Everything that makes me afraid

I travelled up the Arizona mountains to Sedona to meet Starry Song, the shaman who had the gift of teaching the ancestral philosophy of his people through music and words. The flight to Phoenix had been delayed by a few hours. This meant that I had to make the journey between the airport and the Starry Song’s house at night. As I’m visually impaired, I’ve long avoided driving after sunset, especially on highways. Not only because of this, but also because of the difficulty of getting help in the event of a mechanical problem. At night everything gets more difficult. While I was driving, several fears came to mind. I woke up from my defeatist thoughts when I realised that one of the tyres was flat. I parked the car on the breakdown lane hoping that there was no problem with the spare wheel. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that everything was fine with it. I fitted the jack to suspend the car and realised that the key to unscrew the wheel was missing. I turned the car inside out. Nothing. I decided to call the rental company for help, but there was no mobile phone signal on that stretch of mountain. For hours, no-one passed by. Almost at dawn, a police car came to my aid and I was able to arrive in Sedona when the day was clear. Clear and tense. I had arranged with Starry Song to go together to a traditional shamanic ceremony that took place every year on the winter solstice. We would leave very early. It turned out that I was almost a day late. I feared a wasted journey.

When I didn’t see the shaman’s battered pick-up parked in front of the house, I suspected that my fear had come true. The locked door wasn’t a problem. I knew there was a spare key under a potted cactus. I went in. On the table, a message written by Starry Song said that he had waited for me as long as possible. He left a map of the place and encouraged me to go and meet him. However, it was a tricky place to get to, with a long stretch on foot via trails that weren’t always well signposted. Getting lost on that stretch of mountain could make the journey chaotic.

The still-warm kettle signalled that he had only left a few minutes ago. Discouraged, I let myself collapse on the sofa. Tired, I fell asleep. I woke up startled by a nightmare that kept recurring these days, in which I was trapped by several poisonous snakes. I went out onto the balcony and sat down in Starry Song’s rocking chair. I needed to decide on the next steps. Every journey needs a route. It wasn’t just about the trip to Arizona, but mainly about the journey of an existence. In those days, I was plagued by many fears.

There were too many questions at the same time. I had a health problem. The doctor accompanying me had recommended surgery. It would be a high-risk procedure. If everything went well, I would be cured. If not, my life would be in danger. I felt fear. I was also extremely dissatisfied with the advertising agency. The bad relationship between the partners had made the days unpleasant for everyone. That’s when I began to think about a fundamental change of direction, with the desire to work in a professional activity other than advertising, to which I had dedicated myself for many years. The uncertainties regarding economic issues in an unknown business were gigantic. It scared me. Finally, after many years, my marriage was unbearable. For both of us. However, living without daily contact with my daughters scared me. I loved them too much. I was afraid of suffering from the change in routine. The unknown is terrifying.

That’s when Granny arrived, as the Guardian of the Blue Road of the Spirit in the Cheyenne Tradition was known. The many deep wrinkles on the old woman’s face showed how long she had walked this earth. Her kind eyes indicated the number of cycles she had completed. I only knew her by sight. I knew how respected she was, and how many came to her for advice. She walked across the yard and sat down in an armchair on the porch next to me. She gave me a beautiful smile and said as naturally as if we were old friends: “I saw when you arrived”. Then she asked: “Aren’t you going to meet Starry Song?”. I explained the enormous difficulties and great dangers that existed if I decided to venture alone into the mountains. Granny smiled again and said sweetly: “The road is both supportive and lonely. There are times when we need to be accompanied, while at other times we need to go alone. There are specific needs and importance in both situations.” As delicately as possible, the old woman wanted to make sure: “You’re scared, aren’t you?”. Embarrassed, I nodded. The accumulation of fears was causing me a lot of anguish. Without Grandma asking me anything, I poured out all the questions that frightened me. I confessed that I didn’t know what to do, I had no idea how to begin to solve so many problems. She listened to my laments without saying a word. Then she tried to help me: “Don’t feel ashamed. Fear is part of the evolutionary process”. I asked if it was a good thing to feel afraid. Grandma denied it: “I just said it was part of it, I didn’t say it was good. In fact, we evolve as we manage to free ourselves from each of the fears we carry.”

She paused and added: “Fears are measuring rulers for understanding how far we have progressed on the Blue Road of the Spirit. Many fears mean little progress.” I argued that I had learnt that love is such a guide: “To evolve is to love more and better,” I said.

