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  • Writer's pictureDora

HOW You START Matters –In 2024, Don’t Repeat the Original Sin – Oh no, Dora just got Biblical!


I know quoting the Bible may not be the most popular thing to do; chances are you will either reject this article from the start or love it throughout. But at least I got your attention. Just in case you are experiencing twitches in your eyebrows, take a breath; you can also stop rolling your eyes :- ) I have a kind and universal point of view, so have patience and read it before you conclude your likes and dislikes.



The New Year is the most common time for folks to start something new. But of course, truly new starts rarely fall perfectly on January 1st.  Our biggest fresh starts are marriage, a new job, and starting a business or family; those are the significant steps in life that are worth an extra examination. It is worth examining our internal emotional state before we dive into something new. Not sure what this has to do with the Original Sin? Have patience; keep reading.


How you start matters.


Unfortunately, we live in a culture heavily reliant on our left brain; that is, we rationalize, reduce parameters, and logically make decisions mainly focused on the self, the individual. This is all perfectly good, but if we don’t balance our viewpoint with our right brain, which tends to see the big picture, emotions, and connectedness, we end up making decisions that are not good in the long term and have selfish, self-serving, short-term benefits.


I have been reading a tremendous amount of scripture from around the world. What I discovered is that they all point to a WAY of life, a way that, if followed, will provide peace, interconnectedness, and joy. Of course, across all cultures, this sacred message gets corrupted by power and institutions, but that doesn't take away from the truth that all these scriptures are brilliant tools for psychological and spiritual well-being. Nor does it prove that without institutions, we are better off.  Humans are flawed. Thus, we will always have to strive to make our institutions better while holding onto cultural traditions. But institutions we do need because, without organization and rituals, we tend to forget the message or to put it in more yogic vocabulary; yoga is a practice, and to practice, we need a space that holds us to the practice. But I digressed; the importance of both institutions, rituals, and spirituality is a larger scope that I cannot cover here. To get back to the original topic, there is a reason why sacred scriptures stayed with humanity for thousands of years. The messages upon deep reading are always applicable and helpful for the human condition, which is why humanity has held onto them for so long.

 

But before I get into the Biblical story about decision-making, I will give you two personal examples from my life. Examples and stories do a better job of getting the point across than simple, dry definitions. In one of these stories, I started the right way, with complete emotional awareness, balancing individual and collective goods. And one where I did not…

 

The Story of the Right Start

 

Before I started Spira Yoga 13 years ago, I made an appointment with my yoga teacher and the studio owner where I worked. I told her about my desire to start my studio. I wanted to thank her for all she taught me and ensure that we stayed in a good relationship. So, having an honest face-to-face conversation was needed before I could start. My desire to start a new business was balanced by seeing the big picture and wishing the “good” for all, not just myself. Part of my conversation was to give my teacher gratitude and to make sure that we both agreed on where I would start my business to make sure not to cut into her student base. I agreed to find a location 5 miles from her existing studios. We remained in a good relationship, and my new adventure was satisfied with a fresh start from an open heart without “casualties.”


How you start matters for the heart.


Yes, Machiavellian strategies pay off; the most famous is Mark Zuckerberg and his swift exclusion of his university friends from the business. A team of friends that came up with the Facebook idea was excluded from financial benefits and unrecognized for the work they had done that allowed the business to take root. But don’t rush to conclude that it is only large businesses that behave in selfish ways. Unfortunately, big or small, especially when businesses are vulnerable, have experienced less-than-kind moves from piers. Yes, one can get rich and not start “nicely,” but I believe even if the business is successful, the soul of the business will be different because the leadership did not begin having the greater good in mind.


 How you start matters; it sets a tone for the future.

 

The Story of the “Sinful” Start:


But I should not point fingers at Zuckerberg without first seeing similar faults within me. We all make decisions that we are not too proud of in retrospect. I failed to start from good beginnings in my previous marriage in my twenties. I was vulnerable and unclear about who I was as a person. I had no solid vision about what life I wanted; I only had expectations from people and society, things that I should do. I knew what I did not like once I tried it, so I had a few relationships before I got married; they all seemed wonderful till I realized I was participating in somebody else’s vision of life, but I was absent. Other people’s visions of the future took the place of my decision-making. I was vulnerable and influenceable because I was too afraid to admit I did not know what I wanted.   As a result, my internal space was never present; I could not engage well and constructively in my marriage because I did not even know where I belonged or what I truly wanted. So why did I enter the relationship instead of waiting for clarity? Because I thought I was OK. I made a left-brain decision based on logic because it was too scary to look at my emotional self.  Because when we are vulnerable and afraid, we tend to make up a story where we are strong and proud to cover up our weakness even from our consciousness. This is what Jung called the shadow self, the part of our self that we are afraid to look at; unfortunately, the thing that we do not acknowledge always ends up running our life. What you know you are in control of, what you don’t know controls you, to paraphrase Anthony De Mello. This is why pride is so problematic; it is a mask of our weaknesses. Often, our unwillingness to admit that we do not know, that we are insecure, is so uncomfortable that we rather cling to pride and certainty even if it is harmful and false. (if you are not ready to see this in yourself, I bet you have no problem identifying it in some of the rich and famous.)


 To clarify, there is nothing wrong with being uncertain; as long as we acknowledge it, it is not harmful; it is simply a normal state through which we grow.  Also, healthy confidence and self-assurance are not the same as pride. When we are prideful, we are also rigid and unwilling to look from a different point of view; when we are proud, we shut people out, we shut opinions out, and we isolate ourselves with voices that feed our ego. But when we fool ourselves into thinking we are OK, we are blinded.

