Tag Archives: opposition

Chuck’s Place: Positively Negative

Sometimes life is defined, balanced, black and white... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Sometimes life is defined, balanced, black and white…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

We live in a world of polarities. We come into life; we die. You can’t have one without the other; they are opposite sides of the same coin. To obtain the full value of that two-sided coin we must integrate both of its sides, positive and negative. By merging this seeming opposition into its true wholeness we allow fulfillment in this life and at death, as we seek to continue resolved of this life.

If we consider being positive as seeing the good qualities, the brighter side of life, we can see how a positive attitude invites openness, joining and expansion in our life decisions. Conversely, if we see being negative as a focus on the bad qualities of someone or something, we can see how a negative attitude helps us to create sharp boundaries and separateness, conservatively generating protection from the potential ill-effects of contact beyond the self.

In effect, positive moves us toward greater union, negative maintains protective boundaries. From this perspective we can appreciate both positive and negative as necessary attitudes to regulate and navigate life.

If I am to remain open to new life, be it through a relationship, experience or opportunity, I must be able to see the potential good in all of these situations. On the other hand, if I am to properly protect myself I must be open to seeing the predatory and dangerous potential in all encounters with living beings and life’s offerings.

Successful navigation of life necessitates the ability to integrate both negative and positive perspectives. We are all bipolar beings who must find the right balance of positive and negative perspectives. Bipolar disorder is actually a failure to find a constructive integration of these bipolar attitudes.

In deep inner work we seek to integrate the opposites... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
In deep inner work we seek to integrate the opposites…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

In extreme cases we see a lack of corrective balance between poles where an individual clings too rigidly to one pole or another. For example, an extreme attachment to the positive pole can lead to such expansiveness that one gives up sleeping, hits the casinos and exhausts a life’s savings on a whim, seeing no need for limitation.

At the other extreme, over-attachment to the negative pole can lead to such a deep sense of futility in engaging in life that one might sink into a suicidal depression. In actuality, bipolar disorder leads to powerful mood swings. Eventually, the clinging to one pole exhausts into the opposite side, be it from negative to positive or visa-versa.

We live in a time where negativity and cynicism dominate. On one level this is an honest reaction to the expansive one-sided attitude of wealth and capital that sees no need for limitation, sharing, or protection of the environment.

However, when negativity is overly dominant it tends to generate a feeling of powerlessness, with little energy left to make any effort toward positive change. While we need to respect the truths that the negative perspective reveals, we must also be mindful of becoming too polarized to this extreme, which can lead to inertia and indifference.

On the other hand, sometimes depression is necessary, as life as it has been lived must be halted while we go inward to find the seeds of new positive life. Seedlings require care and attention, as does bringing new parts of the self into life. This is not the time of rapid expansion indicative of a dominantly positive attitude.

In our wholeness we become centered, light and dark in balance... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
In our wholeness we become centered, light and dark in balance…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Even in the midst of a depression, however, I generally suggest remaining positively negative. That is, to hold onto the positive knowing that even a depression is but a stage in the birth of new life with its eventual return to expansiveness that in due time will recede and acquiesce to even newer life, as we take our ever-evolving journey.

On that infinite journey,

Chuck’s Place: Reconciliation Of Retrograde

Trickster energy… - Photo by Chuck Ketchel
Trickster energy…
– Photo by Chuck Ketchel

It’s 6:21 AM. I’m driving slowly along the windy hilly roads to work. My mind is preoccupied with the experience Jan and I had last Friday at the VA Hospital in Albany. We’d been invited to present on PTSD. We decided to give an experiential presentation for which I’d brought my EMDR light bar. There was a delay getting into the conference room, as a prior meeting was spilling over into our time. Our presentation time was compromised, as another presenter was to follow immediately after us.

Once we finally entered the room, I quickly attempted to set up the equipment. Suddenly we entered a cartoon-like dream. Everything we touched, although meticulously packed, fell apart. The tripod literally fell into pieces, impossible to reassemble.

“Okay,” I resolve, “I’ll hold the light bar without the stand.” As I go to clip the control switch into the bar I discover that the clip is broken. There is no salvaging the equipment now! That’s it, I decide, the trickster shaman’s world trumps. The Magical Breathing Pass of Recapitulation will have to be the main experiential feature. And so, about 25 people learned and experienced this ancient Magical Pass and it’s application to PTSD.

As I continue to drive to work, I recall that the time crunch of the presentation also precluded a brief group hypnosis that Jan was to give at the close of the talk. Suddenly, my awareness is abruptly drawn back to the present moment: a young deer is staring at me, frozen in the road. I slam on the brakes—a near miss!

The symbol for Mercury...
The symbol for Mercury…

What does it all mean? For the past several days, I’ve been experiencing and observing opposition and retrograde. We exist and are composed of fields of competing energies. Mercury, the trickster energy, is indeed in retrograde. At the VA we experienced the ancient shamanic energy opposing and trumping the modern mechanical/technological world. At the moment I recalled the opposition of time and trance—no time for a group hypnosis—I was awoken from my own highway hypnosis to not kill a deer. Here was the opposition of time and timelessness: being present in this moment to not kill a deer vs being lost in the timeless world of the mind’s meanderings.

