About attunement, wings and luggage

A long time ago, I was invited by the Elder, as we affectionately called the oldest monk in the monastery, to accompany him on a series of lectures he was going to give. It would be a two-month trip through various countries. Excited, I had no hesitation in accepting and planned to make the most of the experience. At the time, as I was in charge of an advertising agency, I planned all the activities that were set for that period and made sure that everything was schematised without the need for my intervention. They were only supposed to call me if an extremely serious situation arose that they were unable to solve. In practice, I had planned a sabbatical, a kind of existential stocktaking that I felt was necessary at the time. Like a spectator watching a film of his own life, I wanted to understand the protagonist of my story more and better. However, I was unaware of the surprises that the narrative had prepared for me.

The first few days were wonderful, as is usually the case at the start of any holiday, when you change your routine and disconnect from your many commitments and obligations. We were very well received wherever we went. We had already visited three cities so far. In all of them, I had bought souvenirs of the trip. After the first week, I gradually allowed myself to dwell on old conflicts that saddened or irritated me. Without realising it, I was no longer entirely on the trip. My body was travelling, but my soul remained trapped in recent and remote conflicts. That’s when the Elder stopped by my room to have breakfast and saw me struggling to pack the suitcases, which no longer fit all the things I’d bought. He commented: “You can’t enjoy a trip without understanding your luggage”. I said I hadn’t understood. He tried to help me: “Luggage makes the travel report and identifies the traveller”. I said nothing. We went down to the hotel for breakfast.

As the theme of the Elder’s talk, Harmony and Attunement, was the same in that cycle of conferences, it didn’t take long for me to get bored. I thought I had understood everything I needed to. Boredom brought back the usual worries and recurring painful memories. Why do some situations from the past torment us so much? When thoughts like that dominate our days, joy slips away, we become boring, we’re bad company, especially for ourselves. Although we believe that the place, the circumstances or the people around us are to blame. The heart becomes sombre and the mind blurs. Grumpy, I started picking on everyone and everything. Without realising it, shopping had become the only pleasure of a trip that was losing its charm every day. I remarked to the Elder that since I’d already attended his lecture several times, from now on I’d make better use of my time wandering around the cities we visited. He said he understood my absence from lectures.

I remarked that I needed another suitcase. With his keen sensitivity and refined perception, he was sympathetic: “I fully understand your absence from lectures. Remember that only a naive traveller goes on a journey to forget about themselves, their problems and difficulties. We are in the luggage of all our journeys.”

The monk went on to warn me: “It doesn’t matter where you go. Always be, and be whole. Otherwise it will be a wasted journey”. I said I hadn’t understood that. He tried to help me from another angle: “What do you think of my talks?”. I said that I found them very interesting, but as they were the same everywhere, I confessed that I was tired of them. He commented: “I know you understood the content of the lectures, but I have my doubts as to whether the words reached your heart”. He paused and added: “Harmony is characterised by the art of living by dismantling conflicts or, at a more advanced stage, not even allowing them to arise. I often can’t get people to stop being annoyed or resentful towards me. Often, it’s their personal issues with themselves; there’s little or nothing I can do about it. On other occasions, conflicts are the result of my mistakes. If I’ve made a mistake, I have to apologise and, if possible, repair the damage I caused. In both cases, I have to be humble enough to accept my own difficulties and not demand perfection from anyone, which I don’t possess either; to be simple enough to remove the subterfuges that distance me from the truth of who I am and be compassionate enough to understand and, above all, feel the other person’s difficulty in relating to reality in the way they have constructed it. Nobody goes beyond what they are already capable of. Understanding and feeling, perception and sensitivity. A sage without love is like a temple that has a beautiful façade, but the inside is in ruins”.

He let his eyes wander through the windowpane that separated us from the street and rambled on: “Harmony is impossible, either with yourself or with the world, without the exercise of forgiveness. Everyone knows the value of forgiveness in ending suffering and bringing about indispensable liberation. What few people know is that forgiveness is a master par excellence in the art of loving. Many people interpret forgiveness as a gesture of humiliation because they believe they have been diminished by confessing a weakness or difficulty. Pride prevents them from realising the greatness of the gesture and hinders the primordial step towards understanding the transformation necessary for their own evolution. However, apologising is not enough. Remember that the apology must be accompanied by a sincere commitment to do things differently and better from now on. As well as understanding, you need to feel the pain caused so that the mistake is not repeated. The word must be driven by the true feeling it represents. The gap between the meaning of the word and the feeling that dignifies it can make the suffering of others even worse because of the insensitivity shown. When reason and feeling align in the same purpose, the reconstruction of being is completed in the coherence of living. I rescue the best of my essence. I free myself from error in order to move on. I regain dignity and peace. I rekindle my light and use it as a beacon for my next steps. I add a little more truth to myself.”

“Those who don’t understand the greatness of an apology aren’t yet ready to learn from their mistakes and put off the essential meeting with their masters. They prefer to escape by constructing tortuous reasoning as a method of justifying their own incapacity. In this way, without realising it, they perpetuate it. They don’t understand why their lives have become a factory of conflicts. They will continue to see difficulties in everything and will be a problem for everyone. They are stubborn prisoners because they refuse to harmonise their conflicts. They don’t know the importance of harmony.”

“Dialogues are the bridges that allow us to reach out to others. There is no communication without listening; likewise, for them to listen to us, we need a calm voice and clear ideas so that they understand our reasons and feelings. There is no harmony without syntony.

