The greatest day that I have ever had, ever lived, was the day I very nearly took my own life.
It was the fall of 2007. I had just returned from a trip around the United States on my motorcycle. That trip was a retirement gift to myself. Having completed the trip, I found myself at home and alone. Recently divorced, with no job, I returned to an empty house. My girlfriend had left as well.
And so for days, with nothing useful to do, with nothing to look forward to, and nobody to love- I found myself in the midst of a major depression. I was emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. My only solution it seemed was to drink myself to sleep each night. That's how I shut the noises off in my head. That's how I slept at night. Until the evening of Oct. 9.
They say that the most beautiful songs spring from the greatest emotion. I think of Clapton's "Tears in Heaven." I think of a young lady's poem that I read a few years ago about losing her father. And I know that it is true. Extreme emotion is a catalyst, if it doesn't talk you into killing yourself.
And on the night of Oct 9, 2007, armed with a bottle of Bushmill's Irish Whiskey and a half case of beer, I sat on the patio of that nearly vacant home and watched the sun set over the mature trees in the yard. I drank well into the night, alone, just as I had for the two weeks that preceded that night. I felt sorry for myself, isolated, and for the first real time in my life I contemplated suicide. I could see no other way out. I was hopeless and I had no solution.
And as a 24 year cop, I had seen plenty of suicides. People just like me. I had a rough idea of what they would find. And yet, I couldn't pull the trigger. In the end, it was a simple and intuitive belief in God that stopped me. A power greater than myself. And fear. In fact, in a moment I am going to touch on that greatest single driver of human conduct.
And as I sat there, hating on everything, I couldn't have possibly known that this night would change my life forever. In the weeks that followed, I sought a solution. A power greater than myself delivered it.
They say that Einstein's theory of relativity originated as he "daydreamed" from a window at the patent office he worked at. Anything as universally important as that theory cannot be labeled a daydream. It was a solution.
Out of that self centered, self pitying, angry depression that nearly took my life emerged the solution. It came days after Oct. 9. And that solution was unconditional love. The ability to love anything, anybody, including the enemies you helped create. Was that possible? It was a theory that nobody believed in. Not once had I heard anyone say it was possible and available to us all.
Imagine Sir Isaac Newton, or Galileo, or even Einstein. Imagine the skepticism and ridicule that they must have received as they offered up their ideas into a world that had already made up it's mind. A world full of people that practice contempt prior to investigation. Nostradamus would have been killed for his visions. He disguised them as quatrains.
There I was parked in a world that thinks unconditional love is not possible. Or if it is, that it can only be acquired by a mother for the love of her children. Yet, I knew that explanation was intuitively wrong. A mother's love for her children most closely approximates unconditional love but where does it come from? Is unconditional love then guaranteed to all children? Why then do some mothers beat and kill their children? Why do they emotionally and physically damage their own children or allow others to do so? Where is that unconditional love when you are slapping your child or calling him lazy or stupid? Or making any diminishing remark? Where is that unconditional love from fathers?
So clearly unconditional love is a choice. It is a choice we all make. It is available to us but it is an unbelievably difficult achievement.
Ask yourself this question. Are you willing to go to any lengths to achieve complete and utter sanity and serenity? To never again dislike, hate, or damage anyone? To sleep peacefully at night, to commit to this process daily, in exchange for happiness? To be loved by strangers and to love strangers back? To love criminals, killers, your perceived enemies? To reject the judgment of others as they try to pull you into that cesspool of hatred?
I had achieved complete insanity at age 46. I was willing to do anything to change my life. Divine intervention gave me the solution. It was unconditional love. It was left to me to find the path to and the promise that had once been my life. To regain sanity.
Of all people, why me? Why would a jaded, opinionated, angry, self seeking victim like me, a cop of 24 years, be given the quest to find unconditional love? Who would believe that? In the end, it's not me that is important. It's the message.
