Julia opened the door to her new small house in a small town in Italy. She had bought the house a few months back. She was desperate for change. The nights didn’t seem to end. The days were short. Her life felt heavy and dark. She didn’t feel at home anymore. Not in her old house, not in her body, nor the universe.
The dark night of her life, she had called it in one of her diaries. She wasn’t ready for this massive change but didn’t see another solution. She had to leave home and begin anew. Everything had gone wrong for her. Her business failed. Her boyfriend had cheated on her after a relationship of 5 years. Her family openly spoke about being ashamed of her, and all her brothers and sisters seemed to do amazing which discouraged her.
All of it was too much for her, and so she decided to live somewhere else. A country that she had dreamed of living in since she was little. Italy.
Her New Neighbour
Her little house wasn’t much compared to her apartment back home, but it did the job. Besides she hoped to spend much of her time outside. Everything was there for her to move in. A bed, furniture, pots, and pans. All she needed was food. It was still light outside, so she threw her bag on the bed and decided to go grocery shopping.
A few streets away from her house was a little local grocery store. It didn’t have the luxury she was used to, but there were beautiful colorful, and fresh veggies and fruits. She waited in line, not noticing the old man with his big belly behind her. He smiled kindly to all the locals entering the store.
Julia tried desperately to communicate and understand the Italian language, but now that she, for the first time, had to talk to a real Italian she didn’t remember a word. She stumbled and felt ashamed. The cashier looked judgemental at her, but the elder man behind her stepped in. He spoke English and translated everything Julia said to the cashier. She thanked the man and went on her way back home.
On her way home she got lost. The town wasn’t big, but there were a lot of alleys and streets that all looked the same. After a while, she stumbled into the elder man again. The man wore a bright white crystal around his neck. She hadn’t noticed it before. ‘I’m sorry.’ She said and wanted to continue on her search back home.
‘Are you lost, my young lady? I haven’t seen you here before, are you my new neighbor?’ The elder man asked her. ‘Yeah I am kinda lost’ Julia said and scratched the back of her head. ‘I am new here, just arrived actually. But I don’t know if I am your neighbor. Where do you live?’ She asked.
‘Via Marconi’ The man answered. ‘You?’ He asked. Julia laughed. ‘Well, then we are neighbors.’ She said. ‘Do you mind showing me the way back to my home?’ She asked the man. She felt stupid for asking it but knew that she wouldn’t be able to find her way home on her own. ‘Follow along beautiful lady.’ The man said politely. He was cute, she thought to herself.
I am not looking to escape my darkness, I’m learning to love myself here. ~ Rune Lazuli
The Soft Light Within
The night quickly fell when Julia arrived back home. She had thanked the man and asked his name. He was called Jamil. He wasn’t born in Italy but had lived there for more than 20 years now. So she considered him an Italian. He had asked her if he could show her around in the next few days. To help her get acquainted with the town. She’d loved the idea. Jamil was such a kind and well-mannered man.
So the next day Julia woke up late. She didn’t have much to do, other than to unpack her bag and clean the house, and of course to meet up with Jamil after dinner. He wanted to first show her the town at night. She’d agreed, and was a bit weary about it all. After all, she was a woman alone in a strange country, but she trusted Jamil.
Night arrived sooner than she’d thought, and Jamil knocked on her door. ‘Are you ready my lady?’ He asked and held up his hand waiting for her to take it. She laughed and took his hand. ’So how are you Julia, and please be honest with me. We are neighbors now, so you can be open.’ He said. It comforted Julia, never had someone cared about how she felt before.
Julia explained to Jamil why she moved to Italy, and why she wasn’t feeling okay. Jamil listened, he didn’t say a word, but that was just what Julia needed. A listening ear, with no judgment, no opinions, nothing. Jamil already felt more like home to her than all the people she met back home. After a long walk up the hill, they almost arrived at the top. She wasn’t sure why Jamil wanted her to come here. But when they arrived on the top she understood. She looked out over a vast landscape. With little lights all around it. She saw their town just below them, where the lights sparkled and she could hear the locals happily laughing and chatting.
‘Julia,’ Jamil said. Julia looked at Jamil and noticed that the stone he wore around his neck glowed in the moonlight. ‘I feel sorry for everything you’ve been going through. And I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but may I help you?’ He kindly and gently asked. His voice quivered a bit. Julia smiled. ‘Yes… Please do…’ she answered and smiled. Luckily Jamil couldn’t see the tears streaming down her cheeks. She was moved by his kindness.
