Tag Archives: Atman

A Day in a Life: The Little Horse

I walk along a country road... -Photo by Jan Ketchel
I walk along a country road…
-Photo by Jan Ketchel

I dream that I’m walking along a country road. To the right is an old farm, sprawling along a flat expanse of land. There is a low white stucco farmhouse. The grass is very green, the landscape low rolling hills, a row of trees in the distance. As I look around and take in the landscape, I’m aware that this is an important dream. As I walk up to the farmhouse, I have an overall sense that I am going to learn something significant about myself.

Outside the front door, sitting inside a round pen, I find a small horse, the size of a Shetland pony. The horse is covered in mud, the ground it sits upon muddy too. It looks uncared for. I’m immediately worried about it, aware that it needs water.

I find a small white bowl and go into the house with the intention of getting some water for the horse. I walk into a long narrow room, somewhat like a throne room. Upon a dais sits an old great aunt, now dead, a person who had been pampered and taken care of her whole life. Adoring daughters, other relatives and family friends—all familiar to me—line the sides of the room and sit at her feet. I walk down the center of the room and up to her where she sits above everyone. I look up at her and tell her that the horse needs care, that I will come by every day to give it water and hay. I’ll take it for a walk. It needs exercise, I say. It will need a halter or leash, I say. I will also clean it, I say, because it needs to be brushed. Its back, I had noticed, was covered with clumps of mud.

After delivering my message, I turn and leave the room. When I am just outside the door I hear laughter, the people in the room giggling over my concern for the horse. It doesn’t bother me; I don’t take it personally because I know how important the horse is.

I go into a bathroom to pee and put water in the small white bowl, but when I flip the light switch there is no electricity. The bathroom is totally dark, with no windows. I find a flashlight on the counter and switch it on. It gives me enough light to see the toilet and the sink. I pee and then fill the bowl with water.

I go outside and give the bowl of water to the horse. I tell it that I’ll be back to walk it and take care of it every day. As I leave, I run into my brother, a builder. I tell him that the house needs some repairs, that the electricity in the bathroom isn’t working properly and that he should check it out. It isn’t really of concern to me, as only the welfare of the horse is of interest.

This is called "The Unicorn in Captivity," a detail from the seventh tapestry in the series, The Hunt for the Unicorn. I think we are all hunting for our own unicorn... -Photo by Jan Ketchel
This is called “The Unicorn in Captivity,” a detail from the seventh tapestry in the series, The Hunt for the Unicorn. I think we are all hunting for our own unicorn…
-Photo by Jan Ketchel

In the morning, as soon as I tell the dream to Chuck, I see the mandala: the horse sitting inside the round pen. Chuck, immediately thinking of the Medieval tapestry of the white unicorn sitting inside the round picket fence, asks me if the horse was white. I don’t think so, I say, it appeared to be brown in color, but it was covered in mud, so I don’t know for sure.

I decide that the appearance of my old great aunt, sitting above everyone, implies the ego, while the lack of light in the bathroom implies the conscious/unconscious. I’m aware that the horse is important, to me especially, but that’s as far as I get in my analysis. I let the dream sit for a while. Before long, however, greater meaning emerges, especially when I remember that Chuck and I had been reading about the Vedantic traditions of the kosas the night before. The kosas are the five sheaths that enclose the spiritual germ—the Atman—the spiritual energy that we all are. I begin to see the dream in the context of those sheaths, how everything in the dream was set up to lead me to the horse, what I see as the fourth sheath, the kosa of ancient wisdom. I did go back to an ancient place of family in the dream. The setting was not, however, my family’s estate as I had known it, but completely different, though in the dream I was aware that it was the family farm.

I begin to see that the dream had me encounter the first four sheaths or kosas: the physical, the breath, the ego/mental, and the ancient wisdom. The first kosa comes in the form of family members in their physical bodies, a lot of them overweight, but also ignorant as to why I cared so much about the horse. I am intent upon giving water to the horse. I see water perhaps representing the breath, the second sheath, the etheric pranamaya-kosa, which gives energy to the body. I then encounter the great aunt sitting upon her throne, representing the ego and the mental kosa, also represented by the dark bathroom which I light with the flashlight, the conscious and the unconscious. Finally, in the form of the horse, I encounter the wisdom sheath, vinjanamaya-kosa which I am intent on tending, bringing what it needs to live in health and harmony. Inside this last sheath lies bliss, anandamaya-kosa, the Atman. This is the ultimate goal of this life that I live, to experience my inner bliss, that eternal kernel of ethereal self.

