A free spirit

Starry Song, the shaman who had the gift of sowing his people’s philosophy through the word, in chant or otherwise, was talking to a niece of his at a table outdoors, under a huge, leafy tree. The springtime sun made the body warm and the soul cozy. I saw them from afar. The old man and the nice young woman around 20 years old, long tresses and eyes slanted as her uncle’s, were laughing heartily. She was on vacation from the university and decided to visit her family. She was dressed like any other girl her age, with jeans, T-shirt and sneakers. When he saw me, the shaman signaled me to come sit with them. They were talking about her disagreeing with some behaviors her classmates had. However, such behaviors were so ingrained no colleague of hers even thought about acting differently. Their actions were automated, and they did not allow new possibilities to emerge. Of course people looked sideways at her, and even showed hostility. The niece then excused herself, she had to help her mother with house chores. After kissing goodbye, Starry Song looked her in the eyes and said, softly: “The new often scares lazy minds. It is like finding a stranger at home. Over time, we realize the house belongs to the stranger, not to us. But the stranger does not want you to leave, he only wishes that you learn a new way to relate to reality. Bear in mind that the free spirit is keen to what is new.”

Alone with the shaman, I said that what had caught my attention was the fact that, despite the problems, the young lady did not seem to be troubled; in fact, she mixed happiness and composure. Starry Song explained: “A free spirit has already built the shelter of peace in the core of her being. Hence, nothing from the outside can hamper her balance and harmony.” I shrugged my shoulders, and said she would have lots of problems at the university. I suggested that perhaps it was easier to follow the behavior of the crowd rather than having independent, dissonant attitudes. He immediately replied: “A free spirit has learned to silence the drums of the world within herself and to listen to the voice of the heart. Asking a free spirit not to be herself means not understanding the vital energy that moves her.”

I asked what he meant by “free spirit”. Starry Song was silent for a while, contemplating how to respond. Then he said: “A free spirit is anyone who has understood the huge prison fear is. It is the most sadistic dungeon.” Most sadistic? I thought that odd. He explained: “Because its bars are invisible. When you do not realize you are a prisoner, you do not understand the need for freedom. Fear convinces you that right there, next to it, you are safe. It makes you believe that out of its domains there is nothing of worth, only the risk of suffering. By accepting the discourse of fear, you give up your wings and, worse, accept to deal with the fear.” I asked what prevented people from freeing themselves from fear. His response was straight to the point: “Ignorance is the warden that prevents the expansion of the level of awareness. Ignorance is the loyal guard dog of fear. Together, fear and ignorance create almost all shadows that dwell within the being.” I wanted to know how to escape from this prison. The shaman answered, seriously: “A free spirit never runs away or regrets. It faces and overcomes.” He paused briefly to add: “There is no freedom in escaping.”

I argued that that attitude could elicit fights, and was contrary to the peace he so valued. Starry Song shook his head in denial and said: “To be peaceful and pacific is in the core of the free spirit. They know that only ideas duel, people don’t. To that end, it is essential that they speak their truth in a clear, respectful, composed way, without the intention of imposing, convincing or humiliating the other. Even if the free spirit does not agree, they respect the point of view of others, because they know people are in different parts of the Path and, at some point, all will meet in the infinite, one at a time according to one’s own pace. This makes them acknowledge the importance of patience, as the seed of good fruits sooner or later will be bestowed by life. Hence, if no one wishes to accompany them, the free spirit will go alone. In peace.”

I wondered about the discomfort a free spirit, with out-of-the-box ideas and attitudes could cause to a social group firmly settled in spheres of stagnation and privileges. The shaman explained: “The free spirit knows that their attitude is, sometimes, the mirror that perfectly reflects the image the interlocutor does not want to see. Not everyone is ready to be confronted with the wounds of the soul. The healing process requires determination and courage, virtues that are not always present. Hence, compassion is necessary. The free spirit does not act in order to become a role model or savior of the world, which would turn them into a frivolous, arrogant idiot. They just live with sincere humility, according to their status as an eternal apprentice, in line with their truth, respecting themselves and according to their choices.”

“For these reasons the free spirit never feels resentful with occasional offenses. They are fully aware of who they are. Aggressions are unable to draw upon or color their soul; they only show the baggage the aggressor brings in his heart. Any attitude intended to humiliate is unnecessary in personal relationships. Arrogance and humiliation are instruments of those enslaved by fear and ignorance. They believe that emotional walls will hide their own fragility from everyone through sad demonstrations of an empty power. Offenses reflect the unsuitableness of the offenders, for noticing in other people transformations they yearn for, but are not yet able to achieve. Offenses reflect the inner confusion of those who say them.”

“The free spirit knows that difficulties and conflicts are valuable tools for their evolution, and therefore should be properly valued. The problem will never be a problem, but a factor for growth, in the precise measure it enhances the way one reacts to the problem. It is a joy to overcome it. The way we react to the problem reflects not only the shaping of being, but the remedy to suffering.”

“On the other hand, because the free spirit always moves on the rails of dignity and does not go beyond the limits of their moral values, blackmails and material and financial temptations, so common in society, will never reach them. Their soul has no price.” He looked at me in the eyes and was serious when he said: “The less you need, the freer you will be.”

I remember that emotional dependence sometimes creates strong fetters. The shaman did not hesitate to explain, with softness: “The free spirit knows the importance of the encounters and relationships, as we need the other for love to develop and grow. We are flowers in the prairies of humankind, to beautify the life of everyone. We cannot forget that relationships are the source of valuable lessons. It is by relating to the other, with the hardships and joys, that we reveal ourselves and realize what is left to be honed, bearing in mind that love is a seed to be spread by the wind, and not an animal to be hunted. No one belongs to anyone, or we will never be truly free. We will have the joy to meet many people on the path, but it is a solitary journey, because the quest is to search for the sacred within oneself. That is also a reason for joy.” Starry Song looked at me for a moment and asked: “Can you understand what I am saying, or are you confused?” I said I understood, and he completed: “The free spirit understands that no one is responsible for their happiness but themselves. We should never blame others for our misery; but we should realize the teachings it provides and improve ourselves in regaining joy. Happiness is a garden that has been germinated in the heart with the seeds of love and peace, whose flowers we spread on the path for those who come after.” He made a brief pause and added: “Hence, no one can imprison your lively heart.”

“The free spirit knows it is always susceptible to being physically abused by different types of mean actions. Often, the nimbleness of your freedom will irk the limiting mechanisms of those who are still prisoners of their own shadows, because instead of looking up to it and seeing it as a quality to be pursued, they envy and try to destroy you. Once again, one must be compassionate and move on, resting assured that the spirit is imperishable. The free spirit knows it is not the body that clothes it, but the actual immortal spirit. Its soul cannot be reached by mundane forces. This makes it light, makes it float with the breeze.”

For quite some time we did not utter a word until I realized Starry Song was observing me. When our eyes crossed, he said: “Since time immemorial we have been educated to protect ourselves from the dangers of the world. We got used to paying attention and to fearing the life outside, merely with the intent of surviving. With the passing of hours, we get consolation from some sensorial pleasures. Life is much more than that. What threatens us and prevents us from being whole must be confronted within each one of us. This is the indispensable healing. We are so used to our cells we no longer believe we have wings. We became prisoners of our fears and of ideas developed to sustain them. We forgot our power to transform reality according to the ability we have to transform ourselves. This is the battle to be fought so that each one can take flight in perfect freedom.” I wanted to know how to begin this fantastic journey. Starry Song smiled and said: “You only need to choose, Yoskhaz. A single, wonderful choice.”


Gently Translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.




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