Chuck’s Place: Inhabit New Habit

Nature is on automatic pilot... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Nature is on automatic pilot…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Reasoning, or thinking, is a function of consciousness. The far greater share of our mental functioning operates on automatic pilot, in the vast realm of the unconscious mind.

Although we can consciously decide to breathe, to breathe deeper, to adjust the rhythm and length of a breath, the majority of breaths we will take in our lifetime will happen automatically, outside the purview of our conscious awareness.

Our unconscious is filled with billions of such preset programs that we all share and inherit from the evolutionary journey of our species. This was why Jung named the deepest level of the unconscious the “collective,” versus personal, as at the deepest level we all share in common the same preset programs to react and survive as living human beings.

The unconscious mind does not need to think through eons of experience in order to gain the precise knowledge of how to react to a given need or stimulus. I was once deeply wounded in the palm of my hand on a beach. I was alone. I passed out; that is, consciousness left. When it returned, I discovered my hand packed in sand, the bleeding completely stopped. I was good to go. The program to “dress” that wound lay dormant and ready in the unconscious. It was triggered to action upon contact with the stimulus of the wound as it pushed the ego out of the way and took care of business. This is the essence of instinct—inherited habits to address adaptive needs to ensure survival.

With the advent of consciousness, human beings have a new source of habit making. Utilizing our faculty of reasoning and learning, we introduce new patterns of behavior into our lives. When we learn to drive, for instance, we—with consciousness—repetitively practice a series of behaviors, such as learning to brake and drive with one foot, learning to turn the wheel, to park, and to stay in lanes with others going in the same direction. Once these tasks are consciously mastered, they slip into the realm of the unconscious, as habits that react on demand, as needed, when we drive. After awhile, driving starts to require minimal consciousness—in fact, we easily daydream while our unconscious reacts to all the stimuli we encounter as we safely take our journeys.

The unconscious is a habitual mind that reacts to needs and commands. This fact lies at the essence of hypnotic suggestion. Like the habit of driving that we ask the unconscious to perform when we enter our cars, the unconscious awaits orders constantly throughout the day. Hypnotists are aware of this part of the mind that responds to suggestion, and speak directly to it.

The truth is, we are all our own hypnotists. The Shamans of Ancient Mexico identified our inner hypnotist as the internal dialogue that incessantly barks orders at the unconscious mind, manifesting in how we see ourselves and construct our world. That internal dialogue may tell us that we are inadequate, unattractive, unfulfilled, undervalued, underserving, etc. Of course, it can also deliver other consistent messages that support a sense of worthiness and adequacy, but this is less common. We become so entranced by the habitual definitions of our internal dialogue that we construct a personality and sense of self according to its dictates. We become entrenched in a familiar definition of self that, however uncomfortable or unfulfilled it may be, persists because of the constant redundant messages and orders delivered by the incessant internal dialogue.

Ready to dive in and create some new waves? - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Ready to dive in and create some new waves?
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

The Shamans of Ancient Mexico suggest that we interrupt this automatic flow of messages by canceling the internal dialogue and consciously delivering new suggestions, what they call intent. Intent is the mantra of a new, consciously delivered, command, bent on manifesting a new sense of self, as well as a new world.

When we coin a new intention—i.e., I am calm—and repeat it religiously, like a prayer, we are delivering new working orders, entering a new habit into our unconscious mind that will activate the programs associated with manifesting that intent. We must be religious in our practice—highly repetitive—if we are to push aside the old messages, the conflicting old messages of the reigning internal dialogue, which can only serve to confuse, that is, deliver mixed signals to the unconscious mind. And mixed messages, as we know, confound the manifestation of change.

We must be disciplined and persistent in our practice. Remember, it took a long time and a lot of practice to truly master the art of driving as a guaranteed habit. It is the same with manifesting and inhabiting a new habit. Perseverance and repetitive practice will, ultimately, manifest intent in new habit!


A Day in a Life: To The Deeper Within

One day we must all take off and head into the great unknown... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
One day we must all take off and head into the great unknown…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

We must all take the hero’s journey. At some point in our lives it becomes imperative. When we stand on the threshold, about to take the first step into the unknown, we feel totally alone. No one has ever done what we are about to do. Our journey is our own to have, to experience, and to return from.

Perhaps our first journey is to leave our parents at the age of five and go off to school, to get on the school bus and return at the end of the day having had an experience that no one else has ever had. We must all do this at some point in our lives if we are to become mature, independent beings.

