Tag Archives: shamanic teaching

Chuck’s Place: Yesterday’s Last Stand

Heading into the future of a bright new day…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

My Spirit informs me every morning that yesterday is a past life. Deeply appreciative of that life lived, now is the time to pay it forward by meeting new life without attachment. Attachment is actually an emotional investment in an outcome.

There is a governor’s race of significance happening in Virginia on the day this blog is published. I believe I know what winner would represent the better outcome for being in the Tao. I voted, yet intend to have no attachment to the outcome.

The challenge is to achieve equanimity. The shamans of ancient Mexico taught that to truly be open to what infinity presents we must be free of expectation and prejudice. They discovered that the best training ground for that level of receptive attitude was in one’s encounters with the petty tyrants of this world.

A petty tyrant disregards all the rules. A petty tyrant has no consideration for the needs of others. A petty tyrant uses and abuses to satisfy their own selfish needs.

When we encounter petty tyrants we may be deeply hurt and offended by their actions. Ironically, this helps us, as we are shown where our egos have become personally attached and identified with the actions of others. Our emotions flare, as we are thrown off balance, and are drained of our energetic reserves. Our egos become deeply offended, requiring palliative care.

Sidelined by deflation, negativity pours in and we become slaves to our wounded feelings. The shamans recommend that we refine our egos by releasing all attachment to expectations of fairness and the consequent reactive emotions.

Ego, freed of these attachments, becomes a highly tuned unit of navigation, capable of adjusting to anything it encounters. It needn’t spend any of its vital energy defending its self-importance. The refined ego identifies fully with the values and intents of its Spirit, and adapts itself to what is possible, in any given situation.

Thus, if ‘the other guy’ wins the election, the ego will waste no time feeling sad, frightened or angry. If ‘the right guy’ wins the election, the ego will not indulge in feeling happy or hopeful. Equanimity imposes no judgment upon what is. Equanimity says: suspend judgment, await guidance from Spirit as to the next right action.

At the soul level of being—that is, life beyond the physical dimension—it is evident that powerful influences are engaged in the current struggle upon this Earth. As evenly divided as the legislatures of this world are, so are the positive and negative energies impacting this world. We are all engaged in a multi-dimensional dance between the forces of good and evil, no matter how attached or detached we are.

The I Ching frames this as the time of Coming to Meet (Hexagram #44). We are warned of the danger of such powerful clashes. Nonetheless, if we use such encounters as opportunities for shedding the heaviness of self-importance, we advance in spiritual lightness.

Spiritual lightness is our evolutionary destiny now, as we release yesterday’s attachment to material obsession and ego importance. This lightness of being allows us to be supremely in the Tao, now, irrespective of the world’s dance. We simply go with the flow, with abandon.

The most oppressive petty tyrants we face reveal themselves in our own inner prejudices. Ironically, they are also our greatest blindspots. We tend too quickly to project them upon the many tyrants of the outside world.

Nonetheless, if we track and examine our passionate emotions we are sure to be led to inner attachments, those attitudes that resist the new life of each new day.

As we are all holograms of our subtler interconnectedness, know that all personal progress in detachment advances our greater whole along its evolutionary path.  Appreciate, as well, those who so tightly cling to yesterday. Yesterday’s last stand is but the prelude to today’s unfolding.

Going with the flow,


Chuck’s Place: The Weight of Being Offended

To the summit!
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

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.



Chuck’s Place: A Shift of the World’s Assemblage Point

Being Intent, no matter what…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Carlos Castaneda faced the most ego-crushing fact. His role, as dictated by Spirit itself, was to end rather than continue his shamanic lineage, a lineage that had spanned twenty-seven generations.

Carlos’ dilemma mirrors the energetic configuration of our time, a time of endings.

Earth herself is in a time of major reshaping as she violently shakes free of the shackles of inertia that have bound her in place. Shamans would call the place of her frozen fixation, the world’s assemblage point, the place where the Earth’s energy is assembled into a consensus reality, the everyday world as we have known it.

The Earth abounds now with dismantling events, be they earthquakes, Senate trials, or viruses. Reality, as we have known it, is being rocked at its core. Institutions are falling like dominoes. Many dreams are vying to become the new consensus reality, the world’s new position of the assemblage point.

