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Community Contest: How Carlos Castaneda’s books Inspired You!

This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)


Dear Community!

We launched a fun contest to win the participation to our live workshops in Mexico City, England and Moscow! This contest will inspire you to reflect and recapitulate the first time you read Carlos Castaneda’s books. What attracted you? What inspired you? How old you were?

Below please find samples of stories from our teachers of how they got inspired by the books!

My Introduction to the World of the Shamans of Ancient Mexico

By Tom Reavley

My name is Tom Reavley and I live in the capital city of Guanajuato, Mexico, although I grew up in the United States.  My story is about how I deviated from a conventional career as a lawyer and found my true path with a heart.

I had just returned to California after finishing law school on the East Coast and I was excited about finally beginning my professional career as a lawyer in a large San Francisco firm.  After three years of marriage I was also now honoring my promise to my wife to help her return to finish her undergraduate degree at Stanford University, where we had met. Everything was going so well.  Even living in married student housing was a joy—the winter of 1974 was wet and the Stanford hills, visible from our bed, were a brilliant green.

As much as I was committed to succeeding as a lawyer, there were some things that bothered me about my new life.  I had always hated the idea of being trapped in the world of business and a life controlled by social expectations.  I was particularly concerned about having a long commute every day from Palo Alto to San Francisco. I had to get on a train every day and spend an hour traveling through an urban corridor and then walking a mile past parking lots and city buildings to the 54- story building that housed my law firm.  Some part of me was not happy about the prospect of spending the rest of my life on a treadmill. 

One day after work my wife mentioned a book I might be interested in—part of her assigned reading in a course entitled the Psychology of Perception.  The book was The Teachings of Don Juan, and I read it on my daily commute to and from work.  I marveled at the young anthropologist’s courage in undergoing terrifying drug-induced experiences.  Castaneda’s second book, A Separate Reality, had already been published and I read this book even more avidly than the first.  It seemed filled with a practical philosophy that was different from any I had studied that really excited me. 

However, the accounts of Castaneda’s experiences with hallucinogenic plants that filled the first two books put me off.  Although I imagined that I might risk taking such plants if they were available and if I had someone like don Juan to supervise the experience, neither don Juan nor the plants were available to me and, in any event, I couldn’t risk my career as a lawyer by taking an illegal substance.  

Then I read the third book, Journey to Ixtlanan experience from which I never recovered.  Up to that point in my life, I cannot remember ever having read a book more than once.  Over the next several years I probably read Journey to Ixtan cover to cover at least twenty times.  In the introduction Castaneda explains that he had finally realized that the real lessons were not the drug experiences but the behavioral recommendations that don Juan made—lessons on how to tighten-up one’s life and stop living as if immortal. 

 These lessons were so breathtakingly simple and yet beautiful that I just couldn’t get enough of reading them. I wanted to experience this magic for myself. On the other hand, at this stage in my life I had just completed an intense three-year legal training at Harvard, which instilled the value of logic, reason and skepticism.  Nobody was going to make a fool of me. 

The challenge became, how do I prove these claims Castaneda is making, at least to myself?  I needed evidence, and I had to accumulate it without any personal contact with don Juan or Carlos Castaneda.  One day after a period of continual practice I suddenly realized that I could maintain the view of everything within my one hundred eighty degree field of vision all at once, without focusing on any one point in particular.  For me this was amazing. It subtly forced my mind into a temporary state of silence.

I read all the other books as they were published and each one gave me a boost of energy and excitement.  One Sunday in February 1995 I was at a seafood restaurant with my extended family. From the other end of the table my younger brother got up to show me a page from the catalog of a spiritual retreat center in New York that described a weekend seminar with Florinda Donner-Grau and Taisha Abelar, two female apprentices of don Juan and close associates of Carlos Castaneda.

My brother grinned and said that he and my mother had nominated me to attend and check out this event for them.  It was like a jolt of electricity–Castaneda was sponsoring an event for the general public, after 25 years of elaborate efforts to maintain anonymity in his private life!

Intellectually, I maintained a certain amount of distance and doubt—maybe the seminar would reveal that these people were a bunch of charlatans just trying to make some money off of the credulous readers of the books. At an emotional level, I was immediately hooked—I would go to the seminar come hell or high water.  How could I not go, after holding on to the books like a life raft for 20 years? 

