Tag Archives: shamans

Chuck’s Place: The Time of the Usher

The usher at a concert escorts us to our preselected seats. In the shaman’s world, the usher is the spirit that selects what we will encounter next. Those who are deeply engaged in traumatic recapitulation are quite familiar with the autonomy of the usher. One never knows what memory is to be ushered in next. It appears, of its own accord in the body, psyche, and events of everyday life.

Our neighbors stirring up some energy…
-Photo by Chuck Ketchel

In tribal times it was the medicine man, or woman, who went into trance and was ushered into spiritual realms that determined the fate of the individual or the tribe. The medicine man had access to unseen spiritual forces, some benevolent, some destructive. The medicine man had no friends. He exerted such a powerful hypnotic effect on tribal members that people avoided contact with him for fear of losing their sanity or becoming possessed by spirits. Nonetheless, the medicine man had his role as mediator to forces that would fundamentally shape the future direction of the tribe, for better or for worse.

In our times, there can be no doubt that Donald Trump is a medicine man. His rise to power indeed defied all reason, his hypnotic tirades channeling a spiritual wave of energy that swept him into the presidency. His intent is that money solve everything. He is a change agent who has opened the tunnel to powerful forces determined to reshape our world. He was selected, he was ushered in, and he in turn ushers the world into where we know not.

In shamanic terms, the usher causes a shift in the assemblage point. The shamans describe the assemblage point as a perceptive center that assembles how we interpret the world. As they see it, our world is held together by a massive uniformity of interpretive agreement. This perceptual agreement is upheld by all members of the human race, generating the world we call reality.

A shift in the world assemblage point shakes the very cohesiveness of the world of everyday life. The reality we’ve come to depend upon crumbles as new building blocks factor into the mix. Like an earthquake, everyone feels the shift, as it shakes the very ground of our beings.

Forces are now rapidly vying to assemble a whole new world, a reality based on a whole new formula. How that will congeal and whether the uniformity necessary to uphold it will be agreed upon remains to be seen. In the meantime, we are all subject to veritable onslaughts of the unknown in the course of everyday life.

This collective instability impacts our personal reality as well. On an individual level, one’s personal usher may be forcing encounters with very deep issues that rattle the familiar security of everyday life. This can take the material form of relationship issues or family crises. Inwardly, this might be a time to face firmly engrained habits that no longer fit the changes the usher demands of us. Inwardly, as well, we may be forced to encounter deeply buried truths and experiences that completely reshape how we know ourselves and the world.

What is clear in this time of the usher is that the world as we have known it cannot be held onto. The consensus of our consensus reality is under too much bombardment to remain in its customary position. The danger of this destabilization should not be taken lightly, but the fact that this time also offers an opportunity for great change is equally significant.  As we grapple with our deep personal challenges we are led outside our familiar selves, into a deeper universe of possibilities that we may have never known about.

Frankly, though Donald Trump has been selected to usher in universal change, I rest assured that the female shamans are behind this maneuver. Radical changes are needed to save this world and he is being used by them to break down the familiar. What comes beyond that, however, goes way beyond him.

I suggest that we all do our part to meet squarely all that comes to meet us, and agree to create a new mass consensus reality based upon love, truth, equality, and sustainability. Let that be the intent we ask of the usher, to land us on the world assemblage point of love!!

Let’s see what happens,


Chuck’s Place: It’s All In The Name

John’s Gospel begins with the statement, “In the beginning was the word… and the word was made flesh.” A new child is assigned a name from which its life “fleshes” out.

Surnames are a given. They issue from the ancient lineage, the journey of one’s genetic tribe, a substrate of the deeper unconscious self, filled with many possible manifestations, “oh, he has his eyes, her nose, his temperament,” as the newborn is fitted into the ancestral backdrop of the tribe.

What's in a name? More than you think! - Photo by Jan Ketchel
What’s in a name? More than you think!
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Despite the power of the ancestral lineage, the more operative, active name for this life we are in is our first name. This name is assigned, by parents, by whatever system of whim or obligation, to be the name we will be known and defined by. In contrast to our ancestral surname, our first name is how we will be most known in this life.

Outwardly, our name carries with it all the associations our family might have with that name, as well as associations to others with a similar name, not to mention the famous or significant personalities who have been identified by the same name. In short, the expectations and perceptions of the outside world will color and define who we will be seen as in response to our given name.

