"And G‑d commanded the man, saying: 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, you shall not eat of it; for on the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17).

Our world is filled with potential. But all too often we experience life as confusing, dark and overwhelming, and ourselves as disempowered, separate and alone.

When G‑d first created Adam and Eve, our original ancestors, the world looked very different from the way it does today. In the beginning of creation, life was illuminated, bright with the glory of the Creator, filled with abundant goodness and entirely void of fear.

The Birth of the Ego

"And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and they felt no shame" (Genesis 2:25).

"And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit, and did eat, and gave also to her husband with her; and he did eat… And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked..." (Genesis 3:6-7).

Adam and Eve were created conscious.

To be conscious means to be fully aware. And so they were. Aware of their purpose, their own awesome potential and the infinite presence of G‑d. However, with one fateful act – eating from the forbidden Tree of Knowledge – Adam and Eve fell from the bright illuminated state of consciousness to the darkness of self-consciousness. As the Torah relates, they realized that they were naked – shamefully naked - in a physical sense. But more than this, they were naked spiritually and emotionally as well. From the serene perfection of the Garden, they had been plunged into the fearful reality of a world of galut (exile) – a world where something was terribly wrong.

At the dawn of human history, mankind was created living life from the inside out. Attuned to Divine Truth, fully present, free of judgment or self-criticism, guilt and shame, Adam and Eve in their first moments on earth experienced a state of all-encompassing wholeness, devoid of any sense of struggle or lack. But from the instant they bit into the forbidden fruit of the Eitz HaDaat, the Tree of Knowledge, ego and self-consciousness became an intrinsic, inevitable part of the human condition. They felt exposed. They were ashamed. From a profound state of awareness and power, they fell into the depths of confusion, helplessness and fear.

It was at that point that mankind began to live reactively – from the outside in. Instead of being one with themselves, they became, in a sense, two. One self to observe, and the other, the ego-based identity, to interpret, judge and react. And inevitably this reactive state was followed by guilt, regret and the desire to hide, deny and shift the blame to others.

To make matters worse, Adam and Eve, in their new state of being, were exiled from paradise. Life became a struggle to survive.

Exile from within, exile from without. Not an easy place from which to start our journey of life on earth.

The Divine Template for Creation

This entire scenario – the original state of illuminated awareness, the sin, the fall into darkness, and the personal, painful experience of self-consciousness and exile – is actually an integral part of the Divine template for Creation. And the whole point of it all is that, through our own efforts, we return to consciousness once again.

At the beginning of creation, Adam and Eve were in a very high spiritual state. But it was all due to the kindness, the largesse, of the Creator. They themselves were mere recipients – they contributed, essentially, nothing of their own.

And there was another problem. Before the sin, although everything was filled with light, there remained one piece of lurking, unrectified darkness, an Achilles heel to all of creation. The Garden was created with a fundamental evil, the infamous snake.

The sin of eating from the Eitz HaDaat precipitated a terrifying fall. The darkness that once lurked only in unactualized potential, within the seductive snake, was made real. In fact, it became an intrinsic part of the human psyche. But together with that darkness, mankind internalized the potential for transformation – to turn that darkness, through our own desire, our own will and our own efforts – into an even greater light.

Sometimes we don't recognize – or don't actualize – our power to transform. We live in the world of victimhood, helpless in the dark. Sometimes we behave in ways that make the darkness even deeper. But the good news is that every fall, whether cosmic or personal, contains within it the seeds of a far greater redemption. It is never too late.

When you embrace your power to transform you accomplish two things. First, you reveal the inner divine purpose behind every challenge and concealment – the reason that G‑d created it in the first place. Once you do that, the very thing that separated you from G‑d, that stood in the way of your authentic fulfillment, now connects you. From the perspective of Kabbalah, you have now turned that piece of darkness into light.

And second, as you do so, and do so of your own free will, you stop being a passive recipient of G‑d's largesse. Instead, you become a full partner in creation. And that's what G‑d planned for you all along.

Present Perfect

Just as G‑d's plan for the world involves the fall into darkness followed by the genesis of a greater light, so too His plan for your life.

As Chassidic teaching explains, there is nothing that happens, even to the falling of a leaf from a tree, that is not deliberately, intentionally orchestrated by G‑d. Your life, too, is being custom-created at each moment exactly the way it needs to be in order for you to realize your full potential and purpose on this earth. When you know that, live with it, life becomes illuminated with the realization that nothing is ever wrong. Yes, there may be things – even big things – that need to be improved, changed, corrected, achieved. But it is infinitely empowering to approach those changes from a place of peace, secure in the knowledge that you, and every part of your life, is exactly as it is supposed to be as a starting point for your growth and transformation.

Consciousness: the Journey Back

This knowledge is the key, the first step in the journey back to consciousness. And it is a step you can begin to take, if you choose, right now. By practicing the awareness that your life is being created with loving intention at each moment, just as it is supposed to be, the choices you make will automatically be more expansive, illuminated, G‑dly. G‑d is the director of the show of your life, and you are its star. And as the star, the choices you make will help determine, each and every time, how the next scene unfolds.