Two ancient and mythical villages, connected only by a treacherous mountain pass that was carved out over millennia by a now long gone crystal clear glacial stream, were kept apart not only by the distance between them, but by an outdated handed down tradition of separation. The villagers from each would gather together once weekly at an old shrine at the halfway point along the pass to trade goods and services vital for the survival of both.

Many generations had honoured this tradition and none had ever ventured passed the shrine towards the opposite village or even thought to question the unspoken treaty… until now.

For months, a boy from the southern village had witnessed the mesmerizing grace offered by a young girl from the northern village as they exchanged their wares and traded glances, coming to understand that their interactions were gradually becoming much more than commerce. She too had begun to understand that the stirrings within her heart had been born of something deeper than mere acquaintance. Each week as they individually prepared their baskets of produce to carry to shrine, their anticipation of meeting, of a passing smile or catching the other’s eye grew into passion and beyond into need.

After many months had gone by and stolen moments had been shared, the boy from the southern village began to ask questions of the tradition and treaty. “Why is it that we may never venture beyond the shrine?” “Why do our villages never blend beyond market day?” Nobody could offer him an appropriate answer to this age-old directive and so he took it upon himself to ask for divine guidance on the matter…

It wasn’t market day but he didn’t care, the shrine was surely built for more than just a trading post though no one could remember its true purpose either. He set off along the arduous path through the mountain pass determined to find answers at the shrine as to how he could break with tradition to win and be with his beloved.

At the shrine was an old man, sitting with his eyes closed in contemplation. He was bearded and carried a long stave of gnarled wood, his clothes were that of a beggar but his countenance that of a prince. The boy dared not speak to disturb this man’s peace but his presence had already been detected and without even opening his eyes the man spoke: “What is it you seek young man?”

Startled by the power in the old man’s voice, the boy lost his footing and fell hard on his backside. His pride wounded slightly more than his person he looked up to find the old man now wide-eyed and gently smiling, “What is it you seek?”

The boy began to relate the story of the split villages and his growing love for the girl in the northern village to the old man, ending his tale by conceding that no one knew why the shrine was built or why no one would venture beyond it from either direction.

The old man considered for a moment and then made a request of the boy: “Today I ask you to walk beyond the shrine just a few steps beyond where your eyes can currently see. No harm will come to you but once you discover what is just out of view, you must return to me here.” The boy agreed to do as the old man had requested and gingerly set off beyond the shrine…

Ten minutes later the boy returned to find the old man’s eyes tightly shut and patiently waited for the sage to speak. After a while the booming voice came: “What did you find just beyond your perception?” The boy was eager to recount that he had stumbled upon a second path and that he had no idea which path led to the northern village and his beloved or where indeed the the other would take him.

The sage thought for a moment and then offered guidance…

“One path is the path of unity and togetherness, the other is the path of solitude and independence. Both paths will lead you to the same place but that place is not where you are expecting to go. Both paths will offer you experience beyond your current comprehension, both will challenge you to your core, neither path will be easy nor will it be well trodden but each is signposted along the way if you know how to read the signs.” He concluded by asking: “Which path will you take?”

Confused, the boy asked “But if neither will take me where I expect to go, how then should I choose?”

The sage, whispering now, offered more guidance… “The true path you seek exists not beyond the shrine on a treacherous mountain pass towards an unknown village and the promise of romance, but within the heart of how you choose which one to walk. You see before you only two paths: unity or independence, but in truth there are four paths beyond the shrine.” More confused now, the boy protested the truth of what he had seen: “No sir, there are but two paths ahead, just beyond the ridge as far as the eye can see!”

“But you can walk either, one of two ways. You can walk the path in love and faith or you can walk the path in fear.”

The boy’s eyes widened as he listened.

“Your beloved awaits you on the path of unity but if you join her there because you are afraid to be alone, you will try to possess her and crush her spirit and you will end up alone anyway. If you join her on the path in love and faith you will be blessed on the adventure of a lifetime in co-creative service to a higher purpose…. If you choose to walk the path of independence through the fear of commitment to another, you will whither without cooperation or be crushed by those who would take your power.  If however, you walk the path of solitude with an open heart, others will come and go to mutually support you when you need and co-creative higher purpose though different, will still be the outcome of your adventure.”

At that moment, as the boy digested the wisdom he had received, the beautiful young girl from the northern village arrived at the shrine carrying bread and water… “Hello Grandfather, she said warmly handing the old sage her offerings, “How was your meditative solitude today?”

She smiled sweetly at the young boy she admired as she helped the old man stand and continued: “Which path shall we take home today?”

What about you? Which path will you take home?

Principle 4: I AM Truth, Principle 7: I AM Open-Hearted.

Discovering the true path is all about perspective… x