If we characterize spiritual advance as reaching the summit of a mountain, being offended is the weight of a leaden backpack we carry as we attempt to climb upwards. The more we feel offended the harder it is to climb. Frequently, the quest becomes like the fate of Sisyphus: repeatedly nearly reaching the top only to tumble back to the start.
The weight of offense is measured by the resentments and entitlements we harbor for the wrongs done to us. These heavy emotions and expectations poison the mood and spirit of everyday life. Though we may have little control over the things that befall us, we have total control over the attitude we assume toward the fact that they happened.
The shamans of ancient Mexico came to the realization that we live in a predatory universe. Objectively speaking, all life feeds upon other life. Even an advanced Yogi who lives through breathing in air alone takes from it and consumes its prana, the subtle ether that sustains the physical body.
Shamans accept the predatory nature of the universe as an energetic fact. They focus on how to navigate life to both survive and advance under these predatory conditions. They see the major hindrance to successful navigation as the human tendency to get caught in affronts to one’s self-importance.
When Jeanne Marie Ketchel was diagnosed with breast cancer, she struggled for years afterwards with resentment. “Why me, I don’t deserve this, I take extraordinary care of myself!” Eventually she came to, “why not me, I’m no more special than anyone else.” This loss of preoccupation with being offended was to free her energy and lead to her spiritual healing and advancement. When she left this world there was no need to fully reincarnate to work through issues of offended self-importance.
Shamans recommend that we use those occasions of feeling offended as opportunities to hone our souls. Though we may be hurt and injured by an attack, we can lighten our pain and sharpen our focus by not being personally offended by an event. The wisdom of martial arts is to never waste any energy at being offended by an attack but instead to have one’s full attention available to prepare the best response.
Shamans suggest we view our interactions with the antagonists in our lives as opportunities for spiritual advancement. This is not about treating our challenges as gifts but simply as necessary opportunities for growth. The task then becomes what we choose to do with our challenges. Our first task is to ruthlessly stare down any self-importance that would compromise our energy and effectiveness.
If we complain, we lose energy. If we get caught in self pity, we lose energy. If we shed offense, pity and judgment, we are free to mold ourselves into any being that would be a step toward ultimate success.
Thus, if I am unfairly treated at work I can allow myself to do grunt work calmly, without wasting energy on being offended, if I see that this will lead to my ultimate advancement. I can feel good that I am honing my energy for spiritual and career advancement by remaining calm while actually being treated unfairly.
Even if I never receive the promotion I deserve, I am significantly lightening the weight of being offended, and lightening my backpack, as I rapidly surmount the summit! That’s the best use of the predatory universe we live in.
Without attachment to outcome, release the weight of offense and you can’t help but spiritually advance.
A central feature of shamanic technology is the use of a petty tyrant for the purpose of growth. In The Fire From Within, Don Juan Matus defines a petty tyrant for his apprentice, Carlos Castaneda: “A petty tyrant is a tormentor… someone who either holds the power of life and death over warriors or simply annoys them to distraction.”
From a shamanic perspective, the more ruthless the tyrant the greater its potency. The tyrant disrupts any attachment one might have to moral fairness as an inalienable right and resting place.
The benefit of such disruption is to obtain access to a more expansive plane of consciousness better suited to navigating the greater reality of infinity. If we remain too fixed in our entitlement for a fair and reasonable universe, we remain unschooled in the ways of a predatory universe. The greatest predator of all is the irrational within ourselves that refuses to be tamed.
On a lighter note, the tyrant can be found in a Freudian slip, where we are tricked into revealing the irreverent side of our own judging nature. Though we hide behind a well-crafted persona, the trickster makes us cringe in shame as we inadvertently expose our true feelings. That trickster is the petty tyrant tormentor that resides within ourselves. How will we ever become whole beings if we disavow the Id of the Freudian unconscious?
If we can allow ourselves to laugh at our leveled ego, releasing the chains of a bruised self-presentation, then we will have passed the tyrant’s test. The tyrant truly helps us to get beyond the limitations of self-pity and self-importance that so limit our growth.
