Is Behavior Based on Beliefs and Memories?

Is Behavior Based on Beliefs and Memories?
Introspective chicken. Photo credit: Jonathan Lidbeck, (CC 2.0)

We always act out of the messages held in our inner consciousness; it is crucial to understand this. We move through our daily activities in terms of our past experiences, which are the building blocks of our personal belief systems. Our belief systems are the glasses through which we each view the world and anticipate what is likely to unfold. Our behavior is always loyal with our beliefs.

Everyone has had the experience of learning something, but acting to the contrary—thinking one thing yet doing another—and then later hitting oneself over the head saying, "How could I? I know better than that." The cliché "I just don't have it down yet" is literally true. Your knowledge is intellectual, rational, and does not yet reside in your inner levels where the mass of your memories is stored.

Beliefs are the way we organize our memories into our personal definitions of how the world ticks; they are the assumptions out of which we operate. They stem either from continual repetition of social messages (programming) or from traumatic incidents. For example, you find yourself nervous every time you get in a car because you once had an automobile accident (belief: cars = danger), so you may try to reassure yourself by reasoning to no avail, "It's okay, the brakes have been fixed." This doesn't relieve your tension.

Or, for another example, you are a woman who has learned that by being assertive you will avoid many problems, yet you find yourself responding passively (belief: "Nice girls aren't aggressive"). In each case, you are acting out of your stored beliefs. These examples illustrate a dynamic operative in all of us when we find ourselves behaving in ways we know are inappropriate.

Putting New Behavior Into Practice

You needn't wait months or years before you get the new behavior down. Since you behave out of your inner messages, all you need to do is insert the desired message at an inner level. (Much of Applied Meditation can be likened to the techniques of hypnosis, which work with these same dynamics.) Because inner consciousness is suggestible if you want to get some new knowledge down, you simply need to put it in at that level. Directing your imagination while in a meditative state will enable you to do so. You will find yourself able to act in accordance with your choices and no longer a victim of thinking one thing and doing another.

Your inner consciousness is not, by nature, inaccessible or far away. It is always right there just below the surface. Whenever you are relaxing or doing something rhythmic or automatic—not using your rational mind to decide what to do next—inner consciousness has moved from its usual position beneath the surface to that part of you that is predominantly present.

The problem is that because of the prevailing attitudes, it is at these very times that you ignore or discount your awareness. So that your inner consciousness has become, for all practical purposes, inaccessible and it is only natural for you to be a victim of unwanted behavior. Whether it is the result of a traumatic incident in your past (car accident) or from the programming by the propaganda of our society (women are passive), you will continue to be a victim until you repossess your inner consciousness.

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If you have never taken control and chosen what to keep in your inner consciousness, then it has simply become the accumulation of everything you've ever experienced. Imagine what it would be like if you never threw out any of your trash. It wouldn't take long to accumulate more plastic packaging than furniture, and you'd find yourself virtually unable to move.

We need to be mindful of what we hold in our subjective landscapes and clear the debris out of our minds. Let me reassure you, the process for changing what you store in your inner levels of consciousness is simple. It boggles my mind to think of the enormous energy we can release if we rid ourselves of old and constricting beliefs.

Three Ways to Take Control

Inner Journey to Awareness: Behavior is Based on Beliefs & MemoriesThere are three ways that you can work with your inner consciousness. The first is to be mindful of what is taking place in your subjective landscape. Another is to reprogram yourself, enabling you to act the way you want to by putting in new information while meditating. This is helpful when you know what you want. I call this the work of the Active Imagination. The third is to gain insights that will help you move forward when you're stuck pulling out new information. This is helpful when you are unhappy with your experience but lack a vision of any positive alternative. I call this the work of the Receptive Imagination.

It is through your inner consciousness that you have access to universal information, and it is at that level that you receive creative and intuitive insights. It is when you are relaxed that the classic "Aha!" experience occurs. It is also through relaxed awareness that ESP takes place. Once you learn how to enter and use your inner levels of consciousness you will no longer need to hope that an answer to a gnawing problem will dawn on you at some later time. Instead you can enter the meditative state and utilize the mysterious abilities of the Receptive Imagination by simply asking for an answer.

Knowledge Comes When You Ask Questions

Knowledge becomes available to you when you direct questions inward. Some believe that God resides within and are able to get guidance by looking within through prayer. I think of it is as if a mysterious self-organizing force runs through all that is. Physicist David Bohm's theory of implicate order posits that reality is like a hologram. We are all part of the whole and the whole lives in each of us—there is no real separateness in the universe. (A characteristic of holograms is that cutting one in half results not in two different halves but in two smaller wholes.)

Whether you a hold a secular or religious view, it is crucial to understand that clarity does come when one asks while in a receptive state. I believe that the objective and subjective worlds are reflections of one another and the question itself acts as a flashlight directing a beam of light on the particular spot in the amorphous collective unconscious where the answer resides.

The trick is to have a clear question. You will find yourself intuiting an insight that illuminates what is true about your concern and reveals a path toward greater states of well-being.

The Inner Journey to Awareness

To fully cultivate the powers that reside in deep awareness, you will come to know your own inner landscape intimately. You will find yourself residing in a quality of quiet awareness which recognizes what is taking place within you and grounds you in the present moment. I call this the Inner Witness, which can be likened with mindfulness of Eastern meditation practices.

I do not mean to imply that the Inner Witness is a noun—it is awareness that has no form; it is as though its knowing has neither end nor beginning. This aspect is in a perpetual state of relaxed attention revealing imbalance and what is needed to regain balance.

It is the Witness that recognizes what the beam of light illuminates. When you pay attention to the knowing of the Inner Witness, what is needed—whether to ask a question or to insert a new message—is self-evident.

As you embark on your journey you will find yourself working with all of these aspects of consciousness simultaneously. They will always inspire healing, well-being and creativity in your life. You will come to trust your own deepest experience and find that Applied Meditation will always reconnect you with the ground of being itself.

This article was excerpted from the book: Working Inside Out by Margo Adair.

Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Sourcebooks, Inc. ©1985, 2003.

Book by this Author

Practical Meditation for Busy Souls (updated & revised)
by Margo Adair and William Aal.

Practical Meditation for Busy Souls by Margo Adair and William Aal.Originally published in 1984, Practical Meditation for Busy Souls is one of the first books to bring pragmatic meditation techniques to westerners. Margo Adair teaches the reader to use symbols that make meditation available to even the most restless and busy people. She has updated her original work to reflect the latest thinking on meditation and its applications, including updates to many meditations, updates and revisions to all chapters and new writing on using meditation to address social issues. The book includes more than 45 guided meditations.

Click here for more info or to order this book

About the Author

Margo AdairMargo Adair, founder of Tools for Change and co-director of the Tools for Change Institute, is the developer of Applied Meditation. She is a diversity trainer, mediatorm and social justice activist. Margo is the author of the ground breaking Working Inside Out, one of the first books integrating spirituality and social justice, and Meditations on Everything Under the Sun. She co-authored Breaking Old Patterns/Weaving New Ties: Alliance Building and The Subjective Side of Politics. Visit her website at


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