Unity co-founder Myrtle Fillmore wrote: "Unity's mission in the world is to help people release those fears and hurts that bind and confine, that we may experience and express the love that we are."
I don't know about you, but I know that for me I often need to hear the same thing said several different ways before it clicks. Perhaps I'm just ready, or perhaps a particular writer or speaker puts the words together in just the right way and some new insight springs forth, or some old belief steps out of the shadows to be seen, embraced and released.
So...a researcher put five monkeys in a cage. In the middle of the cage there was a bunch of bananas hanging from a string, with a ladder leading up to the bananas. When the first monkey went for the bananas, the researcher sprayed all five monkeys with freezing cold water for five minutes. After they'd recovered, a second monkey tried to go for the bananas, and the researcher once again sprayed all five monkeys with the ice-cold water. When a third monkey tries to go for the bananas, the researcher didn't need to do a thing, because the other four attacked that monkey and stopped him from climbing the ladder.
Each time a monkey started to climb the ladder, the other ones pulled him off and beat him up so they could avoid the icy spray. Soon, no monkey would go up the ladder.
The researcher then substituted one of the monkeys in the cage with a new monkey. The first thing the new monkey did was try to climb the ladder to reach the bananas and the other monkeys pulled him down and attacked him. It wasn't long before the new monkey learned the social norm. He never knew "why" the other monkeys wouldn't let him go for the bananas because he had never been sprayed with ice water, but he quickly learned that this behavior would not be tolerated by the other monkeys.
One by one, each of the monkeys in the cage was substituted for a new monkey until none of the original group remained. Every time a new monkey went up the ladder, the rest of the group pulled him off, including those who had never been sprayed with the icy water.
By the end of the experiment, the five new monkeys in the cage had learned to follow the rule (don't go for the bananas), without any of them knowing the reason why (we'll all get sprayed by icy water). The researchers agreed that if they could have asked the monkeys for their rationale behind not letting their cage mates climb the ladder, their answer would have probably been: "I don't know, that's just how it's always been done."
Another story which I'm sure you've all heard, is the one where a young girl is sitting in the kitchen as her mother makes dinner. She watches as her mother pulls a roast from the refrigerator, places it on the cutting board, and slices the end off.
"Why do you do that, Mom?" she asks. Her mother explains that that was what her mother always did, and again the child asks why? The mother looks up, a bit baffled and says, "I have no idea why. It's just what she always did."
The little girl decides to call her grandma to ask her why. There's a pause, and then her grand-mother replies, "Because, that's what my mother always did."
Thanks to three way calling, they get great grandma on the phone and ask her the same question. She laughs and says, "Oh my, I stopped doing that years ago after I got a bigger oven that would accommodate a full size roast pan. The oven I had was so small that I could only fit a small roasting pan in it, and so I had to cut off the end of the roast so it would fit in the pan."
It has long been lost as to whether either of these stories are real or fiction, but they do tell a story of human nature: We can tend to do things the way we've been told or we think that they've always been done without questioning or revisiting the reason behind it, even long after that reason ceases to exist.
How many things in our lives do we do just because that's the way it's always been done?
To me this is the gift and the magic and the power of "Why." And "Why" is just a way of saying that we should question what we think we believe in order to discover what is really wanting to be expressed through us. We could just as easily ask, "Is that True?" depending on the belief in question. The idea is to inquire.
Questioning our beliefs is critical if we want to throw open the door to new and greater possibilities; if we don't, then with us unaware, they will run the show. Inquiry helps us to shine a light on those hidden beliefs so that we can see them and then be at choice as to whether or not we want them to continue to express in our lives.
There are so many beliefs we can question!
I should only use the "good china" for special occasions.
If someone doesn't respond to my smile -even if they're a stranger - it means they don't like me, or that they're mean/grumpy/rude/hate me.
Saturday is housecleaning day.
The dishwasher can only be loaded in this one specific way.
If I'm spiritual I should always be happy.
I can't....(fill in the blank)
I'm not good at...
I'll never be able to...
It's bad or selfish to put myself first.
I should work first, play later.
I need to stay in this job.
I know what is best for them.
When we question beliefs such as this, we have the opportunity to discover what is really driving us.
John 21: 3-6 goes like this: "They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, you have no fish, have you?" They answered him, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish."
We can read scripture at many levels - on the surface, what it easily seems to say - or we can go deeper with it, let it dance in us and reveal perhaps another level of meaning.
If we go beneath the surface of this scripture we may discover that what it could be saying is that the fishermen, like many of us, did things habitually, perhaps even the way things had always been done. The way their fathers had done things, and their father's fathers, and on and on into the depths of their ancestral past. Perhaps they always cast their nets in
to the water from the left side of the boat due to superstition, or because of the way they lay the nets in the bottom of the boat, or for countless other reasons that they believed without examining them was the way to do it.
I can hear Jesus saying to them, why do you only fish off the left side of the boat? And they answer, because that's how it's always been done. And he says, I've got an idea. Why don't you challenge that belief. Cast your net from the right side of the boat. They did and had more fish than they knew what to do with.
Questioning is also helpful in uncovering why we want what we think we want.
I know a woman who wanted a fast sports car. And so she got one. At first the car was thrilling but within a few weeks she found herself dissatisfied again. Digging deeper, asking "why" she wanted that car, she discovered that she really wanted was more power in her life, and a fast, powerful sports car represented that to her. She asked herself if the car was truly making her more powerful, and the answer was no. So she began to dig into her beliefs around power and powerlessness and discovered the real source of her discontent. Her actions then found outlets that were more fulfilling to her.
She could have just as easily have discovered she wanted more freedom, more attention, more recognition... and then gone deeper with her why's to get to the root of the belief.
Likewise, we may think we want a different job but perhaps what we really want is more creative freedom, a chance to express ideas, to make a difference.
So you are invited to ask 'why,' or 'is that true?' and after doing so to then listen. Listen deeply and reverently, and wait for the answer to rise up from the depths of you. And then ask again. And then listen and wait again.
And as the layers peel back we discover that we are already whole. That that which we seek, or that which hides behind a long held belief, is already within us. We are already love. We are already wisdom. We are already creativity. We are already all the love there is to be. We cannot be more love than we are for it is what we are made out of. As we shed our limiting beliefs, we're able to express more of the love, the wisdom, the creativity that we already are.
And inquiry is a spiritual tool that helps to us to reveal that.