Grandma’s smiles were as full and beautiful as flowers in spring. The old woman smiled and agreed: “Yes, you’re right too. In fact, our statements complement each other, you see.” I said I hadn’t understood. She explained: “Fear poisons love, prevents peace, hinders freedom, corrupts dignity and drains happiness. Fear is at the root of all suffering”. I asked then, if I no longer felt any fear, all the pain in my soul would disappear. Grandma clarified: “As you said, to evolve is to love more and better. But how can you enjoy all the intensity of love when you’re afraid? It’s absolutely impossible.” She paused and added: “Look what happens when fear comes close to love. We are dominated by the shadow of jealousy. Oh, how it makes us suffer!”. She looked at me with the delicacy of her soul and said: “So I say to those interested in travelling the Blue Road of the Spirit: no matter what they are, go and meet each of your fears. Don’t wait for them to destroy you.”

“This is the greatest and most important journey there is. Otherwise, you’ll never be a free spirit.”

“Fear prevents the encounters. The indispensable encounter with oneself is only complete when the fears come to an end. This is the moment when suffering, until then as solid as concrete walls, crumbles like smoke from a fire that has burnt itself out. There’s no other way to understand that that sordid monster was generated by my mental and sentimental vices, because every fear is nothing more than a creature born out of my lack of knowledge about my ability to overcome the obstacles that appear on my path. This is possible when I learn to think that, although the body has the important function of transporting me on this journey, I am a spirit. This helps to mature the ego, which is still thirsty for fleeting glimpses of pride, vanity and petty interests. Our needs diminish. So do fears. Priorities change and suffering disappears. Everything that makes the soul bleed gradually ceases to exist.”

“Fear gets in the way of encounters. Nobody can live intensely with anyone as long as they feel afraid. There will be masks, fictional characters and lies. Fear prevents us from being transparent and simple. Ironically, in trying to meet others, we lose ourselves. Fear keeps us away from the indispensable improvement of the soul. We’re afraid of getting hurt. We’re afraid of the difficulties that may arise. We’re afraid that our choices will lead us to worse days.”

“In truth, fears are great signposts. They show me where I need to develop and evolve. Where I am fragile because I am far from the essence that strengthens and balances me. From the truth that I already understand, but still can’t live. This takes the joy out of every day.

I argued that fear helps to prevent many dangers. Grandma clarified: “Don’t confuse caution with fear. Precaution teaches you the best way to walk; fear prevents you from walking”. She paused and continued: “Yes, the world is full of falsehoods, violence and illusions. Always be careful, never be afraid. Remember that in the world there is also the love that we need to live. To believe that fear has saved you from danger because you haven’t left your seat is to misuse fear. Fear becomes a prison.”

Grandma added: “Fear presents itself in many ways; it’s like a sophisticated riddle. When it is not understood, it takes on terrifying forms. Only by facing it can it be accurately decoded. Then we know its true face: an authentic master. As such, it will guide us in our search for the inner strength we are unaware of. Every fear conceals a personal attribute. Thus, by awakening our individual capacities, which are now dormant, fear is transformed into light. To do this, it is necessary to go out and meet fear. However, fools still insist on running away from it.”

I questioned the fact that facing fears was no easy task. What could happen when we refused the challenges posed by our fears? Granny shrugged and said: “Life is subtle, existence is chaotic.” I interrupted to ask her to be clearer. She did: “The Great Mystery awaits my evolution. That’s all there is to it. I’m part of the whole, and if I remain stagnant, the whole suffers”. She paused and continued: “As we said, to evolve is to love more and better. This is impossible until I get rid of my fears. When they’re in charge, I become distant from my strength, I lose my balance and my confidence disappears.” She looked at me with compassion and asked: “Do you realise how crucial fear is on the Road?”. I nodded and the old woman continued: “Facing my fears is the fork in the road that changes my route and makes me leave the dark shore to walk on the bright side. At every moment, life sends me subtle messages so that I take the initiative to carry out the indispensable inner transformations, without which there will be no evolution. However, when I refuse to dialogue with the subtleties of life, the Great Mystery uses existence to talk to me. It doesn’t want me to rot sitting on the edge of the Path. The language of existence is chaotic. Chaos arrives like an avalanche, destroying all external safety parameters. It does this to show me that true power is internal, based on my own strength, confidence and balance. Death, illness, financial difficulties and emotional break-ups are the languages of chaos. All the fears that I refused to face one day come to devour me”.