Petty tyrants also show up daily in our outer world lives, via the law of attraction. We actually, unknowingly, attract those individuals who frustrate and torment us, as an outer means to grow beyond the trap of feeling sorry for ourselves in our seeming powerlessness.
The key to the tyrant’s technique is cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance occurs when the mind is confronted with two seemingly irreconcilable opposites. For instance, someone who truly helps and cares for you, suddenly stabbing you in the back. These contradictory behaviors simply do not compute in the mind, and cause disbelief and disorientation.
Emotionally, such cognitive dissonance leads to anger, sadness and depression. The task is to depersonalize the contradictory behavior and accept the pure truth presented: the reality you believed to be true, and the emotional attachment you had to that illusion must be released. You have entered a new reality through acceptance of the real truth presented.
To be able to be thankful to a ruthless, irreverent tyrant, who renders you a victim, is the resolution of two distinctly opposing experiences with the same person. The ability to reach such resolution frees one from the necessity of clinging to the safety of a predictable and fair universe. The key is in always being able to ultimately find love and laughter in whatever we are presented with. If we take ourselves too seriously, we burden ourselves with expectations that hamper our fluidity.
The fact is that coming into a life on planet Earth implies that we made the decision to do a tour with the petty tyrant. The greatest tyrant on Earth is death itself. After all the work we do to attach to loved ones and accomplish our Earthly roles, we are then forced to relinquish it all upon physical death. This hidden fact makes us all victims of human life.
In our advanced rational and technological age, belief in life beyond the physical body is largely rhetoric. Our obsession with the physical, as the only provable reality, casts a huge shadow of doubt over an afterlife. Frequently, it is the blow of the petty tyrant that opens the gates to life beyond the physical body.
Trauma is the blow of the petty tyrant. Trauma is cognitive dissonance. In trauma our precious hold on predictable reality is shattered by events that break all the rules yet introduce us to a deeper truth. And that truth is that everything is possible, even the unthinkable. If we can flow with that knowing, we need not cling to the illusion of guaranteed safety.
Of course, by one standard this rupture is unfair and deplorable, yet the jolt to the security of the known and predictable is the ticket to the discovery of heretofore unknown dimensions of the self. Most significant is the discovery of the self that lives outside the limits of the physical body; the body will die in time space but this self will live on.
From this place, the tyrant, though still reprehensible from one perspective, is met as the teacher, the initiator into greater reality. Of necessity, the tyrant’s blow makes us dissociative victims. And make no mistake about it, that blow is lethal.
Nonetheless, if we can take the journey to resolve the cognitive dissonance we are presented with, we advance freely into advanced consciousness and our fuller potential in the energetic dimension of our being. This is the greatest value offered by the petty tyrants who disrupt the comfort of our lives.
Of course, there are many stages, filled with many tasks to complete before we can arrive at the knowing that the petty tyrant is our chosen and necessary teacher. That knowing is the crowning realization of a completed recapitulation of a life, and lifetimes, that honed the sobriety, fluidity and analytic ability to come home to the fullness of self.
Be accepting of wherever you are on that journey. All roads lead to home.
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.
Holding space means being with someone without judgment. Holding space means being fully present without seeking anything in return. Holding space means bearing the tension of opposition. Holding space means unconditional acceptance of all that is.
Trickster is the child in all of us who simply refuses to conform to civilized expectations. That child will undermine our ego’s best intentions, as we find ourselves breaking our deeply fought for resolutions at trickster’s instigation. In a heartbeat, trickster will concoct a reason to open the refrigerator or peek at Facebook. Later, defeated and guilty, ego contritely starts anew on its road to self-improvement.
Before we completely demonize trickster, let us ponder a koan from Jesus. In Matthew 18: 2-4, Jesus is quoted as stating, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Clearly, the suggestion, on some level, is that, holding space for trickster is fundamental to spiritual evolution.