It was not exactly like my fantasy of Castaneda and don Juan knocking on my door and inviting me to join them. No one came to tell me how great I was or how much I was needed. On the other hand it didn’t seem like a momentous decision. I was just going to a weekend seminar. I had the time and could afford the cost. It was only an experiment with no downside. 

Yet a part of me already knew that the game was over, that the illusion of my life’s predictable continuity was about to be shattered.  The seemingly slow and unhurried process of being drawn into “intent” of the shamans of ancient Mexico was accelerating. I could not resist. More importantly, something essential in me did not want to resist. It welcomed this intent with open arms. I was coming home.

How I got acquainted with the works of Carlos Castaneda

By Anastasiya Ganich

My name is Anastasiya Ganich and I live in Moscow. I was 24 years old when I broke up with a boyfriend, because his family did not accept me. I had to hear many unpleasant and unfair words about myself. It hurt me and I started to get sick. 

Mom told me about this and asked me to buy these books for her. Soon I went to the only store of esoteric literature in Moscow “The Path to Yourself.” I bought all the books of Carlos Castaneda available in Russian, published by the publishing house Sofia. These were three voluminous orange books; they are still preserved in my library. My mom read a little and left them to stand on the shelf near the TV.

At one of the meetings with the healer, I asked if she knew anything about Carlos Castaneda and his books. She replied that she had read it, but it did not suit her. And I decided to try it. Soon I picked up the first book “The Teaching of Don Juan”, and did not let go of my hands until I read everything. It was not easy. 

The text was rich and complex, the font was small, that I had to strain my eyes, the volumes are heavy. But I carried them with me, continuing to read everywhere, at every opportunity. I was not at all embarrassed that I did not understand the concepts that were presented in the books. Something in the text, in its rhythm, grabbed my attention, and I did not want to stop.

Some time passed and one day I was late for work and nervous, went to the subway and read another book by Carlos Castaneda. I did not notice anything around and completely immersed myself in the text. My reading was interrupted by a young man who leaned toward me and said: “Girl, do not you know that stalkers do not read books on the subway?”

I looked up in surprise and, without remembering his face, stubbornly replied: “I am reading”, and continued reading. This day and this meeting left a deep mark on my life. Since that time, Castaneda’s books have ceased to be an exciting reading for me, they have acquired an emotional depth for me and for years have become the key to deep affection and love. What happened that then was undoubtedly a maneuver of the Spirit, because only through strong emotions and feelings it was possible to catch me.

Six months later, in 2004, I attended my first Tensegrity workshop in Moscow, and the teachings of Don Juan gradually became an element of my spiritual practice.

The next stage of my acquaintance with the wisdom, which was set out in the books of Carlos Castaneda was 2011, when I experienced a strong emotional and physical shock. My world collapsed, and with it me too. That year, Aerin, Miles and their child Axel arrived in Moscow. I visited that first Being energy workshop in Russia. Participation in this seminar saved me, and it’s not just words. 

Then followed the modules of the training program and a deep immersion in the practice of Being energy. For me, the next layer became available. Softly and elegantly, the knowledge of seers of Ancient Mexico was introduced and woven into my daily life. It is a long and beautiful path full of unexpected discoveries.

And now, after 7 years, in 2018, I again stand in the doorway. The knowledge and practices that Carlos Castaneda has discovered for us are becoming part of my professional activities. In the summer I will be co-leader of BE workshop in Moscow. It’s incredible, where Path with the heart can lead us. 

Unless then, in 2003, could I think about something like this ?! I courageously will enter this door and grab this chance. I feel in myself a vibrating force and will not allow doubts and fears to interfere with me. I believe in myself, ‘I am already given to the power that rules my fate’. I feel deep gratitude for the gift that Carlos Castaneda gave us, inviting through his books to the wonderful world of real life.

How I connected with the Nagual’s books

By Erika Gavin

My name is Erika Gavin, I’m Italian and I’ve been living in Mexico for 22 years. My story is about the time I discovered Carlos Castaneda’s books and talks about how they moved and supported me for the beginning of a great change in my life.

