That was the power that Don Emilio was telling us about. The simple powerful truth of our ancient Mexican culture—which is, everything in the Universe is made up of energy, and energy helps us to create our own reality if we focus on increasing our energy, and allow that energy to make magical connections to people, things, and events.
By Richard Juarez
I had just come out of City Hall after getting information about a student internship when I heard a familiar voice.
“Hey, homie, need a lift?”
I turned and saw Pablito standing next to their family car, parked about four car lengths from where I stood at the traffic light.
“Hey, Pablito,” I called as I walked over, “what are you doing here?”
“Came to pick up my mom from work. Check it out, man. She’s working here at the Grant Hotel, and look where I’m parked. Right in front of the place! I swear, when I have to come get her, I always find a space within a block of here. I got this thing about parking spaces now. I been working on keeping my energy up, and focusing on making parking spaces show up when I come downtown.”
“That’s what you use your energy work for?” I asked. “To get parking spaces?”
“Hey man, I know it’s just a little thing, but I use it to keep reminding me that this stuff works, that I can make things happen in my life. I’m not ready to work on getting a high paying job or a beautiful babe just yet. Hey, I’m just learning, you know.”
Pablito attended the sessions that Tony and I were teaching. The sessions were an outgrowth of the karate and energy movement lessons we conducted for about a year. Eleven guys started those lessons and eight finished that first set. Five of them continued to work with us, and have attended sessions two times a month that we called Creating Your Life. This second set of sessions, which also included four of the girls (after separate karate sessions), are based on what Don Emilio taught us about increasing our energy and creating our own reality. The sessions have gone much slower than when we studied with Don Emilio. With so many people, there have been lots of questions, and some good discussions. But it has taken a long time to get through the topics, about nine months so far. But that was okay though, as no one was in a rush, and they all remained very interested and actively involved. I was pleased to hear that Pablito had found a useful reward for his efforts.
“I think that’s pretty cool. I know it’s always pretty hard to find a parking space downtown. At least for the rest of us it is. You should tell the other guys about this. Any success like this can help reinforce their efforts.”
“Hey, I don’t want them to laugh. I mean, it’s just parking spaces.”
“Just parking spaces. People fight over parking spaces, anywhere, not just right in front of where they are going. This is pretty amazing.”
“So, do you need a ride?” he asked.
“No, thanks. I drove over here. I had to park about four blocks away though. Hey, how do you do that?”
We both laughed, remembering very well how Pablito used to ask that of me and Tony, just like we used to ask that of Don Emilio.
“So what were you doing here?” he asked. “Were you over there, in City Hall?”
“Yeah. I have to do an internship for a class at State, so I thought I’d see what’s available in the City Planning department. I think I’ll also go talk to some of the community groups that are doing neighborhood economic development and housing and see what I can do there. Well, I better get going. Take it easy. See you Saturday?”
“Yeah, I’ll be there,” he called to me as I walked toward Broadway.
As I walked away I thought about how far we had come—me, Tony, Pablito, Arturo and the guys. From the brink of disaster to this place where we were working on creating what we want in our own lives. That was the power that Don Emilio was telling us about. The simple powerful truth of our ancient Mexican culture—which is, everything in the Universe is made up of energy, and energy helps us to create our own reality if we focus on increasing our energy, and allow that energy to make magical connections to people, things, and events.
Before he left to go back to Mexico, Don Emilio told us that the best way to learn was to teach. And he was right. By trying to teach, we relearned everything. We had to understand it better in order to try and talk about it. Tony and I have been forced to do research, talk to people, call Don Emilio, read books, or whatever was necessary to try to stay ahead of the others. Just talking to Tony about how we would present something helped to make it sink in better for my own use. And we have had local teachers come in to talk about certain topics on occasion. Don Emilio even stopped in a couple of times. While I am not entirely comfortable with my understanding of everything he tried to teach us, I know it is coming together as we share with the others.
My big regret however, remained the fact that I had not been able to tell Tata about what I had learned. Not just the language issue. He had been sick a lot, and recently had another stroke. He was in a coma for a time, and when he came out of it, he still occasionally slipped back into a deep sleep for long periods. When my mother called me with an urgent message to get over to Tata’s house, I was afraid I might not have the chance to tell him.
On my way to Tata’s house, all kinds of thoughts were going through my head. I couldn’t believe we could be about to lose him. Mom’s voice on the phone sounded especially upset. He’d been down before, had previous strokes. She took those all in her usual strong, chin up, no emotions showing but caring way. Concerned, but not wigged out the way Tía Paula gets.
But this time she sounded different. This most recent stroke was really bad. She said he couldn’t talk and had very little movement from the right side, and none on the left. When I asked why he wasn’t in the hospital, she said they couldn’t do anything else for him, and the doctor’s advice was just to take him home and make him comfortable. They thought he might slip away at any time.
