A friend and I sat on the boardwalk one evening, enjoying the warmth and sunset as joggers ran past and dogs sniffed at tufts of grass near our feet. Eventually, a small family of four with two young kids migrated to the area just in front of us.
Using a rope and sticks, one of the adults began creating giant soap bubbles that floated in the air above the mesmerized children. My friend and I also became quite entranced as we marvelled at the size and shape of the bubbles. It was fun watching the kids become completely captivated by each bubble, following its every move.
It’s in moments like these that I feel immensely present. For a fleeting time, there’s nothing on my mind but what’s happening. And when my mind is that present, when nothing’s there but what’s unfolding in front of me, without judgment or reproach, that moment could be described as bliss. Surely, that’s how those children chased after the giant bubbles—with bliss.
The Holy Bible as metaphor
As meditation becomes more hip and Yoga becomes the hottest way to lose weight, we’re told frequently about the importance of staying grounded and present.
This isn’t some modern idea perpetrated by the creators of the latest mindfulness apps. It’s been around for thousands of years. In fact, for those Catholic (or “I was raised Catholic”) readers, we were told about it within the first few pages of the Bible.
To say that any story in the Bible is a metaphor will always be met with criticism of some sort. There are those who believe that every word of the Bible is fact. I grew up in a Catholic household and, as a very young child, absorbed the stories as history—as many of us at one time did.
As I grew older, read about philosophy and science, and expanded my knowledge with experience and an open mind, I came to enjoy connecting the dots with some of the famous Bible stories I’d heard as a child. Indeed, there are many esoteric philosophers who believe the Holy Bible—all of it—to be a complete metaphor: a handbook of sorts for the human body and consciousness.
The Adam and Eve story is one I’m particularly interested in.
The Garden of Eden
For those who have yet to read what’s described in some marketing materials as “the greatest story ever told,” Adam and Eve are presented as the first humans. They live, for a time, in the mystical Garden of Eden (which some believe to be the modern-day Tigris-Euphrates river valley, among other places).
Satan, in the form of a serpent, tempts them to consume the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. They’re shamed by God, who clothes them and banishes them from the Garden forever: the fall of man.
Let’s look at that story for a moment and compare it to our existence as infants. It’s not a new idea to suggest that the Adam and Eve story is a metaphor for the first few months of our lives, but it’s something worth pondering when applying it to mindful living.
It could be suggested that we’re born into our own personal Garden of Eden. In the first moments of our lives, we’re surrounded by an incredible array of sights and senses. No judgment or labels have been applied to any of this. It is pure.
We touch the carpet and feel the fibres and they seem to touch and feel us back. Our mother’s voice might as well be the soft, gentle croon of a lark—we don’t yet know the difference, nor have we applied importance or attachment to one thing over the other. The underlying feeling is blissful stillness—the blue sky underneath the changing, fluid weather of emotions and thought.
Then the snake enters the Garden. Ego develops and we gradually begin to look at things as good or bad, right or wrong. We label. A spider crawling on our arm is simply what it is—until it’s swatted away with disgust.
This is the natural path we all take in our development. With this growth comes a variety of accompanying emotions: guilt, shame, fear, envy, desire, disappointment, joy, excitement, lust, envy.
It’s easy, then, to see how Adam and Eve’s eating of the ‘forbidden fruit’—which, of course, hangs from something described as the ‘Tree of Knowledge’—is symbolic of our natural loss of purity. We’re clothed just as Adam and Eve are, and become aware of our nakedness (in most cases, we even grow to become ashamed of it). The Garden loses its wonder, and as we age, we forget the pure presence we experienced as an infant.
This isn’t to say that applying knowledge to our world, and becoming attached to what we love and detached from what we don’t, is a negative thing. Not at all. Ego is a vital part of our humanity and individuality. But it’s the beginning of a long, slippery slope that many of us have allowed ourselves to slide a bit too far down in our adult lives.
Perhaps, if we look at the Bible as a handbook for consciousness, the Adam and Eve story is simply a reminder of where we came from and what we’re poised to gain from once again living a bit more mindfully.
Use the biblical stories
In today’s hustle and bustle—which involves navigating our way through a wounded society that manifests itself in the horrific stories seen in the news each day—we’re called upon, more than ever, to live mindfully. With mindfulness comes clarity and the innate understanding that at a basic level, we’re all the same.
Let’s try and listen to what some of humanity’s earliest tales can tell us during this crucial period in our advancement as a species.
Rather than argue, kill and hate in disputes over the authenticity or implausibility of thousand-year-old stories, let’s try and listen to what some of humanity’s earliest tales can tell us during this crucial period in our advancement as a species.
Take the time now to go back to the Garden every so often, and remind yourself of what it means to be truly present. Be like a child marvelling at a bubble for even just a moment. In that moment, you’ll connect with who you are, and by default, with everyone else as well.
Learn to meditate in the moment, and not just with an app or Yoga mat. Be present in the world. And watch as your personal Garden of Eden reveals itself, piece by piece.