I was enrolled in the first year of the psychology faculty of Padova, after leaving a high school that had directed me towards architecture and could not feel me in my place neither there nor anywhere else. I was not sure that the university at that moment was my way, I felt the cold classes and the knowledge that I had reach did not reach my heart. I lived with my parents, I was 18 years old and there was a lot of tension in the house. My father did not agree with the fact that I studied psychology and my mother gave me some money behind the scenes to support me. I did work when I could, as a waitress or washing cars, until I opened a printing press in partnership with some friends, but that did not work. I felt in a moment of transition where nothing was clear and everything had lost meaning, color and momentum. I asked the spirit, with whom I always communicated in my own way since I was a child, an example of something I could follow and made me feel again excited to be alive and connected to myself, something that would help me find my place.

One day a friend came to see me to bring me the book of “The teachings of Don Juan” by Carlos Castaneda. He said “I brought it to you because I know it’s just for you, it did not convince me much, but I’m sure you’ll understand.” Since childhood I had always been very restless, and I was interested in talking frequently about death, life and existence, questioning everything. I was also very attracted to the mystic and the mystery and magic hidden behind the facade of ordinary things.

The book caught me from the beginning, it made me feel something new, it was as if it were vibrating and had a different energy than what I knew. I had just read several books about the holocaust and felt my spirits wrapped in a black cloud. Reading Castaneda, I experienced the feeling of the desert sun revitalizing me and realized that it was possible to experience the world in a more exciting way than I knew. I felt immediately that there was something there that was the answer to what I had asked for. When I finished the book I looked for the others and I read them one by one as fast as I could. Trip to Ixtlan filled me with astonishment and it echoed deep inside me. It made me feel that it was possible to get home, to this internal place that I longed for; My mind did not understand it completely, but my body knew it in an instant. As I described life, death and the powers that govern this world made me jump the heart, I wanted to feel part of all that and be able to surrender myself to those powers. I felt that the spirit showed me a path to where I had always longed to go. Many concepts and descriptions that I read calmed me down and made me experience deep happiness.

The books gave me a great impulse and aroused my curiosity. I wanted to know and know more and explore that world in some way. I followed my instinct and my desire to travel, I left the faculty of psychology and I prepared myself to go to Mexico. My first trip lasted a few months, but Mexico and its people loved and amazed me, so I came back with the idea of settling there for a while. I am still in Mexico today and I am very grateful for all that I have lived and learned and for finding me transiting a path with a heart.

How I got Acquainted with the Books of Carlos Castaneda

By Andrey Petrov

Hello! My name is Andrey Petrov, I live in Moscow, Russia.

In this short story I want to share with you how I got acquainted with the books of Carlos Castaneda.

Being a child, I always looked for something more that went beyond the world around me.

In the beginning, I literally lived by Russian fairy tales and their magical and omnipotent characters. Becoming a little older, I fell in love with the style of fantasy with its kind and evil wizards, magical transformations and mystical artifacts.

Then the books on Buddhism, yoga and even religion came. Despite the fact that many of the reads were close to me, the overall picture of the “way” still did not add up. Perhaps I was not ready to perceive this knowledge, and maybe the abundance of the unusual and paranormal terminology that is present in these books may have affected. For a while I was also practiced martial arts, but the elements of aggression that came into them did not suit me.

And finally, on the third year of studying at the university, two close friends made me a birthday present. It was the very first book of Carlos Castaneda “Teachings of Don Juan”. This moment coincided with the period when I needed to take the summer session, which I instantly forgot. For several days I did not leave the house, reading the book from early morning until late at night, until I mastered it whole.

From the very first pages it became clear to me that the stories described in the book have a very profound meaning for me. I had a feeling that at last I met my source – everything made a perfect sense and fell into place.

I was happy and thrilled with the knowledge that opened up in Castaneda’s book. However, at that time, I did not realize that this was only the first and perhaps the easiest step in a long, and sometimes dangerous, journey to knowledge and power.

Following the “Teaching of Don Juan”, I read all the other books of Castaneda and his associates, gathering a complete “collection”, issued by the publishing house “Sofia”. At that time, in the late 90s of the last century, books literally had to be hunt – to search for fairs and also to wait for new books that had not yet been published.

