I woke up, as happens almost every day, with the sky sprinkled with stars. I love the silence and stillness of the early morning, as if they were inviting me to reflection, meditation and prayer. I grabbed a mug of coffee, went out onto the balcony and let myself be enveloped by the ambience of introspection that the night brings. As Li Tzu, the Taoist master, taught about the importance of opposite polarities, characterized by contracting to build and expanding to share, in alternating and complementary movements of infinite evolutionary cycles. There is a time to dive into ourselves to build our being; there is a time to go out into the world to polish this same being in the action of living. One moment nourishes and inspires the next; from the inside out, from the outside in. Life demands both movements. That was the reason for night as opposed to day, I reasoned.
It was a Saturday. I had had a busy week of running full of chores and responsibilities. Meetings, appointments and choices. A book was almost ready. In parallel with the spiritualist texts, I decided to write a novel about a trapeze artist who has his memory erased after suffering a fall. I needed to revise the text to send it to the publishers. A friend had lent me his small farm in a district high up in the Serra do Mar, the range of mountains that surrounds the city of Rio de Janeiro. It is less than two hours away by car from where I live to get there.
I needed to review the text of the new book calmly, but there was more to it than that. Above all, I needed to think. There was a lot going on at the same time. A clear change of cycle in my life, teachings that were ending so that new lessons could present themselves. Without closing the advertising agency, where my subsistence came from, I was delighted with the tiny publishing house I had set up to publish the books that were important to me. Each day, the idea of sharing the fine flower of knowledge built up millennia ago, and still restricted to small esoteric circles, fascinated me. Books of profound content, published centuries ago and difficult to find, deserved a new approach, associated with a contemporary look and language. The most important subjects that exist today, such as love, freedom, peace, dignity and happiness, have been debated since time immemorial, with a lucidity that is still disconcerting to our days. Questions considered to be from our time have well solved equations by ancient thinkers. Without denying the very important advance of science and the more intense permission of the traffic of knowledge between the visible and invisible worlds, they are valuable mechanisms that bring clarity to the answers and help us to evolve. The keys to open the doors of the plenitude of being have been available for a long time. Love is not a novelty; it has been in the world since its creation. New contents help to illuminate the words of the wise men of ancient societies, codified due to tumultuous historical contexts. Everything that is hidden, in truth, has already been revealed, we just can’t understand it. We have advanced, although there is still much to understand. There are still many books that deserve a closer look because of the breadth and depth they offer. I felt compelled to get more involved with all this. I needed to understand the events of my existence in order to take advantage of and harmonise the opportunities for transformation that were offered to me. When we understand the meaning of things, everything falls into place. That’s how existential cycles are.
I have always liked to meditate inside churches and temples for the wonderful energy they hold. I have also always treated the seas, rivers and forests as sanctuaries; the mountains as cosmic cathedrals. I also took care of the small flat where I live, so that it is a sacred place and envelops me with good vibrations. This is how all homes should be. Portals of light are established because of the intense connections that anchor when you are willing to do so. At that moment, going to a farm, being in contact with nature, woods and mountains might have helped me to understand the cycle that was taking place, but I still could not make the proper reading.
Every process of change brings questions and doubt. Not infrequently, they also bring fear. They are different issues, although because of the internal confusion it causes, it is common to mix them up as if they were the same thing. Fear is the worst of counsellors because it never shows us the way to love. Fear shrinks love. Fear steals the best part of us, inhibits creativity, prevents us from being unique, different and better. It prohibits us from moving forward. Fear is different from caution and wisdom. These, if on the one hand indicate limits, on the other, show us the opportunities that should not be wasted. Questioning and doubt are typical when we are facing the unknown, new cycles and journeys. They are healthy because they make us seek the answers we need, they push us beyond where we are. They broaden awareness, stimulate virtues and sharpen choices. So, when well used, they bring growth. Quite unlike fear that robs us of confidence; if we don’t believe in ourselves, we won’t go anywhere.
As if all the questions I had were not enough, a comment made by an employee of the agency made me very uncomfortable. As there was an excellent creative team in the company, my gradual removal from command could lead to unwanted and unforeseen situations: nothing would prevent these professionals from leaving to set up their own agency. According to this employee, there was a movement in that direction. It would not be difficult for them, because they had talent and experience. Then, not only my plans, but the whole financial structure planned for the next few years would collapse.
