Tag Archives: Buddha

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’s Place: Achieving A Quiet Heart

Achieving a quiet heart...

What did Buddha really go through as he sat for 49 days beneath the bodhi tree, intent upon achieving a quiet heart? As he sat, his petty tyrant helper, Mara, projected a rapid-fire succession of intense scenes before his eyes, provoking feelings of lust, sadness, terror and rage. Buddha’s challenge was to remain fully open to his experiences and simultaneously arrive at the place of a quiet heart.

A quiet heart is the place of groundlessness. In groundlessness nothing is rejected, the full experience is felt and known. There is no attempt to “get grounded,” no need to “attach” to something to stop the action and restore control. Nothing in the flow of images or evoked feelings has the power to interrupt full presence, full awareness, and full living in the present moment.

No wonder it took Buddha 49 days of nonstop sitting to fully achieve a quiet heart, the groundlessness of “enlightenment.” That is, 49 days on top of years of prior training. We should all keep this humbly in mind as we face the deep challenge of recapitulation. It’s a process! Here are some of the major components of that process to keep in mind: that every journey is unique, with its own components.

As with Buddha’s quest, the goal of recapitulation is to achieve a quiet heart amidst the parade of truths and myths of life lived, as they present themselves in the form of memories, bodily sensations, emotions, and beliefs. Can we stay fully present with the images that appear, whether slowly collecting or rapidly firing, as memories coagulate and come into sharper focus? Can we stay fully present with the physical sensations, at times so subtle as to be dismissed, at other times excruciatingly painful or pleasurable? Can we stay fully present with journeys of disintegration, dissociation, blackout, the terror of pending death, times of dissolution and altered awareness? Can we stay fully present with emotions that have been sealed away for a lifetime, that come coursing from the heart like a raging river, a current of energy that leaps across synapses of never-used neurons along the motherboard of the spinal column?

Can we sit with quiet heart no matter what comes?

Can we stay fully present with overloaded, interrupted circuits—physically painful, emotional misfirings? Can we allow the pent up energy of emotion and sensation to release through the breath, the tear ducts, the voice, the genitals?

Can we be fully present with the voices of old beliefs, constructions that defended the selves of bygone years? And, finally, like the Buddha, can we be fully present with the fullness of the experience with a quiet heart, with no attachments or need to stop the show? Can we be fully present in groundlessness that fully opens us to enlightened life?

We must remember that Buddha spent countless hours encountering and honing these components of recapitulation before he achieved the quiet heart that allowed him to step into groundlessness.

We must be patient and nurturing as the heart unlocks its feelings, as the body releases its memories, as our newly discovered neurons stretch and grow in order to carry and release our long pent-up energies.

Enlightenment awaits in the form of new, fully present life—NOW. And that means life unfiltered by the vicissitudes of the past, energy freed and restored, fully present, ready to live NOW.


Chuck’s Place: Under the Bodhi Tree

In a dream, I witness a family with young children confronted with frightening events. They play a game where they race to outpace the impending disasters by creating stories that keep them at bay.

We tell ourselves stories, or stories are told to us, to spin reality and make us feel safe. We live in a time of great storytelling delivered through modern machines. Economies are now driven by handheld storytelling devices competing to deliver the latest story the fastest. Who can give us the latest image, joke, and spin in the fewest nanoseconds?

Meanwhile, the post-American Dream reality continues to debunk an illusory world long over. There are no real American corporations. Corporations are moneymaking entities with allegiance only to that which generates profit. America’s manufacturing has long left its shores in search of highest possible profit. America has become a Third World country that industry now seeks to exploit for its final riches—its natural resources. All this under the story of keeping America safe, secure and, of course, working!

When could we have imagined that fracking—a known disastrously carcinogenic procedure to obtain natural gas—is almost certain to be allowed in the midst of New York’s Hudson Valley, the major water supplier to millions of people in New York City. The storytellers are powerfully suggesting that it is the only American thing to do, to shore up our economy and preserve our independence. Such a “safe technology!” We are assured that our drinking water won’t be compromised. How reassuring!

The corporate world has wormed its way into the internet, the final frontier of free speech. Algorithms, ultimately programs designed to cater to our likes, secretly prejudice the information we call for and unleash the modern “hidden persuader” in search of our money. Watch TED talk:

What FACEBOOK and GOOGLE are Hiding from world.

