Uncharted Territory

I thoroughly enjoyed my day off yesterday, reading art magazines with an iced coffee at Barnes and Noble, purchasing a few supplies (on sale!) at Hobby Lobby and Archivers, and then finishing the day with my meditation group.  As usual, we sat around Barbara’s kitchen table to catch up with each other’s spiritual work and personal lives (which are often the same thing), enjoying Barbara’s brewed tea and delicious Ranger cookies.

I can always bring my questions and ponderings to these women.  They listen.  They offer their insights.  And they often push me to the edge of my comfort zone.  I felt that yesterday as I talked about my observations during my recent wide mood swing from full mania to depression.  Barbara commented that the layers of my depression and mania, with state-specific memories, brought to mind the different states of awareness we’ve studied from authors like Castaneda, Charles Tart and J.G. Bennett.  This chilled me, because I’d also wondered about a correlation and had sent that question to my teacher, Melanie.  Laney looked at me and said, “You’re doing new work.  No one’s done this before.”

Oh, dear.  All I want to do is learn how to manage my illness.  If I find anything useful, I’ll share with the class, but I’m not out to chart new horizons.  It felt pompous to me, grandiose.  Of course others have looked at these layers of symptoms and feeling states.  I’m sure every case is different, but there must be some similarities.  There must be something written about it somewhere.

But, when I got home, I found Melanie’s reply to my email.  Aside from being my spiritual teacher, Melanie is also a registered nurse and holds an MBA.  She worked as a psych nurse before becoming a college professor, so she understands the practicalities of mental illness.  After reading her note, I’m willing to hold the possibility that cartography may become part of my journey.

It seems that you have a better grasp of your condition than do most people with bipolar illness.  Given this ability, you may be charting new territory and you may be able to help others learn to discern the realities of their mental states.  In my past experience with bipolar students, I have observed that the difficulties of the psychotic phases have sometimes caused people to assume that they were clear when they were, in fact, delusional or even paranoid.  Assuming that you have cleared this hurdle, you will be a wonderful resource for others.

Love, Melanie

What I’d like to do is create a new page for this blog.  On it I’ll describe the different states of depression and mania as I experience them.  It will take me a little time to distill my notes and journal entries, but this feels like right action.  It feels like I’m stepping up to the plate without a head blown out of proportion with grandiose pomposity.

Of course, delusion can be tricky that way.

My Petty Tyrant

Petty Tyrants, according to Carlos Castaneda, are people who make our lives impossible—tormentors.  They hold positions of power.  We can’t control them.  I don’t like to think of myself as a person with enemies.  Gosh, I’m too nice, too enlightened.  But, I’ve got one, and it’s time I faced that ugly truth.

The apartment I live in is part of a government subsidized complex for people with mental disorders.  We’re a quiet lot, mostly, until the apartment manager comes around.  This woman (let’s call her PT) bullies, lies, loses paperwork, ignores requests for information and basically does whatever she can to get out of work and cover her ass.  She takes advantage of the renters because of their disabilities, treats them in a sickening, condescending manner, and never follows through.  It breaks my heart to see how some of my neighbors spin out of control because of her ignorance and incompetence.  She really hurts them.  I try everything I can to stay out of her way and off her radar, but there are times I still have to deal with her.

Encounters with PT make me so mad, so frustrated, so indignant that I make bad choices.  The rage is so uncomfortable that I scramble to feel better by stuffing my feelings with food or by watching non-stop TV.  I don’t like how I react to her.  And I don’t like how I let my reactions spin me into unhealthy behavior.  I’m long overdue for a change in tactics.

Castaneda says the damage from Petty Tyrants comes from the humiliation and offense that results from taking ourselves too seriously. Instead of raging over the PT’s behavior, instead of feeling victimized and helpless, Castaneda suggests working with Petty Tyrants as a form of Stalking.  The twist is that we don’t stalk the PT, we stalk ourselves in relation to the PT.  We use encounters with the PT to develop strategic control of our own conduct, which helps break us of self-importance.  Stalking also returns all that emotional energy wasted on the PT to be used more effectively elsewhere.

