He walked down the road, heading towards his favorite cafe in town. It’s a small, relatively unimposing cafe at the corner of the street, but it has a charm which caused many others to follow the inviting smell leaving through the door to spend their morning there as almost all tables were taken and only two seats in the corner and one at the counter were free.
He sat down and took out his sketchbook. He didn’t only come here for the amazing tea and delicious cake, but to go after one of his favorite hobbies as well: Observing and drawing the beauty of everyday life and its people.
He did a few drawings until a waitress interrupted his creative outpouring to take his order. He ordered his favorite: Green tea and a piece of lemon cake.
As the waitress left him to his sketchbook, he continued sketching the people around him. There was this beautiful girl talking to one of her friends, this lovely old lady that was wearing a long pink coat that gave her a vibrant and quirky look that seemed to perfectly match with her character and then there was his favorite little thing to draw, the owner’s cat as she slept peacefully on a chair in the corner, unimpressed by the noise in the cafe she was quietly purring.
He continued with his drawings and took out his phone to check the news and write a few emails. As he was tipping he heard the little bell on the door, that made it know that someone just entered the cafe.
He didn’t look up, but the hairs on his neck and his arms stood straight in a split second and the whole atmosphere in the cafe became lighter, almost as if the air was electrified and all the chatter stopped for a moment. At first, he didn’t look up from his phone but he instinctively knew that someone somewhat unusual entered the cafe this morning.
He looked up from his phone to sneak a peek of the new visitor.
It was an older man, maybe around 75. He had a bald head and a white beard. Around his one wrist, he saw a pair of mala beads, which he knew to be traditional Buddhist symbolic jewelry. Other than that he seemed to be a very normal old man and yet there was something unusual about him, something mysterious, like a fragrance that followed him everywhere he goes. He sensed that and others did too.
The way he moved, the way he spoke, it looked like dance in some way, at ease, relaxed and present.
The man made his way to the counter and ordered a green tea and a piece of lemon cake.
“The same thing I ordered!” He thought to himself.
By now the cafe was a little more empty and the old man looked around to decide where to sit down and he came right into the direction of the young man, but he made a turn to the left to sit down at the counter. As he walked past him, he gave the young man a look filled with a warmth that instantly made him feel better. He smiled back and went back to his drawings and tried to draw the old man, not knowing if he will ever see him again and he needed to capture this mysterious essence he sensed in him.
He tried and tried and drew for what has felt like an eternity but no drawing could fully satisfy him. Slightly frustrated he put his sketchbook back in his backpack, paid for his tea and cake and went out the door to go about his day. The image of the old men, however, was present the entire day and he somehow hoped to see him again sometime as he felt a strange sense of connection to him.
The next morning he went back to the cafe, with him he carried not only the appetite for his favorite cake but also the hopes of meeting this mysterious man again.
He entered the cafe and the smell of coffee and cake filled his nostrils, a smell all too familiar to him and yet refreshing and inviting every single time he goes there. His eyes wandered across the tables and there he was, sipping his tea, poking in his lemon cake.
As he looked at the old man, the old man looked up from his cup and locked eyes with the young man, greeting him with the same warm smile as he did yesterday. The young man smiled back and suddenly the old man waved him towards him.
Unsure whether to accept or decline the invitation, he just stood there, not knowing what to do with himself for a moment. At that moment it was as if something pushed him from behind to go a step forward and he gave in to the impulse and sat down in front of the old man.
A waiter came to their table and asked the young man what he would like to have. He looked at what the old man ordered for himself and had to smile as he said:
“I’ll have a green tea and a piece of lemon cake please.”
The old man laughed wholeheartedly and said:
“Our taste in food definitely seems to have similarities.”
“It seems so for sure.” answered the young man.
“Could you show me the drawings you made of me yesterday? I am really curious about how they turned out!”
He was paralyzed for a moment by this question. “How did he notice that I was drawing him and not someone else? He sat with his back towards me?”
He took the sketchbook out of his backpack and pushed it across the table so that the old man could reach it.
The old man picked it up and carefully began to flip through it until he came across the drawings of himself. He looked at the attempted drawings.
“You are really good.” said the old man and asked:
“What’s your name?”
“Ian” answered the young man.
“Oh my, if that ain’t a close call! My name is Ivan, we missed each other by one darned letter hahaha!”
They both laughed and took a sip of their tea.
“So what’s wrong Ian? You seem to be distressed and a little confused?” “How does he know that? I didn’t even say anything?!”
