We are the legacy of our heritage

This story follows on from the previous one, Superficial Relationships. It’s about Klaus, a monk who was much appreciated in the Order for the care he showed in dealing with others. The Elder had warned me that he needed help. There was a hidden problem, maybe it was his shyness, or in the fact that he had problems showing that people were important to him, without allowing relationships to deepen. At first, I disagreed. Then I realised that something was out of place, although I was unable to pinpoint the reason. I realised that Klaus’ politeness didn’t reach the level of kindness. Politeness is characterised by good manners in personal dealings; kindness is the virtue of those who, in a simple and sincere way, in all their actions and gestures, not just words, seek to make others feel good and welcome. As the Elder used to say: “Love without commitment is superficial love”. When love is lacking, pain overflows. Like the prologue to an announced opera, one night everyone in the monastery was woken up by deafening music coming from the Klaus’ room, an orderly and quiet person. When they entered the room, they found him collapsed from an abusive dose of anxiolytics and antidepressants voluntarily ingested. A failed suicide attempt. Everyone in the monastery was astonished at the senselessness of a person as balanced and sensible as Klaus. In fact, almost everyone.

After two days in hospital, Klaus didn’t want to go home. He asked to return to the monastery. The Elder authorised it. He asked me to share a room with Klaus for the next few weeks. Before that, he called me into his office to warn me: “Be gentle. Gentleness is the virtue of those who do not allow themselves to cause harm by their actions, gestures and words, even when they want to do good. Over the next few days, he will experience a whirlwind of emotions. Politeness was the disguise he used to make everyone believe he was the sensible, balanced man he couldn’t be. At the same time as feeling shame for the weakness that was exposed, there will be gratitude for being alive. These mixed emotions and feelings will perhaps drive him out of the dark basement where he has hidden from the world for too long. Klaus’ eyes need to adjust to the light. The light and the truth must come in drops; if they arrive like an avalanche, it will suffocate him. That’s how delicate this moment is. It’s time to listen a lot and punctuate a little; never reprimand. He doesn’t need discourses on right and wrong, because he has the capacity for discernment. He needs to understand the hatred that permeates him. To do so, the first step is to accept it without prejudice. This was the emotion that motivated him to attempt suicide. Hatred needs to be illuminated so that it can be dismantled. Without him realising it, help him to deal with what frightens him. From there, he will discover the path himself. It’s very important that he finds all the strength and balance he needs within himself. Nobody walks using other people’s feet”.

I didn’t interrupt the good monk. I didn’t say anything, but I didn’t believe that Klaus’ attitude was driven by hatred. For if that were the case, someone else would be the target, not he himself. What’s more, although I had noticed some maladjustment in Klaus’ behaviour, at no time did I see any trace of hatred in him. The Elder was wrong.

I found Klaus better than I thought I would. I let him rest. I just stayed by his side. As the hours passed, he showed the need to talk. To my amazement, he said that all the facts that were hidden in the dark cellar needed to be brought into the light of the living room. The situations that embarrassed him, as if they were deformed parts of himself, cried out to be exposed in the search for understanding and healing. I realised that this was not an act of despair. Despair had been the suicide attempt. Now it was an attitude of admirable courage, typical of those who no longer want to run away from themselves. Fleeing will never bring dignity, peace, freedom, happiness or love. We run away out of fear. Shame is one of the expressions of fear. Fear that people will discover that we are not who we appear to be.

He said that he needed to put his heart in the palms of his hands so that he could examine it fully, without deceit or subterfuge. He said that everything he had never allowed himself to expose was also what oppressed him like an adversary he had never dared to face because he considered himself incapable of defeating it. This had made him choose to run away. I thought that everyone is capable of overcoming their own difficulties. Although he admitted that he needed to live this truth, he doubted whether he could. Then he confessed that the coercion he was suffering because of the hatred he felt had become unbearable; he needed to break free. Since he couldn’t deal with his oppressor, he decided to put an end to himself as an absurd idea of liberation. A few days ago, he saw no other way out. Although he had no intention of repeating such a senseless gesture, the suffering was still unbearable. He felt like he was in a labyrinth that he wanted to get out of, but he didn’t know how. He had no idea how to act once he had brought to light all the facts that shamed him. “Shame is a cruel foreman”, he admitted. He wanted to, but he couldn’t speak. I called the Elder.