Inwardly, all names derive from ancient archetypal roots that are associated with qualities of nature, myths, and gods. Hence, our name activates archetypal qualities that are expressed as central themes in our lives. For example, I was assigned the name Charles at birth after my vibrant maternal grandfather, a self-made man. Charles issues from the Germanic karlaz, which translates as free man.

I can think of no better words to capture the leading motif of my own life. I left my family as a teenager and struck out on my own, seeking freedom. I was drawn to Carlos Castaneda, a derivation of Charles, who taught complete freedom from the social order and the freedom to travel as a free spirit in infinity unencumbered by dogma. Carl Jung, another derivation of Charles, has been my other ultimate guide to freeing the self from the intrusion of dissociated or unknown aspects of the self.

With consciousness comes freedom. Together with the teachings of Carlos and Carl, I have been able to extend my reach for freedom in my clinical work, helping others to recapitulate and gain freedom from the blockages of their unknown selves.

My wife was given the name Jan because her mother, as a new teacher, saw young girls struggling to write out their long, complicated names. This led her to determine that girls were dumb, and thus she gave her own daughters short, three letter names, perhaps so they might not appear dumb to future teachers. It wasn’t until later in life that Jan learned this was the reason for her name, but nonetheless the determination that girls and women are just not as smart as boys, applied to her personally before she was even born, has been one that Jan has had to struggle against and prove otherwise her entire life.

In the outer world, when Jan lived in Sweden, she was called up for military service, for Jan was a man’s name in Sweden. Outwardly, naming a woman Jan proved rather foolish. This is the name made flesh.

John, of which Jan is the feminine form, was the name of several Biblical characters and disciples of Christ, including the one I quote at the beginning of this blog. It is an important name borne by saints and popes, as well as royalty. Not dumb after all. At the deepest archetypal level, the Hebrew derivation means God is gracious, and I cannot think of a better description of Jan, who has channeled her way to God at the level of her soul, for she is utterly gracious. Of course, it does not escape me that her Soul Sister in infinity, Jeanne, also derives from the same root, John. As a child Jan never liked her name, but now is quite pleased to have it!

It is interesting to study the roots of the name Donald, given current world conditions. Donald is derived from Old Celtic elements dubno (world) plus val (rule). Thus, one who possesses this name may indeed be challenged with the issue of power and world rule. How one would manifest or resolve this charge could vary greatly, but the underlying motif of reckoning with an urge to rule broadly is likely inevitable.

Here one is reminded of the Don, the term affectionately applied to the Italian Mafia godfather who plays a paternalistic role, as well as don being applied to the Nagual, the leader of a shamanic party, as a sign of respect.

When we explore the etymology of our first name, it is valuable to broaden the exploration to include mythological parallels. For instance, a Lauren, whose name derives from laurel, might explore the myth of Daphne and Apollo where transforming into a laurel tree was Daphne’s sanctuary.

In Carlos Castaneda’s lineage it was recommended that people play with renaming themselves, as a tool to erase personal history. The exercise was intended to break the energetic constraints imposed by the expectations attached to one’s given name.

This practice reminds us that though our lives may have been largely defined by the outer expectations and inner archetypes that define and control a name, we are ultimately free to move beyond those constraints and be in charge of our own destinies.

I do suggest, however, that before we move beyond our given name, we explore it fully in the flesh, and realize and resolve the challenges it has presented us with in this life.

Named and Nameless,


Chuck’s Place: Unconventional

Is our world really solid?

How critical it is to develop habits to understand and manage the world. In fact, how critical it is to form the habit of the self. Without a routine definition of who we are we have no grounding, no solid vantage point from which to function as an independent being in the world.

Much effort is spent in childrearing, socializing children into good habits. Judgments stream in from all corners of the adult world to shape the attention and behavior of children into discreet, acceptable patterns. The shamans suggest that this socialization is sheer magic, as it bundles a world of energy into a world of solid objects via mass consensus and conditioning. Shamans don’t contest the validity of a world of solid objects; however, they do point out that that solid world is only one among many worlds that exist and that we have access to.