We all struggle with oppositions within the self. Carlos Castaneda relates in Magical Passes how don Juan Matus explained this in a metaphorical sense: “…that we are composed of a number of single nations: the nation of the lungs, the nation of the heart, the nation of the kidneys, and so on. Each of these nations sometimes works independently of the others, but at the moment of death, all of them are unified into one single entity.” (pp. 103-4)

Our challenge in this life is to reconcile those oppositions within us, the trickster included, into an integrated whole, in a process that Jung termed individuation.

Sometimes the nation of the stomach craves that which the other nations of the body reject. Sometimes the neocortex—our rational brain—rejects the impulses and needs of our limbic system—our animal brain.

When my neocortex confronted the frozen limbic response of the deer in my headlights, it managed to direct my body to hit the brakes. My own limbic system worked in concert with my neocortex to supply the rapid response to react physically to the crises at hand. This is an optimal response—nations of the self unified, acting in concert.

In times of retrograde, Mercury, the trickster, can confound all attempts at collaboration. Mercury laughed as I fumbled with the equipment at the VA. Rather than fight, I read the signs and immediately shifted. Acquiescing, I flowed with the energy of the moment and instead taught deep bodily knowledge.

Opposition is within us all...
Opposition is within us all…

When I asked the I Ching for guidance regarding this period of retrograde, it once again, not surprisingly, produced the hexagram of Opposition, #38. The moving lines—in the third and fourth places—depicted a wagon with oxen being dragged backwards. Now there’s a retrograde image! The guidance reads: though humiliation might occur, sit tight, wait, align with a likeminded person who can be trusted. In the case of the faulty light bar, I turned to my neocortex, which acted in concert with spirit: Go with the flow, trust the Magical Pass.

In shaman’s terms, the guidance is to suspend judgment, to look beyond the impasse. Reconciliation lies in the deeper meaning of the trickster’s intent—to reveal a deeper truth: The ancient Magical Pass of Recapitulation is all you need to be freed of PTSD.

We can reconcile with all our retrograde energies if we accept their opposition with patience and perseverance, not falling for the trap of self-blame. The deeper meaning of Mercury’s retrograde lies in the wings of Mercury—our freedom to fly—achievable if we don’t get caught in the heaviness of opposition.

Flowing on the wings of Mercury,

Chuck’s Place: Guidance For Shutdown

Today, Chuck offers his blog, in alignment with the energy of the world around us. Jan’s weekly blog, A Day in a Life, will appear later in the week.

The old sage stands firm and waits... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
The old sage stands firm and waits…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Over the past few weeks I have tracked the energy permeating our world in consultation with the I Ching. Two weeks ago, I was advised that restoration of order—the Tao—required acquiescing to the respective needs of the day, afternoon, and evening. Last week, I asked how this can be accomplished when one part of the self tries to infringe on the needs of the overall self. The I Ching advised that the adult self follow the guidance of the sage, leaving behind the demands of the child self. This week, the child self has rebelled with a fury, seizing control by shutting down the US Government and the world economy as it tries desperately to subvert the implementation of a law it dislikes.

Today, I pose to the I Ching the question of how to deal with such an absurd and obvious coup. The I Ching responds with hexagram #21, Biting Through, with a moving line in the second place.

Biting Through depicts an open mouth with an obstruction stuck in the middle of its teeth as it bites down. “Incorrigible people and situations must not be allowed to impede progressive development,” says the I Ching.* A firm adult stance must be taken here. Furthermore, the moving line in the second place depicts a piece of tender meat in the mouth. Here the discrimination between right and wrong is as easy as biting through tender meat. In fact, the wrongness of the behavior displayed is so obvious that it might lead one to overreact with retaliating anger. This is not advisable.

The antidote prescribed for this opposition is indeed hexagram #38, Opposition. “When people live in opposition and estrangement they cannot carry out a great undertaking in common; their points of view diverge too widely. In such circumstances one should above all not proceed brusquely, for that would only increase the existing opposition; instead, one should limit oneself to producing gradual effects in small matters. Here success can still be expected, because the situation is such that the opposition does not preclude all agreement.”

“…So the cultured man is never led into baseness or vulgarity through intercourse or community of interests with persons of another sort; regardless of all commingling, he will always preserve his individuality.” **

The guidance is clear, stay grounded, stay firm but avoid losing oneself or spending one’s energy in futile battle. What is needed is firmness of conviction with compassion for the folly. Ultimately the child self is dominated by fear of change. The root of its act of sabotage is to find safety in the familiar and unchanging. With firm perseverance the adult takes charge and calmly enacts needed change.

The value of the coup played out before us is the obviousness of its tactics. Mature adults are catering to the power demands of a child self to the detriment of all. When this condition emerges within the personality decisions are impulsive and dangerous. The outcome is generally one of stagnancy, defeat, and depression. This condition comes about when the adult self knowingly or inadvertently accedes its power to the child self.