“Although no one can offer you the objects of your true conquests, because, as well as being immaterial, they have to be achieved through an intrinsic construction in your own being, you will not lack support and guidance to get out of the place where you are inside yourself. You are not alone; no one ever is. There will always be help, but the part you have to do is the art of life. It can only be done by you,” said the good monk in his usual serene voice. He continued: “All the years of study will help you a lot. Alongside understanding, knowledge will be important for establishing one of the pillars of your reconstruction. The other foundation is love, both for yourself and for life. There are many charms and wonders in both. The gesture of a few days ago showed the ruins of the destruction you imposed on yourself. The good thing is that you realise this and have the firm will to get back on your feet. Where there is a will there is a way. This is the first step towards freeing yourself from the oppressor who crushes you and causes you so much suffering and hatred. I have absolutely no doubt that you will succeed in this endeavour. Only one thing can stop you: your refusal to walk”. A different kind of glow emanated from Klaus’ eyes, a light I’d never seen before. Then he arched his lips in a slight smile, as if his soul had finally found the welcome it needed to regenerate.

The sweetness of the Elder’s genuine compassion made Klaus open the doors of his heart. It was a story full of challenging chapters. To summarise, a few years ago, he had been fired from his excellent job. Although he searched, he couldn’t find a similar position and was forced to accept a lesser position with a lower salary at another company. At a different pace, over the course of this time, his wife took on various roles in the same company that had dismissed him. A financial dependency set in, which, poorly dimensioned, expanded to become an emotional dependency. He felt like a failure and believed that this was also his wife’s view of him. Insecurity took up residence inside him. He began to suspect that his wife was having extramarital affairs because she was no longer attracted to a weak and failed man; he began to doubt whether he was the biological father of his children. He wasn’t sure of anything; insecurity ate away at him every minute. Every day. Insecurity is a kind of minor fear, and when we don’t face it, we get used to living with it; we come to believe that it’s normal and doesn’t cause any harm. That’s a mistake. Insecurity is like the sea air for those who live by the sea; when you don’t take care of it, before you know it, everything in your house will be corroded and rusty. More and more of the family’s decisions were centred on his wife’s will. Little by little, he lost his voice and his opinion. He felt crushed. He had cancelled himself out; he was him, but he was nobody. He didn’t know how to rebalance the relationship or how to regenerate himself. He didn’t think he could be reborn. He began to feel hatred. He hated a world that he considered unfair; he hated life for the evil it imposed on people who, like him, although they didn’t hurt anyone, suffered a lot. The mere idea that someone could be happy and fulfilled flooded him with hatred. He felt belittled. He didn’t want anyone to know that he felt so much hatred or that he looked at himself as a failure. He believed he could stand on his pride; he had his vanity to keep him on his feet. He wanted to conquer himself, pacify his emotions and enlighten his conscience. But he didn’t know what to do in the face of a reality with insurmountable difficulties. Since anything is possible in fiction, and apparently easier and quicker to happen, he chose the traps of deception. He was aware of the risk that, at some point, he would fall prey to the temptations of shortcuts and lies. But he didn’t stop. He came to love the loving, strong, sensible and balanced character he had invented for himself. His non-existent interest in the lives of his colleagues was an important part of the script because of the admiration it provoked. Although it was shallow and not enough to make him the man he seemed, it was nice to believe that, even in front of eyes unprepared to see the truth hidden behind his staged behaviour, he had become an ideal of perfection and the recipient of many compliments. He tried to believe that he didn’t need reality. Fiction would suffice. Pleasant lies are seductive. Seductive temptations.