Trickster is a character that appears in the mythology of all cultures. Phil Jackson, of immortal basketball coaching acclaim, bestowed upon one of his star Chicago Bulls, Dennis Rodman, so called “best friend” of Kim Jong-un, the role of a Heyoka, a Lakota Indian trickster spirit, who both crossdresses and does things backwards to challenge the prevailing order of the tribe.
Phil Jackson recognized the necessity of holding space for this most unruly of characters, who would at times cost his team games and at other times help teammates to get over their self-importance and just have fun playing basketball. Like noted physicist David Bohm, Jackson knew the value of bearing the tension of full wholeness, over merely expecting goodness, in elevating a team to a higher level of play.
Jackson stressed the practice of patience in allowing another person to be who they were going to be, and while not protecting them from the natural consequences of their actions, not excluding them from the team either. In fact, he stressed the critical necessity of all-inclusiveness, including even the most vile trickster, in the building of a whole team.
David Bohm insisted that the way to advance civilization’s survival was to bring together all disparate characters at a roundtable of dialogue. All would commit to suspend judgment and merely express themselves and get to know their neighbors. The objective is not to advance one’s view over another’s, but simply to be part of this living wholeness.
Bohm predicted that this full presence alone, devoid of any attempt at convincing, would in itself give rise to the necessary resolution of difference. Perhaps his vision is similar to a Quaker service where, in the presence of the wholeness of the group, guidance spontaneously emerges in a channeled message. This was his social equation for human resolution, as he realized that at the most quantum subatomic level, only through the removal of subjective prejudice could science arrive at the fullest truth of energetic reality.
The trickster in all of us is our inner hero in the rough. Trickster is the ultimate Freudian slip, where the truth is most uncomfortably revealed. Perhaps that truth has laid bare one’s pretentious host at a party, or exposed one’s own most sensitive sore spots.
Trickster is daring, indignant, irreverent, ruthless, charming, hilarious, playful, spontaneous, sensitive, insensitive, attention-seeking, and highly self-centered. Trickster disdains reason and is far more driven by impulsive opportunity to shock and disrupt. Don’t expect trickster to be good at the party. Trickster is already eyeing the desert when you first walk through the door.
Don’t shut out trickster’s truth. Be patient and suspend judgment upon the full truth of the self. See what might emerge as you bear this tension. If trickster appears outside the self, in the person of another, recognize its value as petty tyrant. In Carlos Castaneda’s shamanic lineage, trickster as petty tyrant is the person who most deeply offends us.
Typically, these are the characters one would prefer most to not have in one’s life. But, from a spiritual advancement opportunity, petty tyrants require one to completely relinquish the ego’s self-importance by not engaging in a defeatist argument in a futile attempt to defend oneself. Trickster also lays bare any proclivity to self pity, which in itself depresses the ego into immobilization.
Alternatively, if one can contain one’s anger and hurt within the cauldron of self, and travel down the rabbit hole of holding space beyond one’s hurt ego, one may be led on a journey of enlightenment to hidden memories and attitudes, which reveal previously veiled truths about the self.
Trickster may never mature, but trickster will challenge one to get beyond the limitation of self-importance that burdens all egos. It may very well be that trickster’s irreverence persists only until ego truly grows up to the truth of right action, and assumes appropriate leadership. From that accomplishment trickster moves on, in its own mercurial way, to force attention upon another of ego’s many blindspots.
Most importantly, trickster offers us the opportunity to recover our lost innocence, the awe that leads to spiritual advancement.
Hold yourself as accountable as you hold others. Take responsibility for yourself and your actions, just as you expect others to be responsible for themselves. Individuation, coming to the fullness of who you truly are, requires that you take on the tasks of life in all forms, including losing your self-importance around being owed anything or being special. It is only through fully owning your own life and what has happened to you as part of the bigger plan to get you to your wholeness that you will truly individuate. Accountability and responsibility lead to fulfillment and fulfillment leads to freedom. And freedom comes not from others but only in freeing the self from its steadfast ideas. Letting go of the known self and discovering the unknown, true self is what freedom is. Stalk freedom.