The Wisdom of Carlos Castaneda
Cliches are cliches because they continue to be true — and in every dark cloud there truly is a silver lining. To find the silver, or the blessing in your challenges, shift your perspective. Carlos Casteneda wrote that we might need to balance the terror of being alive with the wonder of being alive.
Old Carlos was a Peruvian-born American author, an icon of the hippie generation. His first published writing, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, was his anthropological Master’s thesis at the University of California, 1968. He wrote about his experiences learning from a Yaqui Indian sorcerer, and reading his work is kind of like going on a vision quest. Critics later called his writing fiction, but controversy aside, he understood the bonds between adversity and blessings.
Carlos thought we should shift our thinking to meet challenges with pleasure and joy, even if they try to knock us on our derrieres. For example, my friend’s home went into foreclosure last year. Having struggled with a heavy mortgage for several years, her husband’s health deteriorated and then she lost her job. First reactions? Fear. Panic.
She soon found anxiety didn’t help, so she set it aside to focus on one piece of her puzzle at a time. Long story shortened, she and her spouse purchased a distressed property, used their small resources and huge energies to rehab the house, and are about to move into a comfortable, pretty home with no mortgage.
We can all conjure up feelings of terror, anxiety and defeat when life seems to slap us upside the head. It’s a natural reaction; you knock a knee with a mallet and the knee wants to jerk. But suppose you think about the hit. You might control the direction your foot kicks or even prevent a reaction. When a challenge comes your way, planning and creative thinking can uncover the blessings, or teaching moments, behind the adversity.
How can you move from panic to an understanding of the silver lining?
Calm down. Breathe slowly, deeply for a moment. Quiet your brain. Take no action at first. The blessing may be better health.
Gather all information. Find out the who, what, where, when, and why of what you’re facing. Study until you understand the problem. The blessing could be a bit of enlightenment.
Figure out what your choices are. Use if this then that logic like scientists do. Identify your choices, define the outcomes, select a good choice and test it. The blessing here? Maturity and wisdom.
Ask for help. Put aside your fear of criticism and seek help where it’s needed. Blessing? You might build ties and bonds with good people.
Be patient and let things you can’t control unfold naturally. You’ll be blessed with spiritual growth when you don’t try to wrestle fate to the ground.
If you cannot fix the situation, accept it with dignity and open your spirit to what comes next. You can be blessed with all sorts of new experiences, choices, and lessons.
Shift your thinking and your point of view. If you don’t recognize a blessing because you’re stuck on making things turn out the way you want them to go, you may lose significant opportunities.
Recognizing blessings behind adversity means acknowledging that life is full of risks, but payoffs can be delightful. Little kids learn, as they explore their small world, that bumps and bruises will come. They keep exploring because the joy of finding new skills or new mischief readies them for the next challenge.
We all know a cliche that speaks of blessings in disguise. Our job may be to roll up our sleeves and rip off those disguises. Harriet Beecher Stowe said, “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, never give up then, for that is just the time when the tide will turn.”
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