Once again, I sailed the paved roads of Arizona towards the home of Starry Song, the shaman who had the gift of teaching his people’s philosophy through words and music. I considered myself privileged to have several masters willing to guide me. The Elder, Loureiro, Li Tzu and Starry Song had their own peculiarities and wisdoms. Interestingly, they were deeply alike and, at the same time, quite different from each other. At that moment, I was facing a dilemma. Business was not going well; my advertising agency was going through serious financial turmoil. The country was going through a difficult period in its economy; while some customers delayed payments due to the crisis, others decided to terminate the contracts until the situation improved. If there was no change, I would soon have to start firing employees and, for the foreseeable future, close shop. A multinational corporation had made an offer to buy the agency; the value offered was low. Insist on the business or sell the company; reinvent the agency or change my course of action? While I drove, I considered the possibility of being at the end of a cycle of my life. After all, I had learned that everything in life moves in learning cycles and, consequently, evolution.
That’s what I told Starry Song when I got there. He received me with a sincere smile and a strong hug. We filled the mugs with fresh coffee and went to the pleasant balcony of his house. I settled in an armchair while he, in front of me, sat in the rocking chair. He lit his indefectible pipe with a red stone bowl, as if he knew the conversation would be long. With infinite patience, he listened to me narrating my problems and the doubts that plagued me. Was it the end of a cycle or the moment of vital transformation within the cycle itself? I needed that answer and, I confessed, that because I had many doubts, I had gone to get them from the master.
The shaman puffed on his pipe, looked at me deeply and said: “For me to help you, I need you to go up to the top of the mountain and bring me an herb known as ‘eagle eyes’. We will make tea with it.” I asked if he would go with me and the answer was negative. I said that since I didn’t know the herb, it would be impossible to find it alone. Starry Song explained: “Do you know how to get to my ‘place of power’?” I nodded. It was the place where the shaman liked to go to connect with the invisible side of life. I had accompanied him there on several occasions. He continued: “Right next to the tree on the edge of the cliff, there is a little plant whose flowers look like small eyes. When you see it, you will have no doubt. Bring back a generous branch for the tea”. I wanted to know when I should go. The shaman was firm: “Now.” He paused for a moment and concluded: “For now, that’s all.”
Excited, I left immediately. On the way to the top of the mountain, I thought about the powers that an herb known as “eagle eyes” would have. Shamans were known for their integration with the forces of nature, for the rituals that altered the consciential state and allowed a different perspective of reality. I had participated in some of them with Starry Song. In turn, the eagles were famous for their ability to fly beyond the clouds and, from above, to have a different and accurate look at everything on the ground. The possibility of experiencing a magical ceremony at the hands of a consecrated shaman, as Starry Song was, impelled me to get this herb right away. As fast as I was, I only arrived at the site in the late afternoon. It was not difficult to find the herb beside the tree that balanced on the edge of the abyss. I took a good handful and put it in the bag that I carried on my shoulder. Without delay, I began my way down the mountain. That was when the night got to me. As the trail had many paths that led to different destinations, in the dark – in my haste, I had forgotten to take a flashlight – I was unable to use my visual memory, my only guide. I had to stop. If I stopped there, I would be able to move on as soon as the day broke. If I chose a wrong path, I would be lost, perhaps, for several days.
In a mixture of frustration and irritation, I leaned back against a huge stone for the night. As I had not brought matches, either, I was unable to light a fire to keep the cold and animals away. Big cats and poisonous snakes are common in the mountains of Arizona. I was very afraid, and as my vision grew accustomed to the darkness, I kept looking around trying to catch any hostility. As time went on, I realized that I could do very little to nothing in the face of an attack by a leopard or a sneaky rattlesnake. I thought, on the other hand, that as I was not the typical prey of these animals, there was an enormous possibility that they would not bother me if I spent the night quietly where I was. It was in this reasoning that my thoughts resided at that moment. In addition, I tried to maintain a vibrational pattern of trust. This helped a lot in my protection. Gradually, the initial tension was dissolving. I had the distinct feeling that all my fears, not just the ones related to the animals, remained muted. It was as if by silencing one of the fears, I was now able to silence the others. When I realized, I was enjoying the beautiful starry night seen from the top of the mountains. I thought about the dilemmas that led me there. When I thought of them at a distance, as if seen from a distance, they seemed different. I had the strange feeling that the problem was not so serious, and I even came up with some solutions that seemed simple and pleasant. Surrounded by a loving serenity, I fell asleep. I woke up with the first rays of sunlight and the memory of the thoughts I had before falling asleep. However, there is nothing like the master’s word and a magical ceremony to know the best decision. I hurried to continue my way down.
When I arrived at Starry Song’s house, he was waiting for me on the porch, sitting in the rocking chair. Distressed, I took the wad of herbs out of the bag and handed it to the shaman. He got up to make the tea. When he returned holding a teapot with the infused herbs, I asked if we would do the magical ceremony with the “eagle eyes” right there. He wanted to know what I was talking about, because he didn’t understand. Astonished, I said that I believed that those herbs would be used for some ritual that served for the expansion of consciousness and obtaining the right decision for my doubts. The shaman rested the teapot on the table and spoke boldly: “The ‘eagle eyes’ tea is perfect when accompanied with vanilla cookies. I’ve been in the mood for days.” And went to the kitchen. When he returned with a packet of cookies in hand, I was on the verge of rage. I said that this was a disregard, a joke in bad taste, a lack of respect. I had come after the advice of a master, crossed from one continent to another in search of a solution to my problems. Does he send me up the mountain, risking being attacked by predators, and bring an herb that only serves to make a tea that is perfect with vanilla biscuit? That’s it? No, that was definitely not right.
