The Five Points of Attention
I was sitting alongside Maria outside her little house watching her do her weaving when Jesús appeared and said cryptically that I was being summoned by the ancestors to Teakata. We left immediately.
The hike to the physical center of the Huichol world is not very far from the ceremonial center of Tuapurie; I’d estimate three to four miles. But around Tuapurie are deep gorges with narrow, rocky trails that make walking difficult and strenuous. However, the physical climb was the least of my worries, because the closer we got the more I began to feel ill. Not in my body but in my head. This did not happen to me the first and only other time I had been there. On that occasion I was visiting the community of Pochotita at the time the kawitéro (spiritual elder) was taking the people to Teakata to change the roofs of the many little rirrikis (family shrines) of the ancestors. Teakata, from what I know as a tewari (non-Huichol, non-Mexican white guy), comprises caves and shrines of the most important ancestors, including Tatewari, Nakawe, and Maxakwaxi.
As I gazed into the gorge containing the most sacred place of the Huichol, I felt like turning around and running away as fast as I could. Jesús noticed this and firmly grabbed my arm and asked me what was wrong. I told him I didn’t know but that I didn’t want to go to Teakata.
“You have become much more sensitive since the last time you were here,” he said in a concerned voice. “This is probably why we were summoned here. I believe it is time for you to have a very big lesson.”
Jesús led me a short distance away and we sat on the ground of the mesa above Teakata, where he began a formal instruction. He started by telling me that now that I was more sensitive to the powers of the ancestors I needed to know how to handle myself correctly. According to Jesús, Teakata--the center of the five sacred points of the Huichol universe--was the perfect place to begin my instruction.
“To touch the spark of god within you, you must start by nurturing your true being, your esencia (essence). You see, you have three important parts that make up ‘yourself.’ You have your inflated ego--I am this and I am that. You have your essence--this is your true being that you were born with. And you also have your personality--the acquired characteristics of James. Aside from your physical body and eternal soul, in this life you are basically your ego, your essence, and your personality. Your ego is the trickiest subject, but we cannot work on fixing it until we learn about essence. We have to work on our true being.
“Pay attention to this. We are born with our true being, our essence, which grows within us during early childhood. But modern man, industrial man, their essence ceases to grow after age 3 to 5 because the ego and personality are the ones nurtured by parents, school, job, relationships, and so on. The essence has no place in the busy lives of modern people so it becomes stagnant and malnourished. I have seen that for people like you--Americans, Mexicans, Europeans, and other cultures that follow similar ways of life--there are usually only two stages of growth in life: growth of the essence as little children and then growth of the ego and personality until death.
“Do you know why you come to the Huichol to learn? It is because our culture not only allows but encourages the essence to grow equally with the ego and personality. You can feel that clearly when you are with us. Even though we don’t have the level of intellectual knowledge of the dominant culture, our culture and people are in many ways much more mature because we have nurtured our essence throughout our lives. For you and for people of your culture, your continued growth as human beings will be the growth of your essence, which has been left behind.”
“So you’re saying that my essence doesn’t grow naturally as I get older, wiser?”
“Older, no. Wiser, maybe. That depends on what you call wise. Inner wisdom of one’s true self--yes. Knowledge as in books, computers, jobs like carpentry, banking, office work--no. You see, time is no factor. I know teenagers in the Sierra who know their essence more than any seventy-year-old man I know living in the city. What I am saying is the quality of life is much different. You and I both have what can be called ‘book knowledge.’ You probably have a lot more than me. But as much as we can know about words and mathematics and science and philosophy and even the Bible, all of this, except for what we are truly gifted at, has nothing to do with our essence.
“Man was born with two legs and feet for a reason. To walk! To explore the mysteries and beauty of nature. And our essence is tied to that which gives us life--sun, water, wind, fire, earth. Our essence is also what lives inherently inside each of us, which should be nurtured. Our specific gifts and talents. Our essence is also our inner quality, our level of being, our innermost values. But most of all our essence asks us to seek the largest questions of the human being: What is the meaning of my life? Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? When people live centered on the ego and the personality and the intellect, at the expense of the essence, they are in disharmony just as someone who has developed their essence with no thought to personality, like someone trapped alone on an island their whole life. Harmony between essence, personality, and ego opens the door to true self-knowledge and the light of the divine.”