To be free is just to be

The Old Man, as we affectionately called the dean of the Order, was always invited to deliver lectures in universities and schools around the world. Typically, these institutions are located in big cities, where we would stay for two or three days. At the time I had already got used to the quietness of the monastery, and for a period I would feel bothered by the change in the environment, in contrast to the monk, who had an amazing capacity to adjust. He would stroll along large avenues appreciating people dashing about, going in and coming out of stores, or even the noise of the city with the same lightness and enchantment with which he would hike through the mountain in silence, observing the wild flowers and picking mushrooms for the soups he enjoyed so much. Whenever he saw me annoyed with all the hubbub and haste, he would remind me: “The peace dwells within you. Do not grant permission for anything or anyone to disturb it.” Then, he arched his lips in a mild smile and added: “You have this power, learn how to use it.”

One time, I told him about how difficult it was for me to be in such a different environment than the one where I felt sheltered. The monk immediately replied: “Not always it is possible for us to be surrounded by ideal external conditions of comfort and pleasantness. Regrets do not help to overcome hardships. On the contrary, they only postpone the understanding and the movement that are necessary to construct peace and to sow happiness, essential to our balance. The best place in the world is here, and now. Any place is fine for the sincere soul that wishes to go deep into the rough seas of self-enhancement in a sacred connection, to stand before itself and bathe in the calm waters of plenitude. The good gardener believes that any corner is fine to plant flowers and suitable to make a nice garden.”

I ended up confessing an even greater hardship: my difficulties in relating with people very different from me. The Old Man smiled and said: “To be next to those who think and act according to our likings and opinions is very easy. Even though this is pleasant, and should be enjoyed, there is no merit in it. Only difficult relationships provide the necessary exercise for personal growth. Differences are enriching because the search for balance leads you to important transformations. Life happens during the encounters, love is manifested in social relationships. Similarly, all the knowledge amassed by the hermit is useless if he refuses to leave the cave. Wisdom and love, by definition, must be experienced and shared to turn into light, or will be lost in the darkness of abandonment.”

He paused for a moment, and continued: “Whoever expects that the existing conditions favor the commencement of the journey will waste valuable time sitting at the side of the road waiting for the right moment, because this will not happen. Inner yearning will make you take the first steps. You just have to learn that external conditions will always be in accordance with your needs and learning capability at that point in time. No more, no less. In turn, the internal conditions will be created by yourself.”

“Adaptability and simplicity are valued virtues, essential to the walker. Adaptability teaches that every moment is perfect, as it brings the lessons that will allow you to hone your skills. Also remember not to demand perfection from others, as you know you do not have it to offer. This will help you keep balance and serenity during the storms. In turn, simplicity will make you understand that the more we are, the less we need. This is the key that opens the prison.”

I said that I still had questions, and joked that simplicity was not simple. The Old Man continued with his explanation: “Social and cultural conditionings that influence everyone from the cradle are powerful prisons that cruelly lock us up but, because they have no bars, we do not realize we are imprisoned. Hence, they drive us away from our engagement with freedom by postponing the unavoidable encounter with ourselves and the ensuing transformations.” I asked him to be clearer, as I understood less and less. The monk smiled and continued: “At some point in life, we all crave light. It is the desperate soul in the void of existence. We put off the most important meeting of our life, the one with ourselves, deceived by the shadows that convince us to prioritize professional success, financial stability or any other excuse nourished by the desires of the ego. It takes time to understand that one does not eliminate the other. The biggest mistake is not to realize that the good fight is fought within ourselves. This means that the search for light is concurrent with everyday tasks and struggles, the daily fights and loves. Life happens whether in the office or the kitchen, on the bus or at the beach, waiting in line for the bank teller or stuck in a traffic jam, from meeting with a client to closing a major deal to picking a child up at school and taking them to soccer or swimming practice. This is the time available, the perfect moment to transform deceptions into understanding and be free. There is no other. In fact, sooner or later, at some point, you must be with yourself. This is the encounter that will change your life, right now, right here.”

“What do you need for that? Absolutely nothing other than a pure heart and an open mind. More and more we understand that the really important stuff carries the brand of the heart, and is not available on the shelves of stores; the soul yearns for a dive much deeper than the pool in the backyard; the most sophisticated car is not powerful enough to take you to the High Lands, where only those who can use their own wings can reach; the best and most modern design is simply you, because to be authentic, unique and has never been out of fashion is just being a mensh.

I wanted to know what he meant by mensch. The Old Man furrowed his brow, as if speaking to a child: “It means to be always willing to get rid of the old forms; to relinquish the automated self-defense gestures; to use their own soul as raw material for the major work of art they have to do; to change the gloomy hues of suffering for the vibrant colors of forgiveness; to provide the understanding of the light when everyone calls for a trial whose sentence is darkness; to show that courage is possible when those around you only know fear; to understand that the miracle of life occurs in the simplicity of small great gestures, those in which we put our own hearts to heal the pain of the other.”

“To understand that in order to be happy it is essential to forgive without levies and love without conditions; the person with whom you keep quarreling will elicit the best that is still dormant in your soul; to understand that your fiercest foe is not on the streets, but moves surreptitiously in the still dark dungeons of your soul, waiting for light. It is to realize that this is the greatest battle of life.”

“The actual victory lies in the ingraining of good moral values devoid of any moralism; in the eternal joy of the encounter; in the generosity of a leafy tree with sweet fruits; in voicing the word that will seal peace; of sowing a smile on someone’s face; of always providing your best; of allowing each choice to be made out of sheer love.” The Old Man paused for a moment, and added: “Can you realize that these are things you cannot buy to put in your baggage?”

“The irony is that they sell the illusion of sophistication as something being designed for few, and complex for many. Elegance, however, consists in being more with less. This is within everyone’s reach, simply by choosing the incomparable beauty of being simple.”

He looked deep into my eyes and completed: “All that is valuable is weightless. To be light is to be free; to be free is just to be.”

 

Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discussions — 2 Respostas

  • Theresa Stachurski 4 de June de 2017 on 22:55

    I’m very excited about the author, the insightfulness, look forward to reading more.
    I found this to be parallel of my own life and desire it to be better and different, Thank you,

  • Christopher Diamond 3 de June de 2017 on 07:29

    I keep reading and reading, thank you for sharing!