So blinded are we by our own hunger for self-importance that we readily reveal all our likes and dislikes to Facebook, who’s algorithms digest the data and hand it, on a silver platter, to industry. And, we don’t care! As don Juan said: We are happy chickens in a chicken coop! Happily pecking away in our imprisonment, being fed to bursting.

Tweetie Bird, Twitter, has come of age as a scientific storyteller, yesterday revealing the universality of global mood shifts. The big news: people are happiest in the morning and on the weekend. How enlightening. With that news I can now be happy when I awaken and when the work week is complete, knowing that I’m normal, just like everyone else. Do we really need a “scientific study” from this giant storytelling machine to tell us something that we know by simply observing ourselves? Or have we come so far from knowing ourselves that we don’t know what we feel or when we feel it without Twitter’s enlightenment?

We are indeed in a time of great change. The old stories are folding and we anxiously grasp at our storytelling machines for calming new stories like the young family in my dream desperately seeking to stave off impending doom. I think it might be time to turn to an old story that presents a simple technique to find calm without a story.

No CAT-astrophies

There was once a Buddha who sat beneath the bodhi tree. He sat in utter stillness, calmly breathing, as apocalyptic and sensuous, lustful stories passed before him. He knew them all to be illusions and so he grasped at none of them, allowing none to plant seeds in his mind to generate worrisome, anxious or fearful attachment. Instead, he remained with the truth—unspun reality, simply what is—in utter stillness. With this he found his way to enlightening calm.

In a post-storytelling world of fully recapitulated truth we find our way into utter calm. Release the devices, find a nice tree to sit under, go inward and, in stillness, bypass attachment to the storytelling mind and allow yourself to stay present as the truths of the heart flow through you. Allow yourself to breathe the side to side sweeping breath, releasing untruths while consolidating inner truth.

Discover true calm,

A Day in a Life: Balance, Restless Dog & Broken Buddha

Last week I wrote about balance being important during a recapitulation process, but maintaining balance is of course important at all times. By balance I mean everything from keeping the body and mind healthy with good eating, sleeping, exercise, and stimulating mental activity, to living a thoughtful, compassionate, loving, aware existence in the world, as well as finding a spiritual practice that personally resonates and allows for exploration of the inner self.

For me, balance means all of these things and much more. I’m in balance when I have time for creative work and meditation, even if only for a few minutes during especially busy or stressful times. I’m in balance when I cook, delighting in preparing even the simplest meal with fresh ingredients, and being offered the opportunity to share it in the presence of good company. I’m in balance when I take a few minutes to walk the dog or stroll down the road on a sunny afternoon taking in what nature offers. I’m in balance when I’m focused on a task or project. I’m in balance when I do inner work, attending to what arises during the day to puzzle or challenge me. I’m in balance when I write this blog. However, I awoke feeling very out of balance this morning and with absolutely no idea what I would write about today.

The dog was restless all night. We wondered if she was perhaps letting us know that her time here is almost done. She’s old. Her legs are bad. She’s deaf. When she sits outside in the yard the vultures begin to circle overhead. We’ve been noticing this phenomenon for weeks now, their keen senses of smell and sight picking up on the vulnerabilities of an old animal who would be unable, at this stage of life, to survive out in the wild. During the night I heard the coyotes howling several times and I wondered if she heard them too, calling her to the next world, come to accompany her spirit on its next journey. I worried about letting her out during the night, though she insisted, knowing that they were out there on the prowl.

She has a tendency to wander off. Early this morning I let her out for the millionth time since the night began and went into the kitchen to put the coffee on. Most of the time she goes outside and just stands motionless or wanders around marking her territory then heads back to the front door to be let back in, it’s a predictable routine. This time when I went to let her back in, she was nowhere in sight. Pulling on my rubber boots I went outside to look for her, noticing that the night sky with its brilliant spread of gleaming stars was beginning to cloud over. I saw her heading toward the neighbor’s open garage and set off at a jog, hoping to head her off before they discovered me standing between their cars in my pajamas. Before I could catch her she darted inside. Embarrassed, I darted in after her and coming up behind grabbed her by the thick mane around her shoulders, surprising her. She whipped around and stared at me, as if to say, “What the heck!? What are you doing?” Which is what I said to her.

Stubbornly, almost digging her heels in, she reluctantly allowed me to push, drag, and shove her back into the house. A little while later, Chuck had left for the office and she needed to go out again. By this time I was beginning to feel extremely frustrated, more out of balance at each scratch at the door signaling her desire to go out. This time I put a leash on her and took her for a walk. Upon returning to the house she refused to come back inside with me, though it was beginning to rain. I left her sitting outside, her leash looped around the neck of the stone Buddha we have sitting in front of our entryway. That ought to keep her safe, I thought.