I understand that the dream stresses all the things I’ve been doing for myself as I work on my physical body, as I do my inner work, my yoga and meditation, as I constantly realign and balance myself on my path. Lately, my personal process has evolved around bringing together all that I am, in harmony, in acceptance. I have been learning how to be the evolved person I had worked so hard to become during my recapitulation process, that assimilation also a process, as I always seek the next step that will take me into deeper and greater self-knowledge.

The dream stresses how to care for the ancient wisdom, how to exercise it and nurture it, while also allowing it to more fully live in my life every day. Just as I tell the horse that I will tend to it every day, so must I do the same in my daily life, tend to the wisdom of the ancients that I have learned about, that I channel and that I teach others about.

This is a very supportive dream, I conclude, in alignment with all that I am, with all the work that Chuck and I do, with what we talk about, write about, and are drawn to read about. It’s what we strive for. It’s about harmony, balance, and careful tending to all parts of the self. As Joseph Campbell says, we are constantly seeking to make ourselves transparent to the transcendent.

An hour later, something becomes clear and I reinterpret the dream slightly, but in quite an eye-opening way. I suddenly remember how important the little horse was to me in the dream, and that nothing was going to stop me from taking over its care. Now I see that the little horse actually represents the neglected fifth kosa—bliss. The dream itself, I realize, and the farmhouse setting represent the fourth kosa, ancient wisdom. I had a sense of this during the dream, as I walked toward the ancient farmhouse, aware that I was entering deeper into a dream of importance and significance.

Bliss is... -Photo by Jan Ketchel
Bliss is…
-Photo by Jan Ketchel

The dream actually leads me to where my bliss has been silently and patiently waiting for me, inside the sheath of the fence, which is actually rather flimsy and couldn’t really hold back the horse if it wanted to escape. I see this as the truth about our bliss, that it waits for us to find it. And once we become aware of it, it’s not that hard to access, nor is it really held back by anything other than our own inability to see it for what it is, and perhaps our inability to allow ourselves to have access to it, as we are taught that to seek our bliss is selfish. In reality, however, it’s all that matters. And so I name my little horse, Bliss.

Only by properly caring for and nurturing my bliss/Bliss will I be able to bring it to full health and life. And rather than having to search for it outside in the world, I now know that I have it inside me. It’s been there all along, always with me, at the center of my being. How could it be otherwise? Perhaps it’s a little white horse after all, the innocent unicorn that lies at the center of who we all are. In innocence lies the magical, the utterly transcendent. We just have to free it from it’s sheath, tear down its flimsy fence. Thank you, dreamworld!

I most humbly express my thanks for being able to tell you this dream. Perhaps it will help in your own dream interpretations. I know from experience that those sheaths have a habit of popping up quite often, in dreaming and in real life. They are the veils we talk about all the time, keeping us from our truths, and from our bliss. In the end, they fall quite easily, once we see what they are really made of.

Taking down the fences, and the sheaths, and the veils, and whatever else happens to get in the way of going deeper still,

Chuck’s Place: I’m Sorry For Your Loss

I practice detachment…

Early Wednesday morning, as we sat and sipped our morning coffee, I remarked to Jan: “I wish I could say, had the election gone the other way, that I would have felt equally relaxed this morning.” But the truth is, I wouldn’t be, and so I engage this truth as an opportunity to practice detachment.

I think of Sixto Rodriguez,* plodding through life with equal reaction to lost stardom or hard labor, giving most of his money away; money and fame simply not relevant to his deeper fulfillment. He teaches that all outcomes are equal: simply live fully, impeccably, and without attachments.

As my models from Carlos Castaneda’s lineage always state: “I am a being who is going to die.” This awareness takes us beyond this life to the death that awaits equally in every moment, presenting the ultimate relativity of the world we find ourselves so deeply attached to. We are beings in eternal transition, in eternal flux.

