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.
Advertisers scramble for it. Politicians pay and compete for it. Children crave it. All of us long for it. More valuable than money itself is the commodity of attention. More important than anything to the stock markets of the world, at the current moment, is where investors place their attention. Attention is the prime mover of humanity.
We enter the world at birth, archetypally programmed to receive attention. Attention is critical for us to, literally, come on line. Without the attention of good enough receivers we perish soon after entry.
With the outside validation of attention, good or bad, our attention is cultivated to fill out our personality, as our inner nature is sculpted through the process of socialization. Our attention is consolidated into an identity, a consistent sense of self. ‘I’ is molded through the solidification of our commodity of attention.
In school we are taught to cultivate our attention, to focus it upon the task of learning and creating. This training introduces us to the power of attention that we all possess. However, we are also heavily constricted by the rules of how attention should be practiced and upon what it should be focused.
Our freedom to exercise our attention is highly controlled by forces seeking the energy of our attention to uphold the primacy of their own belief systems. Without the mass attention of believers, belief systems have no currency to influence the world.
The consensus reality we live in requires a critical mass of attention to remain solid. This consensus means that we give our attention in support of its premises and leadership. If we withdraw that support it loses the commodity that upholds it, our attention.
Attention is more powerful than a vote or the ability to win an argument. Attention is focused energy, a powerful commodity. When we develop our dreaming attention, we develop the ability to explore and consciously exist as a substantial, multifaceted being in many dimensions of life.
When we are in command of our attention in waking life we can navigate the world with ease. Meditation is nothing other than full command of one’s attention. Intent is immediately drawn to the beacon of our attention. To command attention is to command intent.
To simply give one’s full attention to the meal one is eating, void of conversation, outside stimulation, and internal dialogue, connects one deeply to the needs and workings of the body. One remains in- body, knows how long to chew, when to swallow and when the body has had enough. The power of this attention reshapes the body and heals its ailments. Yes, the power of attention in such a simple task can radically change one’s state of health.
Come into your full power. Cultivate and store your precious commodity of attention. Be mindful not to spend it all on social media or obsession with world dramas seeking to bind and steal your attention.
No one can ever take away your freedom to place your attention where you want without your consent. And with that freedom, and a critical mass of the commodity of attention, the possibilities for life in all worlds is exponential.
Ever notice how rapidly the mind assembles a story at the slightest hint of a possibility?
Once the story blossoms, all surrounding extraneous events become added details to support the surety of the story, as absolute reality. Yet, many, if not most of the times the story turns out to be just that, a red herring produced by the internal dialogue.
An incredible amount of energy is spent on these stories that are generated nonstop throughout the day. Furthermore, many of the stories evoke emotional reactions that further deplete one’s energetic reserves.
One way to apply the shaman’s dictum to suspend judgment would be to not attach, as the Buddhists would say, to not give attention to our stories. Perhaps we can’t stop the rapid assembly line of thought that creates the stories, but we can say to ourselves the word “story,” as they are presented to consciousness, reminding ourselves to pause and wait for the real facts to arrive.
Intuition sees in the dark, but it’s not always right. Make sure you get the facts. Synchronicity abounds, but it too can get caught in the tangled web of the storytelling trickster within. Tracking energy is a shamanic activity that seeks out genuine expressions of manifested energy, not cogitations of the mind that spin many a sordid tale.
The storytelling function we all possess is in fact an expression of how our intent is used. Someone fails to call us at an agreed upon time. Our creative capacity, our link to intent, is suddenly commandeered by the internal dialogue that then paints its pictures and authors its novels. When we refuse to attach to these unsubstantiated stories we strengthen our control over our link to intent.
Perhaps the most valuable gift from the current state of the world is the rapidity at which new stories are rapidly assembled, constantly changing versions of reality, blatantly assembled before our very eyes! We are suffering from story saturation, yet the lesson is crystal clear: ‘reality’ is created by stories that people agree upon.
We live in a consensus reality that is currently losing its cohesion due to major conflicting interpretations of the facts. The question to ask is, what interpretation has substance, and which is merely a phantom story? A good place to track the truth is following a path of heart. Seek the truth within the heart, beyond the reach of the cogitating mind.
