The Teachings of Don Juan

27 Jan

i’ve been reading the book Sir gave me for Christmas ~ The Teachings of Don Juan:  A Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda.  It was popular back in the day with hippies and people who liked alternate ways of seeing the world.  

Well, and drugs.  You know, peyote and mescaline, mushrooms.  Um, that was back before we knew drugs were really bad.

Anyhow, i started the book back then, but didn’t finish.

Now, i’ m almost half-way through it, and the chapters i read tonight resonated with me in a new way.

Castaneda ~ or Don Juan ~ talks about the four enemies that a man has to overcome to be a man of knowledge.  The four things are:

1.  Fear

2.  Clarity

3.  Power

4.  Old Age

I think this is what he was saying about them:

You have to overcome fear because you can’t pursue knowledge if you’re afraid.  To learn, you have to change and grow, and that’s scary.  I think lots of people let fear stop them from developing.

If you overcome fear, then you hit a point of clarity, a point at which it all seems clear, and you think you have the answers.  i think this is a step on the path, but if you stop here, you end up ~ well, you know.  Still ignorant, and sure that you have all the answers.  Not a good place to be.

If you keep going, you gain power.   Again, lots of people stop here and just revel in the power.  To continue toward being a man of knowledge, you have to master the power.  You have to recognize the need to keep it in check, to control it, not to indulge in using your power foolishly or cruelly.

This is not necessarily what i’m saying, although it makes sense to me ~ this is what i think Carlos Castaneda means in the book.

The final challenge, the last hurdle is old age.  i think that’s like ~ who is it?  Erickson?  Yes, he has the stages of development and the last one is Integrity vs Despair.  If you choose Integrity and reject Despair, the strength you gain is Wisdom.   


So i read that tonight, and thought that was some food for thought.  

After i pondered that for a while, i went ahead and read the next chapter.  Castaneda says:

“A path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you .    Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself alone, one question . . . Does this path have a heart?

“All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. …  Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t it is of no use Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.” .   ― Carlos Castaneda

i was deeply touched by these passages.

Sometimes, when i look back over my life, i think that i’ve been fickle.  Haven’t stuck to my decisions enough.  i know people who’ve been married forever.  It may not be a great relationship, but they’ve stuck with it.

i only stuck with mine as long as it felt right, felt like it was where i needed to be.  More than fifteen years.  i gave it my best while i was in it.  But when staying began to feel wrong  ~ when it no longer felt like where i was supposed to be ~ then i went.   

And the second marriage, i only lasted 3 years.

i’ve changed careers, left jobs,  and even cut ties with my church.  

But it struck me, when i was reading this tonight ~

 i think i’ve been following the path that had heart.

i didn’t know it, it wasn’t a plan or anything.  But i think that’s how it worked out.

i don’t think everyone finds the path with heart by leaving.  Sometimes we find it by staying and bringing our heart to the situation.

i can’t imagine anyone being on the BDSM path unless it is the path with heart.  We often have to overcome our own logical objections and misgivings to be here.  Our blogs reflect our struggles, our efforts to understand ourselves and TTWD.  

And our joys ~ our blogs reflect the joy and the strength we find  too.

18 Responses to “The Teachings of Don Juan”

  1. vanillamom January 27, 2012 at 8:08 am #


    you are traveling the path with love…at least that is how i see it…

    i see your ability to stop, assess and say “this isn’t working, and i’ve tried to *make* it work…” and go…well…hey!

    ….this is much in the same light as what you said listen to people, but don’t work to “fix” them…

    On various paths in your life, you realized that there are some “unfixable” things…like with prior relationships….so you got off that path, and (as Thoreau says in my favorite poem of all time…) you took the path less traveled by…

    gods i can’t make my words say what is in my heart…!

    but i hope that hearing my voice say them, that you grok it…

    That you have incredible strength (and yes, i do see it that way) to say it isn’t working, i can’t fix it, so i must take another path.

    And gosh, look where it has led you to!

    Blessings, heartsister!

    ps…i love coming here each morning, reading you, and responding…it’s rather like a conversation with you sometimes…this feels like one of those times!