Unlike Castaneda’s mentor, Don Juan, I’m not out to destroy PT (though it sure would be nice to get her fired).  I just want to unhook.  Castaneda says this requires control, the ability to tune the spirit while being trampled.  “A warrior is self-oriented,” he wrote, “not in a selfish way, but in the sense of total and continuous examination of the self.”

Control, like balance, is a rare commodity in my life with bipolar disorder.  But, I think I can start observing my thoughts and emotions in my encounters with PT like I observe them during an episode of my illness.  If I watch, I’ll be able to see when my sense of self-importance flares up, when I get offended and self-righteous.  Seeing is always the beginning of change.

The Naguals—Unhooking from the Dream

Welcome to the final session of our work with the Toltec teachings.

If you’re joining us for the first time, please read the five previous posts first:  The Naguals—Dreaming, The Naguals—Personal Power, The Naguals—Become Impeccable, The Naguals—Self-Importance, and The Naguals—Death as an Advisor before continuing.  Again, this psycho-spiritual work is intense.  Challenging our core beliefs and breaking with routine create fear and anxiety in all human beings.

If you are currently suffering from a bipolar or psychotic episode, or if you are experiencing anxiety, please save this work for a more stable time.

There is no future.  The future is only a way of talking.  For a sorcerer there is only the here and now.—Don Juan

Erasing Personal History has magical possibilities.  Don’t heal the past. Don’t overcome it.  Erase it.  We don’t erase the events, but our relationship to them that shows up in our behavior, way of being, and way of living.  Whatever was true 20 years ago is no longer true, but we hold on to the ghost of it in our mind.  We resist life.  Resistance comes from our belief that we are incapable of acting outside the inventory of our past.  Family and friends strengthen this resistance by forbidding us to act outside our history.  If we become a mystery to those around us and to ourselves, our ego breaks down as our reality breaks open.

It is not advisable to focus on past events.  The average man measures himself against the past, whether his personal past or the past knowledge of his time, in order to find justifications for his present or future behavior, or to establish a model for himself.—Don Juan


For all of our life we have carried a corpse with us.  That corpse is what we believe we are.—Don Miguel

The Third Agreement—Don’t Make Assumptions

The fog of our Dream causes us to misinterpret and misunderstand everything.  We make assumptions based on our fantasies.  The problem is we believe they’re true, then take it personally.  Assumptions are formed instantaneously, because we’ve agreed to communicate this way.  Asking questions isn’t safe.  If people love us, they should know what we want or feel.  After all, we share the world view.  All our Drama is based on taking personally all the assumptions we make.  Not making assumptions requires us to ask questions, be clear about what we want and need.  Our word becomes impeccable.

As we finish our work with the Naguals, take a moment and tune into to your sense of self.  As you breathe, notice your energy, your emotional state, your personal power.  Step back from any idle thoughts.  Remember that you are a spiritual warrior with the power to unhook from the World Dream by being impeccable with your word, by always doing your best, by never taking anything personally and by never making assumptions.  Practice living in the present and keeping Death close as an advisor.  Stalk yourself as you would prey, alert for the signs of falling back to sleep.

By using the Four Agreements in our own life, we modify our personal dream, and soon our new dream will modify the outside dream.  There is no need to actively try to modify the outside dream.  This happens naturally as a result of our own transformation.  Deciding to focus on freedom isn’t selfish; it is the greatest gift we can give to humanity.—Don Miguel


What’s the one past event you use to define yourself?  How does that corpse hold you back from living in the present?

Imagine going to a party and not talking about yourself.  How would you field questions about who you are, what you do?

Jot down some of the assumptions you have about the people who read this blog.  Be honest with yourself.  How have you taken these assumptions personally?  How have your assumptions effected your comments, how often you visit the blog, visits to other blogs?  How have your assumptions contributed to your internal Drama?  Which of these assumptions would you like to vaporize?  Post questions in your comments that will do that.

Non Journaling Homework

Don’t automatically reveal everything you do to other people (put your ego in the back seat).  Avoid explainingwhat you do and tactfully refuse inquiries.

If you feel yourself making assumptions, stop, acknowledge the assumption, then ask questions.

The Naguals—Death as an Advisor

Welcome to Part Five of our work with the Toltec teachings.

