A new José Stevens Article

Lessons About Love

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During the 1990’s I was invited to perform as the staff Psychologist at Sol Y Sombra, a beautiful twenty acre estate in Santa Fe, once owned by Georgia O’Keefe. It had been bought by Charles and Beth Miller of Texas and turned into a showcase for sustainable living. Sol y Sombra became a salon for many famous people who would come to Santa Fe to visit the Miller’s. During my time there, politicians, statesmen, actors, entertainers, movie stars, directors, and producers all found their way there, some on a regular basis. To my surprise, Beth Miller would insist that these folks attend my weekly class, usually on some aspect of the Michael Teachings, personality styles, or some related metaphysical topic. At first, I was very self conscious, but after a number of years it became normal to have such luminaries as John Denver, the former President of Mexico, The late Ann Richards, the former Governor of Texas, Journalist Bill Moyers, and many others in my classes. Some came only once but others were regulars and participated in an animated way. Sometimes, they would book private sessions with me to find out more on a personal level. The late John Denver, singer and songwriter, was a regular and we would often talk privately after a class.

In 1994, John Denver wrote a song called, Love is the Answer also known as The Wandering Soul. It was the last song he ever wrote before his untimely death from an accident in an experimental aircraft. I was very fortunate to hear him play a few bars of that song when it first came to him. John was fond of Santa Fe and would come periodically to Sol y Sombra for board meetings of his Wind Star Foundation. After one of those private sessions, he told me he wanted to go for a walk in the gardens. Later, he came back in, found me, and told me he had become inspired to write a song as a result of our visit and asked me to sit while he sat at a grand piano and sang some of the song. Those words stuck with me over the years and I have often thought that no truer words have ever been spoken. Love IS the answer for everything, no question about it. Yet it seems extremely difficult for us humans to get that lesson.

When we think of lessons about love, we usually think of romantic themes or the love between a parent and a child, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. The truth is, lessons about love can be extremely difficult and show up in ways that seem to have nothing to do with love at all. The truth is, that unless we learn these tough lessons, we will not make very much progress toward our eventual awakening. These lessons can be true knuckle biters and every great master or teacher this planet has seen has faced enormous personal challenges in the face of love, no exceptions.

Recently I had one hard love lesson of my own. My wife Lena and I own some land near Mora, New Mexico where we have many summer shamanic retreats, trainings, and events. We call it Eagle Bear Ranch and it is reached from the highway via a long windy, rocky, and steep dirt road that crosses land that we do not own but have an easement on. The road has been deteriorating over the years due to the rain, snow, and much use and needed work badly. I called the woman who I knew owned most of the land and talked to her about fixing the road and she agreed it needed attention. I suggested that we could save some money by using a great pile of rocky red earth that had been sitting by the side of the road for years. We could spread it over the rocks and improve the road. She said that was fine.

I have an old dump truck and a skidsteer and after a couple of months I had our Huichol friends come out and work on the road. They are very good with heavy machinery and began to make a lot of progress. They did a wonderful job and I was delighted with the roadwork. One afternoon they came back to camp upset and said that a “crazy man” had yelled at them and kicked them off the road. It turned out to be the man who owned a short section of the property that the road went through. He had bought the land from the woman’s father I had called. Legally, we had the right to fix a road that we had an easement on if the road became impassable or difficult. Yet in my enthusiasm to fix the road I had neglected to consult with him about that short section of road that he had purchased. That afternoon, when I went to look at the road, it was all trashed. In a rage the man had taken his own tractor and tried to scrape off all the new surface we had put down. When I saw that he had destroyed much of the good work the Huichols had done I was in a rage myself. In my mind’s eye, I saw my hands reaching for his throat to choke him and worse. I found it extremely disturbing that I could not stop these raging thoughts. I knew that this was not good, but I had a hard time controlling my anger. I did not want to confront him until I had better control over my anger.

I went directly to my spiritual practices. I did Ho’oponopono over and over again. This is a Hawaian shamanic practice to reduce conflict. In the short version, one imagines telling the person they have conflict with that they are very sorry this problem has come between them. One takes responsibility for the conflict and apologizes for creating a reality where there is this fight and unpleasantness. It goes something like this: “I am sorry this has come between us. I am sorry that I dreamed this version of reality where you are angry with me and I am angry with you. I forgive you for whatever I have been blaming you for and I forgive myself for whatever I have done to contribute to the problem. I love you and I love myself no matter what has happened, because I am a son of the Great Spirit. You are my brother, a fellow son of the Great Spirit, the same as me. Thank you for helping me to learn this lesson.

Try as I might, I lay in bed awake all night, still angry as hell. I saw clearly that I had created this event to learn something about love, but I was damned in letting go of the anger. Little by little, I made progress. I was able to see that this man, a warrior, represented my older brother (also a warrior) with whom I had a lot of conflict as a child. I was projecting certain things onto him that belonged with my brother, who I thought I had forgiven, but evidently I had not been thorough enough. When I was a child, I feared my older brother. He physically hurt me and one time when I was about four I hit him over the head with hammer with the intention to kill him and get rid of him. Of course I failed and all I did was make him cry and I got in big trouble for it. Now I feared what this man was doing to our work on the road and I was so angry at him for it I had similar murderous fantasies.

