Love, so close, so far away

I arrived at the monastery a few days ago for may annual period of studies when I received the news my grandfather had passed away. He had been a healthy, active man, and had run his small business almost until his final days in this existence. He felt ill and was taken to the hospital. Even though he had been admitted for further tests, the doctors said it was nothing serious. I paid my grandfather a visit shortly before travelling; he was happy and optimist, features typical of his character. I was confident he was going to recover promptly, I prayed for it and sent good healing vibrations.  Therefore, I was quite disconcerted when news broke of the end of his cycle in this life. I wish I had had more time with him in my existence. This is what I said to the Old Man when I met him, seated by himself in the mess hall, between a cup of coffee and a slice of oat cake. The good monk stood up, hugged me and made me sit on a chair next to his. He filled me a cup of coffee, sat and looked me with kindness, as if saying he was willing to give me the attention I needed at that time. I told him I was disconcerted with the situation, and I even disbelieved the studies I had done. I said the backbone of the studies in the Order was the Sermon on the Mount, the teachings master Jesus had given on the mount of Kurun Hattin. I added that Jesus had also said that “everyone could do what he did, and even more”. Sacred books tell the case of blind men who can see again and crippled who can walk again. However, in face of a more simple situation, my prayers and healing vibrations were shown to be insufficient. I questioned the worth of my knowledge. 

The Old Man stroked his beard, as he did whenever he knew he would have a lengthy conversation ahead and said: “Love is the most powerful force in the universe. It is the raw material of all transformations and, therefore, of miracles. Whenever reality shifts to help us move towards light, we are before a miracle. If we pay attention, we will realize life is filled with miracles that are manifested in apparently simple, everyday situations, either to help us in hard times or to not let us give up. For a miracle to occur, transformation must be involved in love. Without love, any change is but a makeup. The difference between what I can transform and what Jesus did is reflected in the amount of love each one carries with themselves and is capable of sharing. I don’t even have a trace of such love.” I immediately disagreed. I said a had a great and sincere love for my grandfather, so huge it was it could not be measured. The Old Man nodded in agreement and said: “I have no doubt you love your grandfather immensely; however, to love back who has always loved us is the infancy of love.” He looked me in the eyes with the kindness of those who do not want to bother but must be firm and said: “To love those who love us is for the weak. The maturity of love lies in loving everyone, even those who have hurt us. It is to act for the good of all people around us, even those who are opposed to us or who ask us for help. It does not matter who they are. It is the sincere feeling that the other is essential for the whole.” He looked with even deeper eyes and asked: “Have you ever tried to heal anyone offering your love in all its intensity, even though it was someone you did not know before or who has even caused you harm?” I shook my head. He explained: “Start with these; place all your love in the pain of someone unknown to you. Then forgive all those who have hurt you, sincerely working for their good. Then, you will be permitted to heal those who have always been kind to you.” He stopped to eat a morsel of the cake and continued: “It is a long road”. He sipped some coffee and added: “It is love that will determine the extension of one’s power generated by awareness and the feeling one had of the whole in themselves. Setting this power in motion is called faith.”

I said he had made things complicated. I asked him to better explain what he meant and brought to his attention a lessen he had taught, that all knowledge requires clarity for one to see its depth. The monk arched his lips in a discrete smile and did not shy away from explaining: “Love is a feeling so close and, at the same time, so distant. It is close because it is an essential need. As a baby that will seek the breast of the mother to feed; without love the soul dies of starvation. It is distant from the difficulties we have of incorporating love in its broader manifestation. The love of a mother for her baby, who she nourishes out of the purest feeling, without asking for anything in return, is the first encounter everyone has with the true essence of life, unconditional love. To evolve is to expand it to everything and everyone. We should expand primordial love in ripple waves that move the Waters of the huge lake of life through such a noble feeling. The ripple will travel to the ends of the universe. Once it reaches the last star, it will return with the same intensity, as a reaction of deservedness and generosity.” I interrupted him to say that discourse of his was not being too helpful. The Old Man nodded and was more straightforward: “Love, despite being close, is still unknown because of its extreme sophistication. Not because it is complex, for it is simple, but because of the necessary depth for it to be seen as a whole. It is like a neighbor that lives next to us, but who we know little of. Hence, we waste all good that they could give us.” 