‘Thank you,’ Jamil said. ‘I have been in a dark place like yourself as well. I wanted to get out and change it. I traveled around the globe hoping to find that spark within me, that little light that would brighten up the darkest of moments. Now, look around Julia. Look at all the lights down there, and the lights of the hearts you can hear. All the laughing people, who not just light up the town, but light up each other’s hearts as well. Julia, although the night is dark and scary none of these people try to escape it. They only love it for what it is. They don’t try to run from the night, they light candles that illuminate it.’ Jamil paused for a moment.
Although the night is dark and scary none of these people try to escape it. They only love it for what it is.
‘That’s how I learned to lighten the darkness within me. Not to run from it, or try to escape it. But to learn to love me in this place. Like the locals love the night, it brings them closer to each other. It’s the lights that they made themselves that illuminate the dark. And so can you spark a light within yourself, Julia.’ Jamil said as he wrapped his arm around Julia. She began to cry.
That night she didn’t say a word. She only thought about the words Jamil said to her and looked at the many stars in the sky and the many lights down in the landscape. All of them lighted tiny spots in the otherwise dark world.
If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present. ~ Lao Tzu
A Coffee of Wisdom
That night Julia didn’t sleep much. Not because she felt worse about her situation, but because she had found a friend so quickly. A friend that not just listened to her, but that helped her, showed her the very small light within herself. Jamil was a thoughtful man and a very kind man. Julia wanted to take him out for coffee the next day. She wanted to thank him because she was so in shock that night that she completely forgot to thank him.
The next morning, far past sunrise she knocked on her neighbor’s door. Jamil opened the door with a bright smile. ‘How are you neighbor?’ He asked before Julia could say a word. ‘I am doing better, Jamil. Uhmmm…’ Julia was a bit nervous. ‘I was wondering. Would you like to grab some coffee with me right now? I wanted to thank you for what you did last night and the only way I could come up with was with coffee.’ Julia awkwardly laughed. Jamil smiled.
‘I would love to.’ He said. ‘Just a moment please, I’ll need to put on some nicer clothes if I were to go out with such a beautiful lady.’ He said. Julia smiled. This old man was such a gentleman, she thought to herself. ‘That’s alright, just knock on my door when you’re ready alright?’ Julia said. Jamil stuck up his dumb and quickly ran off changing clothes.
Julia was barely able to make it home when she heard a knock on the door. She ran to the door, opened it and there was Jamil. In a beautiful cognac brown suit, whilst she was wearing worn-out blue jeans and a plain white shirt. ‘I am ready my lady.’ Jamil said. Once again he held out his arm so that Julia could hold onto it. ‘What gentleman.’ She said. ‘You look stunning Jamil, now I feel underdressed.’ Julia added.
‘Oh don’t worry my lady, your pretty smile is all you need today.’ Jamil said. ‘So tell me, Julia,’ Jamil said whilst they made their way to the cafe. ‘How are you feeling today?’ He asked.
‘I’m feeling better, Jamil. It feels like you sparked a little light within me. Just a tiny one that could be blown out if I am not careful with it, but it’s a light that hasn’t been there for a while.’ Julia said.
‘I do feel worried about the future. You see, what if this light is not strong enough? What if it will blow out. Back home I wasn’t even able to spark a light with the help of anyone, and now here I can spark a light but only with your help. I don’t think I will be able to keep it burning, to keep that positive view on life alive for long.’ Julia her voice started to shake. She was panicking.
Jamil held onto her arm a bit tighter. She noticed it and felt a bit more comforted. ‘Julia.’ Jamil spoke deeply and calmly. ‘Are you familiar with the philosophy of Taoism?’ Jamil asked. ‘No, not at all.’ Julia answered. ‘What is it about?” She eagerly asked.
‘The Tao is a way of life. Tao Te Ching is an old eastern book written by Lao Tzu, and it holds many pearls of wisdom on living this human life. Many people in the west may know it as the flow of life. But in this book Julia, Lao Tzu writes a small verse about what you just went through. He shared that those who live in the past will be depressed. Those who live in the future will be anxious. But those who live in the present will be at peace. Those are the three stages that our minds can be in.’ Jamil said as they took a seat at the coffee shop.
