The two-sided drum of Starry Face, the shaman who had the gift of spreading the wisdom of his people through words, was beating rhythmically when I arrived at his “place of power”. This place was close to his home, at the top of a mountain in Arizona, on a small plateau where, in addition to the beautiful landscape and absolute silence, what caught my attention was a very old tree improbably balanced at the very edge of a cliff. He said that everyone has a place where they felt more strongly the connection with the Great Mystery, the invisible that permeates and operates in the visible, harmonizing life’s strength and subtleties. My trip to meet the shaman was supposed to take place months ago, but I had to postpone it a few times close to the travel date, on account of some events that had occurred. It had all started with an award my advertising company, albeit a small firm, had received for an original advertisement. A famous actress, very pretty, was the hostess of the ceremony. It was she who started a conversation with me when we bumped into each other at the cocktail party that followed. She complimented me on my work and wanted to know more about it. I fell in love listening to the sound of her words while looking at that angel face framed by her curly hair that fell over her naked shoulders. Right then and there a romance begun. And my distress.
I was elated at first. In addition to the award, that evening gave me a woman who was a dream for the majority of men. Everywhere we went, people would turn to look at us. I felt big and powerful. However, that relationship had prompted a number of changes, both personal and professional. The most meaningful was breaking a love relationship of quite some time with my girlfriend. Despite not being as pretty or as glamorous as the actress, she was a lovely woman. Good-humored, intelligent and sensitive, she collaborated definitively in creating a very pleasant relationship. Because she lived in a different city, we could only see each other on weekends. Those were days of walking outdoors, great conversation and much laughter. At times, we stayed at home, hers or mine. A book, a cup of coffee and the presence of each other were enough to cheer our souls; life was smooth. With the actress, I was always at trendy parties, social gatherings at the home of someone important, fancy restaurants, between the spotlight and paparazzi. It was as if a world I knew only from fiction had become real. Life was spinning swiftly.
Another important change was at work, for two reasons. One was because I started to need more money to pay for my new social life. Such a dazzling lifestyle wasn’t cheap. I had to change my basic wardrobe; air tickets and fancy hotels became ordinary expenditures. But I did not have that much extra money in my bank account. And that wasn’t all. Subconsciously, I felt an obligation to “win an award every day”, so that my beautiful and famous girlfriend continued to admire her anonymous date. This affected my humor and patience, causing trouble with the people who worked with me. I began reconnecting with old friends, just so they could envy me. Soon, they got tired of that. Even though lightness had deserted me, somehow that lifestyle made me ecstatic, and I wanted more of it. Without my realizing it, my life had taken a descending spiral of distress and imbalance until the day I had a clash with the young and competent head of the agency’s creative department. I demanded perfection and cleverness from her. My partner came to me and advised me to go on the trip I had postponed. I thought about refusing it, but I was surprised by the end of the romance with the pretty actress through a text message by phone. On the following day, I saw pictures of her with her new boyfriend, a well-known film director, on the internet. At that point, when everything around me seemed to collapse, I left to visit Starry Song.
The door to the shaman’s home was never locked. I let myself in. He wasn’t there. I left my luggage in the living room and went to ask a neighbor about him. She said that Starry Song had left earlier, taking his drum, a shoulder bag and a blanket. I had no doubt where I would find him. When I arrived at the place, he just looked at me and continued to sing a beautiful song in his native dialect. I took that as a permission to stay and sat in front of him. When he was finished, we greeted each other and I asked for his help. I said he was my guru. I told him I knew about how closely connected he was with the invisible sphere and beseeched him to intercede on my behalf. I added, even though that was obvious, that I wasn’t doing well. I also told him all that I had been through. The shaman looked at me with sympathy but was firm in his statement: “I am no one’s guru. I give up the role because I believe it is more harmful than beneficial”. He paused briefly and explained: “The connection is possible when one finds the sacred. I can help you find it, but never replace it. The sacred dwells in you. It is you, and no one else, who must find it.”
I argued that I was very confused, but I knew the tremendous power he had. I needed him to lead me through a shortcut. I would not stand a long wait. The shaman explained patiently: “Nature does not take a leap; in spiritual matters one also goes slow. There are no shortcuts, only the Path. It is not possible to reach the destination without undertaking the whole journey. It shapes you and prepares you. Although one has the indispensable solidarity during the course of the journey, the Path is travelled in solitude. No one can do it for you. Hardships appear precisely in accordance with the lessons we need. Enjoy each one of them. The Path teaches us in the exact measure of our steps. It is wise, fair and loving. If, at times, it seems to be strict, have no doubt, it only makes the necessary course corrections according to the walker’s lack of understanding. One day, you will be a master; a master for yourself. This goes for everyone, each one in their own time.”
