As usual, the train would pass in the early hours of the morning in the small and welcoming town situated at the foot of the mountain that houses the monastery. I was returning home after another period of studies. My mind and heart were glad for the grains of knowledge and affection sown in those days and the opportunity to make them germinate in my return to daily life. Inside the seed there is a tree, with leaves, flower and fruit. To see them is like turning on the light in the darkness. Making the seed complete its cycle is the work of life. The same nature that desires its growth, providing sun to warm it, rain to irrigate it, insects for pollination, also sends sun to scorch, rain to drown and insects to devastate. The source of construction is the same as the source of destruction. This was the bridge of ideas that led me to think of several characteristics of my personality that I would like to modify. Some shadows I could already identify quite clearly, others were still tenuous to my perception. Actions that, in the past, I believed important because they were a defence against the evils of the world, were only distorted aspects of my personality and made less and less sense because of the harm they caused me. I already understood that I didn’t need my shadows to defend me from the storms of the world; virtues fulfil this role wonderfully well, with the advantage of keeping me in the light. However, it was essential to continue on the mission of identifying the shadows, as they are tireless in their tricks and disguises. This would define the strokes and colours with which I would draw who I would become and write my story from then on. Every single day is angular because of the possibilities of transformation it offers. Although less and less, I was still offended by some opinions, I was disappointed with other people’s choices that could, even if indirectly, affect me and I felt irritated when something went wrong. When I did not explode because of the feeling of injustice, I imploded when I felt victim of circumstances. However, in one way or another, I was annoyed with myself. Lately, because I was aware that I was still using the razors of the shadows instead of the wings of light, I suffered when I stumbled. The razors prevent flights because they cut the wings. So, even though I could see the sky, the sun and the stars, even though I was enchanted by the wonders of flight, I could not launch myself into the wind.
The icy wind cut the skin of my face, while I, sitting on the station bench, wandered in my thoughts. There was no one else. Until I saw, at the other end of the platform, a man coming towards me. He was walking without haste, but also without fear. At the same time that his presence brought me discomfort, it gave me encouragement. This mixed feeling stunned me for a few moments. He was dressed very simply; he wore no expensive clothes and carried no luggage. His coat, quite worn out by long use, and the old jeans, worn out by time, were inappropriate for the low temperature of that night. Yet there was a singular elegance in his humble attire, steady stride and serene gaze that stunned me. He seemed comfortable in the cold and wind of that night, as if those factors were not capable of shaking his peace. I followed his approach until he stopped in front of me. There was gentleness in his gaze. A gentleness typical of those who are incapable of doing any harm. The man did not say a word.
Clumsily, I shifted a little to the side of the bench, offering him a place to sit beside me. He thanked me with a smile and sat down. We remained silent for a few moments until I commented that it was almost time for the train to arrive. The man replied cryptically, but with sympathy and patience:
“There is still time.” I said I didn’t understand. He explained: “To talk to get to better know each other”. He paused and continued: “We are strangers, but we are close”.
I still did not understand. The questioning on my features must have made him continue: “You have heard about me, but you don’t know me”. I watched the features of his face carefully. No, I had never seen him. Not even on television or in the movies. However, there was no denying something familiar about him. I thought, then, that maybe he was mistaking me for someone else. The man denied the idea: “I know who you are”. He paused and continued surprising me: “I also know who you are not yet.”
A madman wandering around the station at late hours? Not with that light in his eyes. I asked him what he knew about me. The city where I lived, my profession or the name of my company. I said I needed any of these answers for me to believe what he was telling me. The man arched his lips in a slight smile and said, “None of these questions have any relevance. They are merely existential aspects, therefore, transitory”. He paused again, arched his eyebrows and pondered: “I know about your joys and sorrows; I know about the memories that make your heart smile and those that you try to sweep under the carpet in an attempt not to deal with them; I know about the choices you made to get here and also about those that left you far from where you could be; I know about the lessons you managed to learn and those you are not yet able to understand; I know about the facts that were decisive in your life, because they led you to precious transformations; I know about the masters you managed to find hidden in every problem and those you let slip away. These are the things that matter, because they are part of your path. Everything else is mere landscape.”
“I am here today because you too can already perceive all these things, or almost all. Otherwise, we could not have this conversation due to the absence of an adequate interlocutor.”
Stunned by those words, I became suspicious again that I was in the presence of a madman. As if guessing my thoughts, the man clarified: “I know about your joys. Of when you managed to get into college and on graduation day, when you hugged each one of your daughters, of the texts you write, of the books you publish, of talking to your friends and to God, of managing to put a smile on someone’s face, of the gratitude for each conquest, of the restless days in search of a different solution when a problem repeats itself, of all the times you have had to reinvent yourself to survive and go on, of when you have had to tear yourself apart to find your own essence and, from there, be reborn; otherwise you would not succeed. I know that you are not afraid of death or life, but you are afraid of the reactions that you still cannot control, of the thoughts that you cannot educate and, as a consequence, of the emotions that you have difficulty illuminating. I know of the times you get upset because you have made mistakes and of the struggle not to feel guilty, of the effort to accept responsibilities and not to abandon commitments. I know of your love and your consecration to the Light, of the struggles you fight with yourself so as not to let the darkness, whether of the world or of yourself, extinguish the flame that was once lit within you. I know the lightness that surrounds you when you manage to look at someone who has stood in your way, not as an enemy but as an ally, because they awakened in you unknown virtues. I know the times when you look for strength inside and outside yourself not to implode in sadness and also not to explode in anger; I know when you find them and when you lose yourself. I know the joy each time you find yourself again.”