As I see it, the destructive phase of now will not be of short duration. The dream currently dominating is the ultimate completion of a one-sided American dream. That dream demands full expression. Perhaps that is the true contribution of our time, to not suppress and pass along that unfulfilled dream for future generations to have to complete. I believe this current dream has been long in the making. That dream spares not even a brush with apocalypse to fulfill its hunger for power and domination.

More comprehensively put, America is completing the ultimate ego over everything dream. This is actually a universal dream, not just America’s. The universality of that dream reflects a world developmental process that tests the viability of fixation at the level of total narcissism.

The current strain of the coronavirus has presented a most interesting challenge to the most populated country on Earth, China, the ancient home of the Book of Changes, the I Ching. Could an alternative dream be unfolding where China shakes off its materialistic dew and gets down to its Taoist roots, action in accordance with Inner Truth (hexagram #61)?

A totalitarian regime has chosen to lose face. No hiding its blemish; it is currently the home of a deadly virus. Superhuman efforts are being made to construct necessary hospitals, isolate large masses of people, and provide accurate safety precaution to all. Economic considerations pale next to the cooperative needs of survival.

Who knows what will happen, but at present this unfolding dream appears to attempt to stalk a position beyond the narcissism of damage control to face the actual danger, with rationality untempered by narcissism. Planet Earth is steadily insisting on a movement that assembles such a reality.

More dreams will  fill the world stage in the coming months; these are the trials of transformation. When Carlos Castaneda was confronted with deciding what to do with the hidden knowledge of his shamanic lineage, as he closed its door, he dreamed forward Tensegrity, offering anyone who wanted it the practical knowledge of the Shamans of Ancient Mexico.

Carlos, while still in this world, would marvel at Tensegrity workshops, that he was able to observe perhaps a thousand people practicing in unison the Magical Passes of his lineage. This was a sight no other Nagual—the shamanic leader of a group of no greater than 16 apprentices in each generation—had ever witnessed: the power of the mass impact of these Magical Passes performed in unison.

Carlos Castaneda believed that the time had arrived where a new power of the mass, spirit warriors from all nations and traditions, would energetically combine their forces of intent  to shift the world’s assemblage point to a new, more comprehensive position to ensure a solid foundation for survival.

The ending of Carlos’ line marked the end of the self-importance of any one tradition holding the exclusive keys to the kingdom. The mass movement of this growing collective intent is fueled by truth, love, and pragmatism. It includes movements such as minimalism, clean energy, small cooperative organic farming communities, respect for the Earth as a living planetary being, as well as the all-inclusive values and practices of all spiritual traditions, none excluded.

The traumas upon the face of the Earth now, though tragic, reflect a shaking loose of the current heavy inert fixation of the assemblage point that has long been preparing for a necessary move. Carlos demonstrated the necessity of letting go of old ways, particularly the dominance of the narcissism of self-importance, to make room for a new position grounded in the greater common good.

We are lured to give over our attention, our hopes and fears, to quick fixes or idealistic dreams that could stem the tide of this destruction. Best to do this with what shamans call controlled folly: detached passion; rather than deplete one’s energy through futility and defeat. Much more important is to place one’s intent upon joining with the Earth’s intent, as she aggressively shifts her own body to a new and necessary position of the assemblage point.

May all beings join in the intent of this new position of the assemblage point, where reason is stripped of its narcissistic veils and applies itself wholeheartedly to the pragmatism of world survival.

being INTENT,


A Day in a Life: Going Out Of My Mind & Loving It!

Once, a long time ago, when I was explaining to Chuck how I had gone out of my body, frightened that I was losing my mind, he blurted out with a big laugh: “It’s good to go out of your mind!” Anyone who works with Chuck will hear him say this at some point.

Every time he said this, it shook me. Every time I had another out-of-body, out-of-mind experience, I’d hear his voice telling me that it was good, that I should just let it happen, as often as possible. I could hear him telling me to keep training myself, in a shamanic sense: to let go of the constructs of this world by releasing my mind from attaching to them.

Like the frozen pond through the woods, our spirit lies waiting...