“Your real duty is to go away from the community to find your bliss,” writes Joseph Campbell. And it’s true, we all have to leave the known, the easy comforts of a provided life and experience the discomforts of life on our own.

There are many stages of the hero’s journey. There is that first stage of leaving home, of going off to college or moving far from where we grew up, to begin anew, as youth chomping at the bit for our own experiences beyond the world of our parents. Many never take another hero’s journey after that. We settle into our lives, become complacent, disillusioned, perhaps angry at the world for not meeting us in the way we expected. Our spirit, however, never gives up. It comes knocking, constantly asking us to please get up and do something to change ourselves!

Sometimes the call of the spirit is finally answered later in life. The journey is taken up again, when other duties have been met, when our maturity allows us to shed some of what has held us back in the past, when we are finally ready. Others continue the hero’s journey unabated, letting something else besides the dictates of society and family tradition guide them on their way, those free-spirited ones who never seem to settle in one place for very long. Others constantly refuse the call, even late into life; even upon their death beds they do not heed the proddings of their spirit to experience the bliss of life.

There is another journey... to the Deeper Within... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
There is another journey…
to the Deeper Within…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Besides the hero’s journey in the world, there is another kind of hero’s journey, the inner journey, the call of the spirit to encounter and experience the Deeper Within, as I like to call it. The journey into the Deeper Within is as frightening as taking that first step on the young hero’s journey, when leaving home for the first time and finding out what it means to be a fully responsible adult.

The Deeper Within calls to us throughout our lives. Calling and calling, it asks us to come closer, to hear what it has to tell us of the treasures and mysteries of the deeper self, like a deep well, the bottom of which is endless. The Deeper Within is where our true bliss lies, where our real transformation awaits. Once we heed this call, we are offered the opportunity to go on a journey that never ends.

To be ready to encounter and experience this Deeper Within we must allow ourselves to take the first part of the hero’s journey in the real world. We must leave home, grow up, create a life for ourselves on our own terms, as fully independent beings. We must gather experiences, learn what it means to face our fears and test our merits, to have gains and losses, to have love and to lose love, to build our egos and strengthen our spirits in a world that is often ignorant, disharmonious, and could care less.

Once we have had experiences in the real world, we might be ready to have experiences in the Deeper Within, where everything that we have learned from being in the outer world will be utilized and tested, proven to be useful or useless in our inner world. In the Deeper Within we will finally meet our spirit face to face, all that it encompasses, our light side and our dark side. We must be prepared for such encounters.

Our ego, strengthened by our life experiences, will prove its worth, showing us what we are really made of as we dive into the Deeper Within. The shamanic process of recapitulation is taking the hero’s journey into the Deeper Within. It entails facing what has controlled us and what has guided us, what has supplied us with our energy and what has drained us of our energy. Recapitulation is the hero’s journey to reconnecting with the spirit self. During recapitulation we surrender our ego to this spirit self, so that it may guide us to full transformation.

As we return to the real world from our hero’s journey through the Deeper Within, we must ease slowly back into society, quietly and humbly take our place again, transformed yet fully present. We return to life like a newborn, full of a new kind of knowledge that others cannot totally grasp. We return from taking the journey into the Deeper Within speaking a strange new language, having had visions and mystical encounters. We return with a new way of perceiving the world, with a new kind of awareness.

Complexities of the deeper self blissfully revealed upon taking the hero's journey... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Complexities of the deeper self blissfully revealed upon taking the hero’s journey…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Everything is now so clear to us, life explained on so many levels, death faced and found to be nothing more than this life extended, experienced in another state. We return with a new kind of sober fearlessness, with a new kind of detachment, and yet we feel and experience life with far greater love and compassion than previously possible. We emerge fully aware of our universal interconnectedness and our energetic connection to all living beings. Yes, we return with blissfulness coursing through us, having experienced bliss, having fully known what bliss really is.

Our new self wants everyone else to experience the bliss of life in this manner, to take the hero’s journey to the Deeper Within and transform too! But we learn soon enough that not everyone is ready. “I can’t read all that spiritual crap!” someone said to me the other day. I was not offended, nor did I feel sorry for the person. I simply acknowledged the journey that was being taken.

There are millions of kinds of journeys being taken simultaneously. Some people are here, others there. But the thing to remember is that we all had to start somewhere. We all had to take that first step into the unknown at some point, whether in a past life or in this life. At one time we all had to, and have to, take the first step on the hero’s journey to the Deeper Within too.