It was true, I felt just like that every day, like in a never-ending battle. However, I pondered, all people feel this way too. The man admitted that I was right, but made a reservation: “However, not everyone accepts themselves this way”. I asked him to explain further: “It is impossible to accept the truth that we are not ready to bear. Denying or not knowing the truth makes us idealise a non-existent personality, with characteristics and attributes that we would like to possess, but which are not present. A difficult phase, because we believe that the problems are in the world, never in us. It is when we declare that we are not perfect, not as a desire of transformation or evolution, but to justify the grossest mistakes, so grotesque that we do not even have how to hide them from our immature ego, so big they are. In truth, we need a strong ego to advance”.
I was surprised. What did he mean? Do we need a strong ego to move forward? Wouldn’t it be the other way around? The man motioned with his hands for me to let him continue. Dismayed, I gestured for him to continue. He explained, “A strong ego does not mean a proud, vain, arrogant, domineering or narcissistic personality; these are characteristics of an ignorant ego. A strong ego is a mature ego, able to look at itself in front of the mirror with courage, sincerity and love to accept all its shadows and lies. Even pride, vanity, arrogance, the desire for power over others and the single-minded perspective that surround our own navel. However, despite the enormous difficulties that inhabit you, you are willing to bring light into all those dark corners of your being. I am, but I no longer want to be, it says with honesty to itself. With a strong ego comes understanding, acceptance and a firm will to heal. This is the initial step for the meeting to take place. Only then can you come face to face with your soul and have a dialogue with it. The ego does not die so that the soul is born; it would be an absurd idea to lose an important part of yourself, mainly because it makes up the personality, the individual tools linked to the construction of its great work, life itself, characteristics which make it unique. We become one in the fusion of two, the ego and the soul. This is individuation. The fragmented being becomes whole and can begin the cycle of accessing the plenitudes in living.”
“However, pay attention not to misrepresent my words. I spoke of initiating a cycle. Possessing a mature personality or a strong ego does not mean already being aligned with the soul, but ready to begin the process that has three distinct phases: understanding, accepting and transmuting. This is the alchemy that transforms lead into gold. The weak ego is still lost in regrets, irritation, dramas and victimisation, among sadness and hostility, in the search for the culprits for its sufferings, searching for the gold of life beyond itself. It neither accepts itself nor has any idea who it is. Distant from the light it is not ready to return, to meet and talk to the soul. In that order.”
“Another important detail, the plenitudes, that is, freedom, peace, dignity, love and happiness should not wait to be experienced in the Highlands, for they are available in this very current existence. It is a right. Learn how to conquer and enjoy these goods that belong to us”.
What did he mean, belong to us? What did we have in common? I was stunned. An avalanche of thoughts invaded my mind; my heart beat with intensity. The whistle of the train approaching the station increased my distress. The conversation would be interrupted and I needed to understand some things that seemed confusing. I took my ticket from my pocket and showed it to the man in the hope that he would sit down next to me. In a succession of amazements, he showed me his ticket: we were in the same seat in the same car. I said that there must be a mistake and that we would have problems with duplicate tickets. He explained: “There is no error and there will be no problems”.
The train burst onto the platform. The noise prevented any conversation. The gale caused by the air displacement at the entrance of the train to the platform ripped the ticket from my hands and sent it flying towards the tracks. Distressed, when the train stopped, I tried to retrieve the ticket. In vain. I couldn’t find it and it would be unwise to venture under the carriage. Perhaps I would have time to buy another ticket, I reasoned. When I turned around, the man was not sitting on the station’s wooden bench. I looked everywhere and couldn’t find him. Then I noticed his ticket on the bench, as if he had left it for me. I waited for him to appear until the locomotive blew its whistle, signalling that it was leaving. I waited until the last moment. As I didn’t see him, I boarded using his ticket.
The train left. Through the window I tried to see him even if only to thank him for having allowed me to travel in his place. He was not at the station. After a few minutes, I serenaded my mind and heart. It was better to take the time to rest a little. I leaned my head back in the chair and closed my eyes. Before long, I heard the man’s voice: “Shall we continue our conversation?”. I looked to the side; I didn’t see him in the carriage; all the passengers were asleep. At that moment, everything began to make sense. I remembered that I had been through similar situations before, especially during the desert crossing, but now it was different. I was in a deeper layer. As if the previous ones had prepared me for this one. I understood who that man was; I understood that, in truth, I was travelling with my ticket. I smiled in gratitude and answered him without using any words, “The conversation will be long. The moment is perfect because every day is good”. I was beginning the return to the origin.
Translated by Cazmilian Zórdic.