The practice of recapitulation entails reclaiming energy from the stories we have really lived. As we relive our true stories we reclaim the energy they have held. Our freed energy then becomes available to be redeployed toward walking our true path of heart.
Self-importance is truly believing that the story of ourselves, our personal novel, is a best seller! Indeed, it must be, or we wouldn’t be solidly committed to it! This, of course, is the ego’s pitch, and the ego does have a point. If we weren’t so committed to our personal value we truly would cease to exist. This is one definition of schizophrenia: loss of ego, and with it, the ability to commit to a consistent storyline of self.
So yes, we do acknowledge the magic of our being as a story of great continuity. On the other hand, to become too fixated on a consistent story of ourselves clips our wings, limiting all that we might become, in fact, a very changed being.
Storytelling beings that we are, may we create a new story, a substantial world we can all really live and thrive in.
Suspend judgment, and entertain this dream, the current consensus reality, with the Discipline of Awe:*
An incredibly aggressive, take no prisoners energy, has swept control of world leadership. Mightily, it rests the validity of its case upon the strength of its heated economy, the ultimate defense against want and need.
Meanwhile, the Earth heats up, as the oceans rise and the lands tremble. Denial is the proffered tool of this new consensus reality, promised to stave off all disruptions to normal life. Can that really work?
Enter stage East, the coronavirus, in the home of the heart of world manufacturing. Could a tiny virus seriously challenge the very financial order that upholds world leadership? Will aggression, denial, and science be able to circumvent collapse? What’s going to happen next?!!!!
The greatest defense against anxious infection from the dream we are in, our current consensus reality, is to rest upon the perch of Awe, which for shamans is the very definition of discipline. Awe is the calmness of Buddha, as he faced, without resistance, but also without attachment, all the extreme dreams of Maya, as they presented themselves to him.
The potential trapping generated by the dream of current reality lies in how powerfully it invites fear and offense. As soon as one succumbs to those emotions they lose their edge. To spend one’s emotional energy in bursts of extremes actually feeds the consensus reality of that dream, a dream dependent upon the energy of both unbridled and tortured emotion.
Yes, the dream we are in now may be experienced as utterly ruthless. Yet, as monstrous as that dream interpretation might be, the current dream’s medicinal value lies in its ability to test us; to drive us to greater awareness, if we refuse to relinquish our emotional energy to it.
Of course, this lands one in a lonely, inadequate position. Because, if one separates oneself from the tenets of the dream—the consensus reality it constructs—one is excommunicated from the safety of the party line. One is sentenced to think for oneself; an overwhelmingly lonely and fragile task.
It’s not that one loses one’s connection to emotion through the discipline of awe, but one does lay claim to one’s emotional self. One is no longer a victim of the formula that siphons one’s energy, but instead becomes totally responsible for one’s own energy.
For example, when we watch a movie, we suspend judgment and temporarily enter the consensus reality of the story. While watching the movie, we will likely have the emotions prescribed by the archetypal theme being dramatized. However, generally, soon after we leave the movie, we are restored to our familiar selves, detached from the characters or emotions of the movie. We reclaim our emotional autonomy and reaffirm our interpretation of reality.
To take possession of one’s emotional self is to have one’s emotions, without subscribing to upholding the reality being presented. In this respect, one exercises one’s ability to have a romance with emotion, without attaching to the dream or story as my agreed-upon reality.
By grabbing onto one’s personalintent, one is freed from the framework and limitations ‘imposed’ by the consensus dream. With intent, one is freed to respectfully change dreams. This is in no way a denial of the consensus dream; it remains quite real. However, it is experienced as only one of many alternatives. There are other consensual realities to join, or perhaps just visit, as a warrior-traveler, embarked upon the definitive journey of freedom.
To remain fully in this consensus dream, the current reality, but to refuse an interpretation of it that renders one a depleted victim, is a form of changing dreams. To see its predatory dominance as an expression of the true condition of life, one that can be used to sharpen awareness by getting over self-importance, transforms the dream into an evolutionary opportunity.
One does not have to agree to attach to a glum interpretation of this consensus dream either; that’s the true course of freedom. That’s the real revolution: to refuse to be a victim of the consensus dream; to not attach and to not allow one’s emotional energy to be offended, thus sinking into a hopeless interpretation of reality.