My wife Lena and I agreed that she would be the one to talk with him about the road because I might make things worse, given my mood and projections. She was much more neutral about the event and was able to do some healing work about the event long distance. This turned out to be very successful. She took him some cookies and visited him with my daughter Anna who brought my new four month old grandchild. As it turned out, he was contrite about what had occurred and muttered something about it just being a road. She saw that he was quite lonely and not being consulted about his section of road had triggered him to attack. They had a good conversation about how to come to a compromise. The result was that we would agree to bring in some base-course to cover the red earth on his section of road that he objected to. The entire event cost us an extra several thousand dollars but the outcome was what we needed, to be able to fix the road.

By the end, I was able to see that he represented that part of me that has at times, felt ignored and not included in decisions. While he is not my favorite character and I would prefer not to have another run in with him, I no longer feel like choking him and I am not upset anymore about what happened. When I look at the bigger picture, I realize that there are much tougher lessons about love to be dealt with. What if he had killed my family instead? What if he had run me off the road and paralyzed me? Would I be able to forgive him for that? That would be much harder, but that is what I would have to do in the long run. Lessons of love are not just about romance. They are often about nitty gritty relationships that come up into your face to be dealt with without warning. These may have to come up over and over and over again until there is no fear left, nothing left but love. “Damn! It’s hard”. And it’s not fun, but there is no other way out unless one is willing to repeat these events again and again. I want them done, for good. This is the only way we are going to move forward in this world, to a new world, where hate does not dominate our experience as human beings. Maybe next time, I can apologize to him to his face. I need to do more work to accomplish this.

Below are the words to Love is the Answer, lyrics that I found on the internet. It’s a damn good song and one that really gets to the heart of the matter. I know that John Denver is not everyone’s cup of tea. During the hard core seventies dominated by head banging hair bands, some thought he was too sweet and saccharin. However, he is an old soul and this song represents his absolute best poetry.

And there is one more thing, after John died tragically, I was deeply saddened. One night soon after his death, while I was conducting a shamanic ceremony, he appeared in my mind and said simply, “José, I will help you”. I was rather shocked because he was very famous and I didn’t think he would remember me, but he did, and he has helped me to become a much better ceremonial singer. Thank you John.


In this magic hour of softening light

The moments in between the day and the night

The instant when all shadows disappear

The distance in between the love and the fear

There’s a longing deep within the wandering soul

It’s like the half that understands it once was whole

Like the two who only dream of being one

Like the moon who’s only light is in the sun

There’s a danger in forever looking outside

You start to believe that all your prayers have been denied

And you’ll forget the sound of your own name

Thus begins the suffering and the pain

I wanted an answer, I wanted a way

I wanna know just what to do and what to say

I wanted a reason, I wanna know why

Can there never be heaven right here on earth and peace inside

Inside my heart, deep in my soul

Within each part, and in the whole

There’s a promise in the journeys of the mind

You begin to believe that there are miracles you will find

And that someday you’ll remember who you are

The seed within a bright and shining star

It’s like a flame that lives within a hungering heart

That only awaits the gift of love for it to spark

Into a fire that burns forever, endlessly

Like the river that can’t help but meet the sea

In this magic hour between the dark and the dawn

In the space between the silence and the song

Suddenly the mystery is clear

That love is only letting go of fear

Love is the answer, love is the way

Love is in knowing just what to do and what to say

Love is the reason, and love is the why

And love is in heaven right here on Earth and peace inside

Inside your heart, deep in your soul

Within each part, and in the whole

Love is the answer, love is the way

Love is in knowing just what to do and what to say

Love is the reason, love is the why

And love is in heaven right here on Earth and peace inside.

Here is a YouTube link to very rare performance where John sings this song:

John Denver live at Windstar Symposium – Wandering Soul – YouTube


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José Stevens

José Luis Stevens, PhD is the president and co-founder (with wife Lena) of Power Path Seminars, an international school and consulting firm dedicated to the study and application of shamanism and indigenous wisdom to business and everyday life. José completed a ten-year apprenticeship with a Huichol (Wixarika) Maracame (Huichol shaman) in the Sierras of Central Mexico. In addition, he is studying with Shipibo shamans in the Peruvian Amazon and with Paqos (shamans) in the Andes in Peru. In 1983 he completed his doctoral dissertation at the California Institute of Integral Studies focusing on the interface between shamanism and western psychological counseling. Since then, he has studied cross-cultural shamanism around the world to distill the core elements of shamanic healing and practice. He is the author of twenty books and numerous articles including Encounters With Power, Awaken The Inner Shaman, The Power Path, Secrets of Shamanism, Transforming Your Dragons and How To Pray The Shaman's Way.