I disagreed once again. I said he was mistaken because everyone, even the brute, knows love. The monk partially agreed: “Yes, however, the mere fact of loving someone does not mean grasping the entire extension and capacity of love. Diving into this knowledge changes all. I mean it” He sipped some coffee and continued: “It changes yourself, it changes the people around you, it changes the world. It changes the gaze you have on all things, your relationships, your destiny. It changes the measures, the rhythm and bearings of life.” 

I said that that rhetoric of his was but nice poetry with no practical utility. The good monk did not give up on me and continued with his education: “For instance, you are now suffering the departure of your grandfather. The feeling of longing has been wronged over time for the lack of understanding of its importance. We fear longing while, in fact, we should embrace it. Longing for someone is the presence of love as essence, even in the presence of physical absence. You feel love regardless of touch. It is the love of those who love freedom.” He closed his eyes as if seeking for words in the bottom of his heart and said: “There is longing only where there is love. Without it, the former would not exist. We only long for what is wonderful. So, why should we curse longing? Why should we suffer for longing? Longing shows that the story was beautiful, and that that chapter of your life was worth living. The opposite of longing is emptiness, it is the page in blank we have refused to write on. May we dance with longing in the infinite balls of life!” 

I argued that those were easy words for one who is not suffering for love. The Old Man made a gesture with his hand as if saying I was insisting in not understanding and stated: “No one suffers for love!”

I almost jumped out of the chair such was my puzzlement. What did he mean with “no one suffer for love? I was a witness of how much pain love causes. The Old Man tried to make things clear: “I understand your suffering in face of the unexpected departure of your grandfather to other important learning cycles. But what hurts is the selfishness of wanting the other physically next to you, rather than being happy for knowing he went on a journey to new sphere, consistent to his current stage of evolution. What selfishness stubbornly sees as loss, love reveals as transformation. The veil of shadows prevents us from perfectly seeing the lies of love throughout eternity. We suffer with a given situation for not understanding all the love that is possible and suitable at that moment. Contrary to what many believe, love does not cause pain. Just the opposite, it is the lack of love that makes us suffer.”

I insisted that the monk was mistaken. I told him I had always loved the women who were part of my life, and that separations were always painful. The Old Man nodded his head and tried to help me in my reasoning: “There is nothing more common and vulgar than suffering for jealousy and blame love. Jealousy is an ancestral shadow connected to domination over the other, to imposing one’ wish over the wish of others. In truth, contrary to what it is said, jealousy has nothing to do with love. Love is connected with the liberation of being. Any will that is contrary to the feeling of freedom is devoid of love. For not understanding that, we unfairly blame love for this pain. In truth, without love one cannot realize they are a prisoner in the jail of pain. Without love, it is impossible to experience freedom.” 

I pondered that was not only on emotional relationships that love caused suffering. I added that living was a painful process. The Old Man looked at me with patience and said: “We suffer because we stubbornly let ourselves be driven by dense passions. Just like jealousy and selfishness, while we follow the guidance of pride, vanity, envy and fear, just to name the most common shadows that set mundane passions in movement, we will continue with recurrent cycles of pain. To overcome these passions by modifying and aggrandizing the feelings that move us is the great battle of life.”

“Whenever suffering comes closer, go have an encounter with yourself and try hard to identify the shadows that have caused it. If pain was due to pride and vanity, for instance, look at the situation through the lenses of humility and compassion. Then, behold the lightness of the unexpected.” He paused and then added: “This is just one of the many possibilities the virtues, the wonderful tools of love, provide.”

“The person suffers because they do not understand that the happiness, peace, dignity, freedom and love everyone looks for, consciously or subconsciously, are within themselves. Finding plenitude is life’s great adventure; sharing it to the world, a source of eternal joy.” 