As he believed he didn’t have the strength to fight the monster that was devouring his insides, he thought he had found a way out. However, despite the satisfaction he found in the character, his hatred kept growing silently. Klaus fooled everyone, but he couldn’t fool his own soul. The discomfort grew. He loved the character he had invented but despised the man he had become. He hated the truth, happy people, the world and the reality he had. Without realising it, he began to hate himself. Who he truly was. When the hatred became unbearable, he couldn’t contain his growing desire to take revenge on everyone and everything. There was no charm or beauty in anything or anyone. Since he couldn’t blow up the world, he decided to implode himself. He used himself as a foolish object of revenge. He believed he had found the final solution to his relentless suffering. He took revenge on the man he had genuinely become; or as it was more comfortable to believe, on the man life had forced him to be. Deceptions to construct fallacious reasoning. A common mistake.

Without interrupting, with his infinite patience, the Elder listened to the drama narrated by Klaus. Then he said: “We are our own heirs. Each person’s legacy is the consequences of their choices. Nothing more. That’s why we must act with love so that love will always be our inheritance. You can fool everyone, but it’s impossible to run away from yourself. If death is not the end, but just a transition, neither will it be a way out. We will be in our own luggage on any journey we make.” With a tear revealing his feelings at that moment, Klaus confessed that there was nothing good left of his life. The Elder allowed no more deceit: “Wrong. You have yourself. At least, if reconstruction is a firm and sincere will. It’s a possible choice, one that’s up to you”. He paused to emphasise: “He who has himself has the power of life in his hands. Nothing will be lacking. Enough to start the fantastic construction of the great work, the one in which the soul uses the body to manifest itself in love, dignity, peace, freedom and happiness through the situations lived every day. Without any lies. Let yourself be enchanted by your movements at every moment. The time to start is always now”.

At that moment I understood Klaus. Empty in himself, he only had the politeness to feel recognised and admired by people. His soft-spoken manner and steady gaze served the character of the strong, balanced man who, although he didn’t exist, was suited to the archetype of the sage, a behavioural model that lives in the collective unconscious. Thus, by concealing the feeling of inferiority that he had mistakenly brought upon himself, he felt himself to be in an elevated position. But that step was a fiction. Because he was in a place he hadn’t yet conquered, at some point he would plummet. Inexorably.

Klaus said he didn’t know how to get back on his feet. The Elder explained: “You have to change the lenses of hatred for those of love. This will allow you to replace prejudice and worldly conditioning with sacred wisdom. Sacred is everything that makes us better people. This is the secret of the wise; it is also the road to fulfilment.”

At that moment, the idea of returning home frightened him. He didn’t know how to deal with his wife after admitting to himself the suspicions that plagued him. He wondered what his relationship with his family would be like from then on. The Elder explained: “Everyone is where they are. Either in the dark or in the light. Financial conditions don’t matter at all; ethical positioning makes all the difference. I can have nothing, but own myself; then I’ll be whole and nothing fundamental will be missing. I can have everything, but not be my own person; then I’ll be nothing and I’ll lack everything”. He paused to clarify: “Owning yourself does not mean being proud, vain, arrogant, egotistical and full of deceit because you are distanced from your own essence. Being your own person means being humble, simple and loving, consistent with your truth, principles and values.”

Klaus wanted to know how to apply that theory to practice. The Elder got to the root of the problem: “Hatred arises from fear. When we believe we are incapable, inferior, powerless in the face of an injustice or because we don’t know how to deal with a frustration, we feel hatred. Hatred obstructs free thinking. Then we don’t realise that fear of facing ourselves is the only obstacle preventing us from moving forward. We’re trapped by something or someone we can’t identify exactly. However, this someone is everyone for themselves. Only I can stop myself from moving forward. When someone has such power, it’s because I gave it to them. No-one else.

He paused briefly so that Klaus could allocate the main ideas and continued: “The feeling of incapacity, inferiority, disappointment and injustice, when not worked through so that it can be deconstructed, raises a pavilion of hatred. Contrary to what many people believe, there can be hatred in sadness and shyness. Sometimes externalised rage can show the overflow of suffering from an out-of-control soul, not without first going through the stages of denial and flight typical of excessive introversion.

