All posts by Chuck

Chuck’s Place: Duration

Thunder above, wind below…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Today, I request of the I Ching*:  Guidance for ALL, now.

What is given is hexagram #32, Duration. The essence of duration is union, as an enduring condition.

The image of duration is built with thunder, the arousing, on top of wind, the gentle. Thunder and wind are a naturally paired set of influences.  With the sound of thunder comes the energy of wind. The human social analogy for duration is the enduring relationship of marriage.

Within the individual, duration is a state of being that is not worn down by hindrances. By embracing enduring meaning in one’s life, one becomes self-contained and self-renewing. This kind of meaning is found in aligning one’s will with one’s true spirit.

Thunder and wind are mobile occurrences, seemingly an unlikely pair to depict the qualities of duration. But this fluidity of coming and going implies a definite lack of rigidity or refusal to change. That which acts from duration changes with the changing times. What doesn’t change is one’s unswerving commitment to the inner truth of one’s being, that which guides all actions.

No particular moving line was emphasized, hence, all the lines of the hexagram carry guidance for specific challenges to the state of duration.

The first line: Seeking duration too hastily brings misfortune persistently. Relationships require time to achieve duration. Self-development requires perseverance over time. If we grasp too quickly things fall apart and we are saddened, or give up.

The second line: Regret disappears. The power of one’s will is greater than one’s material resource. However, in the time of duration one is able to regulate one’s inner strength, thus avoiding excess in action. This removes the cause for regret.

The third line: The inability to turn inward brings misfortune. If one remains at the mercy of moods aroused by outside events, one suffers inner turmoil and loses the innerly connection to that which provides duration.

The fourth line: No game in the field. If one persists in a course of action that is fruitless, one will only be disappointed. Here, will overpowers spirit and loses its duration.

The fifth line: Flexible reason, moderate emotion. Reason must be flexible and adjust to changing conditions. Emotion must remain moderate lest it burn up or remain overly attached to the moment. Best that reason lead to maintain duration.

The sixth line: Continued restlessness brings misfortune. To remain in persistent hurry or worry precludes inner composure. Turn inward, breathe in, breathe out. Let calm breathing lead to duration.

In this time of outer threat, find composure in that which provides duration. The power of duration will endure and safely bridge to coming stability, where that which lends duration within will also lead to duration without.

Duration,

Chuck

*Source: The I Ching, Wilhelm edition

Chuck’s Place: On Splitting and Uniting

Uniting the split self…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Infants scream, toddlers tantrum, and adults sulk when they don’t get what they want. Disappointment at a frustrated need or desire can result in an intolerable emotional state in humans of all ages. Often the resulting mood reflects a bipolar state of either happiness, if there is a change of fortune, or rage and depression at continued frustration. The ability to regulate and tolerate emotional extremes is a true sign of maturity.

This inner state of emotional challenge is often reflected in distorted, all-or-nothing reactions to other people. If an individual’s thinking reflects one’s own, that person might be liked. However, if that same person says something disagreeable to one’s own sensibility, they made be suddenly viewed as all bad, not a good person. The ability to tolerate the tension of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ qualities in the same person is often lacking. The result is a literal splitting apart of the other person, as either all good or all bad.

Often, intimate relationships suffer the brunt of splitting perceptions. If a couple are in sync with a desired activity, things flow smoothly. However, if they individually seek opposing activities this can result in an abrupt mood change and withdrawal from the now ‘bad’ other. Should the other give in to one’s want, there can be an instant positive mood shift, as the partner is restored to ‘goodness’.

Often, the partner who acquiesces to the other’s need creates a split within themselves. Though they smile and proceed outwardly, inwardly they carry a pocket of resentment that doesn’t allow full connection with their partner. This inner emotional stalemate can result in anxiety and depression, though outwardly all appears well.

We live in a time that has encouraged splitting on a grand scale. The political polarization of our time has resulted in roughly half the population viewing the other half as all bad. Either one agrees with the other or they are seen as all bad by the other. There is no tolerance for mixed feelings or beliefs. This is further exacerbated by the lifting of the social norm to suppress one’s angry or disappointed feelings.

This release of suppressed rage is cathartic and a relief from the constraints of political correctness, much like psychoanalysis freed the repressed sexuality of the Victorian era. Nonetheless, in both cases, primal release of repressed emotion does not result in emotional maturity and, in fact, often fuels an endless addiction to emotional excess.

The results of splitting are a divided self, a divided relationship, and a divided country. Though compromise might be a valued step in the resolution of conflict, it does not necessarily reflect true unity. True unity can only be achieved if there is full acceptance of other, perhaps as captured in the suggestion to ‘turn the other cheek’.