If you’re joining us for the first time, please read the four previous posts first:  The Naguals—Dreaming, The Naguals—Personal Power, The Naguals—Become Impeccable, and The Naguals—Self-Importance before continuing.  Again, this psycho-spiritual work is intense.  Challenging our core beliefs and breaking with routine creates fear and anxiety in all human beings.

If you are currently suffering from a bipolar or psychotic episode, or if you are experiencing anxiety,please save this work for a more stable time.

For anyone experiencing severe depression or thoughts of suicide, this lesson may be harmful.

How can anyone feel so important when we know that death is stalking us?—Don Juan

We’re trained at a young age to forget that we are mortal (life insurance, inheritance, lineage, heaven, resurrection, reincarnation).  The ego is faced with the ultimate task of protection.  Death is not the negation of life, but the negation of ego.  Life is sustained by death through natural cycles.  Our bodies, as energetic entities, have intrinsic knowledge of their destinies and interact directly with the unknown.

Our illusion of immortality causes us to expend a great amount of energy on procrastination; repressing affection; ignoring beauty; defending our self-image; indulging in feelings of hate, rancour, offense and pettiness; worrying to the point of depression; complaints, impatience and feelings of defeat.

The thing to do when you’re impatient is to turn to your left and ask advice from your death.  An immense amount of pettiness is dropped if your death makes a gesture to you, or if you catch a glimpse of it, or if you just have the feeling that your companion is there watching you.—Don Juan

Conscious human beings are aware of their mortality and so don’t waste their time on self-limiting acts and thoughts.  They know that death is stalking them and make death their greatest advisor.  Acting as if every act were your last leads us into mystery and imbues every act with power.

Death is the only wise advisor that we have.  Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you’re about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so.  Your death will tell you that you’re wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch.  Your death will tell you “I haven’t touched you yet.”—Don Juan


Dialogue with your death as if it is a character.  What questions do you have?  What advise do you want?  What feelings rise as you write?  Do your priorities shift?  Can you sense your personal power?  Does it change as you converse with your death?

Attend your Book of Law.  Are any of the rules loosening?

Non Journaling Homework

This week if you feel worn out by life, defeated or suffering from self-importance, remember your death.  Take a moment to step back, assess the reality of the situation, and measure it against the inevitability of your death.

The Naguals—Self-Importance

Welcome to Part Four of our work with the Toltec teachings.

If you’re joining us for the first time, please read the three previous posts first:  The Naguals—Dreaming, The Naguals—Personal Power, and The Naguals—Become Impeccable before continuing.  Again, this psycho-spiritual work is intense.  Challenging our core beliefs and breaking with routine creates fear and anxiety in human beings with stellar mental health.

If you are currently suffering from a bipolar or psychotic episode, or if you are experiencing anxiety, please save this work for a more stable time.

A warrior can be injured but not offended.  For a warrior there is nothing offensive about the acts of his fellow-men as long as he himself is acting within the proper mood.—Don Juan

Self Importance is the way our ego assembles and maintains its reality for its own self-confirmation and to convince itself it is real. We are chained to “the mirror of self-reflection” and use the majority our energy maintaining our self-image—trying to influence other people’s opinions of us; defending ourselves against criticism; demonstrating that we are the best or the worst, the most beautiful or the most miserable, always “special” in some way.  Eliminating self-importance frees up incredible personal power.

Egomania is a real tyrant.  We must work ceaselessly to dethrone it.  As long as you feel that your are the most important thing in the world you cannot really appreciate the world around you. The world around us is a mystery.  And men are no better than anything else.  To regard the lion and the water rats and our fellow-men as equals is a magnificent act of the warrior’s spirit.  It takes power to do that.—Don Juan

Petty Tyrants

The Petty Tyrant is a tormentor that makes life impossible.  It is an enemy, in a position of power and not under our control (no spouses or children).  The real damage comes from the humiliation and offense that results from taking ourselves too seriously. Working with Petty Tyrants as a form of Stalking (the strategic control of one’s own conduct) which helps break our hold on Self Importance.

The Stalker’s Strategy

  1. Control—to tune the spirit when the Petty Tyrant is trampling us.
  2. Discipline—to gather information on the Petty Tyrant while under siege.
  3. Forbearance—to wait patiently without anxiety, a simple joyful holding back.
  4. Timing—to put into action all we’ve prepared through the first three strategies.
  5. Will—the only element belonging to the Unknown.  Cultivated through conservation of personal power.

