It was a spring morning; the sun counterbalanced the cold of the mountain breeze and provided a pleasant “feels like” temperature. I was at the gate of the monastery, tightening the bolts of the hinges when my attention was drawn to a luxurious car that passed by me and parked at the external area across from the building. From it a dwarf emerged. I immediately recognized him; he was a famous comedian who acted in TV shows. There is no question he was a talented actor who never used his height as pretext for a joke. He had a refined, intelligent humor. Over the past few years he had been hosting a talk-show that had great ratings. He addressed me politely, and asked to speak to the Old Man, as we affectionately called the oldest monk of the Order. On our way to the refectory, where the Old Man liked to receive visitors, almost always around a table with cakes, cookies, cheese and coffee, making them comfortable as if they were in their own homes, the man told me he had been in the monastery once before, almost twenty years ago, when he was still an aspiring actor, and that had been a cornerstone in his life.
The Old man cracked a beautiful smile when he saw him. The actor asked if the monk remembered him, and the Old Man nodded yes. I brought steaming cups of coffee and was invited to sit with them. The visitor, then, said he had come to the monastery to thank the Old Man. He confessed that when he had been there the first time, long ago, he was about to give up his career, in face of the tremendous hardships he was facing. However, the conversation with the monk gave him courage to go on and overcome all hurdles. The Old Man smiled again and said: “The courage was not mine, it was yours. No one can give you what is already yours. It was there, within you, dormant. All I did was wake it up. But you fought the battle alone. You tamed your fear, transformed uncertainties, and stood up against the prejudices about your height, which were many and quite aggressive, with patience, toil and art. You showed the world that what matters is not the height of a person, but the dimension of their dreams.”
The man, with teary eyes, said he recalled the monk saying that ‘the body does not mirror the spirit. The design of the body does not always contain all the colors of that soul.’ The Old Man furrowed his brow and added: “All restrictions about the dreams humanity has had were created by those who wish to dominate others. No hindrances of any sort, whether physical, social, economic, ethnical or gender are legitimate to abort a dream. To empower someone to set the limits of your capability is to grant them the undue power of subjugating your ideals, your truth, of clipping your wings. Only fools allow that.” He made a pause and added: “To give up one’s gift is an invitation to bitterness”.
I wanted to know what a gift is. The monk explained: “It is an innate talent, a skill one has. Everybody is born with theirs, and it is manifested as trade or art. They are of all sorts. They set the world in motion and make it advance. Healing, building, protecting, singing, organizing, caring, providing, writing are some of these gifts. To understand, accept and exert his or her gift makes the person give to the best of their ability, expands possibilities and makes them harmonious with themselves, to be a more balanced, happy person.” I asked what the gift had to do with a person’s dream. “Everything”, answered the Old Man. As a huge question mark seemed to have appeared on my forehead, the monk continued: “The dream I am referring to are not the senseless desires of the ego for fame and fortune, even though these can come as a natural outcome for he who lives the real dream. The dream I am talking about is what we call dharma or purpose in life. We take over the commitment of trying to accomplish something before each existence as an exercise of evolution. To that end, we are given a gift that is suitable to us, in general connected skills we have developed in previous existences, in a perfect process, step by step, to lead us to illumination. Each experience adds values and, particularly, virtues that hone the being. Therefore, living conditions, such as the place one lives, family and financial status at birth are the perfect tools for that soul on that part of the path. The gift is granted as an instrument of fight and transformation. It is the sword of the evolving warrior.”
I regretted that for some, life seems to be more difficult than for others. “Do not be deceived or impressed by appearances. Life is an endless journey with infinite stations for landing and takeoff. Only by viewing it in its entirety can we understand all the justice, wisdom and love included in the burden of problems present in some parts of the journey. The facilities are given to propel; the hardships, to teach and strengthen. These are all valuable opportunities that should be taken advantage of.”
“Oftentimes, what we believe are facilities are, in fact, tools for the development of beautiful work, related to one’s and humankind’s advancement, but they end up wasted by that soul which, not infrequently, drowns itself in distress because it feels a void it cannot explain, and seeks solace in alcohol and shallow pleasures to escape from itself.” He sipped coffee and added: “Each one with their own karma and dharma. The former is learning, the latter is mission. This is how the universe shapes us until all virtues pulsate and reverberate pure light.”
