Excerpt from Journey to Ixtlan: Lessons of Don Juan by Carlos Castaneda
“What do you mean by my last dance don Juan?”
“This is the site of your last stand, ” he said. “You will; die here no matter where you are. Every warrior has a place to die. A place of his predilection which is soaked with unforgettable memories, where powerful events left their mark, a place where he has witnessed marvels, where secrets have been revealed to him, a place where he has stored his personal power.
“A warrior has the obligation to go back to that place of his predilection every time he taps power in order to store it there. He either goes there by means of walking or by means of dreaming.
“And finally, one day when his time on earth is up and he feels the tap of his death: on his left shoulder his spirit, which is always ready, flies to the place of his predilection and there the warrior dances to his death.
“Every warrior has a specific form, a specific posture of power, which he develops throughout his life. It is a sort of dance. A movement that he does under the influence of his personal power.
“If a dying warrior has limited power, his dance is short; if his power is grandiose, his dance is magnificent. But regardless of whether his power is small or magnificent, death must stop to witness his last stand on earth. Death cannot overtake the warrior who is recounting the toil of his life for the last time until he has finished his dance.”
Don Juan’s words made me shiver. The quietness, the twilight, the magnificent scenery, all seemed to have been placed there as props for the image of a warrior’s last dance of power.
“Can you teach me that dance even though I am not a warrior?” I asked.
“Any man that hunts power has to learn that dance, ” he said. “Yet I cannot teach you now. Soon you may have a worthy opponent and I will show you then the first movement of power. You must add the other movements yourself as you go on living. Every new one must be obtained during a struggle of power. So, properly speaking, the posture, the form of a warrior, is the story of his life, a dance that grows as he grows in personal power.”
“Does death really stop to see a warrior dance?”
“A warrior is only a man. A humble man. He cannot change the designs of his death. But his impeccable spirit, which has stored power after stupendous hardships, can certainly hold his death for a moment, a moment long enough to let him rejoice for the last time in recalling his power. We may say that is a gesture which death has with those who have an impeccable spirit.”
I experienced an overwhelming anxiety and I talked just to alleviate it. I asked him if he had known warriors that had died, and in what way their last dance had affected their dying.
“Cut it out, ” he said dryly. “Dying is a monumental affair. It is more than kicking your legs and becoming stiff.”
“Will I too dance to my death don Juan?”
“Certainly. You are hunting personal power even though you don’t live like a warrior yet. Today the sun gave you an omen. Your best production in your life’s work will be done towards the end of the day. Obviously you don’t like the youthful brilliancy of early light. Journeying in the morning doesn’t appeal to you. But your cup of tea is the dying sun, old yellowish, and mellow. You don’t like the heat, you like the glow.
“And thus you will dance to your death here, on this hilltop, at the end of the day.
And in your last dance you will tell of your struggle, of the battles you have won and of those you have lost; you will tell of your joys and bewilderment upon encountering personal power. Your dance will tell about the secrets and about the marvels you have stored. And your death will sit here and watch you.
“The dying sun will glow on you without burning, as it has done today. The wind will be soft and mellow and your hilltop will tremble. As you reach the end of your dance you will look at the sun, for you will never see it again in waking or in dreaming, and then your death will point to the south. To the vastness.
I first found my hands in dreaming about 12 years ago. It was not for a want of trying that it took me so long to achieve. I would practice setting up dreaming before falling asleep most nights, I would remind myself that the purpose of my dreaming was to find my hands, I would often wear a dreaming headband, and attempt to watch myself falling asleep. I invested in a Spirit Catcher and kitted it out with a Quartz, I even tried attaching a quartz crystal to the top of my head while sleeping, as recommended by Don Juan.
The results were pitiful however. Nightly I would fall asleep and enter dreaming. I was dreaming frequently and fairly lucidly at the time, but at no point would I remember the instruction to find my hands. It seems I would never become aware enough that I was actually within a dream. I was getting close however I felt a tension was starting to build within my dreaming experience.
There was one dreamscape/location, I kept returning to. I would be standing outside of a house, aware vegetation was growing out of it; perhaps a plant or tree, something that seemed very familiar to me. I would be standing on a path that led past the bay windows of the house, I even remember looking in on one occasion. I could not make it any further up the path however, something would end the dream. But it was in this location that I eventually managed to realise that I was asleep which prompted me to act – and I found my hands. The process was initially that I looked straight ahead – in awe of the fact that I had managed to realise I was dreaming. I felt very alive at that point, I could even feel the gravel of the path beneath my feet and realise I was somewhere else altogether. I then immediately looked down at my hands, inspecting them – the lines on my hands seemed to jump out at me. I became engrossed in studying my palms then turned them over….