On my own, this is not of me. I think the answer quite simply, is that I had gotten so bad, so spiritually broken, that a power greater than myself took pity on the basket case that I had become. Capitulation followed by desperate determination.
Two things happened. I was willing to go to any lengths to get spiritually correct. Most of all, I made time, as we all do, for the things that are most important to us.
The events that led up to Oct. 9, 2007 are what shaped me. My life and my beliefs. There are thousands of components. It would be impossible to play that tape back here. I perceived everyone as adversaries, people to overcome. I was comfortable with the confrontation and chaos that nearly always followed. I spent a great deal of time plotting, developing tactics, anticipating counter moves, and crushing opponents in a giant chess game that never ended. That's a lot of noise in your head. That's a lot of fear. It's no way to live.
I have come to believe one immutable and inescapable fact. This cannot be overstated. In fact, I am going to go so far as to say, irrational fear drives the vast majority of ALL human interaction. Please note the use of the term interaction. It is a very operative here.
Is unconscious emotional fear the driving force behind all human interaction? That's a pretty bold statement to make. How can that be possible? It has to do with the reward and punishment theme that most of us are taught as children. Having tasted punishment many times as a youngster, I learned to avoid punishment at all costs. I would lie, blame others, stand mute. I sought rewards. That is how I was imprinted. That's how nearly all of us are imprinted. And so we spend the rest of our lives fearing punishment and seeking only rewards and approval. Some people will go to unbelievable lengths to avoid punishment. Unconscious denial, justification, and an absolute inability to examine their actions for fear that they will be punished once they are discovered. So fear is the one common denominator that we all share.
I want to make a distinction here. There are healthy, rational fears. Fears that are quite sane. Healthy fear has allowed us to survive. Irrational and emotional fear, the kind that we feel when we are seeking to avoid punishment and detection is different. It is make believe, undiscovered, and purposefully hidden from others. These fears whether real or imagined, manifest themselves as tangible and conscious interaction with others.
I love it when people disagree with me that fear drives almost all human interaction. Why? Because a lot of folks fear even that simple truth. They fear that once discovered, they will be forced to act differently and they don't want to. They believe that as long as they can run from this that somehow it doesn't exist. Others may fear discovery. They don't want to take responsibility for their actions because if they do, they can't operate like they always have. They are very comfortable, emotionally spoiled and they resist any significant and responsible behavior change. Unfortunately, all of that is a zero sum game. Why?
Because you cannot love unconditionally until you conquer irrational fear. That is a fact. You will only cheat yourself and hurt others until you realize this. It is as mathematically correct as 2+2=4. And all of the whining, arguing, non disclosure, denial, degrees, credentials and philosophy cannot change that. It is prima facia, it is true on it's face. I could not deny my guilt or take it away, I could not take a magic pill or pretend my irrational fear and ego did not exist. It was undeniable.
How can a man being executed in the most merciless way beg forgiveness for the men torturing him? A man that had done nothing. Is that possible? Sure it is. Clearly, Jesus had conquered fear. That freed him emotionally, gave him the tools and the capacity to love anyone. That is why a bunch of fear driven folks can be saved by grace. And one little footnote, Jesus clearly understood the irrational fear of men. Jesus Christ knew his death was unstoppable. Left in the hands of fear driven and unconscious men, his only path was unconditional love and acceptance of his killers and his death. Only a completely conscious man, a man devoid of all fear, could have uttered such a thing.
To say that I was just as emotionally fearful and insane as anyone is true. I was schooled on the same planet as the rest of you. It was the schooling that did it. I bought into the belief systems already in place. I accepted the belief systems of others as true. In fact, as I grew and learned I never questioned whether those beliefs were true. I accepted them as true. I knew nothing else. That was my mistake. And in another divine moment, I realized that the entire planet might also have it all wrong.
