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209) Read The Teachings of Don Juan 31 Aug 2012

Carlos Castaneda was an anthropology student at UCLA when he first began writing about his experiences with the elusive Don Juan, an Indian medicine man he met at a bus depot on the Mexican border. These peyote-fuelled “field notes” and quasi-spiritual ramblings would later become Castaneda’s Master’s thesis. In 1968 his thesis was published to critical acclaim under the title: “The Teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui way.” By the early 1970’s Castaneda had become a best-selling author and new-age spiritual celebrity.

I was handed this book when I was 21 by my good friend Paul, who was disappointed when I handed it back to him a month later, confessing that I couldn’t manage to get through it. I told him I’d eventually pick it up again, but years went by. Paul eventually moved to Japan and before he left he smugly handed it back to me and said: “Here’s a copy, if ever you decide to read it again.”

I realize now that the problem was not the book; the problem was the environment in which I attempted to read it. The Teachings of Don Juan is not one to be read in a busy cafe or in a sweaty, cramped street car. This book is to be enjoyed outdoors, in the wild, perched on a rock, under the stars, or under the oppressive heat of a mid-day sun.

If you’re not into mystical things or hallucinogenic herbs or stories about killer seaweed and talking bilingual coyotes, that’s OK; because at the core of this book are important philosophical teachings that even a staunch Catholic like my Nana would appreciate:

“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? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t it is of no use.”
― Carlos Castaneda

One Response

    Paul says:

    Smugly!? Then again, “Feeling important makes one heavy, clumsy, and vain. To be a warrior one needs to be light and fluid.” Still, though, smugly? Glad you got around to reading it.