is a technique which helps you to reawaken your third eye. Try moistening the thumb and place some saliva at the third eye point (between the eyebrows), then breathe into this spot on your forehead to help nudge your third eye more awake.
3. Mantra: This is the technique of repeating a word or sound – really feeling it vibrate through your body and chakras. If you’re looking for one good go-to mantra, repeat the mantra mang to yourself, like the sound of a bell ringing.
All of these various techniques represent gateways out of “Avidya,” which lead you to inspiration, intuition, insight, and well-being.
Basically, the idea is to always stay teachable – open-minded and open-hearted – no matter how much you already think you know about life.
Crisis pain can be a terrific wake up call for “Avidya.”
You can break through your limiting beliefs in gentler, more loving way – by practicing the three tools mentioned above.
There’s no question that shattering beliefs is no small task. But think about some of your old beliefs you’ve already gotten rid of:
1. “There is a very ugly monster living under my bed and he wants to eat me.”
2. “There is nothing better than cake. Nothing.”
3. “My parents know everything.”
4. “My younger sibling is the worst thing that has ever happened to me.”
5. “Kissing is G-R-O-S-S.”
It’s funny. Many people say they want to learn yoga and meditation so they can become better at positive thinking. But truly what it’s about is becoming better at “accurate thinking” – staying open to there being a million different interpretations for an experience – and resisting staying stuck on simply one.
Karen Salmansohn (founder of the popular inspirational site www.notsalmon.com) is a bestselling author and award winning designer with over one million books sold. She is known for creating self help for people who wouldn’t be caught dead doing self help—like with her bestselling e-book Prince Harming Syndrome, an Oprah.com relationship e-book, with tools to let go of the pain from your past and to stop bad love patterns for good. Prince Harming Syndrome is now 50% OFF for a limited time—only $9.99—in a convenient e-book, so you can read on your computer or anywhere you can read a PDF. Click the link and you’ll see a list of FAQs so you can learn more about Karen’s philosophies (which helped her find her Prince Charming) and finally experience the happy family life she’s always dreamed about!