(This week is the 16thinstallment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during 2020. This week, band director and spiritual author Donald Lee relates a parable about the power of belief. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)
“What instrument would you really like to play, Francine?”
“I’d really like to play the flute, but I can’t. I tried blowing it, but I can’t get any sound at all.”
Francine was in grade seven and, naturally, she had no idea what great abilities lay dormant within her. After a few attempts on her friend’s flute, with poor instruction, she had already given up on her dream.
“That’s the biggest problem with the flute,” I said, “getting a sound. You blow it differently than any other instrument. Students often struggle with it. It took me many days to get a sound when I first started. But you certainly can play the flute. I’ve got a few tricks to help you.”
Students don’t yet know what to believe about themselves and their abilities. They rely on me, the teacher, to give them that gift of belief. That’s why I set the goals for the bands each year. Partly, this is based on my belief about them—what they are capable of accomplishing. Partly it’s based on my beliefs about me—my ability to teach, motivate, and inspire the students.
Sometimes I share the following story with my classes. It’s one of those episodes from childhood that has stuck with me my whole life.
It was my first experience of a school band concert. My older sister was in the grade-seven band, and I was in fifth grade—two years younger. I sat in the school gym, mesmerized by the incredible sounds of the older students. Of course, a grade-seven band couldn’t have been that great, but they sounded like professionals to me. As we were getting into the car after the concert, I said to my dad, “Wow, I could never play like that.”
“Sure you could,” he said simply.
I looked at my dad in disbelief. Really? Did dad really think I could do that? I started to think differently about myself. Maybe I could do it. And when I got to grade seven, I did.
The power of belief is incredible. As children, we develop belief in ourselves by what others, like our parents and teachers, instill in us. I was fortunate to have parents who told me I could do anything I set my mind to. Many others have limiting beliefs instilled in them as children.
Though it’s not easy, everyone can learn to play a musical instrument, but first you have to believe you can, or you won’t even try. That’s why encouragement is so important in the beginning—because all of us start out with little or no belief in ourselves. Only gradually do we begin to “see” ourselves doing it in our mind’s eye. Mind is the builder—the builder of our future, our success or failure, our reality. This is because our perception—our beliefs—actually change us. Our beliefs change our brains, and even change every cell in our bodies. Several recent books have explained these developments for us laymen.
In his book The Biology of Belief, Bruce Lipton points out that two new branches of biomedical science have reshaped our understanding of how the human body works: signal transduction and epigenetics. He explains that we are not at the mercy of our genes. Our biology, the very operation of every cell in our body, is constantly modified by our beliefs about ourselves and by the way we perceive the world around us.
Our beliefs and perceptions change the structure of our brains as well. As Andrew Newberg and Mark Waldman explain in their book How God Changes Your Brain: “If you contemplate God long enough, something surprising happens in the brain. Neural functioning begins to change. Different circuits become activated, while others become deactivated. New dendrites are formed, new synaptic connections are made, and the brain becomes more sensitive to subtle realms of experience. Perceptions alter, beliefs begin to change, and if God has meaning for you, then God becomes neurologically real.”
Our thoughts and beliefs change us—physiologically, not just psychologically. When we change, we experience the world differently—we experience reality differently. As Albert Einstein pointed out, reality itself is not something objective. Reality actually changes depending upon the observer. You and I are the observers. When we change ourselves, we change reality.
What do you believe about yourself? Likely a lot less than Jesus does. Remember, he said, “In all truth I tell you, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, and will perform even greater works” (Jn 14:12). Notice he didn’t say can do but will do.
Do you believe you can become a saint? If not, why not? Keep in mind that many of the greatest saints in history started off by devoting themselves to the pleasures of the flesh: wine, women, money, and power. Regardless of what you have done in the past, sainthood lives within you. If you sincerely want to progress on your spiritual journey, take baby steps. Each day, try to be a bit more loving, compassionate, understanding, patient, kind, self-disciplined, and prayerful. Each day, try to pause before you react in anger, jealousy, of selfishness.
What we believe changes us. This last step in the preparation for our spiritual journey is to look carefully at our beliefs. Likely we have beliefs that are holding us back. We may need to expand our understanding, our beliefs, our expectations, and our hearts before we are ready to set out. Believe BIG.
Change your beliefs and you change. You’ll perceive and experience reality differently. You truly can achieve anything you can see and believe.
Donald Lee is a spiritual author and speaker. This article is part of a weekly series for 2020 in which TCRN is publishing his inspirational book, The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle, in serial form – one parable per week. You can learn more about the author at his website: www.ComingHomeSpirit.com, or order a copy of his complete book on Amazon, or get his free mini eBook and sign up for his weekly blog. Follow Donald on Facebook.