I complained that the planet was devoid of love, it was like a huge abandoned garden. The monk shook his head and said: “To feel loved if one of life’s wonderful gifts, and caresses everyone’s egos. However, the soul needs to give out love to feel whole. You must understand that the love I receive is not mine, it “is” with me. Therefore, it depends on the other, and therefore it may be variable and transient. On the other hand, the love I deliver is all mine, it is part of my essence for being within me. One should understand that the love I have is not the love I receive, but only the love I am capable to offer. Bear in mind that no one can give what they don’t have. Thus, if I cannot deliver love is because I don’t have it in me. And if I don’t have it, what exists is a huge existential desert. What happens is that instead of setting the conditions for love to flourish, and transfer to the other the responsibility to care for me as a senseless burden, impossible to be carried for long. Then, the conflicts of the world emerge, as I want to solve the drought of life by demanding that others give me the flowers I miss and that, truth be told, it should be me to grow them. It is necessary to change this behavioral pattern that causes so much suffering; it is essential to grow an inner garden to color and add fragrance to life. This is the primary step. Then, a second step is to feel the joy of offering others the same flowers we used to demand from them. Reversing the equation of the relationship between the love we have and the world allows the pillars of peace be consolidated within oneself and before everyone.”

The Old Man ate a bit of the cake, as he knew I needed silence to metabolize all those ideas; then, he continued: “Suffering emerges when we don’t deal well with the tribulations others impose on us. At these times, we give vent to jealousy, envy, vanity and pride, among other shadows. W give up having a dignified, peaceful relationship because we cannot coat the conflict with the necessary layer of love. We pass on responsibilities and insist that our choices are acknowledged by others. The choices are the only available tools to set personal truths in motion. Dignity in respecting one’s own truth is reflected in the imperative of respecting the truth of others. Personal truths have different shades, according to the level of awareness one has reached. Harmony among the many possible gazes onto life is only possible if they are coated with love. Then, I can achieve the ancient wisdom of acting precisely in accordance with how I would like the other to act towards me. This is dignity in relationships. Hence, dignity is only possible is there is love in each one of my ideas, emotions or actions. Without dignity, all relationships are by poor drafts of good will towards our relationships to ourselves and the world.”

I interrupted him once again to remind that those words were not feasible when love was unrequited. After all, love is an exchange. The monk furrowed his brow, something he would do whenever he became more serious despite the unfaltering sweetness of his voice and explained. “One of the most serious mistakes I have heard everywhere is that ‘love is exchange’. I keep imagining love being traded as a commodity, and a tacky accountant entering its amount in a ledger as asset or liability, as if it were possible or even healthy, to keep a tab of love. It is transforming into numbers what cannot be measured; as if it were possible to describe what is not visible; it is to make heavy what must be light in order to exist; it is like disassembling the whole to turn it into nothing. To love is to share. It is giving without levies or payback the best of what one has, or else it will not be love. Anything other than the happiness one should pass on to the other contaminates love, which, as a result, will disappear. The opposite is also true, making love emerge as if by magic, once it is given in its purest form. There is no love if it is not given unconditionally; in the absence of love, there might even be a party, but without happiness.”

“Have you realized that when we talked about love, we addressed essential issues such as freedom, peace, dignity and happiness? These are the states of mind achieved with the plenitude of being.”

“Plenitude is harnessed with the process of evolution. In many places I go, I hear people defining evolution as expansion of consciousness. Of course, this is not wrong, but it is not right either, for being incomplete. What is missing? One should expand the capacity to love to know that wisdom and love go hand-in-hand. Wisdom without love is like water spilled on the ground that becomes mood under the feet of the brute.”

I said it wasn’t easy to live for love. The Old Man shrugged and said: “No one said it is easy. In fact, it is extremely difficult, because we live on a planet that is moved by dense passions to which, make no mistakes, we are totally in synch. When living for love becomes easy, this means we are packed to go to the High Lands.” He gazed at me with kindness and added: “Even though it is not easy, living for love is simple. Simplicity, for not having subterfuges, masks or mysteries, takes you to a disconcerting depth, as it takes you to the core of being. Only there you will be able to have an encounter with yourself and with all the love that will allow the most unthinkable transformations. When you meet with yourself, you will be before God. Then, all power is possible. Love is the Path and, and by chance, also the destination.”

The Old Man excused himself and turned to leave. It was time of the lecture he was to deliver in the monastery early evening. I watched him go away with slow but steady steps. I remained in the mess hall, in silence, for I don’t know how long. Inside myself, in addition to the lessons about love, I had the sense that I still did not know the person who inhabited in me. Dentro mim, além das lições sobre o amor, ficou a sensação de que eu ainda desconhecia quem me habitava. I also has an overwhelming desire of going yo meet me.

Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.

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