Jesus’s suggestion to turn the other cheek is fundamental to the shamanic practice of freeing oneself from the burden of self-importance. To not be offended by another’s behavior, however outrageous, allows one to tolerate the existence of the other. True, one may need to defend oneself from the behavior of the other if there is physical threat, but this is not driven by personal offense at the behavior and values of the other.

Beyond offense are the split, polarized attitudes of a world fatigued by Covid. One side clings protectively to the safety of retreat. The other lurches boldly into the right to live freely, even if it means death. Can we all not find both attitudes active within ourselves? Are we all not challenged with the conundrum of safety vs adventure, as we navigate the most basic decisions of daily life? Does it serve us to resolve that tension by becoming one-sided, projecting the rejected ‘evil’ opposite onto others?

Buddha proposed loving compassion for all. All includes evil. Rather than split off evil as something to be repressed, evil is granted its place in the flow of all that is. The ability to tolerate both the good and evil within the self sets the stage for unity of self. This, of course, requires a high degree of maturity and responsibility for managing and balancing the opposite tendencies within the self.

Tolerating the evil within the self can allow for acceptance of one’s partner as a being who sometimes pleases and sometimes disappoints. Accepting the evil within the self lessens a reactive emotional charge to  others who act upon their own evil impulses. Loving compassion does not preclude necessary boundaries, but with loving compassion those boundaries are not driven by divisive hatred.

Buddha arrived at the unity of enlightenment through the meditative practice of stillness and not grasping at any offering that presented, ranging from the most seductive to the most horrific. To achieve this, one must find deep calm, regardless of what thought presents from within or what scene is presented from without. The equanimity of this kind of detachment actually reflects total acceptance of everything, the key to unity.

To practice this meditation in our current world environment is to bring oneself to calm, within and without. Whatever appears, go to the breath: loving compassion on the inhalation, release of tension and judgment on the exhalation.

Intend unity; heal the split. As within so without.

Intending unity,

Chuck

Chuck’s Place: Be Like the Flame of A Single Candle

But a single flame…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

To seek freedom… be like the flame of a candle, which, in spite of being up against the light of a billion stars, remains intact, because it never pretended to be more than what it is: a mere candle.”  – Don Juan Matus, from The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge

It’s a mighty challenge to be born into this life as an ego, a limited point of consciousness, separated from its greater wholeness. This limitation is  the price we pay to exclusively explore one facet of the fuller diamond we are, in a life that begins and ends in space/time.

Ego has risen beyond the control of its own instinctual nature into a being capable of making its own decisions. This evolution beyond the strict control of its subconscious programming has given rise to civilization and human domination of the Earth.

This moment we are now living in is the ultimate exploration of ego’s freedom to consider only itself —its wants and needs— as the basis of its governing decisions. The sky is the limit for the ego of now,  much like Icarus, whose intoxication with flying on his wax wings drew him higher and closer to the sun.

It’s inevitable that ego test the limits of its power. Simply observe the toddler testing its newfound powers of locomotion. Caution is thrown to the wind in the thrill of discovery and autonomous movement. This same excitement of power and mastery accompanies ego at all stages of life.

Truthfully, however, underneath it all, ego knows it is inherently inadequate. How could it be otherwise? Ego is but a fragment of its greater wholeness. Ego’s underlying instinctual programming has heralded evolution, devoid of consciousness. Ego’s now conscious ability to negate that programming is a tremendous feat, but ego also lacks the wisdom packed into those archetypal programs. Managing the survival of the planet requires more wisdom than ego can possibly amass in its limited time on Earth.

The evolutionary challenge now posed to ego is to rise above its egoism and discover a higher authority within itself that can teach it the path of right action. Ego must silence its own internal dialogue that incessantly attempts to keep it secure in its knowing of everything. In the silence beyond that chatter is the voice of wisdom that resides in the mature heart.

Ego needn’t feel ashamed of its objective inadequacy. Ego has the unparalleled gift of consciousness, but it must discover how to exercise its powers in the service of the greater whole that it is but a fragment of. Ego is not yet convinced it can’t simply go it alone, hence, it is currently testing the hypothesis that it is all that there is.

After the fall of this experiment, ego, like Icarus will come down to Earth with the humility proper to its status. This is the ego that will accept that it is indeed but a solitary candle amidst the light of a billion stars. However, this acceptance of its smallness, lacking any illusory inflation, is the attitude that will protect that flame from perhaps ever blowing out.

May we all find our way to the smallness of a single candle flame. With such humility, we connect to the wisdom awaiting us all in our mature hearts.

