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.

#609 Chuck’s Place: I Am a Being Unfamiliar to Myself: Removing the Tent of 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.

Several years ago, at a Tensegrity training in Barcelona we, the practitioners, were assigned to answer, in writing, the question: “Who am I?”. I was sure I had the correct sorcery definition of self: “I am a being who is going to die.” The truth was, however, that I was a being in hiding, terrified to speak a word in this foreign land. My high school Spanish blended with my college German to form a “foreign language,” the same language that comes to me whether in a Spanish speaking or German speaking country. To avoid humiliation my self-importance chose to become mute. In one store I opened my shaking hands filled with change, holding them like a beggar, while the disdainful shopkeeper picked out the appropriate coins for payment of my purchase. In this moment, the tent of my intent was the cloak of the beggar, embodying my fear and shame.

Jan and Jeanne, in Message #606 The Mystery and Magic of Intent, explored the notion of identifying the intent we are attached to and learning to free ourselves from being bound by that intent. Our personal intent creates a tent around us that embodies that intent; we physically become that intent. In Jan’s dream, Carlos Castaneda introduced her to a magical pass to remove this tent of intent as follows:

Removing The Tent of Intent Magical Pass: Imagine that a sheet is draped over your head and your intent is to remove it. Stand with legs slightly bent at the knees, feet comfortably apart. Bending the left arm at the elbow, palm facing up, raise it to the side of the head above the left ear even with the top of the head, elbow pointing straight ahead. Breathing in, hook the sheet with curled fingers and gracefully push it away, with a definite and forceful exhalation, in a downward sweep out to the left, which then rises in a wavelike gesture away from the body ending with left arm fully extended at shoulder level, fingers pointing to the side and palm back. Return arm to left side. Do this on the right side as well. Repeat at least three times.

In shamanistic terms, when we remove the tent of intent we allow for a shift in the assemblage point, a ball of awareness on our luminous body that, depending upon its position, determines how we interpret who we are and the world we live in. However slight that shift, we become a being unfamiliar to ourselves. With that shift our body changes, our thoughts change, our feelings change, our “issues” change, time changes. We step out of the familiar into new possibility, perhaps for a moment, like a deja vu experience, or permanently, a new being.

Sorcerers have many techniques to remove the tent of intent. They propose that the number one reason we remain familiar, ad nauseam, to ourselves, is our incessant internal dialogue that constantly tells us what we think, what we feel, who we are, and how to act, which we then obligingly manifest in our bodies. This creates the tent of our intent. Shamans would argue that we unconsciously perform self-hypnosis all the time to maintain a consistently familiar sense of self. One exception is in dreaming where the tent of our intent is automatically lifted as the assemblage point is dislodged from its habitual position. This is why shamans place a premium on learning The Art of Dreaming, taught in Carlos Castaneda’s book of the same name. To counter the incessant internal dialogue shamans employ practices to achieve a state of Inner Silence. A set of magical passes for inner silence can be found in Carlos Castaneda’s book Magical Passes.

Another sorcery method to remove the tent of intent is the practice of Not Doings. Not doings are behaviors individually selected to interrupt the energetic flow of habitual patterns. For instance, wearing two different shoes, two different socks, underwear turned backwards, or creating an OCD ritual for a day all serve to disrupt the typical self-hypnotic suggestions that we normally operate under to embody our familiar sense of self. Sorcerers embark on more extended not doings in a practice they call Stalking, where they literally embody the habits and behaviors of an unfamiliar personality, freeing themselves from their familiar selves, going so far as to actually change their names and live as new characters, a kind of improvisation gone semi-permanent. This volitional interruption of the habitual energetic flow of the self develops the ability to fluidly remove one’s tent of intent. I would add to these practices the use of conscious self-hypnosis to disrupt the flow of unconscious self-hypnosis. Create your personal mantra, state it incessantly, like saying an unending rosary. Watch what happens!

Shamans and physicists tell us that all things are connected. The thesis of The Holographic Universe, as presented by Michael Talbot in his book of the same name, suggests that infinity exists, all things exist, in every grain of sand. Everything that exists, exists in you and in me. What is it then that gives us definition, our tent of intent? I believe don Juan’s answer to this question would be our predilection, our personal preferences. In other words, what tent of intent do we choose, perhaps forsaking all others, though with fluidity we have access to them all. If we are able to remove the tent of intent we are free to explore and embody infinite possibility, or simply change.

