I wrote this the day after having experienced a comforting and humbling moment. At first it was not my intention to write about it, keep that special moment alive within. Sometimes, there is a special moment that needs to be shared with others. This is one of those moments.
Thousands of people gathered on the Plaza of San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador. I was among the ones who were there to observe, while others were there to participate in the Good Friday procession. For many visitors from other parts of the world, this display left them in disbelief. “They are crazy! How can anyone do this to themselves? It is just too fanatical to watch.”
Everyone who participates is dressed in a purple robe. The women wear a veil and the men wear a pointed cone on their heads. The color purple represents forgiveness, the cones represent humility. Some walk the procession carrying a huge cross, some a big wooden log on their shoulders, some walk with chains on their ankles, some carry a cross of cactus on their back and almost all of them do this barefoot.
Where is the comfort in such a display? Coming from a society where I have been exposed to all the latest technologies and conveniences, I captured the essence of this tradition in reference to the struggles of our every day lives.
Obviously they are extremely religious and this procession has been a part of their culture for over 50 years. The experience I felt and message I want to share has nothing to do with religious beliefs. I am really not in a position to give anyone that kind of advice. There was a comfort, lessons towards being happier, being at peace with oneself and having the courage to follow your passion, that came alive from their gestures.
Forgiving ourselves and others is probably one of the most difficult things to do. Taking responsibility for our mistakes to learn and continue growing from them. Furthermore, we tend to cling to the wrongdoings of others, victimizing ourselves.
The people of Quito go out there as an act of faith filled with a deep value. It is a demonstration of penance for their “wrong” doings” and the forgiveness of others. The struggles of carrying the cross and stumbling when they stepped on rocks reminded me of the daily struggles we go through to forgive others and take responsibility for the results of our own actions. It was not an act of “punishment” upon themselves. It was a celebration of what follows after letting go and achieving forgiveness; Freedom!
Many of us carry a much heavier burden on our backs than these people did during the procession. A burden of anger and resentment towards someone who has hurt us. A burden of guilt from our past decisions and actions. Isn’t this burden a lot more painful than carrying a cross? We all make mistakes, it is through our stumbling that we continue to grow. However, we need to acknowledge our mistakes and take responsibility for our actions to let go of guilt and correct our path.
Forgiveness is a choice. It is normal to feel resentment, anger towards someone who has wronged you. Forgiving does not mean you are justifying the act that was done.Through understanding and compassion, we have the ability to make the choice of letting go and not let the wrongdoings define our lives. You are doing it for yourself, to achieve inner peace and move on to bigger and better things. You are acknowledging your power to take control and make a change. By holding on to this burden, you are giving others the power to take control over your decisions and actions.
A physical pain only gets worse when followed by an a non physical pain such as fear, anxiety, guilt, depression. A pain that we carry from not being able to open ourselves to overcoming life challenges and sufferings. These people’s gestures were not an act of ignorance and craziness. They demonstrated the greatness that comes from sufferings; LOVE. I saw the pain they felt from carrying those heavy crosses as the sufferings in our lives. The difficulties we will face when taking the steps towards following our passion. When we open ourselves to these obstacles, we become stronger and gain courage to confront them. Now, it is not to say that we should all go out and make ourselves suffer. We already inflict the worst pain on ourselves, we are the person who can punish ourselves the most by not seeing our challenges as life growing experiences. In doing so, we will gain an inner peace. Their spiritual strength helped them carry any physical load on their shoulders and walk through any obstacles throughout the 3 hour procession. Having a spiritual strength doesn’t mean you have to be religious. It is knowing that we all have the ability within to achieve our greatness in life. Example: A terminal disease can be perceived as a devastating ordeal. We have all heard of some truly inspiring people, some of which you know personally, who for them it was an opportunity for personal growth and healing. The suffering is still there, however, their spiritual strength gives them courage to grow.
These people willingly went out there for what they truly believe in regardless of what the rest of the world thinks of them. Humbling themselves to the extreme of carrying the cross for all to witness.
In our fast paced society, humility has become a sign of weakness or lack of self confidence. These people’s gestures were far from being a sign of weakness. On the contrary, it takes a lot of courage to walk the streets the way they did. However, they did not do so by parading that they were better than anyone else for their actions. Furthermore, when it became too difficult to continue, they waved their hand for help. No matter how difficult the situation got for them, they never gave up, seeking help from others when they needed.
Humility not only shows courage, but perseverance and loyalty to follow one’s will and passion, regardless of what others think. In other words, do not fear the opinion of others, your confidence will see to it that it gets done. Do not look for appraisal or to be put on a pedestal for your gestures. Look for enlightenment, act for the moment, doing what has to be done to achieve your goal.
Seek help. It is a sign of confidence not weakness. All journeys will lead to road blocks, a time when that cross gets too heavy for us to carry alone. Admitting this by going to others not only demonstrates self confidence, but, it opens possibilities by learning what others have to offer. Some of the greatest leaders out there that we all know had one very important quality in common; Humility. Gandhi who spent twenty years in South Africa working to fight discrimination, was far from being a wimp. Look around you, who do you know that has accomplished greatness? Do you notice these qualities in them?
We have so much to learn from these people’s faith and humility. In Paulo Coelho’s words: Solo dos cosas pueden revelar los grandes secretos de la vida: el sufrimiento y el amor (Only two things can reveal the greatest secrets of life: Suffering and love).