From the heart of the flame,
Chuck

Chuck’s Place: The Mature Heart

A Mature Heart…
– Photo by Chuck Ketchel

So much emphasis is placed upon the heart as the spiritual center that guides right action. This can seem extremely confusing when compared to popular renditions of the heart as the center for romantic love and longing. After all, how often do romantic projections result in right action?

It is true that the heart is connected to loving attachments. A broken heart, through loss of a loved one, is indeed an informal diagnosis known to many a cardiologist. It is equally true that the heart is the meeting place with one’s High Self, the spirit center of one’s being. In the quiet of the heart, the High Self tells the truth to ego consciousness, regardless of the ego’s wish for a different answer.

Thus, the heart can be said to function on many levels: from the immature cravings of the desire body, to the vicissitudes of love and attachment in relationships, to a highly refined impartiality that lovingly accepts everything, without personal resistance; this is the position of the mature heart.

Humans are multidimensional beings living many simultaneous lives. Even in the single dimension of waking life one may be dominated by the cravings of the desire body at the breakfast table, the stirrings of romantic interest in the afternoon, and deep communion with High Self in the evening.

A mature heart is not necessarily achieved via a linear developmental progression. One can be working on different dimensions of heart issues, literally, depending upon the time of day. Ultimately, however, a connection to the mature heart is necessary to resolve the clouded entanglements of need, desire, and attachment.

The mental plane immediately impacts the central nervous system, which greatly affects the heart. Thus, if one has the thought that there is a problem, messages are immediately delivered through the nerves to various glands and organs to respond to the abstract thought. A thus-activated body might stir the heart to heated action, even though there is actually no real crisis.

To promote the conditions to access the mature heart it is a good practice to engage in control of the fickle mind. Any meditation practice trains the ego to still its activity, as consciousness learns to be mindfully present to a single focus, such as the breath. Control of the mind promotes the inner silence that allows one to hear the voice of the High Self in the quiet of the heart.

Autogenic phrases, self-hypnosis, deep relaxation, biofeedback, as well as neurofeedback, are Western technological tools that promote thought control and calm the heart. In essence, all these practices introduce new programs to the subconscious mind that regulate the central nervous system, giving the ego control over automatic reactions to stray thoughts.

Recapitulation, the reliving and releasing of split-off parts of life experiences, frees the central nervous system of random activation by associative triggers in one’s daily life encounters. Once the ego has fully squared with a suppressed or repressed experience, the heart is freed of invasive shocks that preclude the quiet of spiritual connection.

Yogic science has produced pranayama breathing techniques that directly influence the balance of positive and negative electrical energy that flows through the central nervous system. Alternate nostril breathing (sukh purvak) directly addresses the rebalancing of these forces. Any physical practice that brings deep calm to the body gives the ego an opportunity to control the mind and the body, and to open to the spiritual dimension of the heart.

Upon reaching the position of the mature heart, one is guided to successfully navigate the many lives one lives. Most importantly, in the place of the mature heart, one receives and expresses the fullness of loving compassion, with equanimity. Furthermore, one is empowered to act upon right action without sentimental restraint. For the mature heart loves, most of all, the truth.

With love from the mature heart,

Chuck

Chuck’s Place: Honing Fluidity

                       Fluidity: The ability to go with the flow.

Going with the flow…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

What is it that exhausts us in this time of great change? Understandably, we are trying desperately to hold onto the world as we have known it. That world is rapidly slipping away. How can we learn to let go in this time of  breakdown and re-formation, as we flow into our next world dream?

The destructive energy wave of now is the tidal wave of trickster. I call it trickster because it acts with full abandon on its path of destruction, on impulse, defying all reason.  We are all part of that wave, whether we are surfing its exhilarated crest, are dragged mercilessly under its tow, or find rest in its calm center. Trickster energy is active and volatile. Its impact is unnerving, disheartening, yet potentially clarifying, if used to advantage. 

In the 1990s, I spent seven years deeply immersed in Carlos Castaneda’s public launching of Tensegrity, the modern version of the practices of his historic shamanic line. Carlos was faced with the truth that his energetic configuration as leader was one of ending, not continuing, his shamanic line. His task was to use his volatile energy to break down practitioners’ dependence upon an external guru and launch them into assuming personal responsibility for their own spiritual advancement. He didn’t have much time, so he used everything he could to achieve his agenda.

The teachings in Tensegrity were multifaceted, but the overarching methodology, at that time, was trickster energy that sought to shatter a practitioner’s attachment to the prevailing social order, teaching them to assume responsibility for their decisions and actions, and develop the fluidity to navigate infinity, now, in this life. It proved to be a challenging methodology.

