I met Starry Song – the shaman was given this name due to his gift for preserving and seeding the tradition of his people through the word, chanted or not – changing the leather of his two-sided drum in front of his tent. I had decided to leave town for a while, upset with the tough reviews the originals of my last novel had received, leading me to question my talent as a writer. I did receive some praise, but the criticisms were harsh and sadness was eating me up inside. As soon as I saw him, I spilled all my sorrows out. He kept on with his toil and, without raising his eyes, said: “You do not give the right appreciation to the opinion of others. Not every praise is sincere, not every criticism is fair”. He stopped stringing the drum for a moment, looked me in the eyes and said with his soft and yet coarse voice: “I have taught you about the Southern Gate; it is now time to talk about the Western Gate, where the bear lives in the Healing Wheel”. He told me to rest and to meet him when “the Great Mystery covered the Earth with its cloak of stars”.
At night I met the shaman seated, alone, in front of a small fire. He gave me his distinctive rock-bowl pipe for us to smoke it together. After a few puffs in silence, he said: “The Healing Wheel is the sacred symbol that represents the life of each one in this existence. Life is the treatment to heal the spirit. At each lesson learned or wound healed we move forward one spoke of the Wheel”. He paused briefly and continued: “West of the Wheel, where the sun sets, is the sacred space of the Bear, its cave, to where it withdraws for the winter sleep after tasting all types of food from the other seasons”. I waited without saying a word, as I did not understand the point Starry Song wanted to make. “The bear seeks the silence of the cave to quiet down and spend a long time digesting all it ate. When spring arrives, it wakes up stronger to face and live life. This is the lesson and the power of the bear. With us it is no different”. I insisted I still did not understand what he meant. He looked at me and, very patiently, said: “More and more, people listen to all the voices, rather than the words of their own hearts. They listen a lot, but they understand little. I see this tremendous craving for distractions and fun. This is not bad in itself, but the fact is people are forgetting to listen to their own truth, as it is hard for them to keep to themselves, not understanding that loneliness is needed for one to listen to the voice of the heart. Why are they avoiding an encounter with themselves? What do they fear?”
I reasoned that it is important to listen, as we learn a lot from others. “There is no question about that, but the fact is you are the one to choose which direction to take”, he replied, and continued: “For that, you must filter, refine and set in context the voices of the world, bearing in mind that only you know about your life and can make decisions about it. You cannot fear your choices, as they are the instruments you have to hone yourself, making you, and you alone, able to perform the gifts and skills you possess. Following the herd will not allow you to divert from your responsibilities, it will only prevent the best in you from blossoming. Those who Walk in Beauty cannot give up the valuable lesson of the bear, the search for yourself and finding the truth within you”.
I asked him how I could experience the lessons provided by the West Gate. The shaman took a long puff, his eyes lost on the stars. He explained: “There are three steps. The first is self-contemplation. In quietness and silence, enter your sacred space, diving deeply in the still waters of the core of your being. To be alone with yourself is wonderful”. He looked at me for a moment, and asked: “I do like to celebrate with my people, but do you realize the importance of loneliness?” That was a rhetorical question, because he did not wait for an answer, and kept talking: “The second step is to be wise enough to listen to your own voice and differentiate the voice of the self from the voice of the soul. Only the latter will tell you the truth about the Path; while the self relates to passion, the soul points to all the love that is necessary. Placate the ego, allow your soul to shine with all its light and be dazzled!”
I wanted to know about the third step. Starry Song said: “Then, you must structure your life according to the truth that was revealed. Don’t think it will be easy; courage and selflessness are required for one to abandon the old forms comprised in ideas and behaviors that no longer suit you, as they were imposed by cultural and social standards or by expectations others have about you. Even worse are the limits established by those who do not believe in their ability to create and transform their own being and, therefore, life itself. However, at the end of the winter introspection period, the bear is ready to leave the cave, it has honed itself and tuned its choices using the tuning fork of truth. It is aware of its ability and talent. No storm will prevent it from moving forward, as it carries within the power of the Path. This is the time to reveal all its power and magic!”
We kept staring at the infinite without saying a word for a time I cannot quantify, until Starry Song broke the silence: “To understand the cycles each one of us is subjected to is essential to living with serenity. Each cycle will only end when we are honed and strong enough for the new one, just like the caterpillar only breaks the cocoon when it has turned into a butterfly with wings strong enough to take flight”. I wanted to know how I could apply all those words to my current professional status. “You can learn from others, but never allow anyone to shake or rob your peace. If that still happens, it does so because you have yet to find yourself and your wings are not yet mature enough to take flight”.
I told him I suspected that was my case. Starry Song smiled with his eyes, and concluded: “It is time to put the bear skin on, go to the cave for an important meeting with yourself, and get the precious diamond that awaits you”. Before I could ask what he was talking about, he added: “The voices of the world have always compared people. Learning how to listen to the voice of the heart is to discover the beauty of being unique”.
Kindle translated by Carlos André Oighenstein.