Much of mental training is about developing self-observation skills.
We learn to observe the way the mind and ego distract our attention. Don Juan tells Carlos Castaneda in The Second Ring of Power: “Egomania is a real tyrant. We must work ceaselessly to dethrone it.”
Don Juan calls this dethroning process: the art of stalking. Don Juan explains:
“An impeccable stalker can turn anything into prey. We can even stalk our own weaknesses. You do it in the same way you stalk prey. You figure out your routines until you know all the doing of your weaknesses and then you come upon them and pick them up like rabbits inside a cage.”
The ego will want to use its intellectual thinking capabilities to bring order to a chaotic world. Using the mind’s thinking capabilities can be helpful, but don Juan knew its limitations; they can be influenced negatively by the ego. He taught Carlos the “rule for stalking” so we can become aware of its negative influences.
Don Juan’s rule has three precepts:
- “The first precept of the rule is that everything that surrounds us is an unfathomable mystery.” Don Juan tells us the reality that surrounds us is a mystery, meaning we can’t figure it out. We may then think that applying an effort to impact how we live our lives isn’t necessary.
- “The second precept of the rule is that we must try to unravel these mysteries, but without ever hoping to accomplish this.” Here don Juan posits the paradox of life. The goal is to figure out the mystery, knowing that we’ll never figure it out. Knowing that we can never achieve the goal focuses our attention on practices we do each day that take us toward a goal we can never achieve. The power in this paradox is that it shifts our focus onto the practices themselves. We don’t do them because they‘re good for us; we do them for their own sake, because being engaged in the struggle to unravel the mystery, gives us a feeling of being alive.
- “The third, that a warrior, aware of the unfathomable mystery that surrounds him and aware of his duty to try to unravel it, takes his rightful place among mysteries and regards himself as one. Consequently, for a warrior there is no end to the mystery of being, whether being means being a pebble, or an ant, or oneself. That is a warrior’s humbleness. One is equal to everything.” There’s no place for ego here, separate from the mystery around us. We too are a mystery. Being more or less important than others fades into being equal. Being one part of the world frees us to apply our power to influence everything.
These precepts of the rule help warriors stalk themselves ruthlessly, cunningly, patiently, and sweetly. Don Juan explains: “Ruthlessness should not be harshness, cunning should not be cruelty, patience should not be negligence, and sweetness should not be foolishness.”
The tricks of the ego are numerous and difficult to recognize, especially when we’re lost in the thinking mind. Therefore:
- We’re ruthless: We aren’t harsh with ourselves. Rather, we don’t take pity on the ego. We stalk it like prey so we can kill its limiting ways.
- We’re cunning: We aren’t cruel with ourselves. Rather, we’re shrewd about the ego’s deceptive behaviors. We won’t recognize them unless we know how the mind tricks us.
- We’re patient: We don’t neglect ourselves. Rather, we’re attentive and trust the process. We know it’s a long, unending journey, so we pay attention to what is occurring now so our learning process can be guided effectively.
- We’re sweet: We aren’t foolish in our actions. Rather, we take a light-hearted approach so we can have fun on our journey. We recognize the idiotic ways of the ego and can laugh when we recognize how they manifest themselves in our behaviors.
Being ruthless, cunning, patient, and sweet are manifestations of the practices we do each day. We’re creative in how we stalk ourselves. Don Juan suggests:
“Stalking is the art of using behavior in novel ways for specific purposes. Normal human behavior in the world of everyday life is routine. Any behavior that brakes from routine causes an unusual effect on our total being. That unusual effect is what sorcerers seek, because it is cumulative.”
Anything done over time creates unconsciousness; we become habituated. Therefore, we break out of comfortable routines by changing how we do activities.
Change keeps the ego unbalanced, making it easier to knock it off its throne of importance. We can enjoy such practices as we live within the mystery of life. We don’t do them thinking we’ll unravel the mystery.
Therein lies the joy of living for no reason; no mental machinations of the ego distract us from our practice.
We don’t do the practices because they’re good for us; we do them for their own sake, because they give us a feeling of being alive.