Carlos once talked about the roles we choose to play in this world, urging us to play them to the fullest. Today he might have pointed to a Todd Akin and rather than judge him, he might have said: “Okay, be it—be the best, the most outlandish conservative you can be—be impeccable in playing out your chosen role; leave no stone unturned; hold nothing back!”

In an ultimate sense, Carlos, like Sixto, pointed to the illusory, transitory world we find ourselves in, that will, like

“Worn-out garments
[be] shed by the body:
[as] Worn-out bodies
Are shed by the dweller
Within the body. (-from the Bhagavad Gita)

And the dweller beyond the illusion of the body is the Atman, the eternal one inside all of us. Embracing the Atman, we release ourselves from attachment to the illusion, and can then play to the fullest, with sheer abandon and delight, the role we’ve chosen to live in this life. Don Juan suggests, however, that that role truly be a path of heart.

I am deeply appreciative of the Republicans—so deeply spirited—who so blatantly expressed themselves with such abandon. Only the full revelation of their heartfelt agenda could mobilize the conscience of a nation to reflect deeply and decide which path of heart the majority would take to responsibly lead this world into the future.

This is indeed a momentous 2012 decision, and humanity chose its course. There will be many more choices and challenges ahead, but a higher level of consciousness has risen above the sedating mass hypnosis of billionaire money. People discovered the truths of their own hearts and waited to vote, despite the obstacles.

And so, for those who lost—I’m sorry for your loss—and I’m deeply appreciative of the necessary role you played so vigorously in advancing all of us, an integrated whole, into a future of real possibility, beyond the Mayan calendar end. We have advanced, consensually agreeing to further this dream on solid ground.


* Sixto Rodriguez refers to the man presented in the movie Searching for Sugar Man, previously mentioned here and here.

Chuck’s Place: Twice Born—From Beliefs To Conscious Discrimination & The Atman


Some beliefs, like a catechism, are handed down as a prescribed description of reality to be memorized, recited, and believed. Other beliefs assemble inside our minds as we strive to understand why things happen as they do. Beliefs are descriptions that create order and ascribe meaning to our world. Once a belief sets in, whether through the internalization process of socialization, or through some introverted process devoid of outside messaging, beliefs themselves become hardcore “facts” in our minds. And these believed facts are highly impervious to change.

Beliefs constructed in childhood, at such an impressionable time of our young ego’s development, can take up residence in our minds for a lifetime. Our beliefs, positive or negative, become our security blanket; they keep us safe and familiar as repetitive thoughts that comfort and guide us through the maze of life.

Ironically, the belief “I am ugly” can be as equally comforting as the belief “I am beautiful,” from the point of view of inner security. Security rests upon a known, familiar, redundant, predictable interpretation of reality. Consistent beliefs, positive or negative, build stability.

If one has held a lifelong belief that “It was my fault,” the liberating realization that “It wasn’t my fault” can feel more destabilizing than liberating, as it sends us into a deconstructed free fall of feeling that there is nothing safe to hold onto. This free fall, however, is a free fall of the ego alone. Ego is not Self. Ego is a part of a greater self, a Self to which it must awaken.

Twice born Self—beautiful Atman…

In Hindu philosophy the Atman is the true Self, the inner Buddha or Overself of Buddhism, the inner Christ of Christianity, the inner Nagual of the shamans of Ancient Mexico, the inner spirit in all of us. The ego is a functional tool of Atman, the tool of conscious discrimination, the decision maker that aligns action with right action. Right action is action in alignment with truth, with Atman. When ego uses conscious discrimination to deconstruct a false belief, ego goes into free fall, because the world it clings to is outed as a world of false beliefs, which must be surrendered.

Ego must allow the truth of Atman to manifest. To do this means relaxing defenses once dearly needed to construct a “safe world.” This construction is now identified as an anachronous artifact, a young ego’s construction of an illusion needed to create safety. The ego must allow itself to be reborn with Atman in the true nature of reality. This is the real meaning of being twice born—first time as an infant that grows an ego identity through accumulated beliefs, but more importantly grows an ego capable of conscious discrimination.

This exercise of conscious discrimination by ego leads to the collapse of its false beliefs and the birth, however traumatic—and all births are traumatic—into the Self, into the truth of the Atman. This is consciousness and Self reborn in second birth. This is the ultimate goal, to be twice born, with the opportunity for growth in this world, as enlightened Self.

In the canal,