I confess, it was scary. If they all left, my situation would be very complicated. I would have to roll up my sleeves and return intensely to work at the agency. Worse, with a shattered team, or even alone. I would lose most of the clients I had already delegated to deal directly with these professionals in order to speed up services and improve responsibilities. I would have to build another team, something almost never easy and possibly time consuming. The agency had such a well-oiled team that we understood each other almost without speaking, such was the affinity. Many of us started as interns and never left. But everything changes all the time.
I took a deep breath and thought to myself: if that was the case, there had to be respect for the freedom of those who wanted to leave, just as they were welcomed when they decided to stay. There is no freedom without love; love does not charge taxes. But it would be strange to get there and not find them. To see them competing against me. If I gave up on keeping the agency, I would go bankrupt. The comfort of my days was gone before anything even happened. Fear has this power.
Maybe it was a rumour with no basis in fact. But the mere possibility of it frightened me; it made my sleep restless; it stole the concentration needed for other important tasks; it took away the taste of the days. It was as if a part of me had disappeared. You can’t live with fear. Literally. Fear is the thief of existence.
With fear, you are alive, but you are lifeless inside. Knowing how to deal with fear is an art. Fear is like one of those flu viruses. When you find the vaccine to inoculate it, it turns into another one and comes back again. I had lived through several fearful situations throughout my life. One by one, they were brought up and overcome. However, like a factory that does not turn off the machines, we insist on producing fears all the time. Some quite senseless, others almost feasible. All are frightening. When intense, they form the night of existence.
The farm seemed to be a few kilometres after the end of the world, considering the narrow road, sometimes rocky, sometimes muddy. The car travelled slowly and with difficulty. The house was little more than a hut. No neighbours, no mobile phone signal. With an irregular power supply, I would be satisfied if I could keep the house lit at night and heat the water in the shower. “Enough is enough for me” I repeated to myself the mantra of the Stoic philosophers when I arrived there.
On the very first day, after packing my luggage and checking the state of the house utensils, I went on a trail, which I already knew, to a belvedere where it is possible to glimpse a beautiful landscape. When I returned in the late afternoon, dark and heavy clouds were hastening the arrival of nightfall. I arrived at the farm together with the rain, which intensified as the hours went by. It was cold. I was lighting the fireplace when the electricity was cut off, a common occurrence in the region. I didn’t mind. With the warmth and clarity offered by the fire, I pulled the armchair close to the fireplace. I filled a glass of wine, cut a piece of bread stuffed with dried fruit and placed it on the small table beside where I was to sit. I was ready to read until bedtime. It was then that I realized that I had forgotten to take the bag with the books destined for reading during that period of retreat. “Don’t complain and re-invent yourself in the situation,” I repeated another valuable mantra. I would use the time to revise the book I would send to the editor. When I switched on the notebook, I realised I hadn’t charged it before leaving home. I continued working, but the battery lasted less than an hour. I devoured the bread and emptied the wine glass. There remained the fire and me. Around us, the night.
In truth, I was facing one more of the valuable, though always postponed, encounters we must have with ourselves. Although inevitable to evolution, we avoid them because of the discomfort they cause. They bring to surface the hurts, the unpleasant memories and the shadows that we stubbornly sweep under the carpet. However, the dust remains inside the house. We push to the unconscious the situations and emotions that we do not want to face because we believe that it is impossible to transmute them. We do this because we don’t believe in the power we have over our own lives. Yes, we don’t do it out of fear. That day, the meeting brought to me the fear of bankruptcy, if the key professionals in the team decide to leave the agency.
Under the excuse that I just wanted to relax on that first day, I considered that it must have some book in some corner of that house. In truth, it was nothing more than an escape from the fear that plagued me. A book would be perfect to entertain me at that moment. A common and vulgar addiction, as if the distraction were able to dribble the fear that, in the rolling of the days, erases the life that exists in us.
I lit a candle to search the house. I found only a dusty copy of the Bible. It was not exactly the kind of reading I wanted to relax in that moment. I put it aside and decided to go to my room to sleep. But I could not. As I lay down, the fear seemed to grow stronger. In my mind, all the agency staff were resigning, clients were terminating their contracts. The agency had gone bankrupt. I saw myself in misery and abandonment. Fear has the power to project itself into the magnifying glasses typical of imbalance; situations that will never happen, but which destroy us internally. We become weak and feel as if we are human rags. Fear tells us that hope is foolish and the world is bad. People are bad and love is just pretty verses from unreal poems.