Without interrupting, with his infinite patience, the Elder listened to Klaus’s drama. Then he stated, “We are our own heirs. Each person’s legacy is the consequence of their choices. Nothing more. Therefore, we should act with love so that love remains our inheritance. One can deceive everyone else, but it’s impossible to escape oneself. If death isn’t the end but merely a transition, it won’t serve as an escape either. We carry our own baggage on any journey we make.”

With a tear revealing his feelings at that moment, Klaus confessed that nothing good had remained in his life. The Elder didn’t allow further deception: “Incorrect. You have yourself. At least, if reconstruction is a strong and sincere desire. It’s a choice only you can make.” He paused to emphasize, “Those who have themselves hold the power of life in their hands. They lack nothing. Sufficient to begin the magnificent construction of the great work, where the soul uses the body to manifest love, dignity, peace, freedom, and happiness through everyday experiences. Without any falsehoods. Allow yourself to be enchanted by your own movements in every moment. The time to start is always now.”

At that moment, I understood Klaus. Empty within himself, he had only politeness left to feel a sense of recognition and admiration from others. His soft speech and steady gaze served the character of a strong, balanced man that, though nonexistent, fit the archetype of the wise, a behavioural model residing in the collective unconscious. Thus, hiding the sense of inferiority he mistakenly adopted, he felt elevated. Yet, this pedestal was a fiction. Being in a position he hadn’t truly conquered meant he would inevitably fall at some point.

Klaus said he didn’t know how to rebuild himself. The Elder explained, “You must exchange the lenses of hatred for those of love. This will allow you to replace prejudice and worldly conditioning with sacred wisdom. Sacred is everything that makes us better people. This is the secret of the wise; it’s also the road to The Penitudes.”

At that moment, the idea of returning home was daunting. He didn’t know how to face his wife after admitting to himself the suspicions that tormented him. He wondered about his relationship with his family from then on. The Elder explained, “Everyone is where they choose to be. Whether in darkness or light. Financial conditions matter little; ethical positioning makes all the difference. I may have nothing, but I own myself; therefore, I will be whole and lack nothing fundamental. I may have everything, but not own myself; thus, I will be nothing and lack everything.” He paused to clarify, “Owning oneself does not mean being proud, vain, arrogant, selfish, and full of mistakes from straying from one’s essence. Owning oneself means being a humble, simple, and loving individual, consistent with one’s truth, principles, and values.”

Klaus wanted to know how to apply that theory in practice. The Elder addressed the root of the problem, “Hatred arises from fear. When we believe ourselves incapable, inferior, powerless in the face of injustice suffered or because we don’t know how to handle frustration, we feel hatred. Hatred obstructs free thinking. Thus, we fail to understand that the fear of confronting ourselves is the only obstacle preventing us from moving forward. We remain imprisoned by something or someone we can’t accurately identify. Yet, that someone is each of us ourselves. Only I can prevent myself from progressing. When someone else holds such power, it’s because I granted it to them. No one else.”

He paused briefly to allow Klaus to grasp the core ideas and continued, “Feelings of incapacity, inferiority, disappointment, and injustice, when not processed to be deconstructed, build a pavilion of hatred. Contrary to many beliefs, there can be hatred in sadness and shyness. Externalized fury can sometimes demonstrate the overflow of suffering from a soul out of control, having first passed through the stages of denial and escape, typical of excessive introversion.”

As time passes, hatred settles deep within us to the point where we find repulsion, pessimism, isolation, disinterest, bad temper, or irritation to be natural. These are manifestations of entrenched but not understood hatred. It’s like the sea breeze slowly corroding the best within us. Eventually, everything in us will rust and decay. This means that hatred has won. The next step is to vent it in some way. All are deplorable forms of revenge. You chose one.”

Klaus asked whether he should keep or suppress the hatred within him. The Elder clarified, “Absolutely not. That’s not what I meant. I meant that when you vent it, your hatred is cast into the world. There will be detrimental effects to varying degrees. Hatred needs to be dismantled and then transmuted into love or other virtues. That’s the basic equation of light.”

He made a brief yet important observation: “When we hold onto or suppress our emotions, including hatred, it will eventually overflow. The consequences can be disastrous. One of them is the riot that occurs within our consciousness, causing us to lose our way towards the light. There will be nothing left of ourselves. All dense passions need to be deconstructed with love and wisdom. For this, there is a toolbox—virtues.”