Nowadays, I do not read books as often as before. Mostly I address them in those moments when I want to find answers to non-standard questions or solve extraordinary situations. I made an interesting observation that opening the first attracted book in an arbitrary place, I tend to find what I’m looking for, after reading a couple of pages, and often a single paragraph.

Also, compared to the first readings, I began to notice how intense the contents and meaning of all the text written by Castaneda are. For an open reader with a certain level of energy, literally a couple of phrases are enough for a lifeless change in all life.

Concluding my story, I want to express my love and deep gratitude to Carlos Castaneda for his books – an invaluable gift left to all of us, as well as to translators and editors who worked on the first Russian editions. As one of the priorities of my life, I chose to further transfer this knowledge to interested people in order not to let them get lost in the sea of endless and easily accessible digital information.

My Acquaintance with the Nagual, Carlos Castaneda Through his Books

By Sergey Minin

My name is Sergei Minin. I am from Russia and I live in Kirov. I want to share with you my story about my acquaintance with the ‘nagual’, Carlos Castaneda through his books.

I was a student when I first got Castaneda’s book. At that time I had many friends and we met often, listened to music and talked a lot. In the text of one of the songs I heard the phrase “Castaneda did not write about it” and because I was always curious, I began to find out who this Castaneda was. One of my friends gave me Castaneda’s books. When I read his first 4 books, much remained incomprehensible and I abandoned it. It was the first touch I received from the Spirit.

The second case was also connected with my friend, his name was Ed. He was very different from all my other friends – his energy, his attitude to life. He broadcast extremely unusual views on life, which were not in my family and my environment. He gave me a VHS cassette with the first video of 12 basic movements. Women in the video made an impression on me of mysticism, something final and inevitable. It completely fell out of the context of my culture and my tradition. Having looked once, I put the cassette in the box.

The third incident occurred somewhere after six months or a year. After a trip to a hot resort country for vacation, I activated the latent hepatitis B virus. Knowing this for the first time in my life brought me very close to the idea of death. For the first time, I really felt very deeply inside, not at the level of the mind, that death can be very close. The thought sobered me.

The treatment proceeded hard and lasted more than a year. I stopped consuming alcohol and cigarettes and gradually my circle of communication began to decline. I began spending more time alone. Then I accidentally gave a complete series of Castaneda’s books, and I at once read them all. It was a deafening effect, just WOW! A completely new and incomprehensible and very attractive world for me is the world of shamans and magic.

It changed my picture of the world very much. During the reading, the question that tormented me constantly arose: how can I reach the same conditions and get into that world? What needs to be done for this? There were no instructions for this in the book. Just at this time my friend Ed invited me to take part in one enterprise, it failed miserably and I owed a lot of money to the bank.

A few months later I got a very clear understanding that I need to rely only on myself. It was an obvious and strong sense of confidence, detachment, without pity, a new feeling for me. To me came the knowledge, deep from within no doubt, that I need to change – to change the city, the place of work, myself. But again, I did not know how I could approach this, where to start, where are the instructions? One day on a sunny summer day, I climbed into the closet and came across a video with magical passes. I turned on the video and began to learn the movements. A few months later I performed several series of movements. Then I still did not feel any direct effect from the movements, I just did everything.

Events in my life began to develop. I moved to another city, got a new job, quickly returned the debts. And two years later I got to my first seminar on tensegrity in St. Petersburg. This is another story.

How I arrived to Ixtlan

By Adriana Vazquez Sansores

My name is Ariadna Vasquez Sansores. I’m from Campeche, Mexico, but I’ve lived in Mexico City for many years and that makes me feel part of it too. I would like to share the story of how I got to “Viaje – Ixtlán”. A story of adventures and misadventures that were taking my spirit through inexhaustible trails, until I found this, and other fantastic books by Carlos Castaneda. This is my story:

We spent a few days of rest with my whole family in the U.S.A. One morning, we went to a shopping center. My mom went with my grandmother to find some things, and my aunts took care of my cousins and I. In a few minutes that distracted me or maybe seconds, a person who maybe had been watching the scene and saw that I was out there seeing several things, approached me. First I thought he was a salesman of the store, since he taught me all the games that I could not see because of my height in a very short time I felt in confidence. My aunts, who are incredible and perhaps with so many children, did not perceive the stalking of that person. They did not see him at any time, or maybe everyone thought he was a salesman of that store.