At that moment the dream location changed. I cannot recall how many locations I travelled to. I seemed to be flying from one to another. Various things were happening at each location I found myself in, but I was limited by the amount of time I was there to how much I could recall. The general theme was that I was on a ‘night out’. I do remember going with friends to a bar, being thrown out then stumbling away down the street. But with this like all the locations I travelled to, I would suddenly be whipped away and would ‘fly’ somewhere else. I ended up in an alley, looking down at myself from above, but aware at the same time that it was myself I was looking at. Presumably exhausted by my night-time aeronautics I sat there till the friends I had been drinking with turned up to collect me. At which point I awoke, in astonishment and particularly happy with my success.
“Journey to Ixtlan”
“I am going to teach you how to set up dreaming.”
“You must start by doing something very simple,” he said. “Tonight in your dreams you must look at your hands.” I laughed out loud. His tone was so factual that it was as if he were telling me to do something commonplace. “Why do you laugh?” he asked with surprise. “How can I look at my hands in my dreams?”..
“Very simple, focus your eyes on them just like this.” He bent his head forward and stared at his hands with his mouth open. His gesture was so comical that I had to laugh. “Seriously, how can you expect me to do that?” I asked “The way I’ve told you,” he snapped. “You can, of course, look at whatever you goddamn please…
…I asked him to give me some pointers. “There aren’t any pointers,” he said. “Just look at your hands.”
“When they begin to change shape you must move your sight away from them and pick something else, and then look at your hands again. It takes a long time to perfect this technique.”
I had a pivotal experience many years ago of seeing the gaps between the sounds of the world. I was driving to my home town which I was moving back to. I had been reading Castaneda for sometime, and during the drive I was contemplating, whether I was to going to continue following this path that had recently been opened up to me.
When I was not too far from where I was going, I suddenly had the feeling that I should not go straight back home but should instead turn off. It felt like an omen and I didn’t feel as if I could ignore it. This was partly because I almost didn’t want to reach my destination undecided. I got to a slip road and pulled off and ended up at a place where I parked up to stretch my legs.
I had been practising listening to the gaps between the sounds of a world for a while. And I thought this for some reason this was a good opportunity to try. I sat on the bonnet of my car and listened intently. This was a quiet area near a huge suspension bridge. There was just the sounds of the distant cars on the road behind me and the lapping of the waves on the water near by. There I sat and listened to the world. The more I listened the more I could hear the blank areas between the sounds. These gaps opened up and became incredibly clear. The break in the continuity was obvious. The listening started to blur my perception of the world. The gaps themselves became more defined than the sounds. I started to feel a vibration in my ears; something like a silent alarm being triggered. Then I saw wisps of light begin to appear in the night sky. These formed into eight golden rings of light suspended sequentially in the air in front of me….like enormous rings of smoke.
These shapes seemed like a representation of the gaps I had been experiencing – like some sort of physical manifestation. I was unable to maintain the attention needed for distinguishing the gaps; the scene hung there for a moment then disappeared. I felt a calm and returned to my car to continue on my journey. I was now decided on my course of action.
It is obvious to me now that this is a powerful ‘Not-doing’, the activity Don Juan prescribed to Carlos Castaneda for ‘Stopping the world’. In specific this is the ‘Not-doing’ of ‘listening’. Not-doing is defined as the counter point to things we know well in the world – the ‘Doing’ of the world. In order to ‘Stop the world’ which is to end the description of the world, one must cease ‘Doing’. Stopping the internal dialogue is the means to end this description and the activity of ‘Not-doing’ is the way to achieve it. The most obvious example of ‘Not-doing’ is shadows as compared to the solid objects that creates them, they are that which is unfamiliar to us and unnoticed. Also the twilight is the ‘not-doing’ of the day so to speak. ‘Seeing’ is described as the ‘Not-doing’ of looking, ‘dreaming’ the ‘Not-doing’ of Sleeping and so on…
Quotes from “Journey to Ixtlan”
“The world is the world because you know the doing involved in making it so,” – Don Juan Matus
“Once you know what it is like to stop the world you realize there is a reason for it. You see, one of the arts of the warrior is to collapse the world for a specific reason and then restore it again in order to keep on living.” – Don Juan Matus
When one focuses so intently on the gaps created by the silences between sounds – One is unable to maintain the attention needed to continue with the internal dialogue. The world as such collapses and the description of the world is suspended, enabling the participant to ‘see’ the energetic nature of the world.