Wishing you all well, wherever you are on your hero’s journey. Keep going!

Readers of Infinity: Look Outwardly But Turn Inwardly

Here is this week’s message from Jeanne:

Eventually, as you take your path of heart, it will all become clear... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Eventually, as you take your path of heart,
it will all become clear…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

We must all take our own journeys. We must let others in our lives take their own journeys as well. Yet we must all accept the guidance that comes to us, just as we must all responsibly share the guidance that we have to offer.

There is a fine line between being a teacher and being a student. In the beginning we do need guidance, but our far greater work lies within, in the context of our inner world, where only we can go. And so a teacher may be necessary as we begin our inward journey, as we seek our own path. Eventually our teacher will let us go, because we will let the teacher know that we are ready, and the teacher will not hold onto us, for a good teacher knows when the student is ready.

Seek always your own path, even when you are a student. Don’t forget to look around you as you go through life, searching always for the next sign showing you your new direction. Every day life points you in a new direction—each day—aiding you to find not only your anchoring soul within, but the flame of your transcendent soul as well. This is what you seek, access to both your grounded self and your free self. They must be brought together in some form of practice that will enable them both to harmoniously coexist, as well as continually advance.

Look outwardly but turn inwardly to find the signs that will lead to your greater connection with Self, with your wholeness, with your calm inner knowing self.

Do not be afraid to be different. Do not be afraid to latch onto that ray of light which resonates so deeply with your heart. It is only by taking that path of heart—different though it may be from the paths that those around you are taking—that you will find your true self.

Your path of heart is the only one for you. Once you are on it, you will know it. Then, become a good teacher by your example, by your practice of taking that path of heart every day of your life through task and turmoil, through joy and disdain, through beauty and destruction. If it is truly your path of heart then it is right, and everything you encounter on that path is right too.

Chuck’s Place: Bearing The Tension

Like the hot flame emotions flare up... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Like the hot flame emotions flare up…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Intense emotional encounters with rage, desire, joy or love are encounters with powers greater than our ego selves. Whether we seek out or seek to avoid these encounters, they require tremendous ego-forging to successfully receive or withstand the energetic intensity of their impact.

The ancient Greeks were well aware of the otherworldly origin of these higher power emotions, assigning many to the gods and goddesses on Mt. Olympus. Many Greek myths capture the intensity of human seizure by such higher power emotions in romances between the gods and mortals.

This ancient respect for the non-ordinary human origin of intense emotion, with its volatile, ecstatic, and overwhelming impact upon our human selves, is largely lost to the modern world. Now the lone ego self, or rational self, is given the daunting task of owning and managing emotions of great intensity.

Following ancient tradition, Jung’s psychology assigns the numinous energy of intense emotion to the ego’s encounters with the spirit self in the realm of the archetypes of the collective unconscious. This dimension of the psyche exists outside of the parameters of everyday space and time, in the timelessness of eternity. The ego, in contrast, was born in the world of ordinary space and time. Encounters between these two worlds are highly charged energetic exchanges.

For example, to be seized by love is, for the ego, an inner encounter with the archetype or Greek god of love—Eros—who pierces the ego with a numinous arrow of otherworldly spirit energy that then flows into the ordinary confines of human interaction. Some egos, under such seizure, are unable to approach the ‘object of their desire,’ collapsing in frozen awe or feelings of unworthiness. In instances where contact is made, rarely can an individual or couple withstand the energetic impact of the encounter for too long, as the relationship inevitably slips into the stasis of the ungodly boredom of the mundane, into the ordinariness of everyday life. As the light of the divine spark dims, a couple is challenged to search inwardly for divine connection and human partnership.

Bearing the tensions of ordinary reality... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Bearing the tensions of ordinary reality…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Sexuality, as Freud and William Reich researched, is itself an interaction between ego and spirit energy. The ability to channel the highly charged spirit energy of orgasm requires the ego to relax its controls and constructions of ordinary reality to physically receive and commune with the divine energy of orgasm. Alexander Lowen spent his professional life developing Bioenergetics, physical movements to forge the ego’s ability to channel and receive spirit in ecstatic release.

The act of simply going to sleep similarly challenges the ego self to release control and receive spirit contact with its energy body in dreaming. In dreaming, the body self is completely immobilized to allow for this encounter.