The antidote to such an inner coup is to suspend negative judgments about the self, but with clarity energetically face the truth of what has occurred and restore order and control as soon as possible. It’s not about self-ridicule or blame, there needs to be total acceptance of self, with firmness in realigning with the guidance and truth of the sage self, always present to clarify and guide.

Assuming adult responsibility for self and outer world requires the clarity and firmness of Biting Through coupled with the steadiness of Opposition, as conditions will gradually return to order.

Let’s see what happens,

* Excerpt from The I Ching Taoist Book of Days, 1983; p.152
** Excerpt from The I Ching or Book of Changes Richard Wilhelm translation, pp.147-8

Chuck’s Place: Rite of Spring

Today we post Chuck’s blog. Jan’s blog will appear on Friday this week.

Will spring ever come? - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Will spring ever come? – Photo by Jan Ketchel

As I write, millions of Hindus celebrate the festival of Kumbh Mela at the mythical river Ganges. The Tibetans have just celebrated their New Year, the year of the water snake, on the day the Pope resigned. Fat Tuesday, the height of Carnival, lands on the day of President Obama’s State of the Union address. Today, Ash Wednesday, ushers in Lent, forty days of sacrifice—carne denied—before nature ushers in the Rite of Spring.

The juxtaposition of these human traditions built upon the deepest cycle of nature—the end of winter—reveals the exceptional tumult and uncertainty of our time. Will spring ever come, will life survive this most tenuous time of year? A Pope resigning, an unheard of event, is a strong testament to our time of fragility and rapid change, and the need for new governance to lead us forward. The King is dead, long life the King!

On Monday of this week, I turned to the I Ching for reflection on the extraordinary synchronicities of these archetypal events. I offer its guidance as I received it: I threw hexagram #64, Before Completion, with moving lines in the first, second, and fifth places. The resulting future of this hexagram is hexagram #25, Innocence.

Before Completion is the time of very early spring, the time we are in now. The image is that of the fox crossing the semi-frozen surface of a lake. How wisely will that fox cross so as to not accidentally fall through a crack in the ice?

Hexagram #64 is the final hexagram in the I Ching, the Book of Changes. It ushers in the beginning of a new cycle, the time of year we are in now. It is the time of new governance that we are now in as well. It’s the time of planetary transition, at the deepest level, that we are also now in. The question is, as the earth enters its new cycle, how wise will we humans be as we cross the thin ice? How well will we fare?

The two elements that comprise hexagram #64 are fire above and water below. These elements are opposites and they are moving away from each other. Something must happen to bring these elements into a harmonious relationship. Our human country and human world suffer this same opposition now, a great division. Will we find a way to reconciliation and the fostering of new life?

The first moving line states that the fox is too hasty; it gets wet. The I Ching suggests that we are quite vulnerable to get it wrong; to move too hastily is to form a less than perfect union. Restraint is suggested to avoid failure and humiliation.

In the second line, the fox exercises its brakes and does not cross the thin ice. Patience, to accrue the inner strength that together with firm intent will provide the right vehicle to cross the lake, is the guidance here.

The six in the fifth place is the ruler of the hexagram. Victory is achieved. Steadfastness leads to a superior personality that crosses the ice successfully. And with this, the potent, medicinal, nourishing sprouts of spring break through the surface to support new life.

The hexagram of Innocence guides the practice outlined in these moving lines. The essence of innocence is the alignment of ego with spirit self. When ego acts in the service of spirit it is restored to its innocence. This is not a return to the unconscious innocence of the Garden. This is evolved innocence, consciousness that acquiesces to the truth of the spirit.

Last night we witnessed opposition—fire and water, Democrat and Republican—as presented in hexagram #64 in real time, as the archetypal drama of excess, sacrifice, death and the hope for new life played out before us. Mardi Gras closed on the heels of death, Ash Wednesday, as Guy Fawkes—the giant straw man, in the guise of Christopher Dorner—was burned in the arms of Big Bear, CA. The TV networks struggled to decide which reality to display as President Obama simultaneously, in his State of the Union address, spoke of a realignment of governance to face the truths of a planet in peril. He spoke of global warming, energy that doesn’t pollute, and greed tempered to provide a fair wage. These are the sacrifices spoken about in the I Ching under innocence, where the ego—the governing body of the self and of humankind—acquiesces to the truth of the spirit. And Obama stood there before the opposites of fire and water to bring these two opposing forces into fruitful alignment and the hope of a new spring and sustainable life.

Will we take the advice of the I Ching, so in alignment with now? Do we have the humility of a Pope who retires his ego, recognizing that he can no longer hear the spirit and properly serve the people? Can we of the human race surrender our collective ego as the fathering principle of this planet, and acquiesce to the truth of spirit as our Rite of Spring? With a hopeful outlook, the Book of Changes comes to a close and simultaneously enters a new cycle of life. Let’s see what happens.

In anticipation,