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How My Life Changed After Reading My First Book by Carlos Castaneda

This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)

“For an average man, the world is weird because if he’s not bored with it, he’s at odds with it. For a warrior, the world is weird because it is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, unfathomable. A warrior must assume responsibility for being here, in this marvelous world, in this marvelous time.” – Carlos Castaneda

Hello, my name is Aerin Alexander and I am the founder and director of the Energy Life Sciences Institute and Being Energy® Methodology. Below I am sharing with you about the first moment I opened a book of Carlos Castaneda and the turn that took my life as a consequence.

was living in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1994 when I heard that Carlos Castaneda would be in town to give a talk to a select group of people. My first reaction was emotional. “What?” I thought. “He does exist? And he is in Buenos Aires? That is crazy!”

Carlos Castaneda was an anthropologist and visionary. His books centering on his apprenticeship with don Juan Matus, a Yaqui Indian from Sonora, Mexico, had catapulted him to fame in the 60’s and 70’s. The first time I opened Journey to Ixtlan, Castaneda’s third book, was by accident.

My mother’s older sister, Rosita, used to work for the Mexican publishing house that published Castaneda’s books in Spanish. No one in my family was an avid reader, including me, and I’d never noticed the book until one special day. 

Our family had just moved to an apartment above a chicken store, with old tile floors, broken windows and holes on the walls, from a nicer apartment, furnished with carpets and wall papers and a mortgage my parents could no longer afford. My dad was forced to quit his job—he refused to be fired—because of the restructuring taking place in the international company at which he worked for 15 years. It was a stressful moment: my dad was looking for a new job and my mother, as usual, was in charge of the family relocation. 

I was entering my first year of high-school and I was concerned about my weight. I was too skinny, and I feared I would end up in the hospital as it happened the year before, when I was hospitalized for a recurrence of rheumatic fever, my childhood disease. I was a picky eater, and under stress, I could not swallow. 

The new apartment was filled with boxes, and I was in charge of, amongst other things, organizing the books. As I lined up the few books we owned in our single bookshelf, Journey to Ixtlan escaped my fingers and fell to the ground, landing open on page 15. The text on that page began: PART ONE “Stopping the World.”

I flipped to the next page. It read:

“I understand you know a great deal about plants, Sr.” Castaneda said presenting himself to don Juan Matus. I randomly flipped ahead to page 110. 

Acts have power,” he said. “Specially when the person acting knows that those acts are his last battle. There is a strange consuming happiness in acting with the full knowledge that whatever one is doing may very well be one’s last act on earth.”

I straightened my back and inhaled; a chill ran up my spine. I sat down on top of the boxes I was emptying and flipped back to page 15 and started reading again from there. I was fourteen years old, and, unwillingly, this book grabbed full my attention. His writings described the world as mysterious and unfathomable and humans, as warriors with purpose and in relation to the vastness universe. Like a healthy food, each page filled empty spaces creating connections and aliveness inside me. 

Castaneda’s words sounded familiar somehow. I had never been to Mexico, but I did dream about the possibility of going some day. My birth name was Maria Guadalupe and, besides my mother’s devotion to the Virgin, I had also developed my own longing for Mexico. I had learned at school about Mesoamerica and knowledge of Toltecs and Mayans. It was the pyramid at Chichen Itza in Yucantán, with its precise number of steps representing each day of the year and exact orientation to the sun to reflect a shadow at each solstice, that I couldn’t stop thinking about. The Mayans lived in relationship to the stars, and don Juan was teaching Castaneda about his link with the invisible universe around. I thought I could also, somehow, I could feel my connection to all. 

That day something shifted in me and I felt the emergence of a purpose, meaning in my life. I was suddenly interested in books and went on to hungrily read not only more from Castaneda, but also Nietzsche, Borges, Neruda, Coelho. My timing was perfectly synchronized with the availability of books. Bookstores were opening their doors in Buenos Aires after a seven-year dictatorship that had prohibited books from being sold and many authors from publishing. Being a teen, not only was I hungry to learn, but I was also naturally delighted to access what had been forbidden. 

Almost 13 years later, I was studying the esoteric teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky with a group of friends, when the group’s coordinator suggested we read Carlos Castaneda. With the group, I reread Journey to Ixtlan, and I intended every night to connect deeper with myself to understand my own life. As if being called to an appointment, a few months later I met Castaneda in person in Los Angeles, and I entered into the sorcerers’ world.