“To be strong is a choice. No one is born brave or a coward; however, every day, at all times, we decide whether to run away or face the battle that presents itself within and outside ourselves,” said Starry Song, the shaman who, through the word, chanted or not, recounted the ancestral wisdom of his people. There were just the two of us seated around a small campfire, under the cloak of stars to inspire conversation. On that day, a ceremony for the youths of the tribe took place, marking the passage from adolescence to adulthood. I recalled the words the shaman said at the closing of the ritual: “Understanding that you are able to solve the problems that appear, to accept your responsibilities, and the courage to fight design the maturity that forges the warrior, who, after being shaped by many battles, is ready to sit among the wise men.”
I told him I admired the bravery of some people who were steadfast in their objectives and truths. Finally, I confessed, with a hint of shame, that I would like to be one of these people. The shaman took a long puff of his rock-bowl pipe, observed me for a few moments and said: “All heroes that I have met have sailed the seas of doubt and have travelled the forests of fear. However necessary, these are dark times, filled with inner uncertainties. They sought in quietness and silence the answers they needed. Hardships hone the character and strengthen the spirit. Only then we leverage the power within ourselves and hone our choices”. I immediately said I had not grasped the reach of his words. Starry Song looked me in the eyes and said: “The choices are the only tool we have to practice our spirituality. There is no other, hence their value. Through your choices you learn all that you need: to differentiate good from evil, essence from appearance, justice from the laws; that in order to be great one must be truly humble; that the actual revolutionaries are tame, as they know that the transformations that change the world are internal; that there is no victory if you are not pure of heart; that it is impossible to be happy without being forgiving; that without compassion there is no life in common; that without renunciation one cannot love; finally, that it is always possible to choose differently, and better”. He paused for a moment, his eyes lost in the flames, and went back to the subject: “We like to think that we are the discourse we make about ourselves when presenting us to others. In fact, we are the summation of the choices we make throughout our existence. They have made us reach where we are, between our hits and misses, pains and delights. Our choices define us, and point to the near future, as they are inevitably connected to the Law of Action and Reaction. The choices show how you travel the Path, its bumps or smoothness.”
I said that only at that moment had I realized that we make hundreds of choices every day. From the most simple ones, but not less important, such as smiling when addressing someone to the most complex, such as ending a relationship or changing jobs. “It is all about choices. As oppressive as a situation may seem to be, we always have the possibility to choose. To stay or to leave, to accept or to dispute, to talk or to remain silent. The choices are immortal seeds that differentiate one from another”, concluded the shaman. I took the opportunity to mention that I was undergoing a very hard moment, as I had to make decisions of personal and professional nature to set the course of my life. The many options I had, because of the uncertainties I was facing, came down to none.
“Our choices are the sword of the warrior or the light of the wise man to pave the way and to shed light on the road of life”, he explained. He paused briefly, and I took the chance to ask Starry Song in which direction I should go. The shaman smiled kindly and said: “No one can give you this answer but you. Your choice is a combination of all the elements that germinate within yourself. It is the tool that will fine tune the song of your soul. It expresses your level of awareness and the purity of your heart. Allow yourself to keep to yourself, and realize that each choice you make will define the coming conditions of the Path, bridges of abysses, gardens or deserts.”
I said that many a time I hesitated to follow some trails, believing they were too risky or for not knowing where they would end. Starry Song patiently explained to me: “There are safer routes that you will take for a short distance, with predictable landscape; more dangerous routes may take you to an unimaginable universe. In order to choose, think of the feeling that moves you, the search for the easy applause social conventions elicit, or going deep into yourself in the quest to hone yourself as a human being? When your movement is propelled by noble feelings, the power of the world passes on to your hands. This is the magic of life”. Starry Song looked at me sternly, and said: “Each choice you make must be coated with dignity, courage, humility, joy and love, so that the curtain opens to reveal a fantastic spectacle of possibilities yet unknown, allowing the sacred that is dormant in yourself to come to life.”
The sacred in me? I found that strange. How so? The shaman explained: “Your choices either set your wings in motion or prevent you from flying. They are the salt of the earth, the smile on the face, the enchantment with yourself and with the other, and the connection with the pulsating invisible sphere. Therefore, choices have the power to turn the mundane into sacred, due to their content and the value the transformation will create. Each choice can be an ordinary action or have the transforming force of the miracle.”
I insisted that I had not understood. Starry Song looked at me differently, as a father who watches his son, and added the true and tried lesson: “In every turn, the Path presents us with forks. One is to the attractive road of desires, filled with limelight, privileges, tributes; the other is the discreet trail of the necessary metamorphosis of the soul, whose lights are on only in the hearts.” The shaman was silent for a little while, as if recalling ancient memories, until he completed: “Not all that glistens is light. Only the flame that stems from pure hearts can illuminate the steps. Love has the power of making sacred all actions, and of transforming the world when it is the propelling force of the choices. Life’s biggest secret is very simple, Yoskhaz, either we choose out of sheer love, or we will make the wrong choice.”
Kindly translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.