Older, more patriarchal forms of religion brought with them the concept of divine testing.

It’s a test when somebody comes to you in need, extending their hand for help.

It’s a test whether or not you will take that glass of alcohol, or sugary desert, or piece of meat.

It’s a test whether or not you will be able to humble yourself accordingly.

It’s a test.

It’s a test of your generosity.

It’s a test of your character.

And, it’s a test of the essence of who you are.

Or, so they say.

These types of religion are almost always rules-based. Follow certain rules — pass enough tests — and you will progress, and maybe even get into heaven.

Those that break the rules and fail the tests, well, better luck next time.

This is classic patriarchal thinking—linear, logical, and based on punishment and reward. Judgment and criticism, similarly, are near at hand.

While there is a time and place for such thinking, casual observations of nature demonstrate that there is no punishment and reward system to be found.

What there are, instead, are cause and effect dynamics.

Threaten a snake and you will get a bite. Sow a seed and a plant will grow. Jump up and the force of gravity pulls you down.

In cause and effect, there is no “right” and “wrong,” in the holy sense. There is no judgment. There is no test. There is no pass and fail.

It is not tests of your worth that you are given over and over again, but opportunities.

You are given opportunities to dig a little deeper. Be a little kinder. Love a little more fearlessly. Evolve a little further.

What you do with those opportunities is your choice. There is no external judgment about the choice you will make, or the consequences that will result.

What you have is your inner guru, or conscious, which will let you know immediately whether or not the choices you make are in line with your values and truth. You get to decide how, if at all, you adjust your behaviour as a result.

Like any artist, athlete or performer learning their craft, you would not fault them for their mistakes, shortcomings, and weaknesses. These are seen as the necessary stepping stones toward mastery. The more “tests” you fail (which means the more opportunities you miss), the more you can learn, and the sharper you can become. Ask Michael Jordan.

Chronic feelings of guilt and having to live up to a “higher” standard is a method of control and should be rejected on its face for the toxin that it is to human psychology.

You mess up. Whoops, I’m sorry. You mop the floor, and then commit to do it better next time. You do not chastise yourself. You do not need to repent. You do not need to cower on for decades.

Be your best self and be kind to your worst self.

No Day But Today

Sleeping and the passage of night give us the sense that there is some kind of separation between yesterday and today.

Days pass. We flip pages on the calendar after so many weeks, and ring in “new” years.

What if you didn’t go to sleep at night? Wouldn’t it feel as though the day didn’t “end?”

What if that was getting you close to the truth?

The truth is: there is no day but today, as the late Jonathan Larson so poetically put it. The truth is that there is only this moment, right now. And that never changes.

You live in the now, even while asleep. You lived in the now “yesterday” and you will live in the now tomorrow, if there is such a thing. You have always lived in the now. Doesn’t that make you ageless in a way?

Now-living is fundamentally connected to presence. If the forward-moving concept of time constantly pulls you into the past and future, what energy is left for presence? What does this do to our hearts? Our dreams? Our lifeblood and vitality?

The journey from head to heart, is equally as much a journey from future and worry to present and joy.

It is not easy to do this. Our egos resist the now because they sense their demise from it, as egos depend on time and thinking to exist. So we will feel fear and inner urgings not to consider any of this non-sense.

However, any true seeker, any true servant of love and truth will have to venture this path at some point.

Beyond the fear of realising there is no past and future and no birth and death, lies profound peace and freedom—the kind that can never be taken away from you.

Sustainabilty is connected to the now—to timelessness. What is not sustainable, is time dependent and will inevitably have the story features of beginning, middle, and end.

All Give, No Take

We can easily see the person who always takes and never gives as problematic.

Interestingly, the person who always gives and never takes is often considered a saint.

There is both an ingoing and outgoing breath. Breathing and life itself is not possible without their co-equal existence. Imagine trying to sustain on just breathing in, or just breathing out.

In both cases — the always taker and always giver — we find a similar type of poverty. The taker lacks healthy concern for others and the giver lacks healthy concern for self.

Always giving is a clever way to hide. Deep inside the individual knows they will be externally rewarded for their "humility." By getting busy by always giving, you can avoid connection and intimacy, and avoid the more overt consequences of always taking.

Like any other path in the extreme, such giving becomes unsustainable after some time. Hiding, too, becomes unsustainable as the soul yearns for connection and intimacy.

Learning to receive (take) is a skill. It requires understanding that, in many cases, receiving is as important as giving. It requires understanding your worth and value. And, it requires the courage to hold the connection and intimacy that typically results.

If it is that easy to give, it should be that easy to take or receive. If not, then the giving is a masked hiding strategy waiting to be massaged.