Category Archives: Chuck’s Blog

Welcome to Chuck’s Place! This is where Chuck Ketchel, LCSW-R, expresses his thoughts, insights, and experiences! Currently, Chuck posts an essay once a week, currently on Tuesdays, along the lines of inner work, psychotherapy, Jungian thought and analysis, shamanism, alchemy, politics, or any theme that makes itself known to him as the most important topic of the week. Many of the shamanic and psychological terms used in Chuck’s essays are defined in Tools & Definitions on our Psychotherapy page.

#597 Chuck’s Place: The Sorcerers’ Program for Change

Welcome to Chuck’s Place, where Chuck Ketchel expresses his thoughts, insights, and experiences! Many of the shamanic and psychological terms used in Chuck’s essays are defined in Tools & Definitions on our Psychotherapy website.

Clara laughed and took a sip of water. “To change, we need to meet three conditions,” she said. “First, we must announce out loud our decision to change so that intent will hear us. Second, we must engage our awareness over a period of time: We can’t just start something and give it up as soon as we become discouraged. Third, we have to view the outcome of our actions with a sense of complete detachment. This means we can’t get involved with the idea of succeeding or failing.” *

In this quote, Taisha Abelar, a cohort of Carlos Castaneda, recounts her sorcery training with Clara Grau, a sorceress from don Juan’s party. We examine Clara’s three steps to enact change in detail.

1. Literally voice your intent. Shout it out loud.

2. Develop a practice and stick with it, no matter what.

3. Have no attachment to the outcome of your practice.

Intent: The shamans insist that intent is an independent energy that exists in the universe, a vast pool. Shamans engage intent through calling for it out loud, beckoning it as they forge a link between their stated intent and this vast energetic pool of intent. The use of prayer and mantras in other traditions also taps the power of intent.

Practice: Shamans engage in many practices to allow their intent to manifest. These include the execution of magical passes, recapitulation, and the art of dreaming. Sorcerers are extremely pragmatic. They insist that practitioners just do these practices and discover for themselves where they lead. Hence, sorcerers do not profess a belief system, they merely report their experiences that have proven to be consistent over time, thus they have accumulated a cohesive body of knowledge. Again though, each individual must discover for themselves the validity of this knowledge through personal experience. The practices one might select to enact change ought to have personal resonance. Practices such as yoga, martial arts, running, breathing, meditating, etc., are all equally valid paths to change. Clara’s central point is the necessity to persevere in one’s practice. Many intentions imbued with promise wash away like sand castles on the shores of inertia. Repetitive practice is critical to all change.

No Attachment: Clara’s final point that we not attach to the outcome of our practice is, perhaps, the most counterintuitive from the point of view of the ego. Most programs for change emphasize the role of the ego with its attachment to a desired outcome. Consider, for instance, any weight loss or body building program that focuses on concrete results in measurable body change. How many times have we attached to such an outcome and, having partially or fully achieved it, regressed to old patterns, only to fall prey to feelings of failure, self-hatred, depression, low self-esteem, defeatism, negativity, self-pity, etc.? By remaining attached to an ego outcome we conjure a world of success and failure, good and bad. In this world of judgments, based on concrete results, we either harness our energy to maintain our completed goals and objectives or fall prey to ego failure. If the ego is allowed to commandeer intent, although it can achieve its goals, it must do so by becoming a task master and control freak, as we enter a world of dominance, threatened with overthrow by subservient energies within the self. The viability of this kind of change is highly precarious. The shamans do acknowledge that the ego plays a necessary part in change. However they limit its role to selecting a practice, following through with that practice, with perseverance, but without attachment to “achievable goals.”

The more subtle limitation of an ego-dominated approach is that it fails to access the energy body, the counterpart of the ego and the physical body. The energy body is the gateway to the world of energy and unlimited possibility. This is at the crux of all shamanic work, to access the vast resources and capabilities of the energy body that remain completely dormant and unknown to a human being that focuses only on the mind and the physical body. The shamans have discovered that the energy body acts on intent, not by the heavy controls of the self-important ego with its goal of mastery and dominance of the physical world. By removing attachment to outcome, whether success or failure, shamans open to the lightness and abilities of the energy body where all things are possible.