For instance, even if you were well known to all gatekeepers at a weeklong intensive workshop, if you failed to wear your assigned name tag on the final day, you were denied entry, treated as if you were a perfect stranger.

At another workshop, Carlos would not show up, though you had paid dearly to see him. You were told he simply wasn’t energetically available, and that someone else was taking his place.

In truth, it ultimately didn’t matter who showed up because all the shamans of his party were the same, delivering profound teachings. However, being attached to having to see the Carlos Castaneda, when that mattered to ego, was an opportunity to be incensed by unfairness.

In other instances, agendas might be scrapped in a heartbeat. You’d be pushed into practicing extremely taxing physical movements on a full stomach, directly after a meal break.

Carlos would entice you to fly across the country, or the world for that matter, for a mere three-hour workshop. Staying attached to the limited time allotted, and the monumental effort to get there, challenged our relationship to time and how it was valued. From there, of course, followed the trappings of unfairness: so little for so much!

Carlos would mercilessly ridicule peoples’ attachments to love and relationship; sexual relations were highly frowned upon if one was sincere about one’s quest for energetic freedom. These same rules did not appear to apply to himself and his cohorts.

The truth is, as many spiritual traditions know, that sexual energy is the energy of dreaming, as well as creation. So, not for any moralistic reasons, attention to how one employs one’s sexual energy is a consideration for all spiritual journeyers.

The net effect of these seemingly unfair and hypocritical practices was to generate anger and protest. Carlos would then point out how much energy the ego spends upholding its own importance. “Life is not fair, we live in a predatory universe,” he’d say.  Once one got to the point of blankly resigning to Carlos’s unpredictable and inconsistent antics, he’d point out how much energy was now being spent on indulging in self pity.

To survive the trials of the shaman’s world one had no alternative but to arrive at a place of no pity, for self or other. In that place, one is clearsighted and spends energy only on what is absolutely necessary to act upon. One completely frees oneself of the energy drain of defending one’s self importance or indulging in self pity. This is the key to fluidity: honing the ego’s ability to serve right action, detached from the need to defend itself.

Carlos was the consummate trickster, perhaps the greatest of the 20th century, reclusive and mysterious to the end. His dedication to his intent to shift the world’s dying dream cost him an early death. He had boundless energy, impacting apprentices throughout the world. He sustained his life on sugar and caffeine until his abused, diabetic body could no longer house his energy body.

The cognitive dissonance of his personal imbalance, with the spiritual advancement his teachings provided, assured that he would never be put on any kind of postmortem pedestal. This was core to his reading of the energy of our time. For Carlos, the day of the guru was indeed over. Ultimately, he taught that everyone needs to discover their own spiritual/energetic being, not simply follow tradition, dogma, or charismatic leaders.

For my wife Jeanne and I, our immersion in Carlos’s shamanic world  prepared us to launch each other into new dreams at the moment of her final exit from this world. We both turned on a dime and immediately walked into new dreams, as they presented themselves, fluidly accepting what came next. Not an ounce of energy was spent on protest or sadness, as we went with the flow of the many dreams that were to come.

Carlos had stressed the value of facing oncoming time. His analogy was a train. Most of us tend to sit in the comfort of the caboose, complacently watching the past recede out the back window, through the filter of the known. He preferred sitting in the first car, the locomotive, staring attentively and excitedly at all that approached in oncoming time. If we insist on living in the caboose of the known, that which is already said and done, we never develop the fluidity to navigate oncoming change.

Fluidity demands that we soften and release all attachment to entitlement. Encounter with trickster energy is ideal for this unburdening. Learning to not take anything that comes at us personally, is critical. Of course, we may be wounded by many things. But we can heal quickly from a wound if we release our obsession with the unfairness of how we are treated, and by letting go of what we feel is owed to us as a result.

For the shamans of Carlos’s lineage, human beings fail to wake up to their full innate potential because they spend the lion’s share of their energy in the complacency of complaint. Once one lands solidly at the place of no pity, fluidity becomes one’s chief navigating tool. Interestingly, as one lands at the place of no pity, one simultaneously lands at the place of real love.

Jeanne, from her inorganic being in infinity, delivers daily to Jan, her organic soul sister, soulbytes that stress the new dream at the heart center, with love as its overarching modus operandi. Beyond the fixations of specialness, possession, importance, and pity is the awesomeness of interdependent oneness and love for all.

Utilize, fully, this opportunity we are now living through, this time of trickster tidal wave upon tidal wave, to hone your energy. Recapitulate emotional and physical triggers, and free your energy from victimized resentment and the refusal to accept the truth of everything.

And then, from a newly detached lightness of being, exercise fluidity, as you find your way to the solid dream of love.

Stalking fluidity,

Chuck