It was Tata that got me started on this path. He wrote to Don Emilio and asked him to come up…. No, it was even before that. Tata and my parents took me down to Mexico right after I was born to introduce Gracie and me to his family. That was my first encounter with the eagle.
Tata started out as a rancher, close to the earth, growing crops and raising cows and pigs. He felt the power of the earth. He knew there was something more, just on the other side. But the part of his culture that turned its back on that knowledge kept him from opening up, from letting it in. I think the reason he kept in close touch with his cousin Emilio was that he didn’t want to let go of that side completely. Once he had learned basic information from his talks with Don Emilio, and he learned the strange connection that I had to Don Emilio, he made sure that I was given the opportunity to choose—and hoped that I would not make the same choice he did.
After getting over the shock of finding out that he was interested in this stuff and that he knew a lot about it, I watched him talk with Don Emilio. I knew he was trying to absorb as much as he could. I knew he had practiced the focused attention exercises, and some of the tai chi energy movements. But he felt that he didn’t have the strength or sufficient time left in his life to make a commitment to really get into it. But he really wanted me to take advantage of having a teacher like Don Emilio available to help me.
As I drove up, I could see a lot of cars in front of the house and lots of cousins outside, sitting on the front porch, in Tata’s favorite spot. I hesitated a little before I got out of the car. I had this feeling that Tata would have wanted me to do something special for him at this time, related to the spiritual work I had been doing. But it wasn’t clear to me what I should do.
Gracie came out of the house just as I was getting out of the car. She walked down to the gate and held it open for me as I walked up the stairs.
“How is he?” I asked.
“He’s getting worse and worse,” she said with a very worried tone. “He’s been passing in and out of consciousness. I don’t think he has much time left. Most of the family has been in there visiting with him for the last few hours, but mostly there has been no response from him. Most of the family just sat down to eat dinner. Come in and let’s sit with Tata for awhile.”
I followed Gracie into the house, waving a brief and somber hello to the guys on the porch eating their dinner. I did the same to the crowd of family inside the house as we made a quick turn from the sala into Tata’s bedroom. Mom was just walking out. I gave her a hug and kissed her hello. Then she quietly continued out of the room, saying nothing. Tía Paula was sitting in a corner of the bedroom, sniffling into a pink handkerchief. She motioned for the two of us to go up to the bed. Gracie and I sat down in two chairs that were placed next to Tata. She was close to his head; I was close to his hands.
“Hola, Tata,” she said to him quietly. “Ya viene Vincent. Está aquí conmigo.”
He wasn’t moving at all. His right hand was at his side. They had placed his left hand on his stomach. I took his right hand in mine.
“Hola, Tata. Estoy aquí.” He seemed to be asleep. But I was surprised to feel a twinge of movement in his hand, and distinctly felt him try to squeeze my hand. Then he relaxed his hand and seemed to drift back to that other place, while still taking slow, shallow breaths. Then it struck me. I remembered. I knew what to do.
I closed my eyes, took three very deep breaths, and let the air out slowly and completely. While still holding Tata’s hand, I relaxed my entire body. Putting my attention on the light energy raining down on me and filling me up, I asked for the assistance of my higher self and my guides.
I could sense that Tía Paula had left the room. Only Gracie was in the room with Tata and me. I was glad she was here. She would be able to help, whether she was aware of it or not. I knew she was praying. Gracie lived close to God. She would have already called in all of her saints and guides.
Losing awareness of anything but a point of light in the middle of my head, I willingly slipped down to another level of consciousness. I continued to drift lower and lower, willing myself to go further, into the trance state. I could see the lines of energy coming from me, connecting with the weak lines of energy coming from Tata. I followed those energy lines into another place, a beautiful bright golden room where I was sitting with Tata. Tata’s helpers and guides were here, and Gracie’s too. I could feel a wash of emotion pass over me, a strong feeling of love and support. Then I saw him. He looked the same as in my dream, and I knew this was Tata’s father. So my grandfather’s father was one of Tata’s guides! And my great-grandmother was here too. My grandfather’s mother was one of Gracie’s guides! Although I had never met them in physical life, I knew who they were in this crowd of spirit helpers. Soon I saw my own guides come into the room, my circle of elders who have come to me on other occasions.
I began, silently, in my head: “Tata, in the beginning was the light. We are all a part of that light. We are all spiritual beings of light. We are all connected to each other, to all things on this Earth, and to that source of light, to which we will return. We are the warriors of the light, the seekers of spiritual power. Our job is to increase our spiritual energy, our light, and thereby increase our connection with God and the power of the Universe in order to use that power to improve our own lives and the lives of others….”