Throughout history, shamans, out-of-body explorers, and religious mystics have all travelled into worlds of different energetic configurations than this solid one we call home, returning with wondrous and valuable artifacts. Consider the tablets of Moses or the twelve steps of AA, artifacts from energetic contact with other worlds. These are but two examples of the boon from shamanic journeys already taken, gifts offered to a solid world out of balance and seeking guidance.

As we deepen our dance into 2012, we encounter an energetic intent established in the remote past and very much upheld in the present, promising major shift, radical shift, critical to the survival of this solid world that is currently spinning toward evolutionary advance.

We must deepen our journeys into ourselves…

Don Juan Matus predicted that our very survival as a world would require that we deepen our connection to it and ourselves, going beyond its current energetic fixation—that of a world of solid objects. In other words, we must journey deeper into our energetic potential to enrich and rebalance our present world.

This is where we stand now, as we find ourselves between two polarized but parallel conventions promising to hold us together and lead us forward to safety. The true evolutionary path, however, lies in the unconventional. Only through stepping beyond the lines of the conventional—the solid, the rational—does the mystic discover what is truly necessary for evolutionary advance.

In recapitulation, we break ranks with the rational and the conventional, turning to an energetic intent that leads us through the experiences of a lifetime, stored energetically in the body or in some ethereal cloud that knows all. Recapitulation suspends the rational and leads to wholeness, to healing through daring to embark on an energetic/physical journey.

How do we access the ethereal worlds that hold the answers? We must change our habits and dare to enter the realm of the unconventional. For energy to be freed for the journey, it must be harnessed from our world of solid habits. We are a world of distinct habits, individually and collectively. All our energy is funneled into creating and upholding this world. There is no energy left to go beyond it unless we release ourselves from our habits, those that are blatantly obvious and those that we keep hidden.

If we don’t do everything we always do every day, we will free our energy and step into a different world. It’s really that simple.

Dare to try something different…

Breaking the habits of the self opens the self to new possibilities. The initial encounters beyond the conventional might be truly terrifying, encounters with the shadow self, as Jung called it, where we meet the first layer of the onion that keeps hidden all that lies in the darkness of the self. Once reconciled, we are freed to journey deeper into the energetic layers of the onion, into worlds beyond the familiar that offer to teach and guide us safely through the realizations of the intent for evolutionary shift that we are currently experiencing in this year of 2012.

This journey is well underway. We are all in it, individually and collectively. The further we spin into the unconventional the shakier it gets, but the more we learn and discover, the steadier becomes the ride. Fasten your seat belts!

Evolution demands that we reconfigure our energy. The fossil fuels of yesteryear are now the death of our survival. We can no longer turn to the dinosaurs. We must learn to harness greater energetic sources, free from the heavens, be they the sun or the winds or found in the energetic depths of our inner truths. We must dare to enter the unconventional.

Breaking through,

A Day in a Life: Contemplating A Most Challenging Scenario

Death is a twirl; death is a shiny cloud over the horizon; death is me talking to you; death is you and your writing pad; death is nothing. Nothing! It is here, yet it isn’t here at all.” *

What would I do if my parachute didn't open?

I ponder something I read in the local paper recently. A man went skydiving to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday. Strapped to his instructor, he had never jumped out of an airplane before. They jump and begin the free fall. As the instructor pulls the gear that will release the parachute that will bring them safely to the ground, he is knocked unconscious, struck in the head by part of the gear it is surmised. The chute does not open. The two men, strapped together—the unconscious instructor and the novice—plummet to the ground, the twisted parachute totally useless, while the rest of their party, floating in the air around them, watches helplessly. They both die.

I feel deeply for the families of these men who died, for the rest of their group, devastated by this tragedy, and yet I cannot help but think about death as I contemplate this scenario. As the shamans are fond of saying, we are all beings who are going to die. If I know that I can die at any moment, don’t I want to be prepared, aware at all times that death is constantly stalking me?

I experience the shock of tragedy as I read of these deaths. I feel the pain of facing death in this manner, a most challenging scenario. And yet, I know it is really no different than any other death. In the scenario that I describe, the novice is with an expert and yet suddenly, at a most critical moment, the instructor, the expert, is suddenly unavailable. The expert is unconscious, the novice alert, yet he has no recourse. Death is certain. The novice, left on his own, must face his death. Yet, in the end, I must face that it will be the same for all of us. Whether our death is sudden and violent, whether it is slow and painful, or calm, coming in our sleep, we will all have to face our death alone.

