The Path with Heart
Written by José Stevens, Ph.D. with Lena Stevens
The path with heart has no set of predictable moves to ensure success. It is not a set of routines or a prescription of step-by-step actions; it is a philosophy, a way of seeing and being in the world that leads you to your life task, the contribution that spirit asks you to make.
To discover the path with heart, you have to be willing to surrender to spirit, to allow spirit to dictate your moves and decisions spontaneously. This way of being is challenging and difficult for most people of the modern world, because we are trained from birth to value what we call freedom and independence. We are taught not to surrender under any circumstances and to fight for what we believe in. While these concepts sound good and have merit, from a shaman's point of view most people are obviously confused about what they believe in, and even if they are clear about it, their beliefs are often not worth fighting for. For a master shaman what is worth fighting for is the freedom to pursue the real power that resides within -- the path with heart.
Shamans know that real power comes with a price and that price includes surrendering to what the Toltec shamans call the Eagle. The Eagle is just another name for spirit, the great power of creation that lies behind everything.
To have true power, a shaman must let go of personal attachments and expectations, ego-oriented desires for comfort and success. The path of heart, while extremely satisfying and fulfilling, is not an easy path to follow because it is demanding, requiring sacrifice -- a word that shamans don't use very much but allude to a great deal. Their idea of sacrifice is not the same as that described by some religions that teach that suffering is good and heaven the reward for sacrifice. For a shaman, sacrificing for some future place in heaven makes no sense; rather, they sacrifice to gain freedom and the power to serve now, to make the highest contribution that they can. Sacrifice is the willingness to be uncomfortable to gain something valuable. Shamans are willing to endure unimaginable discomfort on their paths to real power.
Seven Signs of the Path with Heart
To recognize your path with heart, you must read the signs along the way. Seven signs will help you recognize the path with heart.
1. Early signs: Signs early in life point to what you are here to do. They show up as certain daydreams or fantasies or in forms of child's play. For hours at a time, when he was small child, a great comedian used to entertain his audience of stuffed animals, telling them jokes and stories. A financial planner used to play store as a child. He organized all the neighbor children to have stores that bought and sold crafts from one another. Naturally his was the most successful, and he always ended up with all the play money, so he then had to redistribute it to keep the game going. (There is a great lesson in this for the ultra-successful.) A naturalist spent his childhood collecting frogs and reptiles. A famous fashion designer made unique and colorful clothes for her dolls. An anchorwoman used a pretend microphone as a child to report on the goings-on in her household. A physician cleaned scratches and performed fake surgeries on his childhood friends. These are all examples from the lives of real people who have been our clients over the years.
2. Natural talent: As you grow up you may forget these early childhood dreams and try to conform to other social pressures about what you ought to do with your life. In a shaman's view, however, there is always a talent for that which spirit created you to do. A drama teacher suspected that a failing, gang-oriented student, involved in car thefts and burglary, had some talent for acting. The teacher talked the boy into taking a lead part in the high school play, the role of a con artist. The boy was brilliant and went on to become a successful actor.
Doing What You Enjoy
3. Doing what you enjoy: Not only do you have talent for what you have been designed to do but you also clearly enjoy doing it when you have the opportunity. A young man whose parents said he loved to argue as a child went on to become a well-known trial lawyer after failing to make the grade as an opera singer. A woman who as a child loved designing dollhouses went on to become an award-winning architect, after dropping out of medical school.
4. Allies: The path with heart always comes with allies to assist you in finding it when the terrain is roughest. These allies come in many forms, sometimes at the most unexpected times. The ally might be a high school counselor who steers you in the proper direction or a coach with some insight into your abilities. The ally might be a relative who provides an opportunity or a benefactor who picks you out of a crowd to do something special. The drama coach who helped the juvenile delinquent is a striking example.
Sometimes allies show up to guide you much later in life, even after a distinguished career in work that was adequate but not the true path with heart. After a highly successful career as an astronaut, Edgar Mitchell founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences in California, a center that sponsors international conferences on topics relating science to spirituality.
5. Unexpected promptings: The path with heart comes with unexpected events and situations that steer you toward it -- failure to pass an exam, an unplanned interview, a spontaneous meeting, getting lost and ending up in the perfect place, a missed plane, a fortuitous encounter on a bus, the loss of a job just in time to be available for a better one. According to shamans these events are not accidents. You should expect them and allow them to clear the way to your destination, the path with heart. All too often we are so distracted or clinging so stubbornly to our agenda that we miss the importance of an event and fail to see it for what it is, a gift from spirit. All too often we resist the workings of spirit and sometimes even feel victimized by unforeseen changes in plans.