At times like these, a simple detail is of extreme importance so that we are not sucked into the sewers of existence: an awakened conscience. We need the wisdom of the soul to show the shadows’ attempt to dominate us; we also need a firm and determined ego to react. Just as we need a strong soul, we also need a strong ego. The death of the ego, as it is often mistakenly said, would translate into the suicide of the being by the absence of will, by the discouragement that is installed. Strong soul and weak ego is evidenced in the “I know everything, but I do nothing”; they make up an existence of contemplation and improvement without any construction. We are artists of our own lives and co-authors of the world. The soul guides, the ego realizes.
The opposite, strong ego and weak soul lead to the abyss of darkness and suffering. The confusion that is made is because a proud, greedy and vain ego is confused as if these were signifiers of strength. Egos like this, in truth, are only immature. Shadows give a false sense of power to the ego to hide the fragility coming from fear, in a recurrent practice of deceit and illusion. This creates a bloated ego, good-looking in appearance but empty in essence. A strong ego is an ego conscious of its real evolutionary stage, willing to act and transform its own reality through the possibilities offered by the light. Thus we will have an ego without fear, fed by the love and wisdom of the soul. The shadows poison the ego by making it drink in the dark waters of fear; the soul strengthens it with its inexhaustible clear fountain of virtues. Virtues are the variants of love. The scales of the journey towards the light.
I changed positions in bed, turned from one side to the other countless times. Until I got tired of running away from the battle and decided to face myself. The fire in the fireplace was still burning. I sat in the armchair, said a prayer to connect with my masters and guardians. I meditated to find myself. The first thing I said to myself was: “The worst never happens, unless I go to meet it”. I was willing to go in the opposite direction of disaster. I had in me the firm purpose of the light. After a time that I cannot specify, I was enveloped in a pleasant atmosphere of serenity. The intuition came to me to read the Bible that, a short while ago, I had put aside.
I have a sincere preference for the Sermon on the Mount in the Book of Matthew and the Gospel of John. This one, besides containing epic passages of deep poetry, that reminds us of Homer’s style in his Odyssey, also written in Greek, has the interesting detail of the author declaring himself eyewitnesses of the narrated facts. At the beginning of the reading we find an ontological poem, under an esoteric bias, where we change the word verb, from the original word lógos, for consciousness, of equally suitable translation:
“In the beginning was consciousness and consciousness was with God, and God was consciousness. Consciousness in the beginning was with God. All things existed by its action and without it nothing existed. In it was life and life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered the light.”
Something has awakened in me. Consciousness is composed of the soul and also of the ego. Mutually, ego and soul are essential to illuminate the darkness of the world and especially the particular micro-universe of each individual. The questions of survival, when well used, propel us towards plenitude by taking us to transcend who we are. For that, it is necessary to keep the soul and the ego in unity of purpose. A situation only possible when we bring to the conscious mind all the contents of the unconscious. This makes us whole. Then everything is illuminated and the darkness dissipates in the clarity of the mind, through the knowledge of who I am. I am the broad consciousness formed by harmonising the unconscious with the conscious, the memories pacified, the shadows illuminated, the ego aligned with the soul; survival and transcendence, construction and lapidation, contraction and expansion in continuous movements towards the light.
I am, this small sentence of only two words has always sounded strong in me, although I did not know why. I settled down in the armchair and proceeded with a careful reading, trying hard to remember to use the knowledge I had already acquired. Otherwise, they would be of no use to me. I realized that I was close to some new teaching, but I could not yet know what it was.
I continued reading. Further on I find the exclamation: “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness”. Further on I read: “I am the bread of the desert”. I realise that the little sentence, I am, appears in a systematic way. “I am the door”; “I am the resurrection and the life”; “I am the true vine”; “I am the good shepherd”. All these phrases are found in John’s Gospel. I had an old question about this way of expressing oneself, about the need to conjugate so much the verb to be in the first person. Especially coming from a master of the greatness of Jesus, whose passage on the planet was characterised by extreme humbleness and deep love. I knew that there was a hidden treasure there, which I had never found, and for this reason I did not understand its usefulness. I went on reading and without delay found the sentence: “I am the light of the world”. It was the key.