 

After having my confidence, he took my hand and in a single blink, I walked with him. Then, we took the escalator down several floors. As we passed by each floor, I remember looking for my mother, hoping to see her and my grandmother.

My heart beat a thousand times a second. It felt like it was going to burst out of my chest. I also remember the sound made by those escalators, creaking, their smell of old wood and some fresh varnish. Every detail of the place has been recorded in my memory, those memories are stored in all the cells of my body. I can feel it and hear it in my heart.

Just to close your eyes and think about the scene, and everything is unfolding with precise details. With him I walked for hours on the street, at one point I took charge and hugged him. I never yelled at him, I had trusted him.

I felt destroyed and with much fear, I cried, but my tears came out with the most obscure silence. He tried to dry my tears, while he spoke to calm me, his voice … I remember it even very beautiful, very calm ..

But why did he want to take me? , Where would it take me? …
In a moment, after crying with great regret to be heard, I said to myself: “Ari, this will be your new life”.

I resigned myself to living with someone else, I did not put up resistance … I did not know how to say: NO! I was too ashamed to scream.

And I went to his side, crying in silence and hugging him tight again.

Something went through his head, which I can not decipher. But, he returned me to the right place. After hours of walking back, we ended up right back in the same place we started. Quickly, the police found me and I went back to my family

Because of this experience, I grew up full of fears, fear of losing my loved ones, fear of losing myself from my loved ones. I grew insecure and lonely, always with existentialist thoughts. Always thinking about what it would be like if my parents died or died, or if they just disappeared and never saw them again. I grew up thinking about the meaning of being here on earth.

During my childhood, I had 2 incredible teachers. One of them taught us that the house and classroom tasks, cleaning our desk, cleaning the windows, sweeping the room or the classroom, sweeping and cleaning my own room, washing the dishes and all those tasks, could be done with elegance, with fun, with music. All activity could be done with magic, if we only put the desire and attention necessary to make it so.

The other teacher took us to the countryside, made us admire nature, sleep on the dry leaves and feel the difference of sleeping on the fresh leaves, observe the stars and see up close the insects and every pretty leaf that crossed our path. He read us fragments of “Viaje a Ixtlán” that I still remember with my heart vibrating.

I was about 17 years old when, my cousin and best friend of the soul, read for me, several fragments of Castaneda’s books, read me parts of the “Don del Águila”, fragments of “Una realidad aparte”, “Viaje a Ixtlán”. And there I found the statements and phrases that had been preserved in my deep memory, of days of primary school and my teacher who inspired me to love nature. There I connected with that feeling of seeking freedom, of freeing my mind and my spirit from the pain contained by the loss of the being of my bowels, and by the fears with which I fell down day and night.

When Pelu lent me. “Viaje a Ixtlán”, and I read it, I began to remember the chapters read in childhood, I found the magic and the mystery that I needed to begin to understand, I found the codes for a deep communication with my psyche. We sat watching the sky with a new love, with new sight, the storms in the sea, had hidden languages ​​that we were able to decipher, the stars shone with a special mathematics never before understood, the earth was a possible dream. I sat down to observe my fears. And I found life, as the most fabulous of mysteries.

The books filled my spirit with fabulous anecdotes, I wanted to dream and live. Now, many years have passed since those events, and see more clearly, the other edges of this story and my own cosmos.

I did not hate the man who kidnapped me and gave me back anymore. I think maybe we created a connection of love and acceptance for the other. Maybe he discovered there, that although he tried to separate me from them, he could not really steal my love for them, or sever the connection that my soul has with each member of my beloved family. Maybe he connected telepathically to my abstract language, maybe he saw my heart that spoke to him lovingly, and then … he gave me life again.

I keep in touch with those feelings, I explore them, I revive them, I embrace them and I breathe, to then liberate them to the cosmos and learn.

I get up happy, and very grateful.

Living within this mystery, with all its edges, turbulence, textures and tonalities, it is an honor and a pleasure.

Thank you
With love, Ari