Any Habit is an Addiction

(Encounters with the Nagual)

Little by little, Carlos’ stories had had their effect on me. One day, I sat down to seriously consider the amount of effort I invested in sustaining my self-importance. Not in the coarse and common forms it usually shows itself, like self-sufficiency, or whining for attention, but in its more subtle aspects, linked to fundamental ideas that I had about the world.

These reflections didn’t bring me any certainty. On the contrary, I began to notice how the enormity of the ideological framework in which I lived, and which I had always taken for granted, trembled. When I told Carlos this, he saw it as something quite natural.

“You are learning how to stalk yourself,” he told me. “It is what you should have done ever since you learnt to use your reason.”

I had already read about the art of stalking, a hunting strategy which consists of using your prey’s own habits and routines to catch it. We can apply this strategy to ordinary life, for example, to business. But we can also project it against our internal demons, like doubt, laziness, and self-indulgence.

Taking advantage of this opportunity – we had some free time before his lecture began – I asked him to tell me more about this.

But, to my complete astonishment, he told me that he could not do it as long as I wasn’t committed to the point of death to the teachings.

“Why?”

“Because you would wind up turning against me. Learning about dreaming doesn’t offend anyone, the worst you can do is not believe that such a thing is possible. Stalking, on the other hand, the way sorcerers practice it, is very offensive to reason. Many warriors avoid speaking about it, because they don’t have the stomach for it. In the initial phase, the apprentice is under crossfire and is very frustrated, not able to let go of his ego.”

“Like a coin, stalking has two faces. On the one hand, it is the easiest thing in the world; on the other, it is a very difficult technique, not because it’s complex, but because it deals with aspects of oneself that people usually don’t want to deal with.”

“Stalking induces minuscule, but very solid movements of the assemblage point; not like dreaming, which moves you deeply, but bounces you like a rubber ball and returns you immediately to what you were. When you look around, you see everything the same way as you always did, so you will continue to use your everyday approach to things. If, in this situation, you are forced to make some change by your instructor, I’ll bet you anything that you will leave offended, or wounded in your pride, and quit the teaching.”

I asked him how, then, sorcerers taught this art.

He answered that, traditionally, it is taught in states of heightened awareness, and it is left until the end.

“It is not something that’s openly talked about, one must read between the lines. This part of the knowledge belongs to the teachings for the left side. It takes many years to remember what it is all about, and many more to become able to practice it.

“On the level where you are now, the only thing that allows you to handle stalking is to approach it with dreaming methods. If at any point you should feel that I am touching on topics that are too personal, or you have an attack of suspicions, look at your hands or use any other reminder you have chosen. The dreaming attention will help you break your fixation.”

***

In spite of his reticence, on another occasion Carlos himself accepted answering my questions on the topic of stalking, as long as we kept to theoretical considerations.

Taking advantage of his goodwill, I asked him to explain the practical uses of the art of stalking.

He explained:

“Stalking is the central activity of an energy tracker. Although it can be applied with astonishing results to our dealings with people, it is designed mainly to tune the practitioner. Manipulating and controlling others is an arduous task, but it is incomparably more difficult to control ourselves. For that reason, stalking is the technique that distinguishes the nagual.”

“Stalking can be defined as the ability to fix the assemblage point in new positions.”

“The warrior who is stalking is a hunter. But, as opposed to an ordinary hunter who has his mind set on his material interests, the warrior pursues a bigger prey: His self-importance. That prepares him to face the challenge of dealing with his fellow men – something that dreaming by itself cannot resolve. Sorcerers who don’t learn how to stalk, turn into grumpy people.”

“Why?”

“Because they don’t have the patience to tolerate people’s stupidity.”

“Stalking is natural to us, due to a characteristic of our animal heritage: To survive, we have all developed habits of behavior which mold our energy and help us adapt. By studying those routines, an attentive observer can accurately predict the behavior of an animal or a human being at any given moment.”

“Warriors know that any habit is an addiction. It can tie you to the consumption of drugs, or going to church every Sunday; the difference is in form, not in essence. In the same way, when we get used to thinking that the world is reasonable or that the things we believe in are the only reality, we are victims of a habit which clouds our senses, and makes us see only what’s familiar to us.”

“Routines are templates of behavior, which we mechanically follow even when they don’t make sense anymore. To be a stalker, you must have freed yourself from these imperatives of survival.”

“Because he is the owner of his decisions, a warrior stalker is a person who has banished from his life all vestiges of addiction. He only has to recover his energetic integrity to be free. And since he has freedom of choice, he can be involved in calculated forms of behavior, either to deal with people or with other conscious entities.”

“The result of this maneuver is not a routine participation, but stalking, because it consists of studying the behaviors of others.”

“What is the sense of all this?”

He answered:

“From your point of view, none. Freedom doesn’t obey reasons. However, your entire being shakes when you break your routines, because it exposes the myth of immortality.”

Pointing at people returning from work, he told me:

“What do you believe they went out to do? These people went out to live their last day! The sad thing is that probably very few of them know it. Every day is unique, and the world is not the way everyone has told us it is. To cancel the force of habit is a decision that you make once and for all. Starting from that act, a warrior becomes a stalker.”