 

Thank goodness, I learned the way most of us learn through hard times and breakdowns. Inner growth always happens after a breakdown; that is our resurrection story here on Earth. And all of us who went through such hard times know that you would never change a thing, you would happily go through it again because what you learned is so precious. We grow through adversity. I did not start my first marriage well, and it ended. I learned, and now I am celebrating my 10th anniversary with my husband, a relationship that I started well, and thus had space to support each other with honesty and dignity.


I learned how you start matters; it makes a difference in our emotional health and relationships.


Emotional clarity and responsibility are the most important things. Otherwise, the shadow side of our consciousness will constantly interfere with the present moment. And when someone points out our ways, we turn it around and blame the person trying to help. I did it, Adam and Eve did it, and I bet if you are willing to look, you can also see the behavior inside you. None of us are without faults. That is the actual original sin, the fact that we are imperfect.

 

The Story of Good and Evil and the Tree of Knowledge

 

So, what does this have to do with the Biblical Original Sin? Do a close reading of Genesis. If you have never studied the lines, you will quickly get sideswiped by cultural overtones that are highjacked, oversimplified, and falsely use the term “original sin” to mean sexual trespasses. There is no word on sexual sin between Adam and Eve; instead, God told Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. That was the one rule they were given. And what did they do?


Why don’t I quote the Bible here:

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.” – Genesis 3:6-7


Then they heard the Lord walking and hid because they knew they had done wrong. Then the Lord found them, and they behaved like teenagers, blaming each other.


“The man said, “The woman that you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”  - Genesis 3:12


Thus, Adam not only blamed Eve, but worse, he blamed God: Lord, you gave me this woman who did wrong. YOU are the problem, not me.


And what did Eve do? I am sorry to say, ladies, don’t get too headstrong feminist in your interpretation. We are not much better.


“The woman said, “The serpent beguiled me, and I ate.” – Genesis 3:13


That is, Lord, I am not responsible for my actions. Somebody tempted me.

As I said, both behaved in an emotionally immature way, reaching for something out of desire without understanding and, when caught, shifting responsibilities.


Could there have been another way? Sure, our humanity could have asked the Lord why it is that we cannot eat from the tree of knowledge. Why is it that we are not ready to know good from evil? Why is it that we are not self-conscious like you? We are in your image but don’t yet see quite like you. Do we need to work on something? But no, they did not do that; instead, they saw something “good” and took it—no thinking, no patience, no looking inside and contemplating our actions. Adam and Eve just went for it selfishly without examination or responsibility for the future.  All evil is always hiding under something good to be desired. We never reach for the bad or the evil. The fruit was a “delight to the eyes,” and “they desired to be wise.” (this is how addiction works as well)


The fruit was all good things. The problem was not that Adam and Eve were attracted to the good; the problem was HOW they went about it. All cultures teach against coveting and grasping; this is also written in the Yoga Sutras; it is part of the eight limbs of yoga philosophy: do not covet nor grasp (aparigraha and ashteya).

But we do grasp after things when we are not emotionally ready. We get after things that are good but not necessarily good for us or our community. I think that was God’s point; he created Adam and Eve, but he knew their limitations; he knew they needed boundaries to make good decisions and to learn emotional awareness and discipline. But we like to “get our way,” so we go for things before we have a clear view of our emotional abilities. We go for things without considering how they will affect others or the big picture.  And when it goes south, we blame, shift responsibilities, and hide.  

Whenever we are quick to blame, just like Adam and Eve, and make others wrong, we project our own shadow- self out to the other.

If you ever read the rest of the Old Testament, you pretty much find out that the rest of the story is precisely that: humanity over and over again behaves in an emotionally immature way, and we are constantly reaching for our addictions, whether it is sex or power, or simply something “good” but selfish. God keeps giving us a chance to “grow up emotionally,” that is, to live in harmony with God, but we keep messing up. We are not clear on the big picture; we do not know ourselves and thus make bad decisions based on our desires; thus, we miss the mark, which is precisely what sin used to mean; missing the mark, like an archer with an arrow, we miss our target, which is to live in a peaceful community.

 

So this year, before you start anything new, meditate, pray, and reflect. Call it what you want, but look honestly at yourself and your emotions, especially those you are hiding. Be willing to face your shadow self, the desire behind your desire, the stuff you are not so proud of. Where are you insecure, why, and what is behind the insecurity? See if you can “empty” and come to a clean space, then instead of acting to serve just yourself, see the bigger picture and start holding the wellbeing of all in mind. There is no decision that is only about you.


Both Adam and Eve could have stopped each other if they had paused and discussed what they wanted. Maybe they could have conversed with the Lord about the words of the Serpent. Instead, they just reacted out of desire without patience or consideration of the consequences of the bigger picture.  We are responsible for each other. Our original sin is desire, but not sexual desire; selfish desire, our addiction to the new, for the good, instant gratification. Most importantly, we use our superficial desires to cover up our “shame and insecurity.” That is when desire is the most harmful.

So don’t repeat the Original Sin in 2024. Welcome a new light into your world. Cultivate hope in this season, and do some self-reflection so you can start “good” the New Year.

 

Happy New Year,

Dora


If you are interested in further studies in mindfulness and spirituality, check out our 40-Days of Mindfulness and Nutrition starting on January 11th and 200-hours of Mindfulness and Yoga extended curriculum starting in October 2024

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