[Note: This is one of several articles that I am archiving here as I phase out an old website, The Four Precepts Web Portal & Spiritual Search Page. While these articles reflect a formative period in my life and thought, they do not necessarily reflect my current opinions.]
The Path with a Heart
by Wayne Ferguson 23.02.2006, changed 01.03.2006
To follow your bliss is, in the words of Don Juan, to follow the path with a heart. Such a path will be experienced as an end itself and not merely as a means to some more or less desirable goal.
For me there is only traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length. And there I travel looking, looking, breathlessly.
As I look back over my life— especially the last 20 years or so since my father died —I can chart my successes and my failures (that in my life which seems most worth-while vs. that which seems to have been largely a waste of time) according to whether or not I did, indeed, choose the path with a heart.
Oddly enough, this is relevant not just to the narrow self-interest of each individual, but also to the well-being of families, communities, and the world at large! For our heart, it seems, is the locus of that which at the most fundamental level binds us all together. And if we betray our heart or otherwise become alienated from it, we not only cut ourselves off from the font of living water, we also deny the other people in our sphere of influence the blessings that would have quite naturally overflowed to them from our abundant life.
While there are always risks involved in following the path with a heart, to the extent we each become aware of and attuned to our own heart’s desire— and follow it resolutely —we put ourselves in a better position contribute to the well-being of others, as well as ourselves. ‘But how will I know for sure whether a path has a heart or not?’, the student asks? ‘Anybody would know that’, Don Juan answers, ‘The trouble is nobody asks the question.’
Here is some additional material for those who would explore this question further:
The Path with a Heart
From The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (Ballantine Books, 1968) By Carlos Castaneda
According to Castaneda— but there is much controversy surrounding the veracity of Castaneda’s claims —he met Don Juan in Arizona in the summer of 1960, while he was a graduate student in anthropology at UCLA (researching peyote and its use by Native Americans). Don Juan— a brujo of the Yaqui Indians of Sonora, Mexico —took him on as a student and for several years taught him the Yaqui way of knowledge. This book, which Castaneda wrote mostly while studying with Don Juan during breaks from school, is his doctoral dissertation. Here are some excerpts on the theme of a ‘path with heart:’
Para mi solo recorrer los caminos que tienen corazon, cualquier camino que tenga corazon. Por ahi yo recorro, y la unica prueba que vale es atravesar todo su largo. Y por ahi yo recorro mirando, mirando, sin aliento. (For me there is only traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length. And there I travel looking, looking, breathlessly.) (xii) — Don Juan
Anything is one of a million paths [un camino entre cantidades de caminos]. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question. This question is one that only a very old man asks. My benefactor told me about it once when I was young, and my blood was too vigorous for me to understand it. Now I understand it. I will tell you what it is: Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long, long paths, but I am not anywhere. My benefactor’s question has meaning now. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you. (105-06, italics added)
‘But how will I know for sure whether a path has a heart or not?’ ‘Anybody would know that. The trouble is nobody asks the question; and when a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him. At that point very few men can stop to deliberate, and leave the path.’ (166)
[Editor’s Note: Special thanks to my friend, Dr. Lou Schiano at Northern New Mexico College, for sharing this Carlos Castaneda material with me and for permission to use it in this article. The image of the path with a heart is borrowed from gailannbruen.typepad.com. For more on Carlos Castaneda and The Teachings of Don Juan, go to www.erowid.org.]