Buddha made this same discovery as he sat beneath the bodhi tree and resisted attachment to all ego fears and desires. He realized that we suffer because we attach our intent to these illusions, creating a material manifestation of them or a concrete world to live in. In this concrete world, the ego and the physical manifestations dominate and we are cut off from our pure energy state. Buddha achieved enlightenment and access to unlimited change through non-attachment. Shamans access their energy state, with all its possibilities, by canceling their attachment to outcome. This is available to all. Though it seems contradictory, what is being suggested is to set an intent, engage in a practice, impeccably, yet attach no importance to the end result. Jan once sat in an intensive hypnosis practice where the presenter brought up the subject of auras. Jan simply asked herself, “Oh, I wonder if I can see an aura?” and in the next instant she saw the aura of the presenter, simply by innocently wondering, lightly throwing out an intent, with no expectation. This is the lightness of the energy body, responding to intent, unfettered by ego.

Succinctly stated, the program for change: intent, practice, non-attachment. Try it! See what happens! It will happen, but have no attachment to that!

As always, should anyone wish to write, I can be reached at: or feel free to post a comment.

Until we meet again,

*The Sorcerers’ Crossing: A Woman’s Journey, Taisha Abelar, p. 62. (Available in our store.)

#593 Chuck’s Place: Broadening the Paradigm: Nature, Nurture & the Soul’s Intent

Welcome to Chuck’s Place, where Chuck Ketchel expresses his thoughts, insights, and experiences! Many of the shamanic and psychological terms used in Chuck’s essays are defined in Tools & Definitions on our Psychotherapy website.

The reigning paradigm to explain human behavior has two major variables: nature and nurture. Nature includes genetics, brain chemistry, archetypes; in essence, all that is inherited. DNA, physical traits, talents, and core perceptual structures, etc., belong to this category. Nature refers to all that we are; most recently as a function of who our parents were and more remotely our ancestral and species lines.

Nurture, in contrast, focuses on what we become as a function of our environment. How we are raised, the foods we consume, who our teachers are, our economic, social, and environmental conditions, etc., all mold our bodies and personalities.

Biologists, psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists enjoy lively debates as to which variable, nature or nurture, is more significant in determining who we are and who we become. Although extremists in each camp will argue the dominant influence of one variable over the other, nearly all agree that some combination of nature and nurture must be considered to explain human behavior. Thus, a musical virtuoso, as the genetic product of generations of musicians might also emerge, with no genetic antecedents, from the midst of an impoverished but musically enriched environment.

The shamans place major significance upon the nurture side of the argument. From their perspective the human potential for perception is nearly unlimited; here they acknowledge the role of nature. However, what is key for the shamans is the impact of socialization upon the individual, which, from their perspective, is the determining factor that both fixates and narrows our perceptual boundaries whereby generating a cohesive world that all agree upon; a consensual environment.

In our current world, the fascination with the brain has tilted the nature/nurture debate definitely in favor of nature and its “imperfections.” The drug companies would have us believe that all that ails us is a function of nature’s imperfection, easily remedied with balancing drugs with but “a few” side effects.

The nature/nurture debate is so engrossing and ripe for controversy that it consumes all our available explanations for why we are the way we are. Without disputing the value and truth of the role of either nature or nurture, I propose another variable be introduced into the argument: our soul’s intent. If we consider our soul’s journey through infinity as the backdrop to the lives we have lived and the life we are currently living, we have new considerations as to why we are in this life with a particular genetic constitution and social milieu. Perhaps, the soul has chosen to be born into this time, into this family, to encounter a set of circumstances critical to its own evolutionary needs. Though evidence for this argument might not pass strict, rationalistic, scientific method, there is significant evidence beyond reason, in the realm of experience, to support this conjecture. For instance, Jung pointed out and demonstrated that there is a dimension of the human psyche that exists outside of space and time. Although we may be born with a blank slate, remembering nothing of life before birth, many individuals have been capable of lifting this veil of memory loss and been able to recover many past life experiences. Shamans, as well as out of body explorers, routinely venture into other worlds freed of concrete time and space. All of these experiences point to a continuity of life beyond the human form, the life of the soul.