Wow. That is an unbelievable statement to make. To realize that billions of people simply accepted fear and ignored the damage it caused. Zombies. People would see me as insane. Like some out of control ego with a God complex. I had to dance carefully here. I had stumbled onto a universal truth. The greatest truth, the whole point of Jesus' suffering and death had been ignored. Marginalized and largely seen as irrelevant as man continued to practice self will. I had to reject all of the teachings of men like that who fear and hate if I wanted to achieve the objective. And those beliefs are very old and cemented in. And I knew the whole world would reject unconditional love. They had already proven it.
Now if all of this is too abstract for you, let me explain it in a mathematical sense.
If I know the time and distance that an object travels, then I can calculate the speed. If I know the distance and speed of an object then I can calculate the time it takes to travel...
Therefore if I know that fear drives all human conduct (a) and that the answer I seek is (c) unconditional love, then I must solve for (b). What is b??
What is keeping me from achieving the answer?
Unconscious belief systems are handed down through the ages. Erroneous and learned belief systems inherited and taken for granted as true by the unconscious and impressionable inhabitants of this planet. The beliefs of the billions of people who were here first, and once taught and accepted as true, never vetted again. Passed along as fact- over generations and centuries. This from the dawn of time when men whacked each other over the head with clubs and agreed that this was the proper way to settle things.
The missing piece was conscious discovery. The equation looked like this.
Irrational Fears - Conscious Discovery and Removal = The Capacity for Unconditional Love
Now books such as "Love is Letting Go of Fear" are excellent reads and the concept that fear plays a huge role in loving is not a new one. But books such as that one don't really tell you how to "let go of fear." It's like being told you have a bad attitude. Ok, so how do I change it? Nobody really knows because they don't have a blueprint. I was after a blueprint.
I can't take all of the credit for what happened. I must credit the writing of Don M Ruiz in "The Four Agreements" and Eckhart Tolle in "The Power of Now" and "A New Earth." How I came to possess those books is beyond comprehension. That they were randomly selected for me and delivered to me by people I hardly knew at the precise moment in my life when I was searching for the answer to (b) defies all logic. Unexplainable.
So having identified what (b) was, I prepared for the monumental task that lay ahead of me. It was daunting and it would not come quickly or completely. How do you set about identifying all irrational fear with conscious thought?
The first order of business would be to test, vet, and jettison every unworkable belief system I had inherited or been taught and accepted. Wiping the emotional and memory slate clean.
This whole process was based on one immutable truth. Every decision is fear based and that we always have a choice. What we choose, is a direct result of the proper or improper belief system taught to us. We seek to avoid punishment at all costs. Sometimes what is right this time is wrong another time. It is situational.
I can best describe it this way. Everything in life is a choice. If your plane crashes in the Andes Mts. and you are forced to eat human flesh to survive, you can do that. Or if your belief system says I cannot eat human flesh, I would rather die- then you can make that choice as well. Your fears are what drives that decision making process. If you fear death greater than all other things, you might choose to survive by eating human flesh. If you fear cannibalism, but death not so much, you may pass. But make no mistake about it, you always have a choice. Your fear decides it.
And so we make those choices. We choose who to love, who to like, who to dislike and who to hate. All based on silly fear driven belief systems. Beliefs that may or may not be true.
I will give you an excellent example of this. As a young man in college, my father began dating and ultimately married a woman he had been seeing prior to my parent's divorce. Thus attaches all of the usual home wrecking, cheating, and accepted belief systems that we all hold so near and dear. I never gave that woman a chance. I practiced contempt prior to investigation. Why? Because that was the accepted practice. Thus when they were ultimately married, I treated her just as poorly as I could. At no time did I show her any mercy. Over the years, I realized I had been wrong. That she was just living her life. She had not victimized me. In fact, she had not victimized anyone. And by disliking her, for no other reason than family peer pressure and some antiquated and archaic belief systems I became mired in that tar pit of animosity. Looking back, I am embarrassed at how little respect I showed her. How selfish I had been. I acted out of fear. Fear that she would close my access to my father, fear that if I didn't buy into familial belief systems, that I would be isolated and castigated. I feared she wouldn't like me. All of those fears were irrational and ultimately my interactions with her would make all my fears to come to fruition. So I made a choice. A fear driven, unconscious choice which I thought at the time was correct.
