Independence day

I was happy when I saw the vintage bicycle of Loureiro, the elegant shoemaker who loves wines and books, leaning against the light pole in front of his shop. I was not well. A number of events with different people had made me feel in a cauldron of emotions that ranged from annoyance to sadness. I was greeted with a big hug and heartfelt joy. The craftsman told me to make myself comfortable while he made a fresh pot of coffee to make our conversation more stimulating. I told him I needed to vent and exchange ideas, because it seemed the world was plotting against me. Just like that, many of my relationships had become problematic or frustrating. I mentioned some disagreements and disappointments I had had recently with people I held in high regard. I added that all events had occurred almost at the same time, and I jokingly said that that seemed like karma to me. Loureiro placed two cups filled with coffee on the counter and said: “Karma is learning. Every karma is a master that will improve and strengthen the learner. Once the lessons are understood, the karma vanishes, along with that type of situation, recurrent until then, as there is no reason for it to exist any longer. On the other hand, the karma goes on, and even gets harsher, if we refuse to evolve. If life is a university, karma is the subjects we must take.”

“When the whole world seems to be against us, often the problem is within ourselves.” I was outraged. I had said I was being abused by people and he claimed it was my fault? The shoemaker kept his calm demeanor. With the typically smooth tone of his voice, he explained: “It is not a matter of knowing who is right or wrong; this does not matter as it is related only to the ego, not to the soul. We are talking about having a different way of looking at life, of having a different attitude regarding all things, of not granting anyone power over you or, in particular, the right to make you suffer.” He paused briefly and added: “It is about time you cry for your independence.”

I even came to the point of swaying on the chair, feeling uncomfortable and yet interested. I asked him to further explain his reasoning. Loureiro arched his lips in a discrete smile and said: “Everyone wants to be loved and accepted. The easiest and shallowest way is for people to applaud us and tell us how wonderful and important we are. But thank god life is not like that, or we would live in a condition of full stagnation and total hypocrisy. A being who pays heed to evolution deals with setbacks and disappointments as tools for improvement and proof of maturity, never as sources of sadness of resentment.”

I asked him to expand. My good friend obliged and was didactic: “The origin of so much suffering is the mere fact that others do not match our expectations. We expect something from someone, and this person delivers less than what is desired.” He looked at me firmly, and asked: “Isn’t it so?” I nodded in agreement. I added that people should relate to us with the same degree of sincerity and love we give them. Loureiro furrowed his brow and said: “This is a big mistake. Each one can only deliver in the precise amount of their capacity, according to their degree of understanding and grandness of feelings. No more, no less. You might have expected flowers from someone who delivered rocks. Well, this is what he or she had in their hearts at that time. How can you expect to pick flowers in a garden that is a desert of love? This is the time for you to act with wisdom and reciprocate with a light rain of compassion. Otherwise, you will be handcuffed to an energy current void of virtues and light.” He paused to present his argument under a different perspective: “On the other hand, we want flowers we do not deserve. Never forget to think differently and act better next time. This is the part we have to play in all relations. It is always possible, and an excellent exercise in the evolutionary climb.”

“We demand from others their best, and yet we want people to understand our limitations and justifications. This is the root of conflicts. The way to peace is to revert this equation: to give our best and to have tolerance with hardships from others.”

I said that the theory was good but did not account for everything. The craftsman agreed: “You are right, there is an issue missing, emotional independence.” I interrupted him once again to say I had not understood. He said: “If you do not get a hold of yourself, of your emotions, you will never control your own happiness. He who is not his own master is a slave of the approval of others. When we refuse to understand who we are, we are not able to harmonize the denser emotions that dwell within ourselves. If we do not transmute them, we will never know peace. To take up the challenge of facing your inner storms is to retrieve the helm of your life, or else you will remain adrift, at the mercy of the rocks of despair.”