I said I didn’t know what to do. Starry Song did not refuse to help me and, in his style, said: “The absolute is light. Light’s home is the soul; the road to the soul is silence; finding occurs when the soul manifests itself. It occurs when one dives deep into oneself, without masks or illusions. Then, understanding and transforming the self, and returning to share with the world the virtues of this new being comes next. Differently and better each day in successive journeys into and out of the self, valuable stretches of an endless trip.”
He paused and then continued: “Moreover, the power you believe I have is simple and available to anyone, suffice that they learn how to use it. Each one is unique, but no one is special; otherwise, the scale of harmony and justice of the universe would be broken. The power emerges when we take the ego to meet the soul. The power grows as the ego aligns itself with the soul, and they sing the same song. Hence, more and more, the soul gives its input on the choices the ego makes. Through the soul, the shadows, hidden under the cloak of passions all of us wear and that motivate the ego, will be gradually illuminated and ultimately transmuted into light. Passions will give room to love. All that is an instrument of domination becomes a tool for freedom. This is the cure. This is how wings grow.”
I added that he exuded such a strong energy that people felt good next to him. Starry Song smiled with humility and said: “Clear or cloudy, we exude the feelings that we carry in our heart and the ideas that prompt our choices. This will determine the frequency of our vibrations and the comfort we provide to those around us. In the face of conflict, we can act with irritation and violence or with composure and gentleness. When we are in tune with lightness and peace, solutions become clearer, wiser and more loving. This reflects how much of the soul can be manifested in the person. However, we get used to the impulses of passion, to vices of social conditioning, we listen to the opinion of others. We consider it normal to give up our dreams. We even convince ourselves that darkness is a good place with the absurd argument that no other place exists. Hence, we suffer because of the emptiness we have created, like movie set cities that have only pretty façades but no structure and that collapse in a brief gale. To enter the Path is to change the meaning of existence”.
Starry Song handed me the shoulder bag and the blanket and said: “Here you have everything you need to spend a few days by yourself. Further down there is a source of fresh water. I will be back to get you.” Fright made me mute. Astonished, I kept looking the shaman going down the mountain with his two-sided drum, while I tried to articulate my ideas.
In the bag there were dried fruits and matches. At dusk I lit a campfire and, tired from the trip, I fell into a deep sleep. On the first day, it didn’t take long for me to get bored. Soon, the beautiful landscape became tiring and the chirping of birds, a nuisance. I thought it was stupid what Starry Song had put me through. I thought I should not have allowed it, and that I should stand up and leave. Sameness was annoying. All my recent experiences came to mind. I recalled how my beautiful and famous girlfriend had been mean and disloyal to me; I had given her the best I had in my heart. Not to mention the expenses I incurred that made my savings collapse. What did I receive in return? Pain and disenchantment. Then, I thought about the quarrel I had with the head of creation at the firm. Of how ungrateful she had been with the job opportunities I had offered her at the agency. She was an abrasive person, no question about it. That day was painful to endure. When night fell, before the fire, it took me long to fall asleep. I felt uncomfortable being in a world hard to live in.
On the second day, I woke up in a foul mood, with the birds picking at the dried fruits that were my food. Cursing, I shooed them away as if they were foes. Next, I ate all the fruits, emptying the bag. I tried to compose myself. I sat at the edge of the cliff and pondered that I had two central choices to make. I could either go down the mountain immediately and abandon the lesson Starry Song had proposed, and whose utility I doubted, or I could try to adapt to that situation to make the best of it, even if that meant just having more boring or annoying days until he turned to fetch me. I decided for the latter. With the passing of hours, I felt hungry. I entered the woods, looking for something to eat. It didn’t take long to find a shrub filled with small berries. I picked a bunch and put them in the bag. That search, coupled with the fact that I could satisfy my hunger, made me feel good. At dusk I lit the campfire and kept watching the sun set for I don’t know how long a time. I didn’t even realize when the fire had burned all the kindling and the sky had become sprinkled with stars. I felt I wasn’t looking at the landscape any longer; I was looking into myself. I was thinking how I could “find myself” or “find my soul” as Starry Song had strongly suggested I did. How I could do it, in practice? I didn’t have the slightest idea.
I got distracted by the beauty of the sky and the infinite stars that illuminated it. I did not remember the last time I had stopped to watch the stars. I recalled an image a space probe had sent when it passed close to Saturn, showing that the Earth was like a drop of water in the ocean of the Milky Way. Astronomers claim that the solar system is a small detail in the vastness of the universe, which, according to physicists, is continuously expanding. We must face the reality that we delude ourselves by believing we are great and special while, in fact, we are small and ordinary. Like the Earth. However, this is what makes us beautiful, you and I.