Therefore if you are solving for (b) you can no longer choose to dislike or hate. You must find a way to love unconditionally. Thus in the above example, I have chosen to not give myself a choice. I must find a way to love people who would diminish me. How do you do that? (I told you this was not easy.)
The 2nd agreement as written by Don Ruiz, is "take nothing personal." In that chapter, you begin to realize that people are just living their lives. Unconsciously for sure. Fear driven for sure. But they are simply doing what they think is best for them. That never has anything to do with you. When you actually grasp the concept that people are simply reflecting who they are, you begin to realize that they are simply acting on their fears. A couple of examples.
A woman who fears uncleanliness and she controls her environment. When you disrupt her clean and orderly world, she takes that personally. She may lash out as she acts on those fears and often her behavior can be demanding, nasty, and her words diminishing. That has nothing to do with you or I. She would act that way towards anyone engaging in similar behavior. She is simply reflecting who she is. She takes potentially unclean behavior and personalizes it- believing you have disrespected her or perhaps victimized her.
People who cheat. People who cheat are simply reflecting who they are. They fear abandonment, rejection, they seek approval. Some are obsessed with sex, some are narcisstic, some use sex as a weapon or a means to gain attention or something else... but somewhere at the core of their being is an explanation for their behavior. And their behavior has nothing to do with you. It is fear driven. They would engage in that behavior with or without you. Many of them couldn't tell you why they act that way. They really don't know. It is unconscious and left that way, there is little chance to uncover it or change it.
That is not to say, people cannot change. Some do, many do not. It generally isn't until some major catalyst occurs that people begin to scrutinize and reflect. In pieces. They do not look deeper or attempt to uncover the real reason why they are obsessed with cleanliness or obsessed with cheating. They acquired a belief that it is ok to act that way. And that doesn't have anything to do with you ever, even as their anger or hostility is being directed at you.
So taking nothing personal became a huge cornerstone in my quest. And to a lesser degree, agreement three, "make no assumptions."
I began to start laying the groundwork for trying to love all people irrespective of what they did or said to me. I focused on my crazy, diminishing actions and one by one I set them on paper. Negative judgments, controlling behavior, anger, frustration, pride, envy, and one by one I recognized them and reduced them to fractions of what they once were. And oh incidentally, you'll notice that every one of those emotions is grounded in fear. I committed every day to trying to love people no matter what happened. But I was still missing one piece. It had eluded me.
The human ego. That false sense of self that judges others, diminishes others, acts angrily at simple acts. I uncovered it. I do not have the space or time to tell you how how important Tolle's "A New Earth" was to me as I sought unconditional love. After a couple of passes including audio, I was able to unmask my ego. It has morphed and changed over the last three years. It is still very much a part of me. But what it is not...is a controlling part of me. It is no longer intact and concealed directing my words and actions. Today, I am in control of my new shaped ego, not the other way around.
By taking responsibility for all of my actions and harnessing that false sense of self inside me that says, "You are smarter than he is. You are tougher than he is. You must win. You must out think these people, they are lesser than you." That idiot thinking whether I verbalized it or not prevented me from loving people. That type of thinking marginalizes and isolates you from the love of others.
It had to go.
At one point in this process, in the spring of '08, I reached a point where I no longer could identify myself as anything. I simply did not know who I was, or who I was supposed to be any more. I was utterly confused and ill defined.