    • aisha January 27, 2012 at 1:05 pm #


      Yes, you’re right, that really is how it happens for me. The stepping back and assessing, trying different strategies, and then finally walking away when i need to. i am incredibly grateful that i’ve ended up here, you’re so right!!!

      And it’s funny – i feel the same way about conversing here. i go read your story or post of the day before i finish mine – that’s if i didn’t wake up and read it in the middle of the night – and then leave my comment and come back over here. Nice.



  2. (@SpiritualBDSM) January 27, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    I remember reading those words (Castaneda’s) many years ago.

    Yes many of us who read “Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge” and other books by Castaneda also experimented (sometimes heavily) with drugs. As such I don’t know that drugs are “bad” but rather it would be my opinion that drugs are dangerous. BDSM is also dangerous. Many things in this world are dangerous, even simple truth!

    We all teach that Drugs and BDSM don’t mix well, yet I’ve had more great BDSM scenes while on drugs than I can count.

    Do I say that to encourage others to experiment like I did? No, I don’t recommend it for anyone.

    It is my past, for me the experimentation helped to open doors of perception, but the mixture could just as easily ended in tragedy. That’s not an especially good risk-reward ratio and I simply consider myself very fortunate to have survived all of my youthful experimentation intact/

    As for the “path with heart” – those words spoke to me those many years ago, and they continue to speak to me today. I agree that many folks drawn to the world of BDSM are drawn because it would seem to be a path with heart. Like drugs, BDSM can be dangerous . . .

    I actually believe that paths with heart also happen to be paths fraught with danger. The safe path is usually the more heavily traveled path, and you know what Robert frost said there . . .

    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

    thanks for reminding me about the Castaneda I’ve read, I’ll be sharing some with Serafina soon I believe!

    • aisha January 27, 2012 at 1:12 pm #


      Thanks so much for reading and for commenting!

      i have to admit that my comment about drugs was kind of tongue in cheek. For sure, i came of age in the time of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll, and i did my share of wild and reckless in my youth. All of us still standing are lucky to have survived, i think!

      i totally agree and appreciate the way you phrase it too – drugs are dangerous, and that’s part of life, isn’t it? When Castaneda says that all paths are the same, they lead nowhere, doesn’t he mean that the paths all end in death? Yeah.

      i agree so completely with you about danger being a component of the paths with heart, of TTWD. And love that you quoted Frost.

      i’m enjoying your blog too!


  3. Dancing January 27, 2012 at 9:15 am #

    I look forward to reading you posts each morning and found this one to be beautiful. It actually brought tears to my eyes. You wrote about a point of clarity which hit close to home. I actually wrote about it yesterday. I too only stuck with my marriage as long as it felt right, well I stayed a lot longer after it didn’t feel right but change is hard and at the end of day I am glad I walked away. I feel now I am on the path with heart.

    • aisha January 27, 2012 at 1:15 pm #


      Thank you so much for reading, for commenting, and for the kind words about my blog!! i’m glad this piece spoke to you.

      And you make a good point ~ it takes a while to figure out that it really is time to go. Once you get there though, it would be hard to turn back.

      i ran over and checked out your blog ~ how cool for me, to be there right after the very first post!!! That’s just exciting. i’m looking forward to reading more.

      See ya around!


  4. Ali January 27, 2012 at 10:22 am #

    I can really relate to your post aisha. Sometimes I have felt bad for being married and divorced twice. But then I look at people who have stayed together for years, who are miserable and unhappy and basically hate each other, and I am glad I followed my heart. I only get one chance at this life, and I don’t want to spend it miserable and unhappy. Hugs

    • aisha January 27, 2012 at 1:19 pm #


      Thanks, i’m glad it resonated with you too!

      i think you’re right, for sure i didn’t want to end up miserable and unhappy together, or even – numb. i see that happen a lot too. People who don’t hate each other but don’t connect either. Who just share a house and maybe chores, but not themselves.


      i’m glad our paths have crossed.