“And couldn’t it happen that the warrior may end up making of his purpose something ordinary”

“No. This is something that you have to understand, because otherwise your search for impeccability will lose its freshness and you will end up betraying it. To break routines is not the purpose of the path; it is only one of its means. The goal is to be aware. Keeping that in mind, another definition of stalking is ‘an unbending attention on a total result’.”

“That kind of attention applied to an animal results in a hunting piece. If we apply it to another person, it produces a client, a pupil, or a romantic relationship. And applied to an inorganic being, it provides what sorcerers call ‘an ally’. But only if we apply stalking to ourselves, can it be considered a Toltec art, because it produces something precious: Awareness.”

***

In spite of his explanations, the practical dimension of stalking continued, from my point of view, to be one of the darkest themes in the teachings. Over the years, I accomplished some of the other exercises, like recapitulation and inner silence; I even dreamt. But when I tried stalking, I only got ambiguous results, or wound up feeling ridiculous.

Apparently, Carlos was aware of my efforts, because at one point he called me, and told me:

“Don’t get complicated. You are making a caricature of the teachings. If you want to stalk, observe yourself. We are all excellent hunters, stalking is our natural gift. When hunger presses us, we sharpen ourselves; children cry and achieve what they want; women entrap men and men get even with each other, swindling in business. Stalking is to be able to get away with what you want.”

“If you become aware of the world you live in, you will understand that simply staying attentive to it is a kind of stalking. Since we learned to do that long before our capacity to discriminate was developed, we feel it as something perfectly natural and hardly ever question it. But all our actions, even the most altruistic, are imbued with the hunter’s spirit.”

“Ordinary man doesn’t know he is stalking, because his character has been subjugated by socialization. He is convinced that his existence is important, so his actions are at the service of his self- importance, not the expansion of his awareness.”

He added that one of the characteristics of self-importance is that it betrays us.

“Important people don’t flow, they give themselves airs, show off their attributes, and lack the necessary grace and the speed to hide. Their luminosity is too rigid, and can only achieve flexibility when they no longer have anything to defend.”

“The method of sorcerers consists on focusing on the reality in which we live, but in a new way. Rather than just accumulating information, what they seek is to compact their energy. A warrior is someone who has learned to stalk himself, and is no longer burdened with a heavy image to present to others. Nobody can detect him if he doesn’t want them to, because he doesn’t have attachments. He is above the hunter, because he has learned to laugh at himself.”

He told me how his instructor Dona Florinda Matus taught him to be inconspicuous.

“Just at the time when my books transformed me into a rich man, she sent me to fry hamburgers in a highway restaurant! For years, I worked with my money in plain sight, without being able to spend it. She said that would teach me not to lose the appropriate perspective. And I learned my lesson!”

“Some time after that, I was given another opportunity to be invisible. I had taken some cactuses to the house of a friend and began to plant them. Suddenly, two reporters from The Times, who had spent a long time trying to find me, appeared. They figured I was a peon and asked for the owner of the house. ‘Knock there’, I told them, and pointed at the door. My friend answered their questions: ‘No, I haven’t seen him’, and the reporters left, wondering where the hell Castaneda could be.”

He went on saying that since the problem of self-importance is a personal matter, each warrior should adapt the teachings to his own conditions. Therefore, the stalking techniques are extremely flexible. But the training is the same for everyone, and concerns getting rid of superfluous routines and acquiring enough discipline to recognize the signs of intent. Both achievements constitute true feats of character.

“The best way of acquiring that degree of discipline is to deal actively with a petty tyrant.”

In response to my queries, he explained that a petty tyrant is somebody who makes our life impossible. In past times, this kind of people could hurt us physically or even kill us; nowadays, that kind of petty tyrants practically don’t exist. However, due to the high level of importance that we grant ourselves, anyone in a position of bothering us works as a petty tyrant. Far from avoiding it, we should face, not the petty tyrant, but our own stupidity.

“The petty tyrant is necessary because most of us are too lazy to change by ourselves. He moves the fixation of ‘me’, making our weaknesses appear. He makes us see the truth – that we are not important – and he is willing to demonstrate it with actions. To learn how to treat him is the only really effective way to refine stalking.”

“A petty tyrant is so important for the task that it can become an obsession for an apprentice to look for one and get in touch with him. A sincere gratitude is the only appropriate feeling for a warrior who has found one to fit his measure.”

“Petty tyrants are plentiful, what is not plentiful is the guts to look for them, establish a connection with them by means of stalking, and cause their anger, putting oneself within their reach and, at the same lime, scheming devastating strategies. Instead, we spend our life running away from situations that produce pain, irritation, fear, or confusion. In that way, we lose one of the most valuable tools that spirit has put in our path.”

“What is the strategy to confront that kind of enemies?”

“Above all, don’t see them as enemies; they are involuntary allies in your own cause. Don’t lose sight of the fact that the battle is not fought for the ego, but for energy. The important thing is to win, not that the other one loses. A petty tyrant doesn’t know that, and that is his weakness.”

***