One very easy tool I’ve found for self-investigation is questioning my beliefs. It wasn’t enough to have beliefs but to understand why I believed such-and-such, what motivated me? And do I really believe it or is it something that I’ve inherited from the world around me? What are really my beliefs?
I call it easy because it’s a way of looking at yourself without really looking at yourself (it has the appearance of “questioning and investigating belief systems”, but it’s an interesting preliminary step to finding our own motivations behind how we think). Our beliefs are symptoms of the way we think, and so too what ideas we find most appealing or convenient for explaining the world around us.
I’ve also learnt that beliefs don’t represent static statements on the nature of reality (at least not for me) but are simply ideas we have about the world that need testing and updating every-so-often, because as our understanding expands, and experience and reasonings develop, so should our beliefs, aligning more with “what is” rather than “what could be”.
Looking back over the history of my beliefs is interesting, especially to see how much has changed. I’ve learnt that beliefs aren’t static statements of who we are and what we think, they are a process, a way of learning about the world and ourselves, and of checking our thoughts with reality.
Some beliefs were mistaken, but others were not, they were the right beliefs at the right time, and I had to go through them. Now if I stayed with those beliefs and not moved that would have been mistaken, and I wouldn’t have come to where I am now – which I feel is where I “should” be. Retrospectively they were not mistaken (no matter how fantastic) because otherwise I might not have got here. They all had something to offer me in some way, but I didn’t need to become obsessed over them.
For each belief I looked deeply into them, seeing how deeply it went and whether I could get any actual nutrition from them. The more nutritious the belief the better it is for me I figured. And they’ve all, in a sense, been nutritious, food for thought indeed. There’s a lot of beliefs out there, and they can all lead us to interesting, beneficial and dangerous results, which is why they must be gone through thoroughly and given no mercy. Who knows what treasure, what stepping stone you might find on your journey?