Only a warrior can withstand the path of knowledge.  A warrior cannot complain or regret anything. His life is an endless challenge, and challenges cannot possibly be good or bad.  Challenges are simply challenges.—Don Juan

The Second Agreement—Don’t Take Anything Personally

We assume everything is about us, when everything is really about them.  Most of all, we can’t take ourselves personally.

You are like you are, because you tell yourself that you are that way.—Don Juan


Write about your Petty Tyrant and a specific situation.  Begin to consider this person and circumstance as an opportunity for stalking your impeccability and loosening your hold on self-importance.

  1. What difference does it make to consider this person as an enemy instead of someone to tolerate or fear?
  2. What kind of control could you have exercised in this situation?  Write as if you had played out that control.  How does the situation change?
  3. What information could you have gathered about your Petty Tyrant?  What discipline would be required to do this?  Write about summoning this discipline and how the situation changes.
  4. Remove any haste or anxiety from the scene.  How does waiting patiently change the situation?
  5. Consider the timing of your actions and reactions.  How would you alter your timing?  What are the results?
  6. Did you exercise your will?  How might you have used your will differently?  Write about doing this and how the situation changes.
  7. Pay attention to any remaining feelings of offense or humiliation.  Recognize the energy being expended to maintain these feelings.

Make a list of 20 things you feel a strong attachment to:  People, Things, Events, Feelings, Beliefs.

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how much attachment do you have to these items?
  2. Chose an object on your list that you adore and feel attachment to (at least a 5 rating).
  3. List some reasons why you’re attached to this object.
  4. Consider how much energy you spend maintaining your attachment to this object.  On a scale of 1-10, how much attention and energy is spent:  Protecting the object from others?  Keeping it in perfect condition?  Paying for maintenance or protection?  Worrying about it?

Non-Journaling Homework

Practice stalking your own behavior.  Observe yourself as you would prey.

Notice when you become offended and mark your self-importance.

The Naguals—Become Impeccable

Welcome to Part Three of our work with the Toltec teachings.

If you’re joining us for the first time, please read the posts The Naguals—Dreaming and The Naguals—Personal Power before continuing.  Again, this psycho-spiritual work is intense, requiring that we break with routine and challenge our beliefs.

If you are currently suffering from a bipolar or psychotic episode, or if you are experiencing anxiety, please save this work for a more stable time.

To be sensitive is a natural condition of certain people.  In the final analysis sensitivity matters very little.  What matters is that the warrior be impeccable.—Don Juan

Being impeccable is not going against ourselves.  When we are impeccable, we take responsibility for our actions without judgment or blame (no sin!).

To assume responsibility means that we are ready to die for our decisions and actions.  With knowledge of mortality, every act should be performed as if it were the last, every choice a conscious one.  There are no small or big decisions.  We act decisively and completely, but then must take responsibility for those acts.  A warrior knows first why he’s acting, and then proceeds without having doubts or remorse.

Doubt, justification, blame, complaints and timidity make us cling to the Dream.  They lull the mind into maintaining the old agreements instead of breaking out of them.

It is of no use to be sad and complain and feel justified in doing so, believing that someone is always doing something to us.  Nobody is doing anything to anybody, much less to a warrior.  A warrior is not a leaf at the mercy of the wind.  No one can push him; no one can make him do things against himself or against his better judgment.  You are here because you want to be here.  You should have assumed full responsibility by now, so the idea that you are at the mercy of the world would be inadmissible.—Don Juan

The First Agreement—Be Impeccable with your Word

This is the most powerful way to assume responsibility, begin breaking agreements, begin returning personal power, and generating more power.  Our word is our power of creation, of manifestation.  It is a force and a tool.

Opinion is only our point of view created out of our Book of Law, ego and our own Dream.  It is true because we believe it’s true.  We cast spells with our opinions—especially with those we love.  Opinions are hooks for our attention.  Through gossip (about ourselves and others), we use our word to spread our personal poison—anger, jealousy, self-loathing, fear.  Gossip creates a false sense of intimacy.