Shamans recommend that we give up the scripts, the careful planning that goes into controlling the future, because otherwise we will not have spirit's help. To a shaman, such a controlled life reeks of self-importance. It is as if to say that we know better than spirit what is right. If we insist on approaching life in this way, then we will be blind to spirit's help and won't receive the assistance we need. The result is a carefully scripted and controlled life with no zip, no zest, and no actual power. Nevertheless, a shaman would say help is always on the way, recognized or not.
6. Synchronistic events, magical moments: Synchronistic events, magical moments that have no rational explanation, accompany discovery of the path with heart. From a shaman's point of view, they are among the foremost ways to discern the power path.
In the late seventies a senior manager of a large paper manufacturing firm decided to enroll in an EST (Erhard Seminars Training) program, at the time a popular two-weekend consciousness-raising program. As he was arriving at the airport for his flight to New York for the training, he glanced up and was startled to see a large sign proclaiming "NO EST." When he got closer, he chuckled to see that the sign actually read "NORTHWEST," for Northwest Airlines, but a telephone pole had obscured the middle section.
When he arrived at the training seminar in New York, he was refused entry because he didn't get permission from the psychiatrist who had been treating him for mild depression. Terribly upset, he boarded a plane and returned home, where a message waited that an old friend was in town and wanted to meet with him. The meeting resulted in a complete change of life for him. He resigned from his job, moved to Chicago, and enrolled in a training program for computer software development, a fledgling industry at the time. Eventually he became the CEO of a start-up software manufacturing firm that he sold three years later for over 300 million dollars. Today he heads a highly effective foundation that assists learning disabled children through the use of computer programs. He found his path with heart through a series of synchronistic events.
Now he likes to say that if he had known then what he knows today, he would never have boarded the plane for the training. Just seeing the sign "NO EST" would have been enough to give him the message.
7. Signs that confirm you are on the path: When you have arrived at the path with heart, signs will confirm that you are on the right path. You will discover unexpected success, allies, breakthroughs, and all manner of support for doing what you are designed by spirit to do. Signs will be everywhere you are on the path of power.
During a consultation a highly successful director of sales training in a large commercial real estate firm lamented to us that she did not seem to be doing anything in the world to help anyone. She felt that perhaps she should be working as a physician or fundraiser for charitable organizations. She felt guilty that she worked in a corporate setting that did not seem to be making a real difference in the world.
We asked her if she enjoyed her work as head trainer, and she said yes. We asked her if she was good at teaching, and she said yes. We asked her if she was well liked in the position and if people valued her presence there, and she replied affirmatively. We asked her if she had had opportunities presented to her on a regular basis, and she agreed she had. We asked her what about the position she liked best of all, and she said, "Inspiring people and selling them on themselves." She broke into a grin when she realized what she had just said. "I guess I am making a difference, aren't I! I am helping people in a corporate setting. The truth is, I love the work. I just always thought it was supposed to look different."
From a shaman's point of view, there were many obvious signs that this woman was designed by spirit for the work she does. Her guilt, because of social imprinting, simply prevented her from fully enjoying herself.
Summary: Important Concepts to Remember
* Shamans distinguish between ordinary life paths and what they call the path with heart.
* The path with heart has no set of predictable moves or routines that ensure success.
* In order to discover the path with heart, you have to be willing to surrender to spirit.
* To have true power, a shaman must let go of personal attachments and expectations, ego-oriented desires for comfort and success.
* Seven signs can help you recognize the path with heart:
1. Signs early in life point to what you are here to do.
2. You always have a natural talent for what spirit created you to do.
3. You clearly enjoy doing it when you have the opportunity.
4. The path with heart always comes with allies to assist you.
5. The path with heart comes with unexpected events and situations that steer you toward it.
6. Synchronistic events accompany the discovery of the path with heart.
7. When you have arrived at the path with heart, signs will confirm that you are now on the right path, the path with power.
This article is excerpted from the book:
The Power Path
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, New World Library. ©2002. http://www.newworldlibrary.com
About the AuthorsJosé and Lena Stevens have completed a ten-year apprenticeship with a high-degree Huichol shaman living in the Sierras of Mexico and have specific training with shamans in the Amazon and Andes regions of Peru. Lena has a background in business management and the arts. José received his master's degree from UC Berkeley and his doctorate in psychology from the School of Integral Studies in San Francisco. José & Lena use their knowledge of shamanism and business psychology to privately coach and assist leaders to make difficult life decisions and to develop business strategy. They are the authors of Secrets of Shamanism: Tapping the Spirit Power within You. José is also the author of numerous books & articles.