Every few minutes I checked on her. Like the Buddha she sat quietly, sedately, the grand dame, the queen surveying her land, seemingly contented. All of a sudden she got up and before I could get to her she had dragged the heavy stone Buddha off the step. It fell, smashing its head into the step below, severing it from the body. The dog stood there, unaware of what had just happened. I grabbed the leash before she could do anymore damage and just stood there looking down at the beloved Buddha, the calm sentinel marking our door for so many years, now broken.

The Buddha has always been a symbol of balance to me, serene and calm, he sits unmoving, nothing bothers him and now he’s lost his head! “What does this mean?” I moaned, absolutely regretting the moment I had decided he was strong enough to keep our big dog from wandering. What does it mean indeed? I placed the head back onto the shoulders, where it now sits quite comfortably again. You would never know it was broken simply by looking at it.

I pondered the meaning of the Buddha losing its head. Suddenly I saw the significance of it: he doesn’t need his head! In other words, the Buddha is not the Buddha because of his head. He is the Buddha because he practiced losing his head, by sitting in stillness, detaching from the foibles of the conjuring mind. The Buddha is the symbol of mindlessness, empty head, having finally achieved ultimate clarity, enlightenment, and freedom from the temptations, frustrations, and restless activities of this world.

I must face my own attachment to this beautiful stone Buddha. Though the Buddha has lost his head I must not weep. I must be as contented as Buddha. Even now, with head severed by restless dog, he sits perfectly still, keeping watch over our front yard, still presenting me with the utter calmness of balance that I seek. Or perhaps now truly symbolizing what it means to maintain balance in life, that no matter what comes along to interrupt the flow of our lives or knock our heads off we must learn to anchor ourselves in the inner peacefulness and joy of just being.

If you wish, feel free to share or comment in the Post Comment section below.

Sending you all love, good wishes, and balance.

Chuck’s Place: Into the Archives

Chuck is taking a break so we offer the following blog essay from the Chuck’s Place archives. Have a great weekend!

From 12/20/2008 here is #420 Death, Impermanence & Evolution:

My name is Chuck Ketchel, and I am a being who is going to die. In the shamanic world of Carlos Castaneda, practitioners introduce themselves in this manner, reminding themselves, each day, of their limited time in this world. With awareness fixed on the reality of death, shamans approach each moment knowing full well it might be their last. This gaze opens the door to heightened awareness, seeing beyond the veils of illusion. Shamans constantly condition their energy bodies for their definitive journey into infinity, transcending reincarnation.

Buddha spoke of impermanence in much the same way that the shamans speak of death. For Buddha, our greatest challenge in this world is to free ourselves of attachment to illusions. What he meant by this is our incessant wish for things to stay the same, our grasping to hold onto permanence in our lives. We cherish our families, our homes, our loved ones, our possessions. We cherish youth. We don’t want anything to change. We desperately seek to hold onto life in this world. Our obsessions with health, disease, and cures, reflect our deepest wish to cling to life in our bodies in an unchanging world. For Buddha, this is why we suffer. We cling to an illusion of permanence, which shields us from entry into the greater reality of enlightenment. Hence, we must reincarnate until fully prepared to let go of our illusory props.

In her messages, Jeanne focuses on evolution. In fact, death, impermanence, and evolution are all equivalents. She has us focus on the subtle, as well as the dramatic events in our current lives. Whether it be an ice storm, a snow storm, a change of season, the collapse of a financial system, or entry into a new stage of life, we are constantly being prompted to awaken to change, and to evolve with full awareness.

Each day, we are challenged, by changes that offer us the opportunity to let go, to detach, to die of an old way, and enter a new world. This is how we condition our energetic beings to develop fluidity, the ability to travel in infinity, without attachment to illusions. With fluidity, detachment becomes the ultimate expression of love. To allow oneself to be fully open to another, but equally willing to flow with the changes, unburdened of needy requirements, is living in free-flowing truth.

When Jeanne left this world, she invited me to continue to travel with her, in infinity. Since that time, I have entered and left several worlds. My capacity to experience deeper love has required me, and continues to challenge me, to let go of everything familiar, with an unattached heart, completely open.

If we allow ourselves to evolve in this world, we are already in alignment with the flow of infinity, flowing with death, into new life, each day.

If you wish to correspond, please feel free to post a comment below.

Until we meet again,