He smiled at me and reached out to take my hand. Meanwhile my physical body felt his hands move in mine. I continued, for I had much to tell him, and all the time in the world to tell him, for in this place there was no time. And so I shared with him, in much detail, all that I had learned over the past few years. He beamed with what I knew to be both amusement and joy. Then I realized that not only was there no time in this place, there was no language. Although I thought for a while that I was talking, I realized instead that I was sharing thoughts and visual images with him. Tata therefore could understand me and I could understand him perfectly.
Soon we were moving from place to place, so he could see examples and experience the main teachings. I was able to guide us to these places by means of my intent, and at times by his intent he moved us more in-depth in an area that he wanted to explore. There was nothing linear about this exploration into the teachings. Each piece showed up out of my intent and enthusiasm to share with him what I had learned.
In the process, I forgot all about my own self doubt, my own feelings of not having quite learned all that I needed to learn, my feelings of having forgotten some of the information I was taught, or not remembering key pieces when I tried to recall them. This time it just all flowed while we were there in that other space, that other level of consciousness.
That was what Don Emilio had tried to tell me, to reassure me. He had said, “All that you have learned is information which comes from another place, another level of consciousness. You will be able to access it when you are connected with the source.
“I am teaching,” he had said, “and you are learning. But this information is in your cells, and in your genes. You have already learned it in other lifetimes. We are simply going through a process of helping you to recall it, and relearning how to get to that place where you can access anything you want to know.”
And here I was, bringing it all forward to show to my grandfather before he passed on to the other side––where he would have been able to access it all anyway, come to think of it. Then it struck me. This was for me! Tata didn’t really need to know. He wanted me to know that I knew. I looked at him with this new realization, and he knew what I was thinking. He was smiling at me. He knew that I finally got it. And he was pleased.
Now that we had finished, we were back in the beautiful gold room. My guides came forward at this point to acknowledge this long sought accomplishment.
“But,” one of them said, “please try not to forget what was accomplished here. Try to remember that you do know this ancient knowledge. It is difficult to carry it back into the usual conscious state, but you must keep trying. We are here to help you remember, and you can access our help anytime. Know also that your Tata will now join this circle to help guide you in your work.”
The room then began to get brighter and brighter. Tata’s guides and mine thanked me for him, and said it was time for me to go. They said they had to take Tata to the next level. Upon hearing that, I heard and felt a swoosh as I traveled back on those lines of energy, back into Tata’s bedroom. I opened my eyes and was looking right into Gracie’s.
“Are you okay?” she asked. “You haven’t moved a muscle for over ten minutes. I wasn’t even sure you were breathing.”
“I’m fine,” I said, “but Tata is leaving us now. Call in the others.” I bent over and kissed him on his forehead, then slowly got up out of the chair, taking one last look at him lying there motionless, barely breathing, knowing that most of him was already in another place, moving on to where God and his guides wanted him to be next.
“Thank you Tata,” I said to him for one last time. “Thank you for making it possible for me to learn about the ancient spiritual power of our culture. I promise to use this knowledge, this power, to help make this little corner of our world a better place for all.”
I turned and walked away from his bed, and walked out onto his porch to allow room for the rest of his familia to be with him as the final strands of his consciousness slipped away.
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The story about how this book came to be is perhaps as out of the ordinary as the story itself, yet is very much a part of the message in the book. It began when I saw the Edward James Olmos movie American Me. I thought it was a great movie, but at the same time, a horrible movie. It left viewers with a terrible impression of Latino people and our culture, because of what it showed about Latino prison gangs, and especially because of the last scene, in which a new young gang member does a totally random drive-by killing. As Olmos stated later at an Alma Awards presentation, the scene sadly showed a very horrible development within our culture–that some of our youth were now killing people for no reason.
Latinos are very proud of our people and our culture, and know, obviously, that we are so much more than prison gangs and drive by shootings. For months after seeing that movie, the thought came to me over and over that, because American Me showed such a terrible side of our culture, we need to see stories focused on the positive aspects of our culture.
Be careful what you ask for. I was attending a retreat in a wilderness area in northern New Mexico, accessible only by twelve miles of a bumpy and sometimes one-lane dirt road, with no electricity, no phones, no TV, no computers––a real get-away-from-it-all retreat. I took a box of books to read, but never opened even one of them, because after two days of unwinding from the pressures of the work I had left one thousand miles away, a movie started playing in my head and would not stop. So I took out a pad of paper and, as fast as I could, started writing what I saw and heard. I had to keep rewinding the movie in my head so my hand could catch up.