The consideration of our soul’s intent for necessary experiences, for its own advancement, is absolutely central to understanding our reason for being here now with the specific challenges our genetic and social contexts create. The point I am making is that our soul chooses the family we are born into and the conditions we will encounter for its own purpose: that of evolutionary advancement.

The challenges we will encounter are the same whether we include the variable of the soul’s intent or not. For instance, if I am born into a dysfunctional family and subjected to violence and abuse, I will, in my lifetime, be challenged both by the genetic predisposition I inherited, as reflected in my family’s behaviors, as well as by an ego heavily defended and compromised by the circumstances that my child self was exposed to at fundamental developmental stages. The challenge to heal and flourish from this compromised place is the same whether I am aware of my soul’s intent for this life or not. However, there is a fundamental advantage to awakening to the soul’s journey in the context of a present life. It offers us the opportunity to avoid the danger of fixating on victimhood in reaction to the life we have been born into. Victimhood is the scourge of the soul’s evolution. If we become captivated by victimhood we can spend our entire life bemoaning our fates, missing the deeper meaning of why we are here with the opportunity to complete the task of our soul’s intent. This would result in a cosmic “repetition compulsion,” where we would need to reincarnate to a similar set of circumstances to again attempt to complete a necessary task.

The shamans propose that the true culprit behind victimhood is self-importance, in a nutshell: “I don’t deserve what has befallen me.” Behind deserving is attachment to being special. When we are special we sit on our thrones with a deep sense of entitlement. In this state all our available energy is spent on expectation and disappointment; we have no available energy for the true purpose of our life.

Shamans call the circumstances and individuals that oppress us our petty tyrants. Shamans actually seek out petty tyrants as opportunities to lose their self-importance through mastering detachment as opposed to conquering the tyrant through ego triumph, which is merely another permutation of self-importance. For shamans, conquering self-importance provides the necessary energy to open the door to heightened perception, and the journey of the soul.

When we view our lives from the position of our soul’s intent, we ask ourselves: “Okay, why am I here? What challenges have I been presented with? Let me gather my energy to meet my challenges versus spending it protesting my fate.” This perspective does not negate the fact that we are all victims, beginning with birth trauma, or even in utero trauma. In recapitulation we relive the truth of all our traumas as we release all the feelings buried within, which accompany our lived experiences. The end result is release and neutrality, and an appreciation for the journey we have taken and the advances we have made. Perhaps the most significant test is to be able to view all the petty tyrants of our lives as necessary encounters to advance our soul’s intent. There is nothing to forgive. If we find ourselves feeling deserving, desiring, or withholding of forgiveness, our energy, on some level, is still bound by self-importance; we are not done with our recapitulation because we are still victims.

By including the variable of our soul’s intent, we do not change the facts of nature and nurture in determining who we are in this lifetime. However, this perspective opens us to the deeper truth of our soul in its infinite journey, and the relativity of the space and time of our current life. We are offered the opportunity to reconcile the relativity of this life with the infinite life of our soul, an alignment that opens us to ultimate adventure and magic, right now! In addition, it allows us the opportunity to take full responsibility for being in the life we are in, with all its genetic and environmental components, uniquely constructed to fit our soul’s requirements to advance ourselves in the ultimate journey.

As always, should anyone wish to write, I can be reached at: or feel free to post a comment.

Until we meet again,

#589 Chuck’s Place: Intent!

Welcome to Chuck’s Place, where Chuck Ketchel expresses his thoughts, insights, and experiences! Many of the shamanic and psychological terms used in Chuck’s essays are defined in Tools & Definitions on our Psychotherapy website.

When Carlos Castaneda wrote The Wheel of Time he discovered that the quotes he had selected from his prior works were meaningfully chosen, not by his conscious knowing, but by the intent of the sorcerers of ancient Mexico. He thought he was choosing them, but they were chosen by a force independent of himself that worked through him. Anyone who aligns personal intent with the intent of the sorcerers of ancient Mexico will indeed be swept away by their intent. I can acknowledge that I personally identify with this intent. This is not a frightening predicament for me because the intent of those ancient shamans is indeed evolutionary, continually striving to break rank with the comfort of the known by lifting the veils in an infinite journey of adventure, which I have sought my entire life.