I knew he was right, but it took me a long time to be comfortable with letting myself go out of my mind. Now I can’t wait. Each day, as I sit and meditate, I await the moment of release from the things my mind grasps at. Sometimes I’m able to easily free myself, at other times I must sit for a long time as I work through the cogitations of my mind.

So what does that really mean, to lose the mind? In a shamanic sense, it means letting go of our judgments, our critical voices that tell us we cannot possibly be having this experience. It means shutting down our attachments to the known world and allowing ourselves to experience something outside of our body and our brain, momentarily forgetting everything our scientists, our religions, our parents, our teachers have told us is possible. It means freeing ourselves, even momentarily, from all that we perceive as real, tangible, and solid, and just letting ourselves have the experience.

Losing the mind in this way is a very sought after shamanic move, as Chuck always taught me. When Chuck suggested that I lose my mind as often as possible, he was asking me to face the dissolution of this world, this reality, and everything that I had been attached to my whole life. This went far beyond thoughts and perceptions. In fact, it extended even to letting go of the experiences themselves as anything to attach to. It took me a long time to understand this as well. Why wouldn’t I want to attach to those most amazing and transformative experiences?

Where are we caught? What are we attached to? What is attached to us?

In fact, Chuck was suggesting that, rather than seek out the experiences themselves, what I wanted was the enhanced awareness they offered. When we allow ourselves to lose our minds, we offer ourselves glimpses into infinity, glimpses of greater awareness. As we allow ourselves to have experiences that are out of the ordinary, we allow ourselves freedom from the attachments that hold us back in our daily lives too.

I had always had magical experiences in my life, but they got dismissed because of course they could not be true. They just could not happen in the world I lived in. But once I learned of the mystical experiences of the saints of my Catholic school upbringing, I had an inkling that in certain circles such phenomena were totally acceptable. But how would I ever be in a position to discuss such things? Even the Catholic Church, though it reveres such experiences, does not do so easily. It was in talking to Chuck about the shamanic view of the world that I finally found such experiences valued. What he described offered explanations for everything I had experienced, allowing me to release my lifelong fears that I was just plain crazy.

Under Chuck’s tutelage, I learned to balance the mystical experiences of my spirit while living in a world of solid objects and solid declarations of reality. In my inner world, I knew that reality did not work the way I had been taught. My spirit had always sought a far greater worldview. It had already experienced a world without boundaries, without limitations, without judgments. However, greater acceptance that such a world was actually a viable reality and fully accessible was not a process that happened overnight. It took a lot of work and incremental acceptance of a new sense of reality, based on my personal experiences.

In learning shamanic concepts, my psychic experiences, my meditation experiences, my magical, out-of-body experiences found a home, in a place of deep resonance. And that is when I learned that the experiences alone are not meant to be attached to, as Chuck had once suggested. For a time they were deeply meaningful—present and necessary to aid in growing—though eventually they wore thin. And then, the only thing that mattered was what came next to challenge me. It was in this manner that I began to understand that it was not the experiences themselves that were important in the long run, but just how open I could be to keep going, to keep changing myself, and to keep breaking through my attachments to a known world.

Grasping self pecks away, challenging us to change, to keep going...

Every day I ask the universe to lead me, to teach me, to show me something important, to challenge me to let go of my mind, my self-importance, my grasping, needy, ignorant self. I ask that I learn from my experiences, and then I ask that I be freed from those experiences so that I can be open to another, and another, and another, with the intent that I never cease growing.

What am I to learn today? What am I to be shown; what gift of experience will I be offered? And can I accept it? Can I use it to go to a new level of my life on this earth, and enhance my spiritual awareness as well?

The world is now a far larger place, extending far beyond the mind and body, beyond what is real, as I have embraced a new idea of self as energy driven by a spirit that does not want to return to slumber. Real, to me, is no longer restricted to what others have taught me is real, but is open to interpretation. Real is what I experience. And that kind of real is enough for me.

To those who seek greater awareness, I humbly pass on what I have learned, as I ask myself to constantly face my ignorance and continue on this same path of enlightenment: Be open. Let your experiences come to you and, without judgment, release yourself from the cogitations of the mind. Come back to the world you live in more firmly grounded, more balanced in spirit and body, with a greater awareness of the possibilities that exist for you.