I remembered another valuable passage. I went to the Sermon on the Mount. It was there: “You are the salt of the earth”. In the next line: “You are the light of the world”. (I am / you are) … the light of the world”.
Yes, the great teacher was speaking of him, but he was also referring to each one of us.
“I and the Father are one”, we find written further on. If I come to the Father through the Son, this new sum, now with three elements, is also equal to one. In truth, all sums are equal to one. He and the Father are in me. Therefore, I am also.
I knew the texts, but I had never connected them in this way.
I went through a few more pages, still on the Sermon on the Mount, knowing what I was looking for:
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is simple your whole body will be light”.
An aphorism that needs the exact esoteric reading for a better interpretation: “The lamp (the light) of the body (the universe) is the eye (consciousness). It is written in the singular to differentiate the physical eyes from the eye of the soul. Only it, the conscience, will allow me to see who I am and the reality around me, to then transform and evolve, provided it is helped by the hands of the soul, the ego. If your eye (the consciousness) is simple (humble, sincere and loving, without illusions, subterfuges and disguises) your whole body (the universe) will be light”.
In other words: “The light of the universe is consciousness. If your consciousness is virtuous the whole universe will be enlightened.”
My light is born in my consciousness. By pure logic, in an enlightened mind there is no darkness. Fear disappears completely. I go back to the pages of John and I find: “You are gods”. Yes, we are gods. Of course, a god still in seed, embryonic, that I need to make sprout, grow, blossom and bear fruit. Then I will be able to “remove the mountains”. I smile. I lack nothing. All the light is in me.
But I was not satisfied. I had the key, but I did not know which door to open. Ideas were just beginning to clear. It was necessary to think. I admire the Socratic style in the making of ideas. The indispensable confrontation of endless questions for the encounter with infinite answers.
What prevents the full manifestation of the sacred face that I carry within me? In other words, what prevents me from being whole? Only my shadows. They elude, hinder and deviate me from who I am. Among many others was the fear that plagued me in those days.
Why did I feel fear? I was aware that if the shadows are mine, it made no sense to treat them as enemies. It would be a contradiction. I cannot eliminate or ignore a part of who I am, but I can educate it. To educate is to bring it into the light. Shadows are bitter passions born of misconceptions. Their roots lie in the emptiness I feel but do not understand; in the difficulties and weaknesses I have, but do not admit. Hatred arises when I refuse to accept the fact that I am denied something; greed is present when I trample on common sense so that my desires are not frustrated. And fear? Why do I feel fear? I feel fear because I don’t believe in myself, in my strength and power.
Every time fear involves me it is a sign of my incapacity to face and overcome a difficulty. When I refuse transformation, I create the illusion of incapacity. By not believing in myself, I become a desperate dependent of the help of people and situations capable of supporting my interests, of pulling me out of the abyss that, without realising it, I have fallen into. I lose the power over my life; I surrender control of my days. I weaken. My light goes out.
Why don’t I believe in myself? Because I ignore or despise that I am. I am the salt of the earth (the taste for life), I am the door (the way I have to go through), I am the true vine (in vino veritas, in me I will find truth), I am the bread of life (I carry within me what is necessary, strength and power). All that is essential and most valuable in life is in me. Freedom, peace, happiness, dignity and love await me at the core of my being. If I am not able to find the fullness of life in myself, I will not find it anywhere else. Now, if all that I need is within and depends only on me, there is nothing in the world that can frighten me. A reasoning that seemed to me of a disconcerting logic, clarity and lucidity.
Although simple and obvious, we have been conditioned to fear the world and judge ourselves incapable of dealing with most situations. Because we believe that the world is a dark place, we live in fear, frightened by the danger of not being able to enjoy the honey of life. All because we have unlearned about our essence. I am the light, and also the honey of the world. All darkness and bitterness will be dispelled by my light and sweetness.
Are other people worthless? They are valuable and indispensable, because conviviality is the temper of life. Relationships forge personality in the fire of differences, improve the thread of virtue in the cut of choices, teach the necessary resilience so that the best steel, love, never breaks during a good fight. Relationships lead us to conflicts, they cause shadows to appear. Contradictory? No. Simply educational. Only this way I learn about the art of knowing how to lit the light in the darkness. Then I acquire strength and power.