The shift beyond this consensus dream is aided by using death as an advisor. Indeed, it is the ultimate shamanic maneuver. In the Tensegrity workshops I attended for many years, every speaker would introduce themselves by stating their name, followed by the qualifier, “…a being who is going to die.”
I have to admit that my own self-importance interfered with my being able to mimic this style of introduction. I never could do it; it seemed rather trite and morbid. However, like all things those shamans did, there was a truly pragmatic value to this ritual.
For one thing, shamans state their names to affirm their full presence in the reality or particular dream they are currently embodying. Secondly, when they remind themselves of their impending deaths, they are accessing being present to this living moment from the perspective of a dying being, a being who is transitioning into a new reality, seeing the ultimate relativity of the dream they are exiting.
From that perspective of relativity they are freed from an all-consuming attachment to present reality; as it is seen as just a moment—albeit significant, as all moments are—unfolding into the greater unfolding of oncoming time, that which is infinity and beyond! Such an encounter with infinity borrows a perspective from beyond this dream that tempers the emotional energy expended in holding onto, or compulsively needing to change, the outcome of the present dream.
Present reality is merely a dream that exists, with equanimity, among an infinity of dreams, all of which offer golden nuggets of awareness. Exploit the current opportunity to the fullest, regardless of outcome. Defeat and conquest are meaningless outcomes next to an infinity of dreams waiting to be lived.
With this expanded perspective, we’ve come full circle, back to awe, the coveted position from which to truly resume, unfettered, our magical journey, appreciative of all the gifts from our many, rich and colorful dreams.
beingINTENT upon AWE,
*As with all my blogs, my ideas presented here are deeply influenced by my experience and appreciation for the path of heart Carlos Castaneda gifted the world.
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 newpower 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.
Every being upon this planet is exposed to the identical pressure of Earth in radical transition. The term transition highlights the growth potential that accompanies the obvious destructive side effects of these far reaching changes.
This pressure, or egalitarian touch of the Spirit, offers all beings an opportunity to evolve. How we interpret this pressure will determine how we respond to this opportunity, which is presented equally to all.
As individual humans we are beings of two minds, the mind of everyday life and the mind of the Spirit. The everyday mind is largely of extrinsic origin, being the product of the internalized forces of socialization. Though experienced as deeply personal, this is the judging mind of the internal dialogue that tells us who we are and what is what, according to our deeply internalized party line.
The fixation of everyone’s everyday mind is an overarching concern about the self, or by extension, me and mine. That mind interprets the world through the narrow narcissistic lens of being offended, or validated, by all the actions of others, or simply by the world-at-large. At present, the world is being treated to a mighty reflection of this everyday mind, as mirrored by world leadership.
As the Earth proceeds along her mighty path of transformation, it becomes increasingly obvious that the dominance of the everyday mind is headed for extinction, at least in its current form. How can this self-serving approach to reality possibly survive the absolute necessity of a more comprehensive concern for the survival of the entire planet?
The mind of the Spirit is directly linked to the deeper truth of Earth’s profound transformation. However, this knowing of the Spirit is largely veiled by the mind of everyday life, with its fixation of total energy and attention placed upon its self-centered, worrisome, everyday concerns. From its perspective, my survival, regardless of altruistic verbiage and activity, is as far as it can really see.
The mind of Spirit speaks softly but honestly beneath the dense layers of the everyday mind. Shocks in the everyday flow of life, such as the tragic untimely death of Kobe Bryant, offer glimpses of Spirit. The far greater outer calamities of the Earth are also messengers of Spirit, inviting a wider audience to hear its truths, as evidenced in the current coronavirus.
Fascinating to watch how quickly the everyday mind restores itself following its rupture by knocks of the Spirit. In Piaget’s nomenclature, assimilation that refuses to accommodate the greater truth is not real adaptation. At best, it’s a temporary sand fortress, soon to be dissolved by the next wave.
Finally, Spirit offers the highest form of adventure. To ride honestly, with knowledge of our transience, and being respectful of our temporary home, while we simultaneously thoroughly take the journey of preparation for the next leap in our journey, is the true path of heart.
This is the call of our Spirit now, our true evolutionary destiny. And Spirit is an equal opportunity employer. All who turn to it in earnest are immediately hired, on a true mission from the Universe.