‘Okay,’ Julia said. ‘And how can, thinking about the past or the future make you depressed or anxious. Isn’t it a good thing to think of your future?’ She asked. Jamil ordered an espresso, and Julia a cappuccino.
If we live in the past we are always concerned about what was, wishing that we could either change it or go back to it.
‘Let me explain Julia. What Lao Tzu meant with these words is that if we live in the past we are always concerned about what was, wishing that we could either change it or go back to it. Just think about a happy memory from your childhood, you’d likely go back and relive it don’t you?’ Julia nodded.
‘Now then when we think of the future we become anxious because we get this feeling that we have to do something to control that future. To make it go as planned. So we try to control our lives, which makes us anxious. We attach to the good things we experience right now, therefore making them less beautiful, and eventually, they will leave because of our desperate grasp.’ Jamil paused as their coffee was served.
They both thanked the waiter and Jamil continued. ‘What you are experiencing right now Julia is both depression and anxiety. These two often go hand in hand when we are making a shift from darkness to realizing that we are the light in that darkness. Because when we realize that we are a light that illuminates the darkness our natural response is to try and hold onto it, therefore we are worried, anxious, about our future and if we will be able to hold onto the light. But that’s exactly the thing that will blow out that soft light within you. It is only when we live in this present moment, no matter what we feel or go through, that we can experience this sense of peace with our lives. It is that peace that will strengthen this light within each one of us.’ As Jamil finished his words the stone around his neck glowed.
It is only when we live in this present moment, no matter what we feel or go through, that we can experience this sense of peace with our lives. It is that peace that will strengthen this light within each one of us.
‘And so dear Julia, your focus shouldn’t be on either changing your past, or trying to hold onto that light within you, but on being here now. Drinking your coffee, having a conversation with me. To pay attention to life. That’s how we light and strengthen that small candle within us.’ Jamil’s words touched the right strings and Julia once again almost began to cry. She held in her tears because she didn’t want Jamil or the other locals to see her cry. She took a sip from her coffee and she swallowed it down with her tears.
“When we start to love the void, the emptiness deep within us, we see that it is not a void but space for all the love of the world to settle down. A place that we call home.” ~ Daan Uijterwaal
Vast Beauty Within
Julia was thinking about Jamil his words. ‘Jamil,’ she said. ‘Yes.’ Jamil answered. ‘But what if I feel like there is a big void within me. A dark emptiness that seems to consume everything, every piece of joy or excitement for life. Is it possible to get rid of that or what should I do with it?’ She asked. Jamil grabbed Julia’s hand on the table and chose his words carefully.
‘We do not try to get rid of it, just like we don’t try to escape the darkness. That void within you, the emptiness you feel, it’s what haunted me for many years. I was never able to grow past it, it just always stayed there. To the point where I felt desperate to get rid of it. I tried so many things, but none of it worked. Do you know why Julia? Because that emptiness has a purpose. It’s not here to haunt us, to scare us, or to consume our joy in life. It’s that emptiness that is a never-ending space that holds all the joy, love, and excitement for life. The moment I realized this I understood that the emptiness I felt within, the darkness, wasn’t consuming my joy. I was consuming it myself. Taking it from myself. Making myself believe that feeling empty was only making me feel worse. But it wasn’t.’
‘Wait a minute.’ Julia interrupted. ‘How could emptiness be a good thing? Doesn’t everyone say it’s a bad thing?’ She asked.
‘And why should we believe them?’ Jamil said. ‘What if that’s only because we are scared of that emptiness? What if we don’t dare to face it? But that if we do we will see the vast space it gives us. This sense of freedom and love for life? Because it’s being empty that allows us to take in all the beauty of this world. We no longer hold onto anything, and because we don’t we are free to love everything. We see God in everything. We see light in everything, including ourselves.’ Jamil said. He looked Julia straight into the eyes. ‘God is within you as well.’ He said.
It’s being empty that allows us to take in all the beauty of this world. We no longer hold onto anything, and because we don’t we are free to love everything. We see God in everything.
‘You came in this world naked. Empty. And so you will leave it, my lady. It’s the beautiful way of life, whether you accept it or not is up to you.’ Julia looked at her coffee. She was moved. She wasn’t sure whether she believed it yet, whether she believed in herself and the light within her. But she did understand that right now she was alive, and that was all she needed to focus on right now. For today she lived. She’d fall in love with her life again day after day.