Shamans of subsequent generations have always granted themselves permission to adjust the practices and intent of sorcery to fit changing times and new discoveries. The shamans of don Juan’s generation lifted the heaviness of ritual from shamanic practice settling on transmitting knowledge through direct practical exercises that enable apprentices to see for themselves how to lift the veils, to perceive and live in expanded awareness. Modern sorcerers, in general, shifted their intent to total freedom to evolve beyond this world, rather than staying bound to the ability to manipulate and elongate their lives in order to remain attached to life in this world without dying as many of the old sorcerers did. Carlos and his cohorts eliminated all the hierarchy and the old roles; there is no nagual in the present generation, all are equal. In fact, Carlos eliminated all secrecy by making available all the knowledge of his line to anyone who wants it. One need only pick up his book Magical Passes to find all the pragmatic tools necessary to reach the energy body and journey in infinity. When he introduced these passes in a workshop he stated bluntly, “this is all you need.” Everyone is in a position to be a nagual to themselves in their evolutionary development if they intend it and are willing to engage in a practice that lifts the veils.

Jeanne traveled into infinity on the wings of the intent of those ancient sorcerers. I like to think of her as a nagual woman who leads the way by continually and redundantly offering a set of practical messages intended to offer everyone tools to lift the veils, so simple in their exposition that they may escape our higher sensibilities. We tend to be suckers for new fads, which burn out quickly. Redundant messages may not appeal to the hungry imagination seeking to be fed exotic new paths to truth. The shamans would argue that we get trapped by the cogitations of the mind. They focus instead on practice and experience. They are clear that we need repetition and perseverance to develop new skills, much the same as we were exposed to in our early education, learning by rote. They encourage suspending judgment. Ultimately what that means is to remove the walls created by the mind’s tendency to construct and create constructs that block action based on reason. Instead, they suggest simply doing and seeing what happens.

How do we practice intent? Don Juan’s answer to this query was, essentially, we intend by intending. There is no rational process to engage intent. Intent is not part of the mind. We intend by calling intent, literally: “Intent!” Actually, it is important to intend clearly after deep introspective reflection. However, when we release our intent to engage intent it is important to remain calm and carefree, with joy and abandon. Intent is light, not heavy. Intent defies the mind’s timetables and expectations. Intent is not a bargaining prayer to God. Intent is an inner certainty let go to the wind, an awareness of a future without attachment.

Intent has no use for the big baby. No victims welcome. In fact, the big baby wastes its intent by intending victimhood for itself. Commanding intent requires adult awareness and responsibility. There may be many steps to arrive at our intended destination. We are challenged to discover why we encounter the things we do as stepping stones toward the realization of our intent. This requires patience and trust in the process. I suggest keeping a journal such as an Awareness Log that can help track the process of intent.

As always, should anyone wish to write, I can be reached at: or feel free to post a comment.

Until we meet again,

#585 Chuck’s Place: INTIMACY: In-to-me, see, or, In-to-me-I-see?

Welcome to Chuck’s Place, where Chuck Ketchel expresses his thoughts, insights, and experiences! Many of the shamanic and psychological terms used in Chuck’s essays are defined in Tools & Definitions on our Psychotherapy website.

Carlos Castaneda, like a standup comic, would have us in stitches, poking fun at our obsession with love, “luuuff,” as he pronounced it. This stemmed from the years of humiliating mockery he was subjected to by don Juan, who piercingly attempted to awaken him and dislodge him from his major energetic drain: finding love. Don Juan was definite on this point: if Carlos could not free his energy from this obsession he would never have enough energy to travel beyond the veils into infinity. What Carlos was trying to teach us was that our own obsession with intimacy was, to misquote The Love Guru*, really, at bottom, “in to me, see” or all about me.