If today I were asked the same question that was posed in Barcelona (Who am I?) my response would be: I am a being intent upon becoming unfamiliar to myself, intent upon removing the tent 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,

NOTE: The books mentioned in this article are available in our Store. This is not a sales pitch, simply a convenient link.

#605 Chuck’s Place: THE BIG BABY: A Shamanic Explanation

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 good news is this: when shamans view the energetic state of human beings they see the big baby as an inevitable consequence of our human predicament. In other words: IT IS NOT OUR FAULT. IT IS BEYOND OUR CONTROL.

Shamans observe that we enter life with a high sheen surrounding our energetic cocoon. Shamans call this sheen our glow of awareness. Shamans have discovered that this energetic glow is food for inorganic beings, which are self-contained energetic entities that lack physical form; hence remain unseen by human eyes. Shamans call these specific inorganic beings, that prey upon the human glow of awareness, flyers, due to their energetic form and behaviors.

Shamans observe that flyers actually feed upon the glow of awareness of all human beings. Shamans maintain that the universe is predatory. If we reflect upon our own feeding behaviors, or that of all life forms on earth, we can see this same predatory principle in action: life feeds upon life. As grotesque as it is, why would we humans be exempt from serving as a food source for another form of life?

Shamans observe that without our glow of awareness we die. Furthermore, they observe that if we lose some of our glow it does indeed grow back. Flyers are careful, when they feed, to leave enough of our glow on our energetic cocoon so that it will grow back for future feeding. Through this method of “sustainable agriculture” they are assured a replenished food source.

Shamans state that flyers leave the glow of awareness in tact from the level of the ground up to the toes; this is the epicenter of self-reflection; this fixation of awareness at ground level creates the big baby. The big baby simply cannot see beyond itself. It is caught in self-neediness, self-pity, self-survival, self-importance, and its entitlement to be given recognition, value, care, love, and attention from without. Don Juan states that when caught in self-reflection we become easily offended, causing emotional embroilments that result in spikes in our glow of awareness that the flyers, in turn, consume. Don Juan instructed Carlos Castaneda to observe carefully the behavior of seemingly mature adults whom he admired, for instance, certain professors. Carlos discovered that behind the veil of maturity was a well-hidden insatiable self-importance, greedily seeking the admiration of all.

The good news, from the shamanic world, is that this human predicament is correctable. Shamans discovered that if we can break our attachment to the tyranny of the big baby’s perspective, that of self-reflection, etc., our growing glow of awareness changes texture, whereby it becomes distasteful to the flyers palate and they leave us alone. We are then able to restore our full glow of awareness around our energetic cocoon, freeing us from the limitations of self-reflection.

Through the centuries, shamans have devised methods to achieve this detachment from the big baby. One major venue of great relevance and accessibility, in our time, is focusing on our relationships with the petty tyrants in our lives. In general terms, a petty tyrant is anyone or anything that triggers our self-reflection in the form of the experience of feeling offended. This could be a person who refuses to acknowledge us or care about us despite their vows, or someone who blatantly violates us. This could also be a life circumstance, such as poverty or disease that we simply don’t deserve. Behind all offense is a blow to our self-importance: Why me? Being emotionally embroiled in the experience of being offended becomes the perfect opportunity to learn detachment. Shamans would call detachment arriving at a place of no pity, no self-pity, while caught by the “offensive behavior” of a petty tyrant. By arriving at a place of no self-pity in an interaction with a petty tyrant, who is indeed subtly or blatantly violating us, frees us from the self-reflective perspective of the big baby. We simply don’t take it personally.

This does not mean that we must turn the other cheek and allow ourselves to be hurt. However, we can free our defensive actions from the offended place of abuse and victimhood, shift to an objective perspective, and take appropriate action. Simply put, this means not taking the behavior of the petty tyrant personally, no matter how personally directed it is. From this perspective we can see the interrelationship of all things, which includes the petty tyrant as necessary, as both a dark force and as a teacher. After all, success in detachment from the big baby when encountering the petty tyrant frees our glow of awareness, enabling it to restore to its natural state, allowing us a much broader perspective of life.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of this detachment is a newfound ability to truly love. To love another requires going beyond the fixation of self-reflection, the big baby. I repeat: detachment is the highest form of love. Until we can fully detach from the self, we are not available to see, be with, or give to another without some level, however hidden, of self-interest.