The extent that we break our commitments to others is directly proportional to the commitments we break with ourselves.  We tell ourselves we don’t have the power to follow through–then we don’t.

The Fourth Agreement—Always Do Your Best

No more, no less.  The definition of “best” constantly changes.  Doing one’s best is action generated from passion, not obligation or expectation.  Mistakes are viewed as opportunities for learning, not causes of guilt, shame or blame.


  1. Before speaking today STOP and pay attention to what you are saying.  Notice when you forget and under what circumstances.  What does this have to do with your personal power?
  2. Before making any commitments STOP and ask yourself if you are really willing and passionate about following through.  Make only those commitments you are ready to keep.  Say no to all others.  If you find yourself saying yes, note what Laws are in operation.  Also note the effect saying yes to something you don’t want to do or won’t follow through on has on your personal power.
  3. Practice doing your best.  No more, no less.


Do some thinking and journaling on these topics

  1. Self-Talk—What do you tell yourself every day?  What catch phrases do you use or hear?
  2. Defending Opinions—Can you think of a time when you defended your opinion?  How did you know you were right?  Why did you need to prove it?  What was the effect on the other person?  How did you feel afterward?
  3. Gossip—Write about a recent experience with gossip.  How did it make you feel?  Why did you enjoy it?  Can you think of compelling reasons to stop?  Can you think of times when gossip caused needless suffering?  What actions can you take to stop?
  4. Commitments—When you give your word, is there a big difference in your intention and your actions?  How important is it to do what you promise?

Agreement to be Impeccable with my Word

(from The Four Agreements Companion Book)

Print this agreement out if it feels important.

THIS agreement is made on ________________ for the purpose of increasing my happiness and personal freedom.  I am responsible for creating my personal dream of heaven on earth, and it begins with the power of my word.

I chose to be impeccable with my word.  I promise to honor myself, to speak with integrity, and to choose my words carefully.  I intend to use the power of my word in the direction of truth and love.  I will pay attention to how I use the word.  I will take action everyday to keep my word impeccable.  I will repeat this action until the habit is firmly established and no longer acquires my attention.



The Naguals—Personal Power


If you’re just joining this discussion of the Toltec teachings, please read the post The Naguals—Dreaming before continuing.  Also, this psycho-spiritual work is intense.

If you are currently suffering from a bipolar or psychotic episode, or if you are experiencing anxiety, please save this work for a more stable time.

Warrior SpiritsPower is something a warrior deals with.  At first it’s an incredible, far-fetched affair; it is hard to even think about it.  Then power becomes a serious matter; one may not have it, or one may not even fully realize that it exists, yet one knows that something is there, something which was not noticeable before.  Next power is manifested as something uncontrollable that comes to oneself.  And finally, power is something in oneself, something that controls one’s acts and yet obeys one’s command.—Don Juan

If the World is made up of Energy, then desires and ideas are only as important as the energy they contain.  The Naguals call the energy at our disposal our personal power.

The level of energy for all beings depends on the amount of energy with which they were conceived (with or without passion, health, intoxication, intention), the manner in which the energy has been used since birth, and the manner in which the energy is being used at present.

The way we use our energy is not a product of chance or choice, but of our personal history.  When we believe we make choices, we only set in motion thoughts and actions that have been programmed into us by our past.

We spend our power first by making our agreements with the world—agreeing to the Dream—and then in keeping them.  We have just enough power to survive each day because most of our power is invested in routines of daily life, the agreements that trap us in the World Dream.

Any new undertaking requires the use of “free” or available energy.  So, most people find it enormously difficult to change or create situations different from their norm.

To make changes in our human condition we must change our fields of energy by redirecting, conserving, or increasing energy.  Any time we break an old agreement, the power we’ve invested in it comes back to us.  Breaking routines loosens our habitual behavior and allows the energy trapped by them to come back to us.

To indulge in little quirks is not only stupid and wasteful, but also injurious.  A warrior that drains himself cannot live.—Don Juan

Energy is expended through emotions, which are products of thought and our internal dialogue.  Feelings are a natural reaction to what we perceive (joy/the melancholy of mortality).  Emotion rises from thought and is part of our habitual behavior.