The truth is, we enter and exit this world alone. It is, first and foremost, a solo journey. We are, utterly alone. How deeply can we enter this experience? This does not mean simply to be comfortable being alone, but to be able to fully recapitulate, know our deepest truths, and remain in awe of our own magical journey, open to innocently experiencing and truthfully sharing this life. How much of what we attach ourselves to, preoccupy ourselves with, hunger for, or go in search of is really an attempt to distract ourselves from this genuine experience of solitariness? How much of our search for intimacy is, at base, all about me, in the form of escaping me?

Even when we think we have conquered our narcissism; when we think we are “truly available to meet another,” really “able to give,” we must ask ourselves the questions: Is my willingness to go beyond myself and truly be open to another a hidden ploy to escape myself and my dreaded recapitulation? Is my desire to give to another an avoidance of giving myself the true attention I need, not the big baby, but the ability to fully be with all of me, embracing the solitary reality of the journey? Is this really just another well-hidden illusory distraction of selflessness, all about me?

The shamans point out: the bottom line is energy. For most people they suggest years of celibacy and recapitulation to shore up the energy for the solo journey. When Carlos was well into his own solo journey he was quite taken aback when don Juan told him the story of a shaman couple, loves of each other’s lives, making love in a closet. Wasn’t this taboo in the shaman’s world? Carlos wondered. Don Juan laughed. No, of course it’s not taboo, if you have enough energy! I understand this to mean that only if an individual has already accrued enough energy to take the solo journey can intimacy be ventured into without it merely being a distraction from the work, all about me. With enough energy, traveling with a partner has nothing to do with need or distraction. To the contrary, having accepted and prepared for the solo journey frees us to discover intimacy with complete abandon, without need or ulterior motives, known or unknown.

The veil of in-to-me, see drops with sufficient energy to in-to-me-I-see, now available for true intimacy, with abundant energy to fly with ye, free! You see?

As always, should anyone wish to write, I can be reached at: or feel free to post a comment.

Until we meet again,

*Mike Myers’ movie The Love Guru.

#581 Chuck’s Place: Youthful Folly

Welcome to Chuck’s Place, where Chuck Ketchel expresses his thoughts, insights, and experiences! Many of the shamanic and psychological terms used in Chuck’s essays are defined in Tools & Definitions on our Psychotherapy website.

Thank you Michael Moore. Not only have you made a movie of supreme importance and relevance to now, but, because you did it so well, I am freed to write about Youthful Folly rather than have to comment on current events that equally attracted my attention this week. We must become real students of the truth of our beloved America. Everyone, go and see Capitalism: A Love Story! Jan suggests that you bring tissues, lots of them. We traveled a bit to view this movie on its opening day. We thought we might enjoy dinner at our favorite city of Poughkeepsie restaurant, The Busy Bee Cafe, only to discover that, like Flint Michigan, Poughkeepsie reveals the true nature of reality in America: our favorite eatery was empty and boarded up! As we traveled north toward home we decided to stop at Sabroso in Rhinebeck, another favorite place, for delicious tapas. They get it right! On to Youthful Folly.

After deep contemplation of a challenge that I have reckoned with for years, I consulted The I Ching for its perspective on how to approach resolution of this issue. I was a bit taken aback, or should I say my ego self was a bit taken aback, by the reading I received: Youthful Folly, hexagram #4.

I have put in a few years in this current lifetime and my ego would like to think that I have accrued enough wisdom to be beyond the level of inexperienced youth. After assuaging my wounded ego I pondered, in earnest, why I had been presented with this reading. It became apparent to me that Youthful Folly is really the hexagram, the archetype, of the eternal student. No matter how far we have come we remain the inexperienced youth as we approach our deepest challenges or the next challenge awaiting us on the horizon. If there were no more challenges our evolutionary journey would cease, the adventure would be over. Some might consider the end of challenge as bliss, heaven, but for me the adventure must continue.

The hexagram of Youthful Folly is built by the trigram of water below, in the form of a spring, rising within the chasm of the mountain, the trigram above. The hexagram offers the image of an inexperienced youth hesitating, in perplexity, on the brink of this dangerous abyss. The I Ching clarifies that folly, in the youth’s hesitation, is not a function of stupidity, but rather that of immaturity and lack of experience. In his translation of The I Ching, Richard Wilhelm suggests the analogy of Parsifal, the virgin knight of King Arthur’s Round Table who bumbles innocently and naively on his quest for the Holy Grail.