Without avoiding Klaus’s initial question, the Elder tackled the issue of applying theory to practice: “Return home with your head held high. Leave behind pride and vanity to avoid repeating mistakes. Return enveloped in humility, simplicity, and compassion. You own yourself. Therefore, you don’t need to deny your insecurities; accept them with humility so they can later become sources of strength. Don’t deny your doubts; admit them with simplicity so they can lead you to the truth. This will balance you. Don’t deny your fears; accept them with compassion so that love can show you the unknown paths where fears will be left behind. Definitely. Sufferings and fears are complex mental creations. But nothing more than that. They all stem from our mistaken understandings and attitudes towards reality.”

He then went into details: “Invite your wife to talk. Have an open dialogue with her. Pay attention to using sweet words and a serene tone. They facilitate the understanding of individual truths and help bring forth a unified truth in the relationship. If your hearts rejoice in continuing together with the proposed changes, it will be wonderful. If you understand that it’s time to say goodbye, be grateful for the shared moments; the good ones for the smiles they brought; the bad for the lessons. However, never fear that one’s will may not match the other’s. When one doesn’t want to continue, it means that journey has ended for them; the other either hasn’t understood or refuses to admit it. Yet, when you engage with your own love, you’ll understand that in such cases, what is good for one will be good for both. Even if the best understanding takes a while to find its place.”

He concluded: “It’s crucial that social or professional differences never define someone’s importance. What defines a person’s power is their intrinsic content; their consciousness and virtues. Nothing more. Regardless of where they live, the position they hold, the robust bank account, or the diplomas acquired, what matters is the ethics and love they practice. Interestingly, a genuinely virtuous person, due to their humility, simplicity, and compassion, recognizes the value of all people and knows they are not more important than anyone else. Their gaze will be firm, and their speech gentle. Now, living authentically as themselves, not as an invented character.”

Then he warned Klaus, “Regardless of what has happened, remember that it wasn’t your wife who imposed a condition of inferiority upon you. You allowed yourself to believe that. Reclaim yourself so that it never happens again, whether with her or in future relationships, if that’s the case.”

Klaus expressed a desire to undergo DNA tests to confirm the biological paternity of his children. The Elder offered a different perspective: “Do you love them?” he asked. “Very much,” Klaus replied. The wise monk shrugged and said, “Then it’s all settled; nothing more needs to be done. Just continue being the best father you can be to them. In the end, all that remains on the road is the essence of everything. Love. Nothing more and nothing less.”

That period of study lasted about a month. Klaus stayed until the end. Classes, readings, reflections, debates, conversations, prayers, and meditations were all integrated parts of the healing process. At the time of departure, after thanking the Elder, Klaus came to speak with me. As we shared a hug, I mentioned that I was curious about something. Klaus encouraged me to ask. I asked why he had played loud music during his moment of despair when he attempted suicide. He arched his lips in a slight smile, as if recalling someone who was no longer him, and said, “The loud sound was a desperate attempt not to hear the voice of conscience calling for transformations and different actions. Fear and hatred demanded revenge and needed to silence the words of courage and love offered by the soul. Only cowards seek revenge; love is for the strong.”

I watched him walk away; he was the same man, yet he was another man. He no longer resembled the strong character with a shattered soul. I saw a simple man with a balanced soul depart.

I met Klaus again in various other study cycles at the monastery. Despite the aging that steals our youth as time goes by, he became a more beautiful man each year. They say the beauty of the soul reflects its strength in the eyes; through his smile, he revealed his equilibrium. Recently, almost twenty years later, I received an invitation to celebrate the golden wedding anniversary of his marriage. In the photo, a beautiful family. The same family. However, now they carried in their baggage a story of missed connections and falls, but also of reconstructions and triumphs. A story of the purest and truest love. With all its reach and power. Nothing could make me miss that celebration. To consecrate is to become sacred, whether to oneself or alongside someone else. It’s the best part of all stories.

Translated by Cazmilian Zórdic.

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