“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, Journey to Ixtlan
I have been feeling that this world is, indeed, a stupendous, awesome, mysterious, and unfathomable place.
Writing these pieces on achieving the totality of ourselves has made me acknowledge to myself that this is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. This happiness—call it joy, call it delight, a deep gratitude, call it living in heaven—has been steady every day, every hour. Thoughts of “too good to be true and probably too good to last” intrude once in a while, but generally I accept my immense good fortune and try not to question it.
I want to experience the totality of myself, as the warriors put it. I am running out of time and don’t want to miss anything.
I’ve cleaned my island of the tonal. In warrior terms, I’ve cleaned up my act. Most of the time I can’t even locate my ego. I’m able to sustain my poise almost all of the time.
For this wonderful moment, I have no unresolved issues.
I am less and less engaged with the concerns of my fellow men and women. More about that delicate point later, but generally nothing that is happening in the world brings me down.
In the last few years, and especially in recent months, I’ve been able to quiet down enough to get glimpses of the worlds beyond the world of everyday life.
Those glimpses of the nagual, the world beyond the world of common perception, come at dusk, just after sunset and in the same location on our back deck overlooking about 2,000 square miles of desert valley bounded by mountains in every direction on the horizon. You can see part of this stunning view in the pic above.
Ever evolving majestic cloud formations—nature’s works of art—draw my attention upward to a greying sky edged in pinks and oranges above the mountain rim.
A southerly breeze is almost always wafting in, setting my strings of Tibetan prayer flags fluttering in a hypnotic dance above me. I have no idea what the prayers written on the flags say, but I have faith that they are sending out nothing but good will, matching my own feelings.
I imagine the noisy wind blowing through my ears, blowing all thoughts out of my head, leaving me in a pure perceptual state.
I can stop the world for short periods and when I do, I have entered a reality so powerful and beautiful that I can’t describe it.
I’m not thinking for short periods. I’m in a state of awe and never want to leave it.
In this state of awe, I am enraptured.
These periods last for only a short time. Then, to my chagrin, thoughts edge in. Greedy thoughts like, “I want to stay in this state for infinity.”
But I am able to return to this state of awe each evening if I’m alone. It’s been easier and easier to get back into this perceptual mode when I want to. Maybe I’ve edged into the nagual, however slightly and briefly.
We continue to investigate how to achieve the totality of oneself.
In the last post, The Totality of Oneself: How to Have a Bigger Life—Way Bigger, I described how most people live in a bubble, able to perceive only a reflection of themselves.
Here is a summary of the main points of that post:
- The concept of the totality of oneself, drawing on the works of Carlos Castaneda, explains what a limited perceptual capacity most of us have, but also lays out the stunning perceptual capacity we can develop.
- The totality of oneself is composed of the tonal—everything that humans know about and all that most people will ever know about—and the nagual—the immense reality beyond what we know about, a reality that humans can explore if they have enough personal power, but which they cannot talk about.
- Most people never get much beyond the foreign installation, the socializing download we all get from birth from our parents and family, teachers, and others who tell us how to perceive the world in order to be safe. The foreign installation is meant to be a guardian but becomes a guard, preventing further learning.
- We create and sustain the world we perceive with our thinking. And most of us cannot stop thinking, the only way to move toward the totality of ourselves.
- Even though our perceptual capacities restrict us to living on an island that we call “the world,” we often reject the world, suspicious that its values and beliefs corrupt people. Then we invent alternate realities that we hope will welcome us at death—heavens that will be free of suffering. In other words, our ability to embrace the fabulous creation of human life is limited.
- We may have an intuition that there is something more to life than we are able to experience currently, a nagging suspicion that something is missing. Those intuitions and suspicions are correct.
- There are people who live in this world successfully because they have “cleaned the island of the tonal,” by dropping their fears and self-pity, sustaining their poise, and staying on a path of love, humble and alert. But few of these good people have discovered the totality of themselves. They have not yet perceived the nagual.
- We are running out of time if we want to discover the totality of ourselves. To do that, we will have to stop thinking some of the time.
Here is part two of this discussion–how we can discover the totality of ourselves.
The unnecessarily small life of the ordinary person
Our language is full of objections like “Life sucks,” meaning that we reject much of what presents itself as problems we don’t want, pain, and suffering.
But the parts of the “world” that we reject are all the result of human thinking. The “world,” the tonal, a fantastic creation, ingenious, endlessly fascinating, is all a projection of human thought.
So our objections to the world are arguments with ourselves, arguments that absorb much of our energy, energy we will need if we are to break out of the bubble of perception that traps us.
We have to quit objecting to the world if we are to discover the totality of ourselves.
You might question this idea; shouldn’t I object to cruelty to humans and animals? Shouldn’t I, as a loving person, fight against injustice? Shouldn’t I object to our degradation of the planet? Aren’t my objections to our current world the very center of my morality and my responsibility to help my fellow humans? Don’t my angry and heart-felt objections to human behavior in the world establish my virtue, prove that I am a good person?
No, because most of us are not able to object to elements of the tonal without being angry, irritated, cynical, defensive, or resentful. Our objections about the world create bad explanations for what is going on in our lives.
Further, this chronic whining and the accompanying bad explanations only serve to shrink life to a small size and limit our perceptions.
“Oh, isn’t Donald Trump crazy?”
“Oh, isn’t ISIS evil?”
“Oh, it’s really hard to get really good fresh fruit lately.”