And, in this specific case, if everyone abandons me and the agency goes bankrupt? This was the fear that had brought me there. It stole the joy and serenity of those days, it produced the agony that corroded my heart. It is neither fair nor wise to interfere or try to manipulate the choices of others. It is a foolish domination and contrary to the freedom of all involved. Including my own, because when I insist on acting in this way, I am imprisoned by the will of others. There is no freedom when I try to impose my interests on the life of any other person. The reciprocal also applies. Dignity will be lacking whenever I do not treat someone the way I would like them to treat me. In the same way, I will not allow myself to go where I do not want to go. All happiness built outside these principles will be mere façade and will not resist the slightest wind.
I thought that it was up to me to be honest with myself so that I could be honest with the professionals who worked in the agency. Relationships need to be fair to be healthy. Nothing seems to work when you are dissatisfied. I had to listen to them to understand if the root of their dissatisfaction was justified. If it was, I should propose something different; if I understood that it was not, that I was at my limit, I could do nothing else. Without sorrow or resentment. Everyone should seek the best for themselves, always with due respect for individual boundaries.
And if all the employees left? The agency would close and I would face enormous financial difficulty. Now, isn’t there a master hidden behind every difficulty to teach us a lesson? Am I not the light of the world? Is it not everything I need to be whole and complete within me? To attain peace, it is indispensable to learn to dispel all fears. To do so, I needed to apply theory to practice. I needed to live the I Am.
The name of this is faith. When I believe in myself, I move the force of the light that inhabits me.
I remembered the Elder, as we affectionately called the oldest monk in the monastery: “It is not easy to apply this virtue, faith. When we succeed, it takes us to another level of existence, because of the autonomy it provides. Old insecurities and fears no longer frighten. We discover who we are and stop blocking the propagation of light. Thus, we interrupt the creation of shadows”.
“The opposite of peace is not war. It is fear. Only faith dismantles fear. Faith is the attunement that communicates me with the stars and teaches me about how to use the light. The quality of both the transmission and the skill will be directly proportional to the confidence I have in who I am.”
The worst never happens, because it is a mere mental creation, an absurd idea arising from emotional disorders. Fear is not natural, but a failure in the elaboration of ideas, formed by an immature consciousness, still under the intense influence of the supposed inability to deal with the imponderable. If the agency closes? It closes. Without drama or victims. Cycles end and begin, in maintenance of the eternal movements inherent in the evolution of life. “If even the dinosaurs disappeared, why can’t my agency disappear?”, I thought and smiled.
I will always have myself. My conscience, virtues and choices no one will be able to steal from me. Unless I allow it. At that moment I made a sincere commitment never to concede such power to anyone. A pleasant lightness enveloped me.
I do not want something to happen, but if I cannot change the course of events, what will I do? I modify myself to become a little different and better every day. I continue to build and perfect who I am. Life is always attentive, it corrects the routes, but it does not abandon anyone. Each part is essential to the whole. However, I must be zealous about new paths and opportunities, without ever ceasing to believe in my light. Never stop believing in myself. I am.
Aren’t you afraid of doors closing? This only happens when I allow it to. I am the door! It is not the world or life that closes the door. It is fear. It prevents me from becoming who I am.
When enlighten myself, life protects my steps. It smiles and points me in the right direction. I accept the closing of the cycle and give thanks for the lessons made available. Then I begin a new phase. Nothing will be according to my wishes; everything will happen according to my evolutionary needs. More and more I become who I am. This is enough as it is.
However, one cannot forget the good old lesson: all true power is founded on humbleness. Any trace of arrogance will be enough to create a new obstacle to the light. Then a shadow forms again. With it, fear returns to the scene. Fear is contained in all shadows.
In the fireplace, the last ember of wood has gone out. The night and I remained. It had stopped raining. There was music in the silence. The clouds were dissipating so that the stars could join in that dance. The night was no longer dark nor frightening. My light illuminated me. Everything was clear. At that moment I understood why the night exists. It teaches us to light our own light to dissolve all darkness.
I invited the night to dance. Without fear, the day dawned in peace.
Translated by Cazmilian Zórdic.