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don Miguel Ruiz

 

Written by Jim Morris, San Diego Reader

In Teotihuacan I set out to write an objective account of how a miracle worker works, and one happened to me. Objective journalism can’t handle that. This is something else.  The first morning the hundred and fifty or so of us, were split into groups of seven or eight. My group was me, Rosalie Garcia, a San Diego corporate exec, two couples--Brian and June Foy, from Diddillibah, Australia, an hour north of Brisbane on the Sunshine Coast, maybe late fifties-early sixties. Brian’s a string bean, and June sweet and warm; James Golden, an American SNAG (sensitive, new-age guy), and Leslie Gilbertie, his pretty blonde wife, from Northern California, —and Carol Brooks, a young Australian woman, living and working in London.  Carol was in her early thirties, tall and easygoing, her dark pageboy haircut capped by a black Clint Eastwood hat with a silver and turquoise band.

When we walked to Teo from the hotel, a Club Med, Carol strode along, in her jeans and black boots, talking to our group leaders.  They were stunningly beautiful women; Nancy Coleman, from Los Angeles, a mom in her thirties, and Rebecca Haywood, San Diego, probably in her late twenties.  Rebecca did most of the talking; she had the same gift as Don Miguel. In a low, soft, crooning voice, she led us from our hells of self-centeredness and piglet greed into an altered state of consciousness that had nothing to do with drugs. We were psyched by Rebecca’s pitch, and the great metaphor of Teotihuacan. It was a metaphor, but it wasn’t a simile, or even a book. It was a whole city, built millennia ago by artists who had thought about it for a long time, to create this experience.

Teotihuacan translates, The Place Where Man Becomes God. It's hard to grasp the enormity of Teotihuacan. Twenty-five hundred years ago it was a city of a quarter million people. But the consciousness that built it was more different from ours than ours is from that of the Martians of old-time space-opera science fiction. It was a society in which science, religion, and art were not separate. The engineering has mystical significance. The stone facades are heavy, ominous, and weird. This city of huge pyramids and giant plazas was conceived by a spiritual, poetic sensibility to induce an altered state of consciousness. It towers and sprawls and envelops. It overwhelms.

The Sea of Hell was a huge stone quadrangle, with a grass floor, and a stone platform or island in the center. We were given twenty minutes to wander in the sun-drenched plaza, to drop our emotional baggage, and meet again at the island. Rosalie returned crying. Rebecca held her from behind, and pounded her back in a ritual way that I recognized from the Castaneda books. The couples were crying too. We all talked about our experiences. Talking seemed to make them more real. By the time we left, the two couples were arm in arm, like teenagers in love. Only Carol and I seemed unmoved. But, it wasn’t true. I felt the full load of grief and greed, lust and guilt, lifted.

Next we were led to a pyramid with many stone heads of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent, carved on it, told to pick one, and stare at it until we entered it. The next three days were spent symbolically being digested by Quetzalcoatl, to emerge in the light of the sun, at the Pyramid of the Sun, three days later. I won’t describe it all. It’s so deep in symbolism that if I did, it would sound like ravings. But that afternoon it hit Carol. She started screaming, on the long walkway of the Avenue of the Dead. Whatever emotional load she was carrying, whatever demon, it was on the way out, and it did not go peaceful. Nancy led her to some ancient stone steps, and she lay in Nancy’s arms, sobbing; then, just when you thought it had passed, it started again, gut wrenching screams from the bottom of her soul.

A Japanese tourist family cast anxious looks our way, without touching their cameras, shrugged and strolled on. Nancy held Carol, and rocked her like a child. That night, in the hotel bar, Carol was radiant. The second day was my day. I sort of hooked up with Rosalie that day. I wanted to talk to her about her experience the day before. But, I felt embarrassed about quizzing her on such a personal moment. I was so circumspect she didn’t realize what I was asking. Later, she said they were cathartic tears of happiness, and showed me an entry in her journal that explained how she felt.  "What is so agonizing about this kind of work is that--despite one's willingness to grow and make changes in one's life, it's our own resistance to release, to let go of the familiar distortions (our domestication) of life--its our fear of the new and unfamiliar that keeps us stuck in our own stuff."

