I never thought a character I met in a book would have such a profound impact on my life, but don Juan sure has.
Yup. The ‘don Juan’ that author Carlos Castaneda wrote about many years ago, that amazingly charismatic personage who took young Carlos on as his ‘apprentice’ — a young and arrogant student who had absolutely no idea that he was about to embark upon a labor of love that was such a mind-boggling adventure it would totally consume him for decades. Young Carlos, who was so brazen and cocksure of himself as a privileged graduate student of anthropology at UCLA that he just knew that he could run circles around some ‘crazy old man who seemed drunk all the time’ but supposedly knew something about the medicinal usage of plants by the Native Americans of the Southwest. Some crotchety old geezer that he met up with in a dingy bus depot one summer afternoon in Arizona.
A crackpot named ‘don Juan’ who would end up turning Carlos Castaneda’s life completely upside down and inside out, by instructing him, molding him and ultimately ushering him into a mesmerizing hidden world of esoteric ancient knowledge from centuries past. Some ‘old fool’ who would inspire a complete transformation of the young man from a fumbling and insecure blowhard into one of the most formidable Warrior-Spirits of modern times. Impact on him in such profound ways that Carlos Castaneda would ultimately also become a world-renowned bestselling author of millions of books because of this seemingly random chance encounter. Yes… I write here of the ‘don Juan’ that caused so much controversy and in fact still does, because some say he was merely a literary invention of Castaneda’s, while others argue passionately that he really did exist. In fact, a slew of literary works have been written about this point of conjecture alone.
But no matter –
If the teachings of don Juan truly touched you, if they impacted on you to the point where you internalized their meaning and ‘intent’, then it became irrelevant if it was fact or fiction. You made your choice.
Philosopher, stern critic, shaman and spirit-guide… friend and mentor. He was all these things to me and more. The learning never stops and never grows old because it can’t.
Like the great teachers of time immemorial, be they Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mandela or even Ali. They have all had a dramatic impact on humanity. Take your pick.
But what this old man did stuck like glue. Irrevocably changed me.
Because he gave me the gift of new eyes. Taught me a ‘way’ to live my life with a sense of respect for the sheer wonder of it all.
…don Juan taught me to ‘see’.
Now please understand. I cannot teach you, the reader here, how to ‘see’… just as I cannot explain the wisdom that don Juan’s teachings bestowed. That would take a lifetime; I know that I still have much to learn from him. So suffice it to say that there are many books which you may have heard of at some point in your life, for instance, Aldous Huxley’s “The Doors of Perception”, or perhaps another by Joseph Chilton Pearce called “The Crack In The Cosmic Egg”. There are similarities… all are bold and novel explorations of the Mind, Heart and Spirit and how one moves forward in their approach to the world around them. Perceives consensus reality.
Don Juan, however, was a sorceror.
A Yaqui Indian, steeped in hidden Toltec wisdom which traced back to the ancient times before the Aztecs ruled in the land now called Mexico.
He was what is known as a “man of knowledge”. One who followed the arduous path of a true warrior. But not to prepare for battle in the physical sense. No… the warfare in which don Juan engaged focused exclusively on the preparations necessary for a warrior to gain their ‘freedom’.
It mattered not at all to him whether a ‘true warrior’ who pursued the path was a man or a woman… in fact, to his way of thinking, women were the more adept. No… to don Juan, the most critical prerequisite was that your hunt for freedom be conducted in a manner he described as ‘impeccable’. As long as a warrior strived for that elusive quality of being, eventually, within his specific modes of perceiving reality… things would ultimately manifest for them.
They would learn to gaze out upon this wondrous earth with ‘fresh eyes’ and see it in a new way. Practice techniques such as the intricate art of ‘not-doing’. And attaining mastery of that was only the beginning. But the end result? To be released from the confines of what he referred to as ‘ordinary reality’, and perceive the world in a wholly new light.
Or as he put it, and I paraphrase here:
“The path of a warrior is a lonely one,
for it is that of a solitary bird.
But the rewards for one who travels this road
are beyond measure…
because the flight of a solitary bird
Once you have gained fresh eyes to ‘see’
you will forever gaze upon this marvelous earth
in a state of perpetual wonder as you soar above it.