Over a decade ago I was home sick with stomach troubles. My friend Joelle suggested I order up papayas to heal my belly. So 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 – and 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.”
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. 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.
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. In the same way that I could not distinguish a mango from a papaya, it seemed that I also could not recognize love from 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 30’s, 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 distinguish love versus lust – and a variety of other important love lessons – all of which inspired my writing Prince Harming Syndrome.
In my research I learned a term called “Iceberg Beliefs,” from Dr. Karen Reivich, a professor at U of Pennsylvania. She described “Iceberg Beliefs” as “deeply held limiting beliefs which float beneath the surface of your consciousness – and influence your sense of self and choices in action.”
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 “iceberg beliefs” –all those labels, judgments and opinions on how things should be.
Often “limiting beliefs” can pass themselves off as positive beliefs – or seemingly harmless beliefs. Limiting beliefs are not always obviously negative. Some of your “limiting beliefs” are even somewhat correct — but stubbornly single-minded.
Altogether, all of your various “Iceberg Beliefs” can wind up limiting you – because whenever you hold too tightly to a belief, you constrict your awareness of the world. Plus you keep yourself on a tight reign of behavior – which limits your experiences and opportunities.
Last week in yoga teacher training at ISHTA YOGA we talked about the dangers of holding on too tightly to limiting beliefs.
“Avidya” roughly translates to “ignorance of the truth.” It represents those blind spots which keep you stuck – and distract you from seeing yourself and the 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.”
“Avidya” 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) your “Avidya” can be un-blocked with the assistance of 7 tools.
1. Asana: These are all those wonderful yoga poses you do in yoga class – which bring your mind, body and spirit into equilibrium – helping you to see your life more clearly. They do so by aligning your spinal column, improving your energy flow – plus – preparing you to sit in meditation for long periods of time – which brings us to the next 6 tools for breaking limiting beliefs.
2. Pranayama: These are mindful breathing techniques – which re-distribute your prana (life force energy) throughout your body – thereby jiggling up and releasing the blocked (and locked!) energy of memories and beliefs past.
3. Nadi Shodhana: This is when you do mindful breathing while alternating your nostril flow from left to right – back and forth – holding and releasing your nostrils with your hand. As Alan Finger explains: “The electricity in the air stimulates the nerve endings in the nose, brain, and your entire system.”
4. Ham Sah Kriya: This is a breathing technique which directs attention all the way up your entire spine – by mindfully directing your energy to travel from the the pelvic floor up to the top of the head – and out- thereby releasing your attachment to beliefs past.
5. Ajna Bhedhana: This is a technique which helps you to reawaken your third eye – your intuitive and creative center. You can do this technique easily – by simply moistening your thumb with your tongue – then placing this saliva at the third eye point (between the eyebrows).
6. 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 a good go-to mantra, repeat the mantra “mang” to yourself, like the sound of a bell ringing. The vibration helps to release stored and stiff energy – allowing new energy and new thoughts into your system.
7. 18 Minutes of “No-thing” – aka Meditation: ISHTA believes it’s essential to take time to sit quietly in meditation for 18 pure and cleansing minutes – concentrating on one point (a mantra, your breath, your chakras).
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 – open-hearted – no matter how much you already think you know about life.
Crisis pain can be a terrific wake up call for “Avidya.” But you don’t have to experience painful challenges to wake up. You can break through your limiting beliefs in gentler, more loving way – by practicing the 7 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 yoga is 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.
Share below! I’d love to hear your insights on the comment section below! What’s something which comes to your mind and heart when you read about limiting beliefs, Avidya and papayas?
Hi I’m Karen Salmansohn, founder of NotSalmon. My mission is to offer you easy-to-understand insights and tools to empower you to bloom into your happiest, highest potential self. I use playful analogies, feisty humor, and stylish graphics to distill big ideas – going as far back as ancient wisdom from Aristotle, Buddhism and Darwin to the latest research studies from Cognitive Therapy, Neuro Linquistic Programming, Neuroscience, Positive Psychology, Quantum Physics, Nutritional Studies – and then some.
Live your happiest life. Get my research-based happiness newsletter delivered conveniently to your inbox.