The visitor, because of his experience, said that whenever possible, he encouraged people to never give up on their dreams. He was the living proof that the universe conspires in our favor on our quest for the true dream. However, how does one know if what they are seeking is, in fact, one’s true dream? This was his big question. He said that he had a friend with a wonderful voice, but she was not able to pursue a singing career, everything seemed to go wrong for her. The Old Man nodded as if saying he understood and added: “This is the dilemma of the dreams. Are they just difficulties innate to life, and serve to teach and strengthen the spirit for the next moment not to be wasted, or am I on a road I am not supposed to travel? How can I know if the voice I am hearing is from my ego or my soul?”
“This is not easy. The voices get mixed up, and there is a tendency for the voice of the ego to be louder. Hence the need to teach the ego the language of the soul, so they can have the same tune. This is the harmony of being.” He looked at the actor and said: “Having a beautiful voice does not confer to anyone the belief that their true dream is to be a singer, or that they will make a living with music. Not always do trade and art go together. If a gift is not a trade, let it be art. Use it freely to make your own life, the life of your friends and of whomever you meet along the way happier, like seeds thrown in the garden of humankind. Adaptability is a virtue indispensable to the walker, because it is a powerful tool for transformation. Take Valentina, for instance”, he said referring to one of the female monks of the Order. “She ranks among the finest poets of our time, even though very few people know her books, which are published independently, at her own expense. In my opinion, her verses are comparable to those of Fernando Pessoa, the alchemist from Lisbon. Her words sensitize and transform the being. Despite her unquestionable talent, and the poems she writes relentlessly, she is an aeronautical engineer specialized in communication satellites, shortening the distances of the world. Nice job and beautiful art. And a wise lesson in making a dream come true.” He took another sip of his coffee and added: “There is also Giuliano, another monk who works as a pizzaiolo, making very tasty pizzas with unique recipes, always prepared with love. On his days off he takes his theater troupe to the outskirts of the city, to share knowledge, joy and enchantment.” He made a brief pause, as he knew he had not yet answered the question and continued: “Life always sends messages. It talks to us through signs. This is an intense dialogue. If you pay attention and refine your sensitivity, you will realize it indicates the next steps. Sometimes it may place a rock in the middle of the road to foster courage; at other times it may close a pass but will indicate an alternate trail that will surprise you further down. Always and always. The time you question yourself is the time of necessary solitude. You must have an encounter with yourself, be alone with your essence to decode the message and, more importantly, to mediate a conversation between ego and soul. In the case of that singer friend of yours, for instance, the question is if what one seeks on that path is applause or transformation. Is her goal to be revered by the audience or to sensitize the hearts of people? A sincere answer will serve as a lodestar to guide the exact course one should follow.”
We remained some time trying to make sense of the Old Man’s ideas until I broke the silence. I wanted to know to what extent I should insist, if despite knowing I am pursuing my real dream, I still have huge hardships to overcome. The Old Man furrowed his brow and explained: “There are many turns on the journey. Difficulties may indicate that only the way one walks, not the dream, is wrong. However, they can also indicate that, from that point on, there will only be cliffs. Then, the plans must be redone. Every dream is unique, personal, nontransferable. Understanding the dream is for the walker to master, it is decoding the Path.”
I reminded him that he had not answered my question about the extent to which one should insist on a dream or give it up. The monk arched his lips in a discrete smile and said: “It took Albert Einstein more than 10 years and a solar eclipse to prove to the scientific community his Theory of Relativity. Notwithstanding having received a Nobel Prize in Physics for another of his contributions, his major legacy was not scientific. In the second half of his life, he understood that Physics was just an instrument to better understand spirituality. He realized that his dream was associated with the construction of peace on the planet. The just respect he earned in academia amplified his voice and facilitated his message to be heard. In his final years he was an earnest pacifist. Vincent Van Gogh devoted his entire life, despite huge material hardships, to painting canvases in which the most important was not portraying reality but showing how it moved him. He was unshakable in his beliefs, like a steady beacon which, despite the storm, kept illuminating the course for those willing to sail.”
The Old Man closed his eyes and added, heartfully: “It does not matter who you are or what you do. It does not matter what your dream is, or what size it is. Never give it up, never clip its wings. Fight for your dream while you believe in yourself. Or nothing will make sense.”
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.