The enigma of patience

The Old Man, as we affectionately called the oldest monk of the monastery, seemed fascinated with the rose bushes in the yard, and pruned them as a fine gardener. I asked if I could keep him company. He nodded, and his eyes pointed to a bench close by, where I should sit. We remained silent for a long while, nourishing the soul with the quietness of the hours. At some point, I asked him if we could talk. The monk arched his lips in a mild smile, which I interpreted as permission. I told him my reflections and questionings about the virtue of patience and its importance for happiness. He listened without saying a word, put the pliers in his pocket and sat comfortably on a bench next to mine, under the shade. While amusing himself with a small caterpillar on the palm of his hand he had just pulled out from the rose bush, he said: “Patience is indispensable nourishment for the soul on the road towards completeness of being, where peace resides.” He made a brief pause, as if seeking the best words, and continued: “Patience is a valuable virtue with a precious enigma. The key to decipher it is sensitivity.”

Immediately I wanted to know more. He looked me in the eyes and said: “Before anything else, one must have good will with everything and everyone. To understand that people behave according to their level of awareness and their emotional load of that moment and from the past helps patience find its place within ourselves. It is no good to teach a child to calculate a square root if they do not know the four basic math operations, or to explain anything to them while they are asleep. In our personal relations this is no different. Once you have realized that, you are able to figure out the pace of the world, and to understand that relationships are developed according to the evolvement and possibilities of the interlocutors. Nature does not leap. Little by little, everything and everyone are honed.”

I thought I had understood, and said that one had to hope each one expanded their horizons for the indispensable transformations in the core of the being. Immediately, he rebuked: “Just hope? This is not the enigma of patience. We must offer our best for any event that comes about, from the most banal to the most complex situations, and patience is an essential component of this package. This is a premise for the walker of the Path. However, not always patience rules out energetic action in some situations of daily life. On the contrary, it must be present particularly at times that require firm actions.”

He placed the small caterpillar inside a matchbox, to free it later in the woods, and said: “To be patient does not mean to condone evil, or to be blind to injustice, or tolerant with violence, or negligent in regards to errors, once the responsibility to act is present. As a variant, there is a time to clarify and help, as a lighthouse illuminating the ship in the dark of the night, preventing it from sinking on the rocks of existence. Not always will you be able to prevent disaster, but you may see another possible course.” He paused briefly, watched me for a moment, and continued: “However, this indispensable interference is quite delicate, and reveals a lot about you. Therefore, it must be done very carefully, so that it does not become an exercise of pride and vanity of the ego, which is pleased in imagining itself, for moments, superior to the other. Nor should there be a big fuss, so that the person in error is not embarrassed; only a different light is shed on a given situation. Do not forget that patience is not to convince but only to illuminate, as it is an act of love. Kindness, generosity and above all, humility, are indispensable requirements of patience”, explained the monk.

I mentioned that I had never realized how complex patience was. “Yes. Contrary to what many may think, to be patient does not mean to be a conformist, but a transformer. Quietly, away from the repressive morality, with no honest desire of causing humiliation, revenge or the limelight. On the other hand, patience cannot be used to disguise cowardice or laziness. Patience is for the strong ones, those who made the choice of renouncing violence to face hardships. He who masters the virtue of patience is peaceful and a peacemaker, and uses peace as the power for transformation. He is tender yet firm, not aggressive. His words and attitudes are a balm soothing the hearts of forlorn travelers, enlightening sailors lost in the gloom courses of existence”.

I asked him how to know when to act or wait, faced with each situation. The monk looked at me as if expecting that question, and answered: “This is the enigma of patience, Yoskhaz. In the beginning of our conversation, I told you that sensitivity was the key to the secret. Sensitivity is nothing more than a keen perception of the Path. This prompts the walker always to offer his or her best, endlessly perfecting the metamorphoses indispensable for evolution. That is his or her task, and no one will do it for them. On the other hand, they are appeased in knowing that the Unwritten Laws are inexorable, even when the expected outcome is not immediate, particularly because it often involves issues the walker is unaware of. Nothing in the universe will escape the comprehensiveness and power of the Code. Hence, one is to continue to sow diligently and wait for the magic of life in springtime, which will always come.”

I said I understood, but asked him to further explain more clearly. He laughed and tried his best: “I am talking about the Laws of Love, Return, Affinity, Cycles, among many others. They are the Keepers of the Path, and guide the process of evolution. Little by little, the mind decodes them, and shows us that when we change the way we walk, the Path and the landscape also change. The heart is dazzled with the new lightness of being. The desires of the ego slowly become aligned with the worthy principles of the soul. Wisdom enlightens the wounds of the soul, and love embraces them with its incommensurable healing power. Hence we move from bruteness to sensitivity, from agony to peace”. After a small pause, he added: “We learn when to act or wait with wisdom and love, but with no patience these virtues vanish.”

I closed my eyes for a length of time I cannot measure. When I opened them, he was still seated close to me. He looked at me with his sweet eyes, and added: “I did not say anything new. Wisdom and love are ancient; in fact, they exist from the beginning of time. Changing lead into gold was the ceaseless quest of alchemists, as this is the great battle of life. It is, in fact, a metaphor for shedding light on the shadows that dwell in each one of us. This is the Philosopher’s Stone. And believe me, patience is a powerful ingredient in the magic of this cauldron”.

Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.

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