In native American vison quests, the ego/body self is contained within a circle, bearing the tension of limitation, as it forges a vessel to receive a visitation from spirit self.

Christianity and Buddhism likewise engage physical stillness and limitation as the means of achieving divine encounters. Christ bound to a cross, bearing the tension of human suffering, is the context for divine connection. Buddha similarly bears the tension of the onslaught of human illusion as he sits in utter stillness, preparing to receive divine enlightenment beneath the bodhi tree.

At the culmination of the Jewish wedding ceremony, as divine energy pours into a couple, they forge a vessel of deeper commitment in human relationship by shattering a glass, in remembrance of the bearing of tension at the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. In marriage, the ego self must bear the tension of suffering, as it makes contact with the divine, in joyful energy of union. The ego must be tempered to receive successfully the divine energy of joy.

Even the most modern of psychotherapeutic approaches boil down to forging the ego’s ability to suffer the influx of divine energy. In DBT therapy and Neuroplasticity, where the brain develops new channels to handle higher power emotional energies, treatment requires the ego self to learn to practice mindfulness. In mindfulness, we develop the ability to stay still and present—to manage and channel appropriately—encounters with highly charged spirit emotions.

The struggle to achieve full conscious awareness in spite of the veils of illusion is universal... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
The struggle to achieve full conscious awareness in spite of the veils of illusion is universal…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Vedantic science developed yogic practices to enable the ego and body self the ability to become still and successfully receive contact with the deepest spirit self, the Atman that lives beneath the bliss sheath. In other words, this translates as union with the infinite self in the space and time of ordinary human reality.

The ultimate goal of all spiritual and shamanic practice is: to enter infinity with consciousness, to be able to bear the tension of divine contact without dissolution, to continue the infinite journey beyond human life in full awareness. For this purpose, we are afforded a life in this world.

Everyday life in this world offers us many opportunities to forge the ability to enter infinity with consciousness. As we bear the tension of the reality in this world, we also practice bearing the tension of forging contact with infinity. We practice how to receive it, withstand it, flow with it and, ultimately, to become it, with awareness.

Bearing the tension,

A Day in a Life: Those Darned Tiny Seeds

There it is! - Photo by Jan Ketchel
There it is!
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

I dream a universal dream. I hear these words clearly spoken: “The truth is but a tiny seed.” And then I see a seed, a speck, a flash of insight. Then black clouds and white clouds roll in, covering the seed. I know they are the dark clouds of fear and the white clouds of illusion, covering what we don’t want to know, what we will not face. I understand that this is what we do with our deepest truths—we hide them from ourselves. They are still there, however, tiny seeds waiting to be discovered.

I lie awake in the night and know that I must always dare myself to part the clouds and find the meaning of the seeds. I must not let the seeds of truth lie there untended, never properly nurtured. If I don’t tend to them they will grow moldy and create problems.

Contemplation of this dream leads me back along a winding road, to a spark of a memory that emerges, grows, and is nurtured as I face the truth of it.

I was living in New York City in 1984, working for a publishing company. It was the height of the AIDS crisis. An office meeting was called because a man among us had AIDS, in fact was dying. I will call him David. David was about 50, a man of energy and vitality, an actor and singer, so sweet and kind, so gentle and considerate. He kept a jar of chocolates on his desk. He’d invite anyone in to sit, have a chocolate, and shoot the breeze. His health had been steadily deteriorating. In the few years that I knew him, I watched him go from healthy physique to skeletal sickness. He worked until he could no longer do so. The day that the meeting was called he was still coming into the office on occasion, though on that day he was not there.

The meeting was a real eye-opener for me. When asked to be open and honest, assured that no one was taking notes, people revealed themselves. People I had thought kind and compassionate showed that they were judgmental, bigoted and homophobic, hate-filled and fearful. There was a guy I had a slight romantic interest in. When he spoke at this meeting, a very intelligent guy, I lost all interest in him. I was, in fact, floored by the ignorance I heard. Was I being judgmental myself? Probably, but that’s where I was at the time. I could not believe that others did not share the same love that I felt for this deeply suffering fellow human being. On that day, however, I also saw what was kept so carefully guarded at all of our cores, the fearful seed of truth that we will all face death one day.

David got sicker and sicker. About two weeks before he died a friend came into my office and asked me, as an illustrator, if I would make a card for him that everyone could sign. I accepted the assignment with a heavy heart, knowing how important it would be.