But, as we stood atop a stone wall, one that separated two of the stone quadrangles on the Avenue of the Dead, she looked out, at the miles long avenue, at the Pyramid of the Moon straight ahead, and the low dark mountain behind it, and the even bigger Pyramid of the Sun, off to its right, she said. “If this is a dream, it’s a keeper.”  Later, she reminded me of her favorite Miguel Ruiz quote. “You are given two choices in life; you can be happy, or you can be stupid.” Rebecca led us, there on the steps of that wall, in a ceremony to rectify our relationship with our beloved. Then we were released to wander and ponder, in the Place of the Air. She said we were to proceed without judgment, but with discernment. Usually your beloved means your life partner. But a writer has another beloved, his audience.

I’m a Vietnam veteran. The audience for my writing has been other Vietnam vets, soldiers, and the few civilians who get what that means. But, I’ve said everything I have to say about war and soldiering three times over. I had a practical need to graduate to larger issues, and a new fan base. What stood in my way was that I had never come home from Vietnam. The young men who went to Vietnam thought that if we were willing to die for our country, put our very lives on the line, our countrymen would be grateful. And, oh, how wrong we were!

We came home to a wall that separated us from the civilians. I’ve seen that flinch behind the eyes when someone I liked, but would never get to know, thought, “How many babies has this guy killed?” The answer is none, but they never asked, so I never got to say. I was gun-shy of that hurtful flinch behind the eyes, and to reach an audience, you have to love it, sing to it in its own language. The worst thing you can do is fear it. And, I was so tired of thinking and writing about gore. I wanted to focus on the light, and write about that. I felt dazed, staggered. I walked to an ancient, low wall, and sat leaning against it, in an isosceles triangle of shade that ran along the wall.

And I thought, Jimmy, you have to love them. Maybe some of them will never get it, but maybe some of them will, that you signed on to protect their lives with yours. My decision to sacrifice myself for America had been an act of love, and the only way to be true to it was to keep loving, whether it was recognized, or rewarded, or not. And I was crying. Long-legged Carol came striding across the courtyard, black, flat-crowned cowboy hat on the back of her head. She sat beside me and held my hand, saying not a word. We sat there a long time. She reached in a pocket and took out a curiously shaped crystal, flat on one end, jagged peaks on the other. She placed it on my heart.
In that moment, I came home.

Everybody there experienced something like that, something cataclysmic in their lives. I saw people so entranced that they cried, or cried out, or shook all over, like jackhammers. The next morning, in my just-before-waking dreams, I turned myself into a falcon, unfurled powerful wings, and pumped them into the sky, then turned to soar to the top of the Pyramid of the Moon, flaring to alight. I stood on stalky bird legs, hopping, looking out at the first line of light as the sun rose, and the sky gradually turned pastel blues and lavenders. The east side of all the bushes in the brushy plain below turned into rough gray-green crescents. The sights and smells, flame, smoke and coffee, of the first fires of morning rose from the villages around.

Okay, it was a dream. But, in memory it is as clear and vivid as driving over the bridge to Coronado. So which is more real, now? I’d have to go with the dream. It has more meaning. The closing was at the top of the Pyramid of the Sun. The climb itself was structured as a ceremony. All of us walked all around the pyramid, at every level, men clockwise, women counterclockwise. We could see for miles in all directions. By the time we got to the top we were in that altered space. I felt like an astronaut in orbit around the sun. Then it occurred to me that I really was in orbit around the sun.

On top of the pyramid, we gathered in a group around Jose Luis, who was preaching. Jose Luis is a stem-winder of a preacher, with his baby face, hair to the middle of his back, under a battered fedora. He believes, and feels so deeply that the words just roll out of him. The sun shone directly on us, and monarch butterflies fluttered around. One lit on a clip in a blonde girl’s hair. I couldn’t see who she was through the crowd. I thought, that is so cool! It should happen to all of us. Erika Kalter, a San Diego yoga instructor, who had been teaching a free, optional class every morning, stood behind me. She cracked up. She started laughing so hard she bent over and slapped her thigh. I turned and said, “What?” “There’s a butterfly on your hat,” she said.

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