Your experiences will be uniquely yours, as mine are mine. But remember, the possibilities in this world are endless. Seek without grasping; experience will seek you.

Offered most humbly,

A Day in a Life: The Twelfth Step—Feminine Energy

On November 4, 2009, I wrote in my journal during the night: I wake up in a dream in heightened sexual arousal, having an orgasm. Oh, yes, I am dreaming and having an orgasm in my dream, so I go with it knowing that it is my own sexual energy that is aroused and activated in orgasm.

Each night for several weeks last fall, I asked to be connected with the women seers of don Juan’s line of sorcerers and each night I was taken on an adventure or given some experience, perspective, or knowledge. It began as a process in learning how to set unbending intent, to detach from the outcome, and to be totally open to what arrived. It grew into something much more than that as the nights unfolded. In this final night of dreaming with the women seers I was able to tap into my feminine energy. On the night before, I was in a heightened state of utter calm, encased in all-knowing awareness. As I wrote about last week in this blog, I believe this step of utter calm was only achievable because I had worked through the previous ten steps and understood the meaning of doing deep inner work, such as recapitulation. With that being said, I believe this final step was also achievable only because I had been able to access that place of utter calm knowing through the process of accepting and acquiescing to the journey I had taken in the past and by remaining open to the possibilities of the journey still to come.

Preceding this dream of orgasm and feminine energy, I had been practicing what I call the feminine energy breath as taught to Taisha by Clara.* This breathing entails inhaling in through the vagina up the back of the body to a point between the shoulder blades, holding it there, then continuing to inhale up the neck and over the top of the head to the third eye, and holding it there before releasing the breath down the face, over the front of the body and drawing it back into the vagina. I had been doing this breathing pattern three or four times during my morning yoga and shamanic practice, and during the day whenever I thought about it, for several weeks. The day before this dreaming episode I had done it pretty much throughout the entire day.

It felt so appropriate that I should have this dream of tapping into sexual energy at this point. I had, as I mentioned, gone into this dreaming process with the women seers with the intent to learn something from them and I felt that I had really worked through and processed everything they taught me. I trusted, quite innocently, that by setting my intent each night my call for guidance would be answered. Apparently, I was ready for this final step: to tap into and feel not only sexual feminine energy, but what I can only describe as being an all-encompassing energy, what the yogis call kundalini, as it rode up and spread like fire throughout my entire body. I knew however that it totally belonged to and came from within me, that it had nothing to do with another person, that it was my own energy on fire, so to speak; that it was real, accessible, and totally enjoyably present inside me. I just had to access it to discover the reality of it.

When I woke up out of the dream I knew that it was not something that only women could experience, but that every one of us, men and women, have this energy inside of us waiting to be accessed and experienced in this whole body release. And yes, it is feminine. That to me is the most interesting part of this final step. I fully understood that it was feminine in nature, but not limited to women. I was aware of the underlying psychodynamic of the masculine and feminine energy balance inside each of us and that we must learn to access both aspects of this energy, that they are present for very different reasons, and if we do not allow ourselves to tap into each one of them we will not be whole, either as human beings or as energy beings.

Throughout this twelve-step dreaming process I was aware of the presence of Jeanne’s energy alongside that of the women seers. I felt her presence, hovering in the background. Perhaps she was there as a mentor or protector, I am not sure, but her energy was present and distinctly different from that of the other energy I met with. All of that energy also felt distinctly feminine. How I knew this I am at a loss to explain, I just knew it was the energy of women.

As I finish writing about this process of dreaming with the women seers I am most struck by the unfolding of it. From the moment of first setting the intent, to being completely open and allowing myself to stay present in each dreaming event, I learned that everything is possible. I learned what it means to fully trust the experiential. It was a magical process in many ways, sometimes fleeting and difficult to grasp, other times very clear and concise, but definitely, experientially, as real as it gets.

Until next week, keep breathing and dreaming. And don’t forget that setting intent really does work. If you wish, feel free to write about your own dreaming experiences in the comment section below.


* NOTE: The breathing I mention is described on pages 45-46 in The Sorcerer’s Crossing by Taisha Abelar, available in our STORE under Shamanism.