Continue adding to your Laws.  Journal about these questions:

  1. Which of these agreements lift me up and give me joy?
  2. Which of these agreements bring me down?
  3. Which are based on truth?  What is that truth?
  4. Which are based on lies?
  5. How much energy do you expend on each law?
  6. Which ones take the most energy?  The least?

Take one limiting, fear-based agreement and write a new agreement based on truth and self-love to replace it. Chose one that feels fairly easy to break.  Practice your new agreement this week and journal about what happens.

Look at routines which are ingrained and do something different. Mix-up morning bathroom rituals and collapsing-on-the-couch-after-work behavior.  (Pee in the shower, brush your teeth before eating breakfast, have soup for breakfast, turn off the TV while you eat, etc.).  Journal about your internal dialogue and the emotions that rise.  Note your energy level.

Act for the sake of acting (take the dishes for a ride in the car, dance a special jig before entering the house, sort all the things in your junk drawer by color, etc.).  Journal about your internal dialogue and the emotions that rise.  Note your energy level.

More Journaling

Make three columns on a sheet in your journal.  Think back over the last 24 hours.

  1. In the first column, list all the activities of your day, your thoughts and feelings as you were doing the activity.
  2. Notice the amount of energy used for each activity and, in the second column, rank the activities from most personal power used to least.
  3. Also in the second column, note how you felt after doing the activity.
  4. Look over the activities, thoughts, and emotions again.  Is this something you wanted to be doing/thinking/feeling?  In the third column, write a simple Yes or No.
  5. Look again at the chart.  How much of your personal power are you using on activities, thoughts and feelings that you don’t want to and leave you feeling depleted?  What are the activities that take the least amount of power?  What activities make you feel invigorated?  Journal your answers.
  6. What Laws did you follow in the last 24 hours?  Are there any Laws you might have broken?  Are any beliefs losing strength?  Journal your answers.

The Naguals—Dreaming

As a person of bipolar persuasion, my quest continues to find substantial, workable tools for managing my illness and living at my greatest potential.  The tools that have worked best for me come from a wide variety of spiritual traditions and integrated studies.  Recently, I’ve been reminded of the teachings of the Toltecs—the work found in the writings of Carlos Castaneda and Don Miguel Ruiz.  The Naguals, the keepers of the ancient wisdom and practices, taught that reality is only a description, not Truth, and that we live our day-to-day lives in an endless flow of perceptual interpretations of that description.  We mistake the finger pointing at the Truth as the Truth.  We live in a dream, a world of illusion.  The stories we tell ourselves, and choose to believe in, create our reality.  Most of these stories, these beliefs, are lies.  Our task as human beings is to awaken from the dream.

This approach seems even more vital for those of us with mental illness.  We layer on more skewed perceptual interpretations, then believe them.  We act from our beliefs, which only reinforces the dream.  Waking up is not just a task for us, it’s the only way we can break the illness’ hold on us.

Long ago and far away, I used to teach this material.  I’m taking a big step out of the shadows by offering some of that instruction here.  If you choose to tag along with me, you’ll need a journal.  There’s homework.  I know.  Sorry.

One of the first steps in waking up from the dream is to identify our beliefs and start questioning them.  You will be creating your own Book of Law in your journal.  Below are some categories suggested by Don Miguel, but make up ones that fit you.  As you work with these categories, ask what’s good/bad, right/wrong about each one (ie. what’s good/bad about your physical appearance).

When our beliefs are challenged, we feel fear.

Please do not attempt this work if you are suffering from an episode or already feeling anxious.

Book of Law Categories

Your Body and Your Self

  1. Personal Appearance
  2. Diet and Health
  3. Mental Health
  4. Masculine/Feminine

Family and Friends

  1. Love and Sex
  2. Marriage and Family
  3. Friendship and Social Interactions

Life and God

  1. Religion and Spirituality
  2. Death and Loss
  3. Nature, Animals and All Forms of Life

Work and Career

  1. Your Unique Skills and Talents
  2. Money and Finance
  3. Success and Failure

If you are willing, share your experiences and any “Eureka” moments.  We’ll take it nice and slow.

Suggested Reading:

  1. Castaneda, Carlos, Journey to Ixtlan and Tales of Power.
  2. Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements and Mastery of Love.

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