And that's fine. In fact, it was no longer necessary for me to define myself as anything. I no longer had to argue, or be the brightest, the fastest, the richest. I grew comfortable just enjoying life. Not projecting some crazy image of what I wanted others to think that I was. No I don't have to drive a Jaguar to let you know that I am special or that I am so successful that I have money to burn. And I was no longer isolated, alone. I was in harmony with the people around me. It was infectious.
And most importantly...I never had to be right again. In a world where people choose right over happy all of the time...I let everyone else argue these days. In business meetings, I let people act out of anger and self will, sometimes crazy and I just sit back and watch. I no longer find it necessary to rescue people or quell disturbances...even when I know the solution. Because if I get involved in that ego driven insanity it is like taking the bait. Nothing good can come from that the moment that I decide to open my mouth or act.
Taking nothing personal and identifying that false sense of who I am- were the steps I used to unmask all of my irrational fear. In particular, I focused on anger, controlling behavior, and my personal interaction with others.
A week or so ago, I stumbled onto the single greatest discovery I have ever made. In fact I am going to go so far as to call it an absolute emotional solution. Simplified. The solution to unconditional love. Remember, when I said it really is a choice? So it was...
I was mulling over every negative emotion. In every instance, there was a fear component. Grief, anger, resentment, jealousy, spite, vindictiveness, criticism. These negative emotions manifest themselves into negative conduct. Behaviors such as control, harsh or negative judgment of others, manipulating people to get what we want, uncommunicated expectations and disappointment.
All of them have a fear component. A common denominator.
Then I began mulling over all of the positive attributes and virtues that we all desire. Humility, kindness and caring, open mindedness, tolerance, forgiveness, truthfulness, honesty, compassion.
None of those attributes or virtues has a fear component. None of them. Wow!
COULD IT BE THIS SIMPLE??
My mind raced. Could mankind have over looked and thus complicated all human emotion to the extent it had become unconscious behavior and completely unmanageable? Of course. We are the idiots that invented a 2500 page tax code in under 75 years.
I am reluctant to label what I am about to say here as an opinion. I think we can make some highly accurate and bold inferences.
Your ability to love is directly proportionate to your irrational and unconscious fears. The more fear you have the less ability you have to love.
Since control, manipulation, and harsh judgment are symptoms of irrational fear then it stands to reason that the capacity to love others is greatly diminished in those people that practice those things. As I write here, I know that this is true. Some of the most controlling, critical, and un trusting people I know simply cannot love others. Very often, those people do not love themselves. They have no capacity. They dwell in fear.
Conversely those people that have conquered irrational fear are some of the most loving people around. They practice patience, tolerance, and understanding. They have great capacity to love and they have many of the virtues that we seek and hold in high esteem. They don't seek to control or manipulate others. They recognize irrational fear and ego. They make a choice and they become spiritual. You have to pay attention, because they draw little attention to themselves. They practice love and acceptance because those things have no fear component.
Is it possible that people enjoy living in fear? I am still mulling that over. I think it is more likely that fear is just unconscious with them. They are still trying to avoid detection and punishment. I think if they knew there was a solution that they might make a commitment to change. Having said that, it may be easier for them to just behave the way they always have.
How has it been for me? My journey to solve this riddle has taken three years. Those people that I share a historical perspective with beyond that time frame think I am insane or nuts. They cling to the idea that I am still the way they remember me. They fear change themselves and they simply can't accept that people can and do change. That's ok with me. I understand. I catered to those same fears and beliefs myself once. For me, their behavior is just karma.
Trying to love unconditionally is hard work. It is selfless. I still have an emotional relapse from time to time. I try to remember that people are just kind of living unconsciously as I once was, hostage to those irrational fears that they cling to. I often help others uncover those fears. My eyes light up when someone says they have issues with unmet expectations or controlling behaviors. It's like a giant neon sign lights up that says to me, "Get your fear here!"
My ex wife and former best friend are two of those people that think I have gone insane. They might say to me, "Have you lost your mind?" I like to think as I smile, "No actually, I think I just found it." But I don't. That's how it is for me now.