  5. K January 27, 2012 at 10:39 am #

    Wow interesting ..that resonates with me as well, about paths with a heart. I too have switched paths at times that others might have thought why didn’t she stay, why did she give up, why can’t she stick to anything. Other times, I’ve stayed on paths that others might have said, why doesn’t she leave, why can’t she see it’s pointless. Ok, truth be told, those are sometimes the very questions I have asked myself. Ultimately, all I know is that we all need to make the choices we can live with. Noone can live our lives for us, and if they could, would we want them to? Ok, so maybe in BDSM, that is possible, but still, even when we Give ourselves to someone completely, we can’t ever truly Lose ourselves to someone else. I don’t think.

    I think so too that it’s possible to bring our heart to a path, instead of leaving it. Othertimes not. Ultimately it’s all one path maybe? Like the sayings go…’home is where the heart is’…and ‘it’s not so much what we say or do, as much as where our heart is when we say or do it.’

    Ok, on my merry way..


    • aisha January 27, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

      Hi, K,

      Interesting that your experience in this is similar. Somehow, i can’t imagine those of us who are here ending up here by staying on paths that are well traveled by many. I think you’re right to about having to find ourselves, having to stay in touch with ourselves.

      Yep, we think in some of the same ways, for sure. i think you’re right ~ ultimately it is one path. Yes….

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment!


  6. Bill January 27, 2012 at 11:25 am #

    I too have read Castaneda, most of his writings in fact and I think the use of drugs in his way is totally different from the popular use. In his world drugs are used to enhance the experience not to be the experience. We as a society seem to want to have the trip but forget the journey that should accompany it. I saw a poster recently that showed the number of people who have died from Alcohol, cars, peanuts and marijuana. All had a very large number behind them except marijuana which had no deaths. It is our use of drugs not the drugs themselves that cause the problem. We want to escape, Don Juan wanted to enhance, and there is the difference.

    • aisha January 27, 2012 at 1:47 pm #


      Yes, you’re so right. Your comments remind me of something similar JM, the amazing analyst was saying today about Don Juan and not literalizing the experience. It is about the journey, not about drugs.

      i think that’s where he lost me the first time i tried to read it. i didn’t see the value of his description of the processes and the rituals. i was young and impatient. It makes more sense, has more value now.

      Thanks for the insight.


  7. greengirl January 27, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

    I think i’m just barely too young to have been the right age for these at the time. So thank you for writing about it. I’ve always felt that i’m too unfocused, too un-driven. The world preaches that you are supposed to choose a destination, research and then set a goal – where you want to end up and how to go about getting there. And then work your butt off to make it happen. Instead – I’ve always looked at each choice as it came along and decided which way to go – one at a time. This philosophy you describe here makes sense to me – or maybe just justifies my way of seeing things for me.

    • aisha January 29, 2012 at 7:17 am #

      Hi, Greengirl,

      Yes, I think you’re younger than i am, so you would probably have just missed those times. I’m glad you liked the post.

      Of course you’re right, that’s exactly the way our culture thinks we should approach life ~ goal driven, sequential, very linear. It really is just one way of seeing how things can work. I’m glad it resonated with you.


  8. abby January 27, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    Path of the heart, what a wonderful phrase and description. When you think about it, Frost might call it, the one less chosen. Great post. abby

    • aisha January 29, 2012 at 7:18 am #


      Yes, I agree. I really like the feel of the words, the weight of the phrase…. yeah.



  9. sin January 28, 2012 at 8:10 am #

    I know I tried to read Carlos Castanda back in the day. It didn’t speak to me at all. Maybe I was too young, or too focused on the trip. Maybe I’ll try it again, but… honestly it strikes me as a chore. Good for you for giving it another try though. (Although I have read some stuff that The Man wanted me to read that I would never have read on my own. Did I like it? meh)

    • aisha January 29, 2012 at 7:23 am #


      Honestly, it started out as a bit of a chore, and a discipline. In the first chapters, he tends to describe, somewhat laboriously, the minute details of where they go and the steps Don Juan takes with the various roots he digs up, what he does with them, and so on. There were some “interesting” parts, then he’d go into another long description.

      After a while, I began to sense that this was a kind of mindfulness. I began to just read it without judging it. I quit asking myself “when will he get to another interesting part” and relaxed into the detailed description. I’m not good at picturing things like that, but i tried to just flow with it. Reading a little bit at a time and letting it be.

      And suddenly i began to enjoy it. And then it hit the part I wrote about. Too cool.


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