I shift my thoughts to the teachings of the Shamans and the Buddhists, who spend their lives preparing for death. We can elect to spend our lives in avoidance of death, in worry of death, in fear of death, or we can spend our lives in acceptance of and preparation for death, not in a morbid way, but with awareness of its inevitability and its evolutionary potential. This is what the Shamans and Buddhists do. They understand the role of the instructor and the novice, the aware self constantly training the novice self, in waking life, sleeping and dreaming life, at all times learning how to remain aware no matter what scenario they find themselves in. They know that at some point there is always the possibility that the instructor will become unconscious and the awareness of the alert novice must take over and carry them through.

When one has nothing to lose, one becomes courageous. We are timid only when there is something we can cling to.” **

I wonder. Perhaps these two men had prepared themselves well. Strangers though they were, perhaps they came together that day fully aware that they would die together. The reality is, that’s just what happened, they died together. Did they know? Now I must turn and ask myself: Am I preparing for my death every day, with awareness? Am I doing enough, saying enough, living and dreaming life to the fullest?

If life is indeed illusion, if this world as we perceive it, does not really exist—as the Shamans and the Buddhists, as the metaphysical thinkers, mystics, and quantum physicists alike declare—can I work to free my attachment from it more fully? Can I detach from this world that I live in, while simultaneously fully using it to train my awareness to be alert at all times?

Detachment, as I understand it, is not a negation, dismissal, or refusal to fully live life in this world, but a total living with awareness, keenly aware of the illusion, while taking full advantage of every moment to learn what that really means. Detachment is being curious, open, thoughtful, unafraid of that which is different or makes us uncomfortable, like contemplating death everyday. If death, as don Juan Matus explains to Carlos Castaneda in the quote I use to open this blog today, is nothing but part of the grand illusion, then death is now. As illusion, “it is here, yet it isn’t here at all,” as he states.

Will my parachute open today?

This idea is quite challenging, but if all that we perceive is illusion, then so is death. Death asks us to contemplate the self as nothing more than a novice skydiver, come to take the leap. Life asks the same of us, for we are all spinning and twirling to our deaths all the time. Are we aware of this?

I ask myself: Can I prepare myself to greet the inevitable, so that when I am in the same predicament as the man who dared to skydive, facing my own death, I will remain fully aware that I am leaving one illusion and about to enter another, even as the solid ground of this earth-time illusion comes rushing up from below to meet me with its solidity?

There really is nothing to cling to.

Contemplating the grand illusion I find myself in today,

*/** Both quotes are from A Separate Reality, as presented in The Wheel of Time, don Juan Matus talking to Carlos Castaneda.

A Day in a Life: The Self In Recapitulation

What does it mean to do a recapitulation and how do you start? These are some of the questions that people ask. In my experience, recapitulation, when approached from a clinical point of view, isn’t something you do, it’s something that comes to you and takes you on a journey. It’s something that you know you just cannot avoid any longer. It’s your spirit urging you to finally face what has been eating away at your insides your whole life. It’s your fragmented self stating the obvious, that it’s tired of running and hiding, of playing the old games, dodging the truth. The truth hurts, it tells you, but this is hurting more, so let’s stop now, let’s do it differently.

So, how do you start? You answer the call. You say: Okay, I’m ready to find out who I am. I’m ready to find out what it is that won’t let me rest, that won’t let me live and love in a calm and balanced way, totally present, totally accepting of all that comes to me, totally allowing me to be me.

We may indeed feel as if we are suspended in a tree one day, flying high with clear insight as we recapitulate...

Taisha Abelar, a cohort of Carlos Castaneda, was suspended from a tree during part of her recapitulation, tied up and left to deal with her unconscious and its onslaughts. Later she moved into a tree house in the same tree and lived alone there for months, learning to climb and swing from the branches of this tree that became her home for the duration of her recapitulation. Everything she needed was contained within the container of Self in containment in that tree.

In taking up the process of recapitulation we don’t necessarily need to be tied into a tree. Our psyches have a way of making sure we get what we need, however, some sort of containment is needed. And just how our psyches will work with us will be unique to each of us. Some days we may feel like we are indeed suspended from a tree and other days it may feel as if we are inside a dark cave, another favorite location the Shamans took full advantage of during recapitulation. Containment and learning how to sit with the tension of our inner world is part of the process. As the process naturally unfolds we learn patience, which comes over time, as we practice bearing that tension within containment.