A happy llama... - Drawing by Jan Ketchel
A happy llama…
– Drawing by Jan Ketchel

I knew that David loved llamas—the furry animal kind—that he’d had some transformative experience with them while traveling, and so I knew I had to incorporate them into the card. I faced also that he was dying, that he was leaving this world, and so I didn’t want to paint a ‘let’s pretend you’re NOT dying’ picture.

I sat at my drawing board for a long time and then I let the illustration come through me. I channeled it. It flowed out of my pens and brushes, a four-part comic strip story. Winged angel llamas grazed peacefully in a bucolic setting. A new winged angel llama flew up to be with them and was lovingly welcomed amongst them. Contented and at peace, he too grazed and frolicked happily, finally at home among the llama angels. When I was done I sat back and looked at the card. It was beautiful and sensitive, but it frightened me. I’d written something inside too, about his friends waiting to greet him again, or something like that.

I stared at what I had created for a long time, left it sitting, came back to it over and over again, finally decided that it was just right. It had to be right, for David; deeply respectful of this man who was facing an early death with such graciousness, his sense of humor intact throughout his illness, his thankfulness for having had such a good life. It had to be the right, meaningful, personal, sendoff.

I brought it to work and handed it over to my friend, a little fearful that she might think it was too much, that I had gone too far, for I had a sense that it was a little daring, confronting the fact of death, even in this gentle way. “This is great!” she said. “Oh my God, he’ll love it.” It went around the office and everyone signed it, everyone loved it, except one person.

Normally a pussycat, and someone I knew as a friend, stormed into my office. “How dare you!” he fumed, a big man, barely able to keep his voice down. “He’s dying! You can’t send a card like that to a dying man! You can’t put llamas on his card! He loves llamas! I won’t sign it!”

Sometimes we cannot control what lies in our darkness... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Sometimes we cannot control what lies in our darkness…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

My retort was just as angry as his, though I did not hold back. I didn’t care that anyone else heard me either. I stood up from my chair, looked up into his red face towering above me, and yelled at him. I told him that he didn’t have to sign the card, that I felt the card was totally appropriate and that the llamas were there for a very good reason, exactly because David had such a spiritual connection with them. And in the frightened face of that big man, I knew I was facing my own fear of death, what he himself could not face in his friend. His fear was real, and yet I would not back down or even sympathize.

He stomped out of my office in an angry huff and didn’t speak to me for a long time. He stared daggers at me every time I passed his desk. He stepped away from me on the subway train that we both rode. In turn, I had to face why I got so angry when he confronted me. Why did I usually get angry like that when confronted by something, especially something that I knew to be true? Why did I always run from the truth? I could have been more diplomatic: “Well, I felt the same way at first, but that’s just what came to me, and it felt right, but of course you don’t have to sign it if it doesn’t feel right,” was what I should have said, but I knew there was more to it. I had to face, not only that I was really just as scared of death as he was, but that for some unknown reason I had vitriolic anger boiling inside me. How easily it slipped out!

Eventually, I approached the big man and apologized for screaming at him. By this time word had gotten around that David did indeed love the card. He sent back word, thanking me, telling me that he kept it near him, looked at it often, laughed and felt so happy every time he looked at it. It was in his arms when he died. I’d also heard that it ended up incorporated into an AIDS quilt, on a section commemorating David.

I know now that no matter where we are in our lives, our inner world is interwoven in our everyday world. The seeds of our truths lie at our core, festering and asking to be reckoned with, consciously on occasion, but, more often than not, unconsciously. Even those who live lives greatly disconnected from their inner world, who have no sense of its existence, are dominated by it in a myriad of ways: in anger, depression, jealousy, pain; in acting out; in feelings of worthlessness, inflation, hopelessness; in fear.

Our inner world dominates us until we finally clear away the black clouds of darkness and the white clouds of illusion and reveal the seeds of truth at our core for what they truly are and what they truly mean. And then we are offered the chance of gaining some equilibrium, for otherwise we are sorely off balance.

Finally, I have learned that signs and synchronicities constantly come to point us inwardly, yet they are often missed, dismissed, or too frightening to bear. But it is only in the bearing of the tension of them that we discover just where we need to go and just what we need to face. In facing our deepest issues, those signs and synchronicities take on magical significance, their messages offering direct experience of life on a totally new level, out of the ordinary and into the extraordinary.

Looking at those seeds very closely,