A Day in a Life: Getting Out of the Maze Before the Rat Dies

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.

What does your maze look like?

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,

One thought on “A Day in a Life: Getting Out of the Maze Before the Rat Dies”

  1. Hi Jan,

    Every day I am learning more and more just how deeply connected we all are and how amazing it is to experience the magic of it all! Your blog today is most insightful, fitting like a puzzle piece!

    Recently I have been deep in the throes of recapitulating a very significant experience at the age of 12. Although I clearly see that the beliefs manifested as a result of the experience represent the very limited reality of a frightened, 12 year old girl, I also see how they have held me captive– in my maze– painfully limiting my ability to truly live.

    Today, the part I find so fascinating is that at this same
    age–12, the science experiment I did that year consisted of building 2 elaborate mazes. Using my pet mice, I put one in the maze with food at the end and the other in the maze with nothing. As predicted, time and time again, the one with food figured it out rather quickly, the other continued to wander around aimlessly. For this I got a 1ST place blue ribbon!

    As I reflect on this now, perhaps this project really came from infinity as a lesson showing me just how trapped I really was, for either with or without a reward, the result would be the same. Unless I woke up and made some significant changes, I would continue to be trapped within the walls of the maze. I didn’t wake up then or the many times following this, so I continued to wander for a long, long time….maybe just waiting for the time and place to feel safe enough to dare…

    Thank you Jan for so freely sharing and for creating that place!

    With Gratitude,

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