“Whenever we are annoyed or sad, it means we have started to lose the battle for the shadows, whether individual or collective. We cannot demand from the world the perfection we do not have to give. Patience is an act of generosity and, particularly, of humility. The conscious person will immediately take advantage of all the turmoil that exists within themselves as fertilizer to grow flowers that still do not exist in their garden. They are gardeners of the light.”

“We are conditioned to transfer to others the responsibility we have for the occasional failure that occurs. If we are unhappy, it is the world’s fault, right? We try to explain our own flaws by the flaws of others. We deny the mirror so as not to see what we lack, which bleeds like open wounds. Hence, we create emotional dependence as a remedy to delay the pain of insecurity and fear that poisons the truth. When we undergo withdrawal syndrome from not having the necessary dosage of approval from the world, everything goes dark and life has a bitter taste.” He paused to conclude: “The outcome of this behavior is that we become addicted to receiving a ‘yes’, and to be applauded by those who are around us. Needless to say, at some point the remedy will no longer work, or will be out of the market. The unavoidable side effect is melancholy or sorrow. This is how the lessons that exist in all human relations are postponed and relationships become boring from so much regrets.”

I asked him if he thought I had been boring lately. Loureiro laughed heartedly and was honest in his answer: “Yes! Too much, in fact.” In face of the cross look I displayed, the cobbler added: “You have been bitching about everything, lately. When we believe the world is out of place, it is because we have not yet found our place in the world. This place exists in accordance with your ability to balance ideas and emotions inside yourself. When everything seems to bother you, there is no question something is wrong inside ourselves. It is time to align what is entangled, or else we will not be able to move on.” I stubbornly claimed I was a happy man. He looked at me with compassion and said: “He who carries happiness within himself does not waste time or energy complaining about life, as he is busy with his own wings, interested in enjoying the journey.”

I admitted he could be right and acknowledged I did not know where to start. Loureiro looked at me as a father to a son and said very sweetly: “Follow the basic rule. A good way to start is to stop with the regrets; stop pointing out faults in others; give up the silly idea of changing someone; do not blame others for your frustrations. These are the steps of maturity, a mandatory requirement for freedom.” He sipped his coffee and added: “Otherwise you will relinquish control over your own peace and will hand it out to others. This is the reason why serenity has become a rare commodity.”

“To be free means to have autonomy over your ideas and emotions. To be whole is to understand that no one depends on anyone to experience happiness.”

I said that everyone yearns for the applause of the world, in face of difficulties in dealing with their own mistakes. The shoemaker argued: “Only when there is no humility or simplicity to acknowledge one’s condition of being an apprentice. Be fair with yourself in face of the error, take on the responsibility of fixing it as much as possible, and be committed to yourself to act differently next time. With no suffering or torture, as these are instruments of the shadows that paralyze and unbalance. Move on in peace; the universe, in its infinite love, will allow you the opportunity to show, at some point, that the lesson was learned.”

Loureiro stood up and went to pour some more coffee in our cups. I insisted that I did not know how to initiate the changes. Handing me my cup, he stated: “Transform the old forms!” I said I did not know exactly what he meant by that. The cobbler sat and explained: “Instead of regretting the divergence, use the conflict to build peace. This is a source of light. Instead of blaming others, accept responsibility for your own evolution and the lessons innate to life. This is part of the Path. Only fools wish to change the world; wise men change themselves knowing that everything else will come out of affinity. Finally, never grant anyone power over your peace. This is one of many choices that are up to you to make. In the choices lie your power; in the improvement of virtues you will know your wings.”

Loureiro cracked a beautiful smile and added: “Do not forget that it is not the world that defines the beauty of the journey, but the power you have in your heart. This power grows as you refine, little by little, all virtues within yourself; comments that prevent you from engaging in your journey should be left aside.” He looked deep into my eyes and said: “You do not need authorization and there are no limits for those who fly propelled by the winds of their own virtues.”

 

Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.

 

 

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