Perplexed about how to choose a direction, the apprentice took his confusion to the shaman. The old man’s leathery face took on a gentle smile as he replied to his student, “Follow the path with heart.”
The young man pondered the wise elder’s advice. Then, he cupped each choice before him invisibly in his hands, one at a time, holding it to his heart and listening to hear what his heart had to say.
He discovered each alternative had a different feel to it. This first one was cool and light. He set it aside and picked up the next. It was heavy and dull, and he set it aside. The third was pleasantly warm and seemed to have a magnetic quality to it, as if it were drawing him toward it. He noted the feeling and set that choice down so he could weigh the final one.
As he cupped this last alternative in his hands and held it to his heart, suddenly he was enveloped in a radiant glow and he felt as if inaudible music was enveloping him. This, he knew, was the song of his heart and as he heard it, all his confusion disappeared.
He set out on the path his heart directed him to take with great gladness, and at first the way was smooth and easy. But as the days passed, the terrain grew rocky and the path narrow and steep. The young man had to choose his steps with great care. He began to grow light-headed and disoriented, and feared he would lose his balance. Trembling slightly, he kept on, every step more difficult than the last. He had to use all his knowledge and skill to find each next foothold.
One evening, the sky turned red and a fierce dust storm pummeled him. He crouched shaking behind a boulder, exhausted from his long, arduous climb. “What have I come to?” he asked himself. “How can I go on?”
He remembered the pouch of water tucked beneath his tunic, and as he reached for it, he suddenly felt the beating of his heart. “Follow the path with heart,” he thought to himself, hearing his teacher’s voice in his mind. But now the words no longer spoke to the question of “which” but to the question of “how,” and as he heard them, he felt his courage rise within him. And comforted by it, he fell asleep.
When he awoke, a new day had spread itself over the horizon, fresh and clear. As he stepped from behind the boulder that had given him refuge, he saw he was at the crest of the mountain he had climbed, and a bubbling spring was cascading down a path that led to a village, shining in the morning light, below him.
He ended up settling in the village, where he learned music and healing arts, and all the people loved him and children loved to play outside his door.
One day, when he had been there many, many seasons and was an old man with a leathery face, a perplexed youngster he had been tutoring came to him, asking how he could know the best direction for his life. The old man’s face gently smiled as he looked into the young man’s eyes. “Follow the path with heart,” the old man said. “Follow the path with heart.”