Learning to detach from the big baby allows us unconditional compassion for all. We see the connection between the self and all things. Our glow of awareness, fully restored, is now capable of truly engaging the world beyond the self.

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

Until we meet again,

#601 Chuck’s Place: SKIMMING: Innocence Lost

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.

Recently, I received a copy of a translation of a chapter from the Spanish edition of Carlos Castaneda’s 1981 book The Eagle’s Gift; this chapter is absent from the English edition. I was not aware of this missing chapter and have thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Like all of Castaneda’s works, it is timeless. Today, from this chapter, I select the proposition of skimming for discussion: the process that all human beings undergo to perceive a world of solid objects.

Seers, shamans who see energy as it flows in the universe, describe a universe filled with luminous filaments that they believe embody an infinite variety of perceptual possibilities that impress themselves upon our senses. What gives rise to the cohesive world we live in is a process of selecting only certain energetic filaments. This is skimming. Shamans call the resulting ability to perceive a world of solid objects the first attention. In effect, the selected filaments are highlighted while others disappear into the background, ignored and dismissed. Shamans claim that children are naturally open to the vastness of these filaments and only through the process of socialization by the adults in their lives are they taught to narrow their selection process to arrive at the agreed upon perception of the world. Children’s perceptions of imaginary beings, ghosts and creatures that evoke night terrors, might better be understood as a time when expanded perceptual possibilities are still readily available, before the dominance of the first attention has set in. These children are frequently brought to therapists who participate in the socialization process by helping children to learn to dismiss their “empty imaginings” as fantasy, not real and substantial.

The older we get the more intense the socialization as the boundaries of the first attention, with rationality at its core, become thicker and almost impossible to penetrate. What results is a completely known and predictable world: innocence lost. Shamans are emphatic that once the first attention is consolidated it admits no knew perceptual possibilities, all sensory data is interpreted to conform to a rational world of solid objects. The appearance of any “irrational phenomena” is quickly shrouded in doubt and skepticism, explained away and subsumed by the constructs of the first attention. The first attention will never be convinced of a world beyond itself.

Shamans have discovered that to retrieve our lost innocence, that is, to explore the full potential of our perceptual possibilities, we must cancel out the first attention, if only for a moment. Shamans and non-shamans alike have discovered that psychoactive drugs can cancel the first attention and allow for expanded perception. However, the danger with drugs is that once an individual leaves the first attention under their influence they may not find their way back. In psychological terms this failure to return is called psychosis. The shamans of Carlos Castaneda’s line discovered that dreaming and physical movements called Magical Passes are far superior approaches to leaving the first attention and accessing what they call the second attention, where an individual perceives energy untethered by the restrictive skimming of the first attention. These methods allow the practitioner to develop mastery and control of the second attention, which becomes a perceptual option to be exercised at will or by intent.

Shamans appreciate our fuller evolutionary potential to access both the first attention and the second attention. They understand both addiction and spiritual striving as attempts to actualize this fuller potential. Their contributions include pragmatic methods to safely enter a world of energy. The point is to arrive at a viable second attention that can perceive energy as fluidly as the first attention perceives a world of objects, not to expand the first attention to include the second attention, this is not possible. This is the shortcoming of trying to prove any irrational experience to the rational mind. The goal is to have the option to fluidly access and live in both attentions. Ironically, we do anyway; we simply don’t realize it or dismiss it. The dominance of the skimmings of the first attention makes the fuller reality fade into the background, but it is there nonetheless.

When confronted with this paradox, a world of solid objects and a world of energy, Carlos asked don Juan whether indeed objects were solid. Don Juan answered that of course objects were solid, but first they were energy. He urged Carlos to fully appreciate the miracle of the first attention, but to actualize his fuller potential by restoring his innocence in the second attention.

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

Until we meet again,

#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,