So began the book, coming from someplace, I was not sure where. But I knew I wasn’t making it up. It seemed more like it was being dictated to me, visually. I kept thinking I knew someone needed to write the positive story, but why me? I came to New Mexico to relax and unwind my stress. Writing a book didn’t seem like relaxation. But I loved the story. I enjoyed getting inside the characters and listening for what they would say next, and discovering where the story was going. After sharing my progress on the book with a friend I was asked what happens next. My response was, “I don’t know, I haven’t read that far.” I realized I was along for the ride.
I quickly discovered, however, that when I went from the idyllic wilderness environment back to the busy city and the stressful job, I could no longer hear the audio or see the images. So I plodded along, finding time to go to the mountains to get away occasionally on weekends to write, even taking a month-long break two years later at a retreat in Montana. Eventually I learned what writers learn–you have to establish your creative environment where you are. I had to do what it takes to get into that space where I could again hear the messages and see the continuation of the movie. However, I also realized I had a lot of work to do, as the dictation sometimes gave me information, but not all the details required for a written story. And this other source was other times so wordy that my first draft was way too long. An agent suggested cutting it way back.
I came to learn the answer to the question, Why me? I was burdened (and gifted) with this task because, as a result of the sacrifices of my grandparents and parents, I was able to receive a quality education, and developed good language and writing skills. In addition, my experiences growing up in an inner-city barrio and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge about shamanism and native spirituality seemed to make me an appropriate candidate to take on the task of helping to get this particular material out to readers.
This book came to be a truly collaborative effort, with my research and writing, combined with ongoing insight and inspiration coming from my own guidance and from the original source of the material. It took a lot longer to write this story than I anticipated, because I was not ready to simply accept what was given to me. I needed to truly understand the material. It had to move from intellectual knowledge in my head, to a true knowingness in my gut or in my Being. As the teacher in the story says, I had to get to that place where I remembered again what I already knew. In addition, the research confirmed that the material was consistent with what others had taught.
Even though the material is presented as fiction, the story is about the two boys going through the process of learning real ancient spiritual knowledge, which really has been passed down by our ancestors for many, many generations. The elders who have hidden this information, for the reasons stated in the story, are now making an effort to share it with the world. This book is one of those efforts.
I make no pretense that this is new information. Others are sharing similar material in their own way, through lectures, and written fiction and nonfiction. This book is an effort to share it in a manner that will resonate with young people, and with their parents and other adults interested in its slant toward Latino culture and shamanism.
Finally, I would like to say that my own personal spiritual learning experiences are woven into the fictional narrative. So I know the material and the experiences are true and possible. The story line is fiction, but the setting, Barrio Logan in San Diego, is a real neighborhood. Other than that, any resemblance to real persons and places is purely “coincidental.”
This book is dedicated to my parents, Mary Castro Juarez and Jesus Duarte Juarez. This book would not have been possible without their belief, support and encouragement throughout my school years, their support for my work in the older neighborhoods, and their acceptance of my need to pursue this other path of knowledge, the knowledge of our ancestors. Although they only saw a partial early draft of the manuscript, they encouraged me to continue. Even though they are no longer with us, I know they are pleased it is now being shared with others.
To start at the beginning, I want to thank Grove Burnett and Linda Velarde, co-founders of Vallecitos Mountain Ranch, Wilderness Learning and Retreat Center, located in the Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico. Thanks to their efforts and the generosity of their funders I was able to attend a 10-day retreat where I began writing the story. Later, I was selected to attend Windcall, a month-long retreat in Bozeman, Montana, where I was able to continue the writing, thanks to the generosity of Susan and Albert Wells, founders of the Windcall Institute Residency Program.
The most significant contribution to the book came from Corinn Codye who edited the manuscript, many times. Corinn is very familiar with much of the subject matter of the story, so in addition to editing for grammar and typos, she was able to make invaluable suggestions on wording and presentation of certain material. Another significant contribution came from Jeanie Lemaire, a healer, counselor and spiritual intuitive. Over the years, more than anyone in my life, she has helped me grow personally and spiritually. I very much appreciated her support and encouragement for the book and for me.
I also want to thank the following for reviewing the manuscript and providing much needed edits, questions, and suggestions: Bonnie Horrigan, Olivia Puentes Reynolds, Miguel Castro Jr., Robert Hernandez, Rebecca Mobley, C J Mobley, Carolyn Juarez, Carolina Juarez, Joan Martin, Heather Valencia, and Robert Ames. Thanks to Liz Shear for the eagle trip, and to Maria Pini for the Spanish translations.
Special thanks to Annie Lane, editor at San Diego Free Press, for her work each week getting the chapters and graphics up on the SDFP web site. Grateful appreciation as well to Anna Daniels, Brent Beltrán, and the family of editors at the San Diego Free Press for selecting Tío Emilio and the Secrets of the Ancestors to appear in their publication.