Monastic Strategies: What Do We Want to Believe?

Monastic Strategies: What Do We Want to Believe? June 1, 2021

Monastic Strategies: What Do We Want to Believe?

What Do We Want to Believe?

Every so often each of us needs to tilt our heads back to look into the sky and ask ourselves, How do we choose what to believe? What is real for us, and what do we want to believe?

Some of us have learned things for so long we assume they are our beliefs. We need time to ask questions, to examine the truth of what we think we believe.

It can be easy for us to get caught up in the experience of believing things and not believing others. We invest ourselves in what we think about our beliefs. There are things we have believed for as long as we can remember, and things we just realized in a flash of insight. Our beliefs draw us in emotionally and intellectually as well as spiritually.

Sometimes we get caught up in believing things and forget what we actually believe.

Many of us need to take time to reflect on what we want to believe.

It can be challenging for us to recognize the difference between what we were taught and what we have experienced for ourselves.

The last year and a half has shaken our beliefs, and what we want to believe. A worldwide pandemic and months of staying at home have called things into question for us. Many of us are uncertain, not clear about our beliefs or what we want to believe.

Many of us need to take time to reflect on how we got here and where to go next. We need ways to explore our beliefs and opinions. Some of us are ready to discover new questions and insights, new ways of understanding.

How do we know what we want to believe? Where can we find new paths to explore?

What Do We Want to Believe About Believing?

Some of us seem to be convinced believing is more important than knowing or feeling.

We want to be certain our beliefs are true, to be sure before we decide what we believe. It is as if we are afraid of making a mistake, as if our lives depend on our beliefs.

What I believe is important to me and I want to spend time reflecting on it before I make a decision. I also want to continue reflecting after I have chosen a belief and remain open to changing my mind.

It can be inspiring to talk with someone who has a deep understanding of their beliefs. At the same time, my own reflection has shaped my beliefs over time. My beliefs and attitudes are not the same as they used to be.

I do not find it inspiring when someone does not listen to their own reflection.

My reflection about my beliefs helps me recognize and appreciate my own core values, the roots of my beliefs. Reading, reflecting, and meaningful conversations give opportunities to explore our beliefs. We shine lights and  dig around in the soil where our beliefs grow.

Sometimes we see what we want to believe in new ways.

There are times when our thoughts and our feelings seem to be in conflict. We think we want to believe something, but we do not feel we can. Sometimes we are not sure we can believe what we want to believe.

Some of us see believing something as finding a final answer. We want to be certain and, once we know our beliefs, we can stop reflecting and searching.

I believe our beliefs are more alive than that. Spiritual life in me, and the world around me, rarely allows me to stop.

What Do We Want to Believe About Spiritual Life?

Spiritual life is not particularly about answers for me. I do not believe spiritual life allows us to make our choices and then settle down into a familiar pattern.

My experience of spiritual life is about exploring and discovering, particularly after I think I have decided.

I experience spiritual life as filled with new questions, fresh insights, and exploring potential beliefs. It is not a solid foundation on which to build a towering edifice. My experience of spiritual life is more like sailing across the ocean or flying through the air.

Most of the ways I was taught to think about spiritual life do not spark my imagination. They sound uninteresting, or boring, and not like ways I would like to spend much time.

Spiritual life can be, in my experience, challenging. It draws us to explore and question what we want to believe. Like any other honest and intimate relationship, spiritual life asks us to become more authentically ourselves.

When we listen and pay attention, spiritual life can tell us more about ourselves than most of the people we know.

Spiritual life knows us and does not mess around.

What Do We Want to Believe About Ourselves?

We shape our own beliefs more than anyone else.

How do we decide what we want to believe about ourselves?

Many of us depend on the opinions of other people. We listen to what people tell us and try to meet their expectations. Sometimes we choose a standard or an example and try to follow them.

It often takes us time and effort to interpret and adapt other people’s perspectives to work for us. We often reach a certain point at which, no matter how wise we find other people, we do not believe them.

Each of us, through reflection and other inner work, chooses what we want to believe for ourselves.

We may struggle with deciding what to believe about spiritual life, about ourselves, even about believing. Other people may help guide us or ask us questions, but we decide for ourselves.

Each of us, with some help, finds our own path and chooses what we each want to believe.

What do we want to believe?

How will we explore what we want to believe today?

When will we reflect on what we want to believe about ourselves this week?

[Image by Ted Potters]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is and his email address is

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