In a dream last week it came to me that we live our lives as the shamans of Ancient Mexico say, like chickens in a chicken coop, endlessly pecking away, without question taking what’s thrown to us. The image of chickens did not come into my dreamworld however. Instead the rat in a maze made an appearance, though it’s really the same thing.
The shamans of Carlos Castaneda’s lineage suggest that we train our awareness to avoid repetitive behaviors. They suggest learning how to shift, both physically and mentally, out of places that keep us caught, stagnant, and overwhelmed. By studying ourselves deeply, in recapitulation, we confront the truth of the maze we actually live in. We discover that we are indeed like rats, endlessly caught, endlessly repeating our learned lives. As Simon and Garfunkel write in Patterns:
“From the moment of my birth
To the instant of my death
There are patterns I must follow
Just as I must breathe each breath
Like a rat in a maze
The path before me lies
And the pattern never alters
Until the rat dies”
These lines perfectly describe the constructed world we live in, the one the shamans of Ancient Mexico alert us to and warn us about, that we are indeed caught in. Written at a time of great energetic change in our country, similar to the energy of now, these words alert us to the fact that we tend to live out our lives as we have been taught. We are crammed full of the lessons of this world from the moment we are born, and we follow the paths laid out for us until we die, largely unaware that there are other possibilities.
In my dream, maze after maze appeared, alerting me to the fact that even in thinking we have left the maze we must be alert to the fact that we may fall right into another maze. I woke up wondering what I was doing in my own life that made me have this dream. Was I just repeating old behaviors? Was I fooling myself by thinking I had changed? Was I really caught in another maze?
Although the Simon and Garfunkel song ends on a hopeless note and a sense that we have no control over our lives, the shamans of Ancient Mexico offer a different perspective. They suggest what I learned in my dream: that no matter where we are in our lives we have the ability to break out of our mazes by constantly training ourselves to confront our thoughts, actions, decisions, and the choices we make. In my dream, I was being taught to stay alert and aware of the fact that yes, indeed, I am always in a maze of one sort or another and the only way I will get out is by constantly challenging myself to shift my awareness.
It’s not really that hard to remain aware. It means choosing to constantly challenge myself to note the truth of my reality. A simple question may help in creating a simple shift: Is this something I learned or is this something I truly know? Is this the way I want to live my life or can I approach life in a new way? Am I falling into an old pattern here or can I see this from a new perspective? How could I live this moment differently? How can I shift myself?
As soon as I note an old habit, an old thought, an old judgment, an old idea of self or the world around me, an old fear, an old pattern of speech, an old posture, an old expectation, an old desire, an old view of the world, I know it’s time to question myself. It’s time to refuse to walk another step in the old maze. It’s time to return to the roots of what I have learned in the shaman’s world, in the world of spirit and energy, which is, that nothing is as it appears. The world is an illusion. Everything in the world is presented to help me evolve to a new level of understanding my life and my reason for being here.
The truth is that in the end I will die, just like the rat in the maze will die. I suspect I have traveled the maze a thousand times in a thousand lives, but this time I am electing to journey differently. I am taking my journey with awareness. I am challenged, each day, to break through the walls of the maze. I am challenged, each day, to shift my thoughts and awareness to a far bigger picture.
At the same time, I know that the maze is important, that we must all travel its endless pathways until we wake up to the fact that we are doing just that, walking the same path over and over again. As the season turns soon into winter, as I look forward to the coziness of turning inward, I know I must not become the old me or turn inward in an old way. I must continue my journey of change. I must go through the seasons of life as an aware being, unafraid to change my perceptions and perspectives of the world I live in. I must constantly grow by challenging myself to constantly hop out of the maze.
Recapitulation offers a means of shifting out of the maze. It’s an endless process of training awareness, of challenging the self to change. Chickens and rats that we inevitably are for long periods of time, we all do have the energy to change. It’s what makes us human. We just have to dare ourselves to tap into it.
Our true potential is unlimited, but we may only access that unlimited potential by jumping the walls of the maze and making sure we don’t get caught in another one in the process. Here’s hoping that we may all continue to face our challenges, keeping our eyes on the ultimate prize: life on our own terms, as beings of awareness.
If we can stay connected to the truth that all things are possible we offer ourselves the opportunity to live a different life, without fear, sadness, or regret. But that often means changing the path we are on in order to actualize our fuller potential. By daring ourselves to jump the walls of the maze we may truly live.
Wishing you all good journeying,