“Harmony is the ability to find the right frequency to listen to each person and have our voice heard by everyone. This will be impossible until we discover the attunement that allows us to hear our own voices. Until I learn how to talk to myself, I won’t be able to dialogue with anyone else. Everything in the world has something to do with the content inside me. Whether it’s to understand what I no longer want, or to understand how I can go beyond where I am. Lack of syntony prevents harmony. Internal confusion reigns. In the absence of syntony, it’s impossible to become whole because of the disharmony we cause ourselves.” I asked him to explain further. The Elder explained succinctly: “Each individual needs to learn how to find their own attunement so that they can dialogue with themselves. Otherwise, there will only be noise and no voice. Remember, we are many in one. Those who don’t know how to talk to themselves remain unable to communicate with others. This is the reason for great and constant conflicts. I need to find my peace in order to harmonise with the world.”

I said that none of this was unknown to me. I thought that everyone has problems and sometimes we get upset. Nothing unusual. The Elder nodded his head, and as if proposing a riddle: “No one can find their own tune without deciphering the mystery of their luggage,” and said no more. I couldn’t understand the correlation.

The next day, we travelled to another city. My suitcases, full of objects, didn’t appear on the airport conveyor belt. The good monk was free of this discomfort, as he was travelling with only a small suitcase. I was left with my rucksack and the expectation that my bags would be delivered without delay.

I was upset that my luggage was missing. I had bought a lot of nice things, some for personal use and others to give to friends. Suddenly, everything had disappeared like in an illusionist show. Discouraged from continuing shopping until the suitcases arrived, I decided to enjoy the days in a different way. I wandered the streets. The feeling of loss made me realise, although I wasn’t completely aware of it, which goods were really mine and which ones I only had. How important is it to have things I can lose, having no control of when or if it happens? That was the question I was asking myself. Like someone out for a walk after a short summer, I let myself be surprised by the sunlight. I observed the details and carvings of the buildings, the faces of the people, the beauty of the colours, the magic of the aromas, the unusual tastes and the charm of the words that came to me as soon as I made myself available to listen to people. Without realising it, by allowing myself to be completely myself and to experience the availability of the things that are in the world, without any anxiety about possessing them, I improved my listening to my own voice. I began to realise the enormous importance of being in tune with all my voices in building who I can become.

Learning to listen makes us perfect our voice. When I improve my internal dialogue, I improve my communication with people, my connections with the stars, I dignify relationships, I pacify conflicts, I free myself from old prisons and set off on unimaginable flights. I find happiness in no longer being who I was and in marvelling at the possibility of becoming all that I can be. I think better and love more. An achievement that is consolidated in the awareness of a true intrinsic power and is realised through a new reality. The world is the same and people are the same. However, everything changes.

That afternoon, sitting alone in a café, enjoying the movement of the world, a question occurred to me. Was taking unimaginable flights just poetry or was it a possible reality? If so, to fly I would need wings. Where would they be? I didn’t know the answer.

At the end of the third day, living this new routine, a little more in tune and with better internal dialogue, a torrential storm broke out. I decided to walk back to the hotel. It was fun to walk in the rain, something I hadn’t done for many years. When I arrived, I was told that my suitcases were available at the airport. I was surprised by the almost indifference that this caused me. Although I didn’t understand all the fundamentals at that moment, something was changing. The next morning, I went to collect them. I returned to the hotel by metro. In the carriage, sitting next to me, an old lady had a sad look on her face. When I got chatting, I learnt that she had a small stall where she sold various items at a popular market in the city. She was sad because the heavy rain of the previous night had washed away all her small stock, which was stored in a warehouse next to the market. As she had no money to replace the losses, she didn’t know how or when she would return to work.

I didn’t hesitate for a fraction of a second. Heart and mind, in tune, allowed me to fully harmonise that flight. I explained to the little lady that the suitcases I was carrying were full of objects acquired for various purposes. They were good quality things. However, nothing in the suitcase would bring me greater joy than to see her restart her business. At first she refused, for fear that the market would be suspicious of the legitimate origin of the goods. I offered to accompany her and provide any explanations that might be necessary. I helped her set up and organise the small stall. I stayed by her side until the first sale was made. It was the beginning of a new cycle. For her and for me. When I saw the light of a smile on her face, I turned on my heels and left without saying a word or looking back. I’m sure that in her prayers I have the purest gratitude. I’ve learnt that this will always be the best memory of any trip.

That’s when I realised the meaning of luggage.

I walked through the city streets like a bird learning to fly out of its cage, delighted to discover that bars are not the last frontiers of reality. In the late afternoon, I made my way to the symposium venue. The Elder was the last to speak and was almost finished when I arrived. The good monk was explaining to the audience, but I had the distinct feeling that it was a continuation of our conversation: “Improving attunement is indispensable for harmony. In the same way, your luggage will determine the direction of your journey.” He paused to finalise: “To change the journey, you have to change the luggage”. Even though the subject was the same, the Elder never gave the same lecture twice.

At that moment I had the answer to the question that had been puzzling me. Flying towards the unimaginable is not just poetry, but a sincere reality. The wings? Well, they’re in my luggage.

Since then, I’ve done as the Elder did. I travel with a small suitcase containing only the bare necessities. The important, valuable and indispensable things, a little each day, I put in the pockets of my mind and the drawers of my heart. I am my luggage.

Translated by Cazmilian Zórdic.

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