Starry Song roguishly giggled, an act typical of when a situation truly amused him, and said: “Drink your tea. Take a deep breath, calm down, then we can talk.” When I brought the cup of tea to my lips, he added, as a mischievous boy: “And don’t forget the vanilla cookies.” And he laughed again. I surrendered and had to laugh too, spilling a large amount of tea onto my shirt.
It didn’t take me long to calm down. Then he wanted to know what my night on the mountain had been like. I narrated my fear and what I did to control it. The shaman, as if he knew, asked if nothing else had happened. I said no. As he was silent, I thought about the night before. After a while, I remembered how, due to the situations provided by the night on the mountain, be it danger, quietness, or loneliness, I had allowed myself to have a different look in relation to the problems I faced. I said that I had even envisioned simple and pleasant possible solutions. I spoke of the strange sensation of calmness that had permeated me the night before, despite my initial fear. However, I stressed, his word, the master’s word, was undoubtedly more important. I also confessed that I expected us to do a magical ceremony to help us find the answers I needed.
The shaman sipped his tea and said matter-of-factly: “You have already partaken in the magical ceremony.” Disconcerted, I said I didn’t understand. He explained: “A magical ceremony is nothing more than a ritual of transformation, of intimate change. A definite change of outlook. To stop being who you are to be another; to be the same, but to be different and better. A personal decision for choices that were previously unthinkable or repressed, but that from that moment onwards become irreversible. This is always possible when we allow ourselves to see beyond the veil of illusion provided by our personal shadows. In your case, fear prevented a clearer look. When you controlled it, you could see what you hadn’t been able to see so far.” He ate a cookie and continued: “Nobody needs a shaman or a master to reach this stage or have a more accurate look at reality. In fact, nobody can do that for you. You have to be alone, just like last night, to talk to yourself. It will be necessary to stop the screams coming from the shadows, as you did with your fear. Being equipped with good knowledge is important to help the mind build good ideas; it allows good feelings to blossom, transforming ideas into wisdom through the choices you will have from then on. Wisdom is the highest knowledge when applied on a daily basis.”
“Last night, during your meeting with yourself, you found the answers to the doubts that plagued you. This is transformation, it is a conversation with the truth; with your truth. Although it is not definitive, it is on the same scale as your level of consciousness and loving capacity reached so far; it will happen again throughout your journey. It was a transformation ritual; lonely as a transformation ritual should be, as it is a personal and intimate encounter. This is a true magical ceremony, always within the reach of anyone and not a monopoly of false magicians and opportunistic gurus, who pretend to have secret circles of knowledge and power in order to gain gratuitous advantages. The truth, while profound, is simple and accessible to everyone. There are no privileged people in the eyes of the Universe; no one is endowed with special powers, except those that each has over themselves. Any domination over another person is an undue manifestation of darkness, going against the light.”
“This is what sets apart a master from a guru. The master indicates a road to be traveled, never the solution found; they always indicate subjective possibilities, never offering an objective answer, making you think. The guru delivers the prompt answer, which apparently avoids effort and disclaims responsibility for the decision; this creates a lot of dependence and no progress. The guru lives on the domination of others. The master sows freedom; yours and everyone else’s.”
I said that I had already witnessed some rituals of invocation and integration with forces of nature guided by him, Starry Song. The shaman explained: “Yes, this is true. They are important rituals, very valuable and they have their application. However, none is more important than the one that leads you to find yourself. For this, any place is good, any day is good. You just need quietness and solitude, to get to know yourself more and more each day. Magic is transformation, that’s all. A magical ceremony is nothing extraordinary, except for the internal transformation it causes; there is nothing sophisticated about it, except the encounter with the true and definitive master. Each one is the master of himself.”
I asked if I could do without the masters and learn everything by myself. The shaman was didactic: “Yes, it is possible. However, the sages of mankind often make use of those who preceded them. However, they allow themselves to go further.” He took another sip of tea and went on: “The lights of the world help me to turn on my own light. However, it is essential that I do not walk all the time guided by the enlightenment of others. There can be no dependence or addiction, as the light of the other may not be available tomorrow. It is essential that we have our own light. Only then will we be able to walk the Path as it should be done. With your own feet.”
I asked if he wanted to know about the solutions I had found for my problems. Starry Song denied: “It is not necessary. If the solutions pacified your soul, they have proven to be perfect for you at this moment of your existence. To listen to the solutions you have found is to awaken the temptation to influence them with my truth. There would be a risk of you making a mistake through my eyes. Make mistakes or get it right, but always guided by your master. Seek him in his true temple, the heart. Mistakes are inevitable; they will happen, but they will also help your evolution. Mistakes are powerful aids to the true masters. A mistake is an effective method of evolution as long as you envelop it with love and have the firm purpose of learning from your lessons.”
At that moment, I understood that I was facing a true master. He had just introduced me to another. The one that everyone carries within them.
Translated by Julia Reuter e Carvalho.