When I graduated with an international business degree in 1995, I found myself deeply unsatisfied with the prospects that life was presenting to me. Sure, I could get a great job, make a lot of money, and maybe even gain the respect of others with what I’d been given. But somehow I knew that even if I achieved every marker of outward success, something would still be missing from my life – something that could not be measured or managed, but was nonetheless of vital importance. So I decided to make the biggest bet I had ever made in my life, and the only one that I felt would be truly worth living for.
I decided that I would live from that moment on as though an infinitely loving, all-powerful and omnipresent God was a living reality, not just a fanciful myth. I would center my life around the belief that God truly had made us “in His image,” and blessed us with an infinite power and beauty that each of us could access within. Fortunately I didn’t feel the need to walk around with a long white beard – I’m not sure I would have been very attractive to my wife if that was the case! Rather, I simply chose to focus my life around the belief that in essence we are all Creators, with an unlimited capacity to live highly meaningful lives of service.
I decided that every choice I made going forward would be rooted in this foundation of trust and love, knowing that I had unconditional access to this infinite Divine source of spiritual, emotional, and material support. My only responsibility was to show up in the best way I knew, in every moment of every day.
Having firmly chosen this path, I left Europe for South America with $1,500 in my pocket and only a rudimentary idea of where I would go and what I would do.
My life changed radically during that first year, and I went on to travel around the world for six more years without money, armed only with my intuition and faith and learning from my extreme living and traveling conditions.
So, What’s the Secret?
I learned so much in my travels and did all I could to integrate every lesson fully, until I felt I had become someone I could love unconditionally: my True Self who was made in the likeness of God.
I promised to share with you my #1 secret to a happy life that I learned in those years. It is very simple, yet I believe it truly has the power to create Heaven on Earth. The secret is this:
This simple commitment freed me to be and do my true Self in all ways, following my heart to be and do all I was inspired to. I simply decided to give myself and everyone I met full permission to be whomever we were choosing to be, always. What I discovered was that this permission allowed even the killers and rapists that I met to make new choices that were more aligned with the essence of Love inside of them. They made these choices freely, not out of guilt, an outcome that I knew was possible only because I had offered them unconditional acceptance first.
Somehow I instinctively knew that any resistance or judgment on my part would only strengthen the positions of others and cause more resistance. I knew that it wasn’t up to me to try and change others because of the law of free will, but I also knew that it was my very lack of attachment to their choices that allowed them to make a different choice.
Seeing an Old Myth in a New Light
I could share uncountable stories that substantiate the importance of non-judgment (not to be confused with lack of discernment), but first, I want to back up a bit and offer a more detailed explanation of how this understanding came together for me.
Before I left on my travels, my dad had given me his copy of the New Testament, the one he had used himself as a teenager and later at seminary.
While I considered myself to be on a path of spirituality rather than religion, I accepted his gift and read the whole thing through a few times during my years of travel, finding great nuggets and guidance within its pages.
It was only when I returned home from my seven years’ journey however that things came together for me in a surprising way. While I was visiting my parents I was guided to open up their copy of the Old Testament, and it was as if I was struck by lightening because what I read there crystallized my understanding with a power that changed everything. Here is the insight that I had, in a nutshell:
Through my reading of Genesis within the Old Testament, I saw that humanity had “left Heaven” by making a specific choice known as original sin: eating an apple from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In other words, our original sin had been to start “judging” people and things as “Good” or “Bad”! I had never heard it put that way…
Furthermore, did you know that the word “sin” comes from an old archery term that means “to miss the mark?” For me, the implication was crystal clear: if to sin simply means to miss the mark, then there is no need to believe ourselves to be inherently unworthy or flawed. Rather, all that’s needed when we “miss the mark” is to correct our aim and then try again, making a new choice that is aligned with what might be called “Heaven”: with the Divine Truth that we can all access within.
I was further struck by a possibility that these insights pointed to: might this new understanding allow us to simply give back that apple and make a different choice?
Are you finding yourself judging the fact that this is not a red apple? ;-)
In my mind I knew that the answer was ‘yes,’ but I also saw that religion has distorted the concept of sin to reinforce the idea that there is something inherently wrong with us, and this is what keeps us stuck both individually and collectively. Upon seeing these things, I was struck with disbelief that people have actually bought into this distortion for so long, and are still buying into it! No wonder our world is so at war with everything; this belief system puts us at war with ourselves, and from there conflict with others becomes all but inevitable.
Whose Business Are You In Right Now?
Myths have a tremendous influence on how people in cultures around the world think and behave. The myth of the apple and “original sin” may be one of the most widely known and accepted myths in the world due to the global reach of Christianity and Western culture. Yet it is also very active behind the scenes, affecting even people who don’t profess any conscious belief in it. There is nothing more disempowering than this belief that we are inherently flawed – for if that is the case then why try to improve? – yet it drives the thinking and behavior of much of the world today. It’s my firm belief that if we can replace this core assumption that so many of us make with true self-love, we can bring about much more compassion and understanding in the world very quickly.
Spiritual teacher Byron Katie has said that there are only three kinds of business in life: my business, your business, and God’s business. Judging people, places and things is definitely God’s business. When we refrain from judgment – that is, from believing that we know what is good and what is bad – we can put that apple back where it belongs: in God’s hands. When we do, we immediately find ourselves back in Heaven on Earth or Eden, living a life of peace, abundance and joy.
My invitation for you today is this: during your day, hone your awareness of the many ways that you pass judgment on yourself and others, both consciously and unconsciously. See this judgment as the result of having eaten that apple, then imagine simply offering it back to Source, thus correcting your aim. Then go about your business and enjoy your newfound freedom and joy.
Please take a moment now to make an internal commitment to correcting your aim, so you can live your highest truth going forward. This is the birthright of each of us – all we have to do is choose it.
Thank you for reading!
PS: Check this out!
Here is an old Zen story that illustrates our total inability to judge the goodness or badness of things:
An old Chinese farmer had a mare that broke through the fence and ran away. When his neighbors learned of it, they came to the farmer and said, "What bad luck this is. You don't have a horse during planting season." The farmer listened and then replied, "Bad luck, good luck. Who knows?"
A few days later, the mare returned with two stallions. When the neighbors learned of it, they visited the farmer. "You are now a rich man. What good fortune this is," they said. The farmer listened and again replied, "Good fortune, bad fortune. Who knows?"
Later that day, the farmer's only son was thrown from one of the stallions and broke his leg. When the neighbors heard about it, they came to the farmer. "It is planting season and now there is no one to help you," they said. "This is truly bad luck." The farmer listened, and once more he said, "Bad luck, good luck. Who knows?"
The very next day, the emperor's army rode into the town and conscripted the eldest son in every family. Only the farmer's son with his broken leg remained behind. Soon the neighbors arrived. Tearfully, they said, "Yours is the only son who was not taken from his family and sent to war. What good fortune this is..."