You mirror my soul

“The perfect gaze is the one capable of finding beauty where everyone sees disaster”, said the Old Man, as we affectionately called the oldest monk of the Order when I passed by him without noticing him, so annoyed I was. His mature perception realized my heart was a thunderstorm. I turned to him and vented all my unhappiness with recent events. In a long speech, I told the Old Man how outraged I was about the ignorance that is still loose in the world. He listened to me patiently, until I unloaded the last vestige of intolerance, then he commented in a soft voice: “What bothers us the most in others reflects our most serious shortcomings”.

I was most emphatic in disagreeing with him, as certain behaviors were absolutely incompatible with mine. He pondered, “Most certainly are, some are not. And these are the ones that your soul, manifested through your subconscious mind, acknowledges as its own shortcomings; your ego, believing it is protecting you, rejects the shadows of others, as it fears the world will see a similar shadow in you”. He paused briefly, watched me for a few seconds, and added: “Can you realize that what takes you off-track and makes you lose your temper is living with the shortcomings of other people that remind you of your own difficulties? Precisely the ones you want to forget, or you deceive yourself by pretending they are not part of your personality. This affinity is like a mirror, and Narcissus does not want to see himself ugly. However, what the ego hides, the soul points out, so that it can be transformed”. I lowered my eyes and said nothing.

The monk invited me to walk with him along one of the tracks of the mountain where the monastery is located. We walked in silence for a long time, and little by little quietness took the place of annoyance. The Old Man revisited the subject: “Have you ever thought why it is so easy for us to criticize others?” That question by the Old Man was just rhetorical, and he did not wait for my answer: “By highlighting the mistakes of others, we have the delusion that our own flaws will disappear, in an absurd attempt to deny we have them. On further thought, however, it shows our cowardice in not facing essentially important issues related to the structure of the being itself. Moral or emotional flaws challenge us, and we pretend not to realize their existence within ourselves. However, they nourish our shadows and hide away. As a sneaky animal whose presence goes unnoticed, they set up a trap and wait to strike in the most delicate moments in social relationships. Typically it occurs in situations we feel most fragile, for reasons that we are often unable to identify, and that causes in us the worst and most primitive defense reactions in the form of annoyance and intolerance. It is the vestige of an ancestral instinct of defense that we have yet to transmute. In the infancy of the soul, the age we are all at, we deceive ourselves into believing we can dodge our own difficulties and flaws, to no avail. No one will avoid facing them, and for us to evolve we have to illuminate the shadows that dwell within ourselves”. The Old Man and I had already spoken at length about the shadows, and that the first step was, in a journey of self-knowledge, to acknowledge their existence. Then, to take on the task of illuminating them in the dungeon of the being. This is the great battle, the one we fight within ourselves. This time, however, the approach was a bit different, more specific. “The criticism we make about the behavior of the other is a trick of our ego to deceive us by making us believe we are the best, and that all is fine with us. No, we are not the best. It is exactly in this point that we reveal how much disrupted we are, by bringing to the surface all the feelings that still haunt our heart”, the monk said so softly, as the breeze that caressed my face.

I said that he was partially right, but that there were malicious people everywhere, always willing to disparage and to deprecate the virtues of others. “But the opposite is also true. There are nice, generous people everywhere, capable of illuminating the steps and appeasing hearts wherever they go”, the Old Man pondered. In a bitter, ironic way, I asked where the good ones were, because I knew where to find the mean ones. The old monk looked at me for a few seconds with his eyes filled with compassion, like a lighthouse illuminating the darkness, and spoke very softly, as if telling a secret: “They are the same people, Yoskhaz”. He paused briefly and added: “We are all good and evil, some more, some less, eternally trying to shape our being, with the mistakes and right actions serving as signs on the Path”. Feeling a bit puzzled, I wanted to double check if I had properly understood what he meant, that the bad people were also the good ones. “Just like the sacred is hidden in the profane, the seed of the good waits in the desert for the rains of light to germinate”, the old monk promptly replied, and continued: “One must help the best in the other to emerge, by shifting the focus from flaws to their virtues and talents”. He let himself be distracted by some pretty wild flowers that improbably blossomed in a crevice in a rock, and added: “There is only beauty in ourselves when we are capable of seeing beauty in others. We are all beings in search of transformations that allow us to evolve. We understand ourselves better as we understand other people better. This is the inescapable process of enhancement that requires steadfastness to overcome the specific stages of individual evolution that are reflected in the development of everything and everyone. No one will skip the innate difficulties of life, as one must understand the ways the masters, in disguise, teach their lessons about each curve of the Path. The more difficult a situation is, the more valuable the lesson”.  We walked some more time without exchanging a word. I was still trying to digest all the conversation, when he added: “Look into yourself and see if what bothers you the most in the other is a flaw that you have and challenges you to overcome it. We pay too much heed to the mistakes of others, trying to hide our own. We should be as tolerant with others as we are with ourselves”. We stopped to rest at a natural look-out where we had a fantastic view of the entire valley below that majestic mountain. I sincerely thanked the Old Man for his words, and told him I would like a chance to show a less instinctive reaction. He leaned back against a huge rock, arched his lips into a smile, and added: “The Universe, in its infinite generosity, does not allow opportunities to cease to exist, like a character in an old soap opera, who always reappears in a different scene, with unimaginable costumes. We will always be able to write a new novel, different and better in each chapter, until the history of each one transmutes into sheer Light. This is the great miracle of life, and, the most amazing thing, is available to everyone”.

Kindly translated by Carlos André Oigheinstein.

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