“Oh, I think that we are destroying our country’s values when we say that anybody can get married.”
“Oh, why don’t we just nuke those crazy (fill in blank) off the face of the earth.”
“My boss is an asshole but what can I do about it?”
So go our minds, objecting, objecting, reducing the size of our lives with every objection until there is less and less to say yes to.
To keep our lives safe and predictable, we shrink the possibilities.
As we shrink the possibilities, we shrink our perceptual capacities and lose the chance to live in awe of this tremendous human creation—the tonal.
Expanding our perceptual capacities to discover the full wonder of the tonal
If we are to live in awe, if we are to embrace the tonal of our time, we will need to save our energy.
We need all of our energy to live in awe, so we can’t waste it on a constant stream of objections and complaints.
To be emotionally concerned with the issues of our times, our world, or our fellow humans is to be attached. Attachment means hooked, or hoodwinked to be precise.
We can’t live in awe when we are attached—attached to having things turn out a certain way.
Awe requires that we move beyond the issues that trap us in a perpetual eddy of discomfort. Awe happens in the present moment, just out of thinking’s grasp, so to be in awe we must stop thinking.
To live in a state of awe, we have to be poised and be able to sustain our poise every hour, every day.
As we have seen in the posts on this blog over the past three years, sustaining our poise allows our perceptual capacities to grow.
Poised, we see more and more. Our incredible awareness, free and unfettered, can embrace all things and keep us on a path of love, no matter what challenges appear.
Poised, we are fearless, so we don’t distort reality to protect ourselves.
Poised, our ego isn’t running things; we have stopped feeding it, and have exiled it to the scrapbook of our former life.
It may be pretty easy for us at this point to agree that we want a poised consciousness.
- we want to be able to be present, living in the moment rather than obsessed with the past or future
- we want to feel connected all of the time—to be able to take all of humanity into our embrace, to be able to feel one with this beautiful earth, and to be tuned into our deepest self, our mission in life.
- we want to live in gratitude, our cups filled to the brim at all times, to actually believe that we always have everything we need.
- we want to be able to engage with whatever life brings us with a warrior’s creativity, to improvise with imagination and love of life.
- we want to be light-hearted, to avoid heaviness, self-pity and victimhood.
That’s the easy part—agreeing that we want to sustain our poise. We want to sustain our poise because then we can live in awe, objecting to nothing and embracing everything, receiving every gift that our lives receive every moment.
We can participate fully in the tonal of our time, but without attachment. Without attachment we control our folly. But to others, it appears that we’re in there sweating and straining, as concerned as everyone else.
But we’re not.
Sustaining our poise, we are buoyant warriors, taking delight in everything.
To be a buoyant warrior navigating the tonal of our time is a supreme achievement of consciousness, requiring an exquisite tuning of our perceptions.
But there is even more that we can achieve beyond a buoyant life.
Moving into the unknown, the nagual
Many people over the history of our species have reported experiencing the world outside the tonal, the world of pure energy that cannot be explained but only experienced directly.
The great benefit of experiencing the nagual is the discovery of our personal power, our stunning perceptual potential.
There is great personal advantage to pioneering on the frontiers of human perception, where we can encounter wonders beyond anything that we’ve been taught to encounter.
In our time Timothy Leary and Ram Dass (Richard Alpert), Harvard professors, experimented with LSD in order to escape our system of human cognition and to experience other realities. Tens of thousands of people followed their lead and reported extraordinary encounters, experiences they often said led them to see the folly of ordinary human behavior and thinking and to see exquisite realities formerly beyond their reach.
We have become so interested in these possibilities that an entire industry of shamanism aimed at western tourists has arisen in South America and other places. You can now buy experiences with powerful plant-based drugs that force a disintegration of your normal cognition and open you to a contact with altered states of consciousness.
Physics is now trying to figure out why reality changes when we look at it. Human perception literally changes the nature of reality, science has now proved. No one has yet unraveled this mystery.
I have had glimpses of the nagual myself under the influence of drugs. My experience has been very similar to the reported experiences of others. At those times, in a lull of silence, the world of the tonal has stopped. It’s nearby, but I’m not there. I am not thinking—at least for short periods. I’m in awe, a rapturous state. I feel as if I’m home in this extraordinary universe, and I feel that I could live in those moments forever. I feel as if I could never exhaust the wonder of the world I experience during those times, a world beyond description.
But Castaneda says that drugs are not necessary to “stop the world” and collapse our ordinary perceptions in order to experience the nagual directly. His approach is to clean up one’s act—to become impeccable, poised, humble and alert, using death as our adviser to help us remember that we are running out of time. In that state, he says, we can save up enough energy to experience the nagual.
Impeccable, we can stop the world of the tonal when we stop thinking, an achievement of considerable difficulty.
There are plenty of practices for stopping thinking, meditation the most widely known strategy, although most people who try it give up pretty quickly, unable to stop thinking for more than a few seconds.
But my personal experience convinces me that anyone who is committed to stop thinking can accomplish it in time.
Everything to gain and nothing to lose.
We have been examining our perceptual capacities. We are perceiving creatures with almost magical powers of awareness.
The ordinary person, fearful and cautious, will never experience his or her magical powers.
But some of us are shooting for the moon, wanting to experience the totality of ourselves to live as buoyant warriors in the tonal, and to exercise our full powers of perception by encountering the nagual directly.
This warrior path produces a buoyant life, even if we never get beyond the tonal of our time.
Sustaining our poise, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.