Excerpt from “A Separate Reality” by Carlos Castaneda
“(Don Juan said)…that I should focus all my attention on listening to sounds and do my best to find the holes between the sounds… I began to listen and I could distinguish the whistling of birds, the wind rustling the leaves, the buzzing of insects… I was immersed in a strange world of sound, as I had never been in my life… After a moment of attentive listening I thought I understood don Juan’s recommendation to watch for the holes between the sounds. The pattern of noises had spaces in between sounds!… the timing of each sound was a unit in the overall pattern… Thus the spaces or pauses in between sounds were, if I paid attention to them, holes in a structure…
“I shifted my attention from hearing to looking… The silhouette of the hills was arranged in such a way that from the place where I was looking there seemed to be a hole on the side of one of the hills… a space between two hills… It was as if the hole I was looking at was the ‘hole’ in the sound… Then the other sounds began again and their structure of pauses became an extraordinary, almost visual perception. I began seeing the sounds as they created patterns and then all those patterns became superimposed on the environment… I was not looking or hearing as I was accustomed to doing. I was doing something which was entirely different but combined features of both…my attention was focused on the large hole in the hills. I felt I was hearing it and at the same time looking at it.”
“We are perceives,” he proceeded. “The world that we perceive though, is an illusion. It was created by a description that was told to us since the moment we were born. “We, the luminous beings, are born with two rings of power, but we use only one to create the world. That ring, which is hooked very soon after we are born, is reason, and its companion is talking. Between the two they concoct and maintain the world. So, in essence, the world that your reason wants to sustain is the world created by a description and its dogmatic and inviolable rules, which the reason learns to accept and defend.”
“The secret of the luminous beings is that they have another ring of power which is never used, the ‘will’. The trick of the sorcerer is the same trick of the average man. Both have a description; one, the average man, upholds it with his reason; the other, the sorcerer, upholds it with his will. Both descriptions have their rules and the rules are perceivable, but the advantage of the sorcerer is that will is more engulfing than reason The diagram in the ashes had two epicenters; one he called ‘reason’, the other, ‘will’. ‘Reason’ was interconnected directly with a point he called ‘talking’.”
Through ‘talking’, ‘reason’ was indirectly connected to three other points, ‘feeling’, ‘dreaming’ and ‘seeing’. The other epicentre, ‘will’, was directly connected to ‘feeling’, ‘dreaming’ and ‘seeing’; but only indirectly to ‘reason’ and ‘talking’. I remarked that the diagram was different from the one I had recorded years before. “The outer form is of no importance,” he said. “These points represent a human being and can be drawn in any way you want.” “Do they represent the body of a human being?” I asked. “Don’t call it the body,” he said. “These are eight points on the fibres of a luminous being.”
“A sorcerer says, as you can see in the diagram, that a human being is, first of all, will, because will is directly connected to three points, feeling, dreaming and seeing; then next, a human being is reason. This is properly a centre that is smaller than will; it is connected only with talking.”
“What are the other two points don Juan”? “We may say that every one of us brings to the world eight points. Two of them reason and talking are known by everyone. Feeling is always vague but somehow familiar. But only in the world of sorcerers does one get fully acquainted with dreaming, seeing, and will, And finally, at the outer edge of that world one encounters the other two. The eight points make the totality of oneself”. He showed me in the diagram that in essence all the points could be made to connect with one another indirectly.
I asked him again about the two mysterious remaining points. He showed me that they were connected only to will, and that they were removed from feeling, dreaming, and seeing and much more distant from talking and reason. He pointed with his finger to show that they were isolated from the rest and from each other. “Those two points will never yield to talking or to reason”, he said. “Only will can handle them”. “Reason is so far removed from them that it is utterly useless to try figuring them out”. He touched my head and said, that was the centre of reason and talking. The tip of my sternum was the centre of my feeling. The area below the naval was will. Dreaming was on the right side against the ribs. Seeing on the left. He said that sometimes in some warriors seeing and dreaming were on the right side. “We are perceiver. We are an awareness, we are not objects, we have no solidity, We are boundless. The world of objects and solidity is a way of making our passage on earth convenient. It is only a description that was created to help us. We, or rather our reason forget that the description is only a description and thus we entrap the totality of ourselves in a vicious circle from which we rarely emerge in our lifetime”.
Excerpt from “Tales of Power” by Carlos Castaneda
(Courtesy of Ken Eagle Feather)