I realized it was essential that I incorporate this idea so that I could be steady with everything and everyone around me. At that moment, I understood the importance of humility for me to find out who I am; to find my place in the vastness and be part of it, with all possibilities it entails. I thought how my pride and vanity, the two passions that moved me, were ridiculous; apparently, they made me big but, in fact, they hid my fragility. I laughed at the ignorance that imprisoned me in suffering. I understood that in order to be reborn I must understand who I am not and then conceive all that I can become. This is impossible to be achieved without humility. Humility is the trigger of evolution. While I believe I am special, superior to everything and everyone around me, I will be denying the need for evolution. Thus, I put to waste the power the universe has granted me, because I give up the transformations and possibilities of expansion that are offered. At that point, it had become clear that the great journey was not to London, New York or Beijing, but to find and give voice to my soul. In it lies all my strength.
I don’t remember at what time I fell asleep, but I woke up invigorated the following morning. The birds were feasting on the few leftover berries. I smiled at them. I stood up unhurriedly and kept looking for a long while, dazzled, at the beautiful landscape formed by the mountains. They seemed prettier than before. I recalled the previous night and thought how I could apply humility as a tool for transformation. My romance with the actress came to my mind. Now, instead of feeling that I had been wronged, I saw the facts in the light of humility. I admitted it was I who chose to be involved, prompted by the passions of pride and vanity. In fact, there had never been love, only my ego that yearned for glitter and deceived me about my feelings. I let myself be transported to her world. Illusion led me to live life according to her values. It is not a matter of right or wrong; otherwise, I would be taken by the idea that I am special or superior, separating and distancing me from others and causing so much distress. I am no better or worse than anyone is; I am unique, and therefore different. Thus, the importance of each and every one, all unique and beautiful, to complete and color the wonderful mosaic that life is.
I realized she had not caused me any harm intentionally; she lived the way she knew how and enjoyed. She had the right. I was the one foreign to her world; therefore, it was fair that I bore the consequences. It was up to me to respect, learn and move on. I could not demand from her the perfection I did not have to offer. I forgave her, and me. I felt enveloped in a pleasant atmosphere of freedom and sympathy. I decided that as soon as I returned, I would look for my previous girlfriend and tell her I had been a fool. I don’t know if she would take me back, but the idea of trying cheered me up.
I had a similar feeling towards the girl who led the agency’s creative department. I had to be honest and confess that greed and imbalance took the best of me. In fact, I had blamed her for the yearnings, desires and incompleteness of my inflated ego. It was I who had caused the conflict. The right thing for me to do was to admit her tremendous competence and talent. I had to tell her what I had just told myself: the award the agency had won was due more to her and her team’s merit than mine. My demands were due from my imbalance. I had to go to her and apologize. I was happy to have her working next to me.
When I came to me, there were no mountains, birds or woods. Just absolute silence. A pleasant sense of lightness enveloped me. Without realizing it, I had reached the entrance to my soul. Humility and compassion had taken me there. Virtues are the right vehicles to transport the ego to the soul.
If humility and compassion had cheered me up and allowed me to be so light, if honesty and courage in dealing with myself had given me a glimpse of justice and forgiveness, I thought about how I would feel when I incorporated into my way of being and living other virtues in addition to those, such as gentleness, patience, sensitivity, purity, faith, and others which, like almost everyone, I had heard about but did not know.
It took Starry Song quite some time to return. When the shaman saw my face, he smiled, pleased. No words were necessary to explain. I thanked him for having allowed me that experience. The man who would go down the mountain was different that the one who had climbed up. The shaman laid a blanket, sat, lit his unmistakable red-stone bowl pipe, puffed it a few times and handed to me, in a ceremony of soul communion. Then, he said: “Many seek a spiritual experience; most people, only when they face a problem difficult to solve. They want a quick solution, perhaps from a supernatural phenomenon. The pains of the soul require understanding and transformation. From inside out. No religious or philosophical experience will reach the minimal levels if the person does not venture to dive deep to his bottom, where the soul lies. The soul is the essence of the self, the cradle of love, the connection with life, it is your part in the whole.”
“Only through the soul we can reverberate the pulse of the entire force and power of the universe.” He arched his lips in a discreet smile and added: “When we are moved by passion, love is left aside; when love is forgotten, we give up our essence. When we are apart from ourselves, we are disconnected from the Great Mystery.” He paused and continued: “Far from the soul, life loses clarity, sense and flavor.” He looked me in the eyes and concluded: “However, remain humble and improve your other virtues every single day. This is the first time you have reached the doorsteps of the soul. You have yet to enter it. Inside there is a fantastic world still unknown to you, waiting to be revealed. You will be dazzled!”
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.