Mexico City - January 1996 (1)
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Mexico City Workshop - 1/27-29/96
Six to seven hundred people gathered Friday night in a large ballroom at the Centro Asturiano (next to the Hotel Nikko) in Chapultapec Park to hear the Nagual's first lecture. It was scheduled to run from 8 to 10 PM, but most of the crowd was already in their seats by 6:45 PM, and the lecture and questions ran considerably over, until about 10:40 PM.
Castaneda covered a lot of the same ground that those of us who have been to prior workshops have heard before, and he appeared to be just as funny and commanding in Spanish as he is in English. The crowd, however, was different in attitude from a typical U.S. workshop. During the question period, a few people shouted their questions at Castaneda, sometimes before he was finished answering a prior question. And the same kinds of questions seemed to be asked repeatedly with only slight variations in wording (e.g., "Why should I do Tensegrity?" and "How should I do Tensegrity?"). Sample answer: "The only way to do Tensegrity is to _do_ it." Other sample questions: "Is don Juan now a UFO?" "Are the Witches like UFOs?"
It was fascinating to watch how Castaneda handled an aggressive, sometimes edgy crowd without once losing his cool or raising his voice. He managed to dispense with even the most obnoxiously phrased question with light, yet pointed, humor.
A drawback for the non-Spanish-speaking participants, of whom there were apparently more than the organizers anticipated, was that there was an insufficient number of official translators, and that the few translators who were available were not native English speakers. Fortunately a number of us had varying degrees of proficiency in Spanish and were able to correct the translators' errors. And the translations seemed to get better as the weekend wore on.
Saturday morning at 9 AM, Castaneda spoke again briefly to a smaller crowd, approximately 400. He prepared us for the movements and suggested that we suspend judgment and try them. As he left the stage, he spotted many of us from the States who have attended the workshops in Los Angeles, and greeted us warmly.
There was some surprise in the room, and, I sensed, delight, when the five women, the Energy Trackers -- who took to the three raised stages to trade off demonstrating the movements -- included Nyei and Reni Murez and Kylie Lundahl. Joining them were two young women, one of whom was called Erin (who apparently hails from Argentina), and the other, whose name I didn't catch, who is Italian.
They taught us eight passes that morning, which were intended to strengthen the legs -- "our base." We did multiple repetitions of all the passes, and were told that we could do as many reps as we wanted in our own practice, as long as we stopped after 20 or so at a time to do a finishing movement (like the one used throughout the first video) to settle the energy back through the whole body. Each of these passes was a fairly simple movement, and no names were given for any of the passes.
Contrary to a prior report from a non-eyewitness, the Trackers patiently took lots of questions from the crowd on how to do each pass (although there seemed to be many more such questions even than there usually are at U.S. workshops). Also contrary to that "report," neither Nyei nor Reni ever struck me as having any difficulty keeping up with the other Trackers. In my view, all five seemed well prepared and hugely energetic, although the new Italian Tracker seemed a bit nervous initially and was presumably less accustomed than the others to instructing huge crowds.
At some point that morning, Philip, who prior workshop participants will remember as a translator for the Spanish speakers, joined Kylie on the center stage to help translate instructions (which Kylie, Nyei and Reni gave in English, and Erin gave in Spanish), and to help demonstrate the movements. (By Saturday afternoon a number of women around me were commenting on how well Philip performed the passes and that it was "nice to have a guy up there" for a change.)
After the lunch break, Castaneda again came to speak and to respond, apparently, to a report he'd had of the angry departure of an Italian participant during the morning session. He reminded us that it's not the warrior's way to get angry and that it is only a manifestation of self importance to become angry and leave in a huff. Tensegrity instruction then continued, and we reviewed the morning's passes and then learned four additional passes that involved a few more steps than the morning's simple movements.
The Saturday night lecture was moved to 8:30 PM. Castaneda started taking questions early on, and seemed to captivate the audience with his stories, jokes and puns. One joke that didn't initially get a strong reaction from the crowd was one that don Juan had told him, which Castaneda used as an example of don Juan's method of creating cognitive dissonance.
As Castaneda told it, a man was following a parrot down the street. After a couple of blocks, the parrot turned around and asked the man "Why are you following me?" The man said, "I'm sorry. I thought you were a parrot." This joke totally broke Castaneda up when don Juan told it (and Castaneda tried it out on us again Sunday morning, seemingly to poke fun at himself).
Since Castaneda mentioned at one point that the Valley of Mexico (in which Mexico City is situated) is the "epicenter," a few questioners asked what made this area special. As I understood it, the Nagual explained that since the "energy ceiling" [related to the altitude?] of the area was so high, unusual perceptions and events often happened on their own. He also reported that his vision clears up there, whereas after two days back in Los Angeles it's bad again. As he has previously explained, his vision problem is the result of the injury he suffered in one eye as a result of spinning to perceive in the 360-degree-world that he has described in prior workshops. (Interestingly, he also indicated that he never experiences the 360 degree world in his dreaming when he is in Mexico City.) The Nagual also answered a lot of questions about the Flyers, and acted out a wonderful story of an encounter he had in Mexico City with a witch of another lineage shortly after La Gorda's death that suddenly brought him clarity as to what had happened and where to go from there.
[Back at my hotel room Saturday night, after an intense day of Tensegrity instruction, and then running through the day's passes on my own before going to bed, I experienced a high degree of the visual distortions that I sometimes get after a long set of Tensegrity here. This experience gave me some feel for what the Nagual had said about the Valley of Mexico being a place where anything could happen.]
Sunday morning Castaneda greeted us at 9:15 AM, and proceeded to speak and answer more questions for nearly two hours. He referred to the long, bombastic question the night before from a man who had wanted Castaneda to respond to a number of assertions about vague concepts that the man asserted were "facts". Castaneda cited this as an example of how our Flyer-installed minds make us lumbering and heavy, weighing us down with "mental masturbation." He said that a Chinese word for this was "manfifa," and he then used that word several times as a more gentle way to point out this activity. At 11:15, Tensegrity instruction resumed, and we reviewed the 12 passes we'd previously learned and were then taught two more.
As the workshop closing time (1:30 PM) drew near, the Energy Trackers were indicating that they would try to spend the last 15 minutes answering additional questions about Tensegrity. Kylie first had a statement to make, however, explaining that her appearance, along with that of Reni and Nyei the preceeding day was partially in "atonement" for what had happened at the December workshop, while their presence that day was to help launch the new configuration of the Energy Trackers. She also indicated that she didn't know whether she would be teaching the movements at future workshops. In the few minutes remaining, instead of taking questions, Kylie led a fast and vigorous run through of several of the passes we had learned. This seemed to "rev up" and delight the crowd.
There was little opportunity to stay and chat, as the building staff were quickly dismantling the room and swinging wall panels into new positions. So, all too soon, another powerful workshop was over.
[I stayed in Mexico for an additional few days, traveling to Tula and visiting several sites in Mexico City that I'd read about in Castaneda's books. I continued to have a number of experiences that reminded me of the Nagual's comments about the effect of the energy ceiling in that area. All in all, it was the most vivid and unusual short vacation I've ever had. I look forward to the next Mexico City workshop, and would strongly urge others who haven't been there yet to experience the Valley of Mexico.]
P.S.: The Spanish word for Tensegrity that appears on my Mexico City T-shirt is "Tensigridad."