The most important step, as Chuck wrote about in his blog last week, is establishing an adult self to ground us and take the journey with us, an adult self to sit beside the child self, in containment, and explain what is really happening. This is where the first sense of balance is established—inside the self—with a sort of parent self who can plant its feet firmly in reality, set down roots, and outline some rules of engagement. This is the self that knows that some limitations and boundaries are necessary if progress is to be made, like the parent who knows that the kid in you won’t be in a good mood tomorrow if it doesn’t get enough sleep. This is the parent who knows what your life is really like and how you tend to handle things or don’t. This is also the parent who knows how you react when you get scared or triggered.

In the next day our splendid moment may collapse as we enter a new phase of our inner world...

All of our parts engage in recapitulation, but this parent self has a major role. It lets us know how important it is to set some limits and establish some boundaries to handle the past as it comes flying up to greet us. It knows that it’s going to not only be helpful as we begin our recapitulation, but absolutely necessary. These limits and boundaries will work in many ways, at first in keeping the fragmented self safe while memories come. These limits and boundaries will also be present to let some new ideas and new energy in, in amounts that we can handle. These limits and boundaries extend inward, challenging deeply embedded ideas of the self that must be allowed simultaneous protection and release. These limits and boundaries will challenge us by keeping us safe sometimes and confronting us at others, both supporting and failing us as appropriate, as we go through our recapitulation. These limits and boundaries, as I found out, may at first be well established, firmly entrenched adult patterns of behavior learned from others, from our own parents for instance.

My adult self was pretty much always in control. Firmly established at a young age, she dominated. She was a combination of my own two parents, her responses to life mimicking theirs. I took in, as we are programmed to do, what I saw in my parents. My father, once a free spirit, was dampened by fear and duty later in life. However, he didn’t lose his extraverted desire to be in the world, to get ahead, to always be one step ahead of the next guy until middle age. Before then he was always in a hurry, eager to engage life. Having suffered polio as a young child, his leg never healing properly, he could not run, but that did not stop him from giving the impression that he was always running. What he was running from I never knew, but I somehow understood that you ran from things. And so I took on this characteristic of his and ran too, in more ways than one.

My mother was the opposite of my father. Introverted and withdrawn, she rarely engaged the world. She let him do that while she retreated behind her books, judgments, and intellect. Rational and unsentimental, her boundaries were solid and impenetrable. From observing her, I saw that withdrawing from the world was the way to be, as much as running was. I took on my mother’s protective shell. I watched her retreat from the world, and, although I had no idea why, I knew it was a world of great fear. This was easy to intuit. I became fearful because my parents, in each of their own ways, showed me that the world was a frightening place. I also encountered my own reasons for fear. And so, what my parents taught me about the world proved true and their behaviors, learned at a very young age, served me well for a long time.

In the beginning of my recapitulation, my adult self was much like my parents. Her spirits dampened by fear, she was stern and judgmental. Frightened of everything, she preferred remaining safe in the ways that had always worked. She ran for miles each day, staying attached to an unrelenting code of discipline, running from what she knew not, and then she retreated for the rest of the day, until the next morning when she’d get up and begin again. Day after day, year after year, she used this method to maintain balance, shoring herself up and then shutting herself in.

As the recapitulation progressed, this adult self began to soften, to let things in and let things out in ways that she never would have or could have as her previous self. Holed up within the container of self, she began to see how her own actions had the possibility of negatively affecting her own children. She saw how we inherit not only our genes but everything else from our parents and the world we grow up in. She had to face that what she had inherited did not necessarily belong to her or sit right with her. She also had to face that she was indeed just like her parents.

With each new day comes new possibilities...

Thus recapitulation, at this point, entered a new phase of change. With this clarity, the old self began breaking down, along with the rules and regulations placed on the old self by life and circumstance, and a new process of trying on new ideas and a new self began. It literally felt like my clothes didn’t fit anymore, my body didn’t move the same way; my brain reverberated and vibrated constantly as it literally let go of old ideas and attempted to assimilate new concepts of how life works. As new life was experienced outwardly, in the world I lived in, everything changed yet again.

(To be continued next week…)

Still journeying, and always humbly grateful for the opportunity,