The most important topic for the shamans who lived in Mexico in ancient times, and for all the shamans of don Juan’s lineage, was the center for decisions. Shamans are convinced, by the practical results of their endeavors, that there is a spot on the human body which accounts for decision making, the V spot – the area on the crest of the sternum at the base of the neck, where the clavicles meet to form a letter V. It is a center where energy is rarefied to the point of being tremendously subtle, and it stores a specific type of energy which shamans are incapable of defining. They are utterly certain, however, that they can feel the presence of that energy, and its effects. It is the belief of shamans that this special energy is always pushed out of that center very early in the lives of human beings, and it never returns to it, thus depriving human beings of something perhaps more important than all the energy of the other centers combined: the capacity to make decisions.
In relation to the issue of making decisions, don Juan expressed the hard opinion of the sorcerers of his lineage. Their observations, over the centuries, had led them to conclude that human beings are incapable of making decisions, and that for this reason, they have created the social order: gigantic institutions that assume responsibility for decision making. They let those gigantic institutions decide for them, and they merely fulfill the decisions already made on their behalf.
The V spot at the base of the neck was, for those shamans, a place of such importance that they rarely touched it with their hands; if it was touched, the touch was ritualistic and always performed by someone else with the aid of an object. They used highly polished pieces of hardwood or polished bones of animals, utilizing the round head of the bone so as to have an object of the perfect contour, the size of the hollow spot on the neck. They would press with those bones or pieces of wood to create pressure on the borders of that hollow spot. Those objects were also used, although rarely, for self-massage, or for what we understand nowadays as accupressure.
“How did they come to find out that that hollow spot is the center for decisions!” I asked don Juan once.
“Every center of energy in the body,” he replied, “shows a concentration of energy; a sort of vortex of energy, like a funnel that actually seems to rotate counterclockwise from the perspective of the seer who gazes into it. The strength of a particular center depends on the force of that movement. If it barely moves, the center is exhausted, depleted of energy.
“When the sorcerers of ancient times,” don Juan continued, “were scanning the body with their seeing eye, they noticed the presence of those vortexes. They became very curious about them, and made a map of them.”
“Are there many such centers in the body, don Juan?” I asked.
“There are hundreds of them,” he replied, “if not thousands! One can say that a human being is nothing else but a conglomerate of thousands of twirling vortexes, some of them so very small that they are, let’s say, like pinholes, but very important pinholes. Most of the vortexes are vortexes of energy. Energy flows freely through them, or is stuck in them. There are, however, six which are so enormous that they deserve special treatment. They are centers of life and vitality. Energy there is never stuck, but sometimes the supply of energy is so scarce that the center barely rotates.”
Don Juan explained that those enormous centers of vitality were located on six areas of the body. He enumerated them in terms of the importance that shamans accorded them. The first was on the area of the liver and gallbladder; the second on the area of the pancreas and spleen; the third on the area of the kidneys and adrenals; and the fourth on the hollow spot at the base of the neck on the frontal part of the body. The fifth was around the womb, and the sixth was on the top of the head.
The fifth center, pertinent only to women, had, according to what don Juan said, a special kind of energy that gave sorcerers the impression of liquidness. It was a feature that only some women had. It seemed to serve as a natural filter that screened out superfluous influences.
The sixth center, located on top of the head, don Juan described as something more than an anomaly, and refrained absolutely from having anything to do with it. He portrayed it as possessing not a circular vortex of energy, like the others, but a pendulumlike, back-and-forth movement somehow reminiscent of the beating of a heart.
“Why is the energy of that center so different, don Juan?” I asked him.
“That sixth center of energy,” he said, “doesn’t quite belong to man. You see, we human beings are under siege, so to speak. That center has been taken over by an invader, an unseen predator. And the only way to overcome this predator is by fortifying all the other centers.”
“Isn’t it a bit paranoiac to feel that we are under siege, don Juan?” I asked.
“Well, maybe for you, but certainly not for me,” he replied. “I see energy, and I see that the energy over the center on the top of the head doesn’t fluctuate like the energy of the other centers. It has a back-and-forth movement, quite disgusting, and quite foreign. I also see that in a sorcerer who has been capable of vanquishing the mind, which sorcerers call a foreign installation, the fluctuation of that center has become exactly like the fluctuation of all the others.”
Don Juan, throughout the years of my apprenticeship, systematically refused to talk about that sixth center. On this occasion when he was telling me about the centers of vitality, he dismissed my frantic probes, rather rudely, and began to talk about the fourth center, the center for decisions.
“This fourth center,” he said, “has a special type of energy, which appears to the eye of the seer as possessing a unique transparency, something that could be described as resembling water: energy so fluid that it seems liquid. The liquid appearance of this special energy is the mark of a filterlike quality of the center for decisions itself, which screens any energy coming to it, and draws from it only the aspect of it that is liquidlike. Such a quality of liquidness is a uniform and consistent feature of this center. Sorcerers also call it the watery center.
“The rotation of the energy at the center for decisions is the weakest of them all,” he went on. “That’s why man can rarely decide anything. Sorcerers see that after they practice certain magical passes, that center becomes active, and they can certainly make decisions to their hearts’ content, while they couldn’t even take a first step before.”
Don Juan was quite emphatic about the fact that the shamans of ancient Mexico had an aversion that bordered on phobia about touching their own hollow spot at the base of the neck. The only way in which they accepted any interference whatsoever with that spot was through the use of their magical passes, which reinforce that center by bringing dispersed energy to it, clearing away, in this manner, any hesitation in decision making born out of the natural energy dispersion brought about by the wear and tear of everyday life.
“A human being,” don Juan said, “perceived as a conglomerate of energy fields, is a concrete and sealed unit into which no energy can be injected, and from which no energy can escape. The feeling of losing energy, which all of us experience at one time or another, is the result of energy being chased away, dispersed from the five enormous natural centers of life and vitality. Any sense of gaining energy is due to the redeployment of energy previously dispersed from those centers. That is to say, The energy is relocated onto those five centers of life and vitality.”