The natural images used to depict the dilemma of Youthful Folly also hint at its resolution: as water rises from the spring in the abyss of the mountain it will, ultimately, completely fill the cavity and then, of necessity, move on. The process of the rising water filling every nook and cranny can be equated with Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day. In effect, as we tackle a challenge in life, especially our deepest, we find ourselves going round and round, over the same ground, enacting the same habitual patterns, until, one day, we might awaken, ready to flow with the necessary changes to move beyond Groundhog Day into new life, resolved, detached, relieved of the burden of an unsolved challenge. This process may take years, a lifetime, or several lifetimes. We do have free will to live as many groundhog days as we please, but, ultimately, we will flow beyond the abyss. Ultimately, we will accrue enough experiences, learn our lessons, and allow ourselves to let go and flow with the necessary changes.

The I Ching is one of mankind’s oldest sages and consequently offers the sincere student the most expedient method to traverse the abyss. However, to truly benefit from its counsel the student must have the correct attitude. The I Ching warns:

“It is not I who seek the young fool;
The young fool seeks me.
At the first oracle I inform him.
If he asks two or three times, it is importunity.
If he importunes, I give him no information.”
(From the Richard Wilhelm translation, p. 21)

Oracles are living things. Just because they appear static, wholly contained in books or other forms, for centuries, they are not our slaves. If you don’t like your reading and choose to doubt and demand another one, then the oracle responds to the big baby by confounding the coins and delivering an irrelevant response. Hence, The I Ching teaches the student how to be a real student. A real student acknowledges his inexperience and follows the guidance of his teacher. This means relinquishing the inflated ego self and becoming the innocent unknowing child who chooses to explore what is presented.

Do your homework, take action, and see what happens. This does not mean turning over responsibility for one’s journey. However, once one has chosen the right teacher it is time to do the assigned work and discover where it leads. Obsessive questioning and reticence to do the work lead nowhere. Furthermore, each step must be followed, in succession, to completion; no skipping steps allowed, no jumping ahead. ADD is simply not an option here. Discipline the self. Water methodically fills each space, leaving no space unfilled; it is thorough as it rises upward and onward. Be like the rising spring.

The hexagram goes on to offer six more specific points of guidance in the time of the condition of Youthful Folly, which I interpret as follows:

1. Be disciplined. “He who simply plays with life never amounts to anything.” (From the Richard Wilhelm translation, p. 22) Of course, conversely, all work and no play creates the same imbalance, leading to collapse. The mantra here would be: discipline with moderation.

2. Accept that despite the inferiority that you struggle with, which leads to an inability to exert power, your willingness to acknowledge the truth of this inferiority actually empowers you to lead yourself through the learning process, which will ultimately lead to true empowerment. Modesty and perseverance are the operative principles here.

3. Don’t attach to a false persona that portrays mastery, an inflation, masking the underlying inferiority. This does not mean you shouldn’t “fake it till you make it,” but it does insist that you remain aware that faking, in this context, is a task leading to mastery. Don’t believe that you are your persona; know who you are: a student.

4. Don’t deceive yourself with empty imaginings, delusions of specialness, romantic fantasies, and unlimited time. If one attaches to any of these, the teacher will step aside, for a day or a lifetime, as the student plays out the illusion.

5. Only the child may enter the kingdom of heaven. We cannot truly learn and master unless we assume the unknowing innocence of the child as we approach our tasks. We must allow ourselves to ask the silliest of questions and be able to acknowledge that even at this age we simply don’t know such a basic thing that everyone, of course, knows!

6. “He who will not heed will be made to feel.” (From the Richard Wilhelm translation, p. 23) Our stubborn resistance to learning, or our inexperience, will be met with punishments. However, let us greet these outcomes as natural consequences, necessary lessons. Let us avoid the pitfall of negativity and self-hatred. Suspend judgment.

And so, The I Ching’s answer to my query as to how to resolve my challenge: become a real student! Final answer!

As always, should anyone wish to write, I can be reached at: or feel free to post a comment.

Until we meet again,