“I feel people.” was his answer.
“I look into their eyes and then I just feel what is happening inside of them, feeling what they feel. Everybody is capable of doing this, in fact, everyone does it already, most aren’t aware of it though.”
“What an interesting man.” thought Ian to himself.
“As I look into yours, I feel tension and confusion. You’re a bit lost aren’t you?”
“That describes it pretty well.” answered Ian.
“The joy and struggle of being a youngster..” answered Ivan with a smile on his face.
“It can be joyful yeah, but also pretty damn confusing often times.”
“Life is supposed to be confusing at times, that’s the only way we might find our path eventually.” said Ivan. There were tremendous strength and wisdom in his voice, subtle and yet impossible to go unnoticed.
“I know that, but I still somehow feel lost. All the things that motivate people to do the stuff they do leaves me unmoved. Money? Not much more than a means to an end. Nice cars and a big house? The cars will rost and the house will fall apart. Sure, I need a place to live but why do people need a Palast for themselves? Why do we accumulate so much and live so little?”
“Because people don’t know any better. Nobody comes into the world with the inherent desire to climb up the career latter or to hoard loads of money. We just get lost along the way and somehow fail to find our way back. Don’t be mad at them, they are just trying to fill the void inside of them as we all try to do at times, they just haven’t found the right thing that puts an end to their emptiness.”
“Be glad.” added Ivan.
“Glad? About what?”
“That you’ve seen through it. That will save you a lot of time and energy. Both of these things are needed to find your way.”
Ian was somehow happy to hear these words as if they were a confirmation that how he felt was okay and to some extent justified.
“You’re right Ivan, but still, it’s challenging to find your way through all of this..”
“Of course it is. Life is challenging, that’s something everyone will have to come to terms with. Be grateful for your challenges, they are here to help you grow.”
“That’s true, but I still feel so alone at times. It feels like I am living around a horde of mindless drones and it hurts to see people so dissociated and lost.”
“I know, I know.” said Ivan calmly. “It is sad to see at times, but the more we see that, the more we have to embark on our own journey towards that which our heart feels drawn to. Once found, we may help them discover that for themselves. How else are we supposed to share our creative flame with the world?”
“So you’ve found it you say?”
“It found me” said Ivan smiling.
“I gave up my search at some point. I too searched for it in careers, cars, money, women and even drugs, but nothing could really deliver what I was longing for.”
“What is it that you found?”
“Love. Trust and Love.” “That’s what we all, at the core of our being, yearn for. We just search in the wrong places. Nobody is living in ignorance forever, not even the people around you. Everybody has their own journey, their own time to evolve. Good things take time.”
“But how much time can it possibly take? Shouldn’t we try to reach out to others and show them what’s possible? What they really long for?”
“Don’t show what you haven’t found yourself yet. People sense that somewhere down the line and won’t listen. What speaks stronger than the words you may say is the presence that you can bring to the moment, therein lies a power that goes far beyond words.”
“I definitely noticed that when you first entered the cafe. The whole atmosphere was instantly lighter, almost electrified.”
“See? And I didn’t need to say a word. Make your presence felt, that’s more important than making your words heard.”
“So what’s your advice, Ivan? What should I do now?”
“Relax. Trust and relax. Life has a beautiful way of working things out by itself, at its own pace. Just take a fruit for example. Does it fall from the tree before it’s ripe? Does a snake shed its skin prematurely? No. Every process in our world is governed by forces beyond our control, we can’t tame them. So my only advice I have for you is to relax into your process. Your confusion, your distress, and tension, they will leave you when they’ve have taught you what you needed to learn and you will gain much more clarity and direction afterward. The most important thing for you to “do” is to trust and just as that, what you may be looking for will come to you of its own accord. Don’t stress out so much. You are on the right track, my friend.
Stay curious, stay open and allow life to do its thing and things will work. They always do.”
It felt as if a heavy load was lifted of Ian’s back as Ivan spoke and he felt incredibly light and at ease.
“And at some point, the people that may seem lost to you now will shed their skin to embark on the next journey, just as a snake does when the time is right.”
“Trust, relax and let go Ian, that is my advice to you.”
A bright smile made its way across Ian’s face and he said to Ivan:
“Thank you for your words, and for being here!”
“Seems like my fire has spread across the table and reached you, now make sure that it spreads even further.”
They both smiled at each other and enjoyed their tea and lemon cake that morning and even more so the company of the other.