The ‘not-doing’ of shadows

Shall I tell you about the time that I died…..

My story begins 20 years ago when due to difficulties I was experiencing (to put it mildly), I was sectioned and taken into mental hospital. I had been living in Manchester in the early 90’s but moved back to my hometown where I was hospitalized. I was in a bad way.I remember sitting in a chair of the hospital smoking room – they had just put me on new medication that was having adverse effects. I felt as if being, ‘chemically tortured’; the medical term is ‘Oculogyric crisis’. The medical staff had all gone off duty for the night so I was unable to speak to a doctor. I thought I was going into a catatonic state. Reality seemed to be slipping away from me. But I managed to get out of the chair and made it to the nurses station. A kind nurse took pity on me and gave me a drug which calmed me immediately. I now felt quite stoned.At this point I went and sat on my bed in the dormitory. For some reason, I decided to practice ‘the not doing of shadows’ which Castaneda describes in ‘A Separate Reality’. I had read the book two years earlier. The idea that Don Juan proposes to Castaneda is that shadows act like the glue that keeps the world together. By gazing into the shadows, it is possible to see the world from an entirely different view-point, that being the world of ‘not-doing’.


Don Juan is quoted as saying: “To not-do what you know how to do is the key to power. In the case of looking at a tree or bush, what you know how to do is to focus immediately on the foliage. The shadows of the leaves or the spaces in between the leaves are never your concern. Start focusing on the shadows of the leaves on one single branch and then eventually work your way to the whole tree, and don’t let your eyes go back to the leaves, because the first deliberate step to storing personal power is to allow the body to not-do. The body likes things like this. You can stop the world using this technique. Once you have succeeded, you must work as if nothing has happened to you and don’t mention or even be concerned with any of the events you have experienced.”

I was in a precarious position. This ordeal had been forced upon me by supposedly well-intentioned people, responsible for my care. I felt abandoned. I knew I had nothing else to lose. So I fixed my gaze on a spot within the shadows. I was gazing for only a moment then to my utter amazement, I saw the shadows start to morph together into a shape – The shadows seemed to come alive. The darkness itself started to gather together and began to form the shape of a humanoid figure about a foot tall. The ‘little man’ constructed of darkness, then started to amble his way out of shadows and toward me. This was the most terrifying experience of my life, and yet the most exhilarating. Suddenly to my right what seemed like a portal opened up at least two feet from the floor. It was literally a hole in the fabric of space/time. A luminous cat leapt through the hole, ran across the floor and jump again through another portal which opened up not too far from the humanoid figure. This seemed to dispel the whole scene.


Some time later, I forget the time scale. I went into the smoking room where other patients were smoking dope. They offered me some but I refused. However a nurse came in the room smelt the smoke and I was accused of taking drugs. For the purposes of testing my system, I was place into a padded cell with a bucket to piss in and nothing else. I was in this room for 24 hours and then for no apparent reason I was moved to a closed down wing of the hospital in isolation.

I remember walking around the empty wing of the hospital, feeling “why is this happening to me?” Eventually I went to the room I was given and lay on the bed. Curled up foetal like and in a desperate state, I lay on the bed with the intention of trying to get to sleep. I felt as if I was in a nether-world, somewhere between living and dying. I could not go to sleep and yet could not stay awake in this condition. I went beyond hope and despair at that point. So I decided to ‘give up’ – “Surrender to the void” is what I remembered hearing. The words seemed to arise from somewhere deep within myself and yet from far away.



I lost consciousness… I had the sensation of seeing myself rising off the bed and through the ceiling ~ The next moment I was rising through earth, into another world.I first tried to establish where I was. I looked down at my feet and in utter amazement I was a luminous green. I looked to my left saw ferns.


These were not ordinary ferns; just as if they had been allowed to overgrow, they were the size of small trees. I followed the foliage with my gaze upwards. Until I saw trees like giant Redwoods, I was immediately taken by their size. I followed them up with my line of vision. I had no longer a sense of self.I looked up higher and higher into the trees. These trees were thousands of feet tall, trees the size of a mountains.


Eventually I got to where the foliage started and saw a glimmer of light. I gazed into the light coming through the branches. And I started to rise up …eventually after what seemed like an eternity ~ I was beyond the tree line… My vision opened up I could see the vast expanse of sky….


Wooooooooooaaaw…..was the scream I let out; so loud it might have been heard in the hospital… And I was filled with joy!
I find it hard to describe, but this light was brighter than a thousand suns, and yet did not damage my eye.I ascended into the light as I screamed…
As suddenly as I had departed I was back in my hospital bed actually witnessing myself falling into the empty space of the bed through the ceiling. I had been away…
I woke up, “I have seen God!” I said. But I sat up and corrected myself quite definitely, “no I’m sure I haven’t”. I was confused
I remember little after this apart from the sense of peace that it gave me. I was moved back to the normal wing of the hospital the next day and carried on as if nothing had happened.

“Dreamers can gaze in order to do dreaming and then they can look for their dreams in their gazing. For example you can gaze at the shadows of rocks and then, in your dreaming , you might find out that those shadows have light. You can then, while gazing, look for the light in the shadows until you find it. Gazing and dreaming go together.” Don Juan Matus

3 thoughts on “The ‘not-doing’ of shadows

  1. I have read your story. I hope you are well now. I invite you to Google my sites. Just Google the name: Gloria Eagle


  2. “To not-do what you know how to do is the key to power.” – this reminds me of when I began to learn drawing and I have read “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”, I tried to draw a image but it did not work well because like the author said, I was drawing like I thought i should, and than I did like the author said, to turn the image upside down, and I was amazed to see that what I draw, a perfect image of a horse.


  3. i really enjoyed this! thank you.. you have really helped me here and i look forward to gazing within the shadows to search for the light.. excellent instruction.


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