Her eyes overflowed with kindness as she asked me: “Do you realise it had to happen this way?”. She herself replied: “By refusing to make the intrinsic movement, from the inside out, spontaneously and voluntarily, in subtle dialogues with life, the Great Mystery moves me through the chaos of existence, from the outside in. It makes my most feared fears happen. I feel like I’m in ruins because I’ve built myself up on false pillars. Paper houses can’t withstand the rain. When I decide to rebuild myself in another way, because I no longer want to live in fear of the imponderable, I start looking for the real foundations. When I no longer have anyone or anything to lean on, I learn to build my own immaterial pillars. These are indestructible. Everything and everyone may fail me one day; that’s a possibility. If it happens, I will be with myself and I know my strength. Always and every day. This is reality.”

The old woman asked me again: “Do you understand where fear can lead me if I make good use of it?”. She gave me a beautiful smile and baffled me: “Although many people don’t understand it, chaos is good”.

Grandma concluded: “Fear makes us selfish. On the other hand, everyone who is strengthened, balanced and confident is able to love more and better. They will live without any relationship of dependence, without the need to impose imprisoning rules or demand any accounting between giving and receiving. Only respect for oneself will generate genuine respect for others, in which there will be no effort to make it happen. The surprises in the events to come will not matter, because I already know my ability to face and overcome challenges. I am. The beauty of life is impossible as long as fear is present in existence.” She kissed me on the cheek and said goodbye, as she had some errands to run. I watched the Guardian of the Blue Road walk away until she disappeared from my sight.

I knew what to do. After preparing my backpack, I headed up into the mountains. It was a fascinating walk, as it is every day that we don’t run away from fear. I don’t want anything unpleasant to happen, but if it does, I know I’ll be able to overcome it. I remember getting lost on the poorly signposted trails. I didn’t let fear get the better of me. Everything has a solution. Absolutely everything, I told myself so that I would listen. I quietened my mind and heart. Not long after, the wind brought me the sound of drums beating. Life dialogues with subtlety, you just have to be calm to hear the voice of silence. Then move on.

Starry Song smiled when he saw me. Sitting next to several people in a huge circle around a bonfire, I took part in the ritual in honour of the winter solstice. We celebrated the life that is always reborn after the rigours of winter, offering us the colours of spring. By overcoming fear, the mornings of peace are born, the wings of freedom appear, the paths of dignity are established, the curtains of happiness open and we know love in all its fullness. The honey of life.

One of the songs went like this:

“Don’t run away from your fears,

They are relentless hunters.

Don’t try to kill your fears,

They’ll never die.

In the fears are the stories

That I haven’t told my heart yet.

Fears don’t end stories,

They speak of tragedies,

When the sky closes in,

The sun doesn’t shine,

The flowers disappear.

Even when I lose everything,

But if I still keep my heart,

I’ve lost nothing.

In it I learn to find the sky, the sun and the flowers.

Nothing is lost,

Everything is just reborn somewhere else.

Fears don’t die,

Nor do caterpillars.

They’re waiting for my heart,

It’s the place where they become butterflies.

Fears are the stories

That my heart needs to hear,

So that I can learn

About the best part of my life.

The one I’ve never told myself.

It was a magical ceremony, as are all the celebrations that propel us towards the indispensable evolutionary transformations. Learning to relate to fears is one of the fundamental steps on the journey. Talking to life through its subtleties so as not to have to deal with the chaotic language of existence is another essential stage. Feeling fear is bad, running away from fear brings chaos. Using fear to understand my own weaknesses and, through them, awaken all my intrinsic potential, will lead me to subtle transmutations. Without fanfare or noise. Like someone walking in silence.

When I returned from that journey, I began another. I didn’t wait for chaos. I had the delicate surgery; despite the difficult post-operative period, I was cured. I met with the partners of the advertising agency to expose my truth and will; although it was a complicated dissolution because it involved different personal interests, I was able to follow my gift and dreams. The marital separation had also brought some unhappiness; despite the difficulties and some conflicts, once the dust had settled, everyone involved was better off than they had been before. So, a few years later, there was room for me to get to know Denise. My heart knew subtle dialogues and unimaginable lands.

Some time later, I returned to the recurring nightmare. I was surrounded by the same poisonous snakes as in the previous dream. However, they were no longer frightening. As if they could hear the truth of my heart, one by one they moved away from me. They never came back.

During those days in Sedona, I consecrated myself to yet another face of the Light. The one that illuminates the shadows of fear. Virtues find the right soil to germinate. With them, the serenity of intrinsic strength, internal balance and confidence in myself. As a consequence of this movement, the beauty of life.

The ritual in which I took part alongside Starry Song only marked the end of a cycle. In truth, the new moment had begun with the Guardian of the Blue Road of the Spirit, in a conversation that my heart had long been waiting to hear. Grandma was the sacred interlocutor.

Translated by Cazmilian Zórdic.

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