Journey to Ixtlan, by Carlos Castaneda

Journey to Ixtlan, by Carlos Castaneda


Journey to Ixtlan, by Carlos Castaneda

What did Walt Disney, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King have in common? They each had a dream so powerful that it was able to change their realities and those of the people around them.  They were warriors who, with determination and integrity, achieved dreams that continue to live in many of us even today.

In Journey to Ixtlan, Peruvian-American anthropologist and writer Carlos Castaneda is deeply influenced by the teachings of Don Juan Matus, a Yaqui Indian shaman who has carried out in-depth research on mind-altering medicinal plants. Don Juan teaches Castaneda the importance of having a dream and that the only way to make it a reality is to lose himself and take absolute responsibility for his life.

A Warrior Fights For His Dream

Most of us spend a bulk of our time daydreaming, wishing that our lives would change, but we seldom do anything about it, believing that it is not in our control. We blame others and hold them liable for our circumstances and problems. The primary difference between people who make their dreams a reality and those who don’t is their clear focus, determination and responsibility for their decisions.

Don Juan defines a warrior as someone who is willing to make his dream a reality by leaving little to chance. The warrior always keeps his focus on his dream. The thoughts he has, the choices he makes, and the actions he takes are in sync with that dream. He holds himself accountable for those choices and the consequences they bring.

What you call dreams are real for a warrior. You must understand that a warrior is not a fool. A warrior is an immaculate hunter who hunts power; he’s not drunk, or crazed, and he has neither the time nor the disposition to bluff, or to lie to himself, or to make a wrong move. The stakes are too high for that (…)

Dreaming is real for a warrior because in it he can act deliberately, he can choose and reject, he can select from a variety of items those which lead to power, and then he can manipulate them and use them (…)

Freedom From The Self

In order to achieve our dreams, according to Don Juan, we must be willing to let go of our former self and “unlearn” concepts that have been thrust upon us by culture and society.  These concepts shape our perceptions and based on them we often judge people and things before even knowing them. Similarly, people form a preconceived image of who we are. They place expectations on us and we fight all of our lives trying to fulfill those expectations. To free us from that former self or personal history we must renounce to that past conditioning and reinvent ourselves.

‘Don’t you see?’ he asked dramatically. ‘You must renew your personal history by telling your parents, your relatives, and your friends everything you do. On the other hand, if you have no personal history, no explanations are needed; nobody is angry or disillusioned with your acts. And above all no one pins you down with their thoughts.’

‘It is best to erase all personal history’, he said slowly, as if giving me time to write it down in my clumsy way, ‘because that would make us free from the encumbering thoughts of other people.’

While losing your personal history you must also loose your sense of self-importance, which is created by our own and others’ expectations. In pretending to be important so as to fulfill those expectations we become our own roadblock to getting our dream.

‘You take yourself too seriously‘, he said slowly. ‘You are too damn important in your own mind. That must be changed! You are so goddamn important that you feel justified to be annoyed with everything. You’re so damn important that you can afford to leave if things don’t go your way. I suppose you think that shows you have character. That’s nonsense! You’re weak, and conceited!’

As long as you feel that you are the most important thing in the world you cannot really appreciate the world around you. You are like a horse with blinders, all you see is yourself apart from everything else.

Taking Absolute Responsibility

Once we are free from our past and our false sense of importance, taking responsibility for our lives is the next crucial step. Being responsible for the decisions we make also includes being ready to deal with the consequences of making such decisions. Castaneda cites an anecdote where his father promised to go swimming with him, but never followed through. When the author discussed his father’s annoying habit with Don Juan, the latter reminded him that his was a typical example of a person not taking responsibility for his choices.

You are complaining‘, he said softly. ‘You have been complaining all your life because you don’t assume responsibility for your decisions. If you would have assumed responsibility for your father’s idea of swimming at six in the morning, you would have swum, by yourself if necessary, or you would have told him to go to hell the first time he opened his mouth after you knew his devices. But you didn’t say anything. Therefore, you were as weak as your father.’

To assume the responsibility of one’s decisions means that one is ready to die for them.

‘It doesn’t matter what the decision is’, he said. ‘Nothing could be more or less serious than anything else. Don’t you see? In a world where death is the hunter there are no small or big decisions. There are only decisions that we make in the face of our inevitable death.’

Journey to Ixtlan invites us to challenge our narrow thinking and defy our belief system so that we can see the world from a fresh point of view. Castaneda encourages us to have the power to create a real dream and fight for it with determination and passion, while taking absolute responsibility for our choices and accepting the consequences with humility, as the best way to find the right path for ourselves.

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