In the introduction to The Wheel of Time Carlos Castaneda writes about don Juan teaching him how to perceive energy and that the recapitulation was an important aspect of learning this process. He states: “One of the most important units, he called the recapitulation, which consisted of a systematic scrutiny of one’s life, segment by segment, an examination made not in the light of criticism or finding flaw, but in the light of an effort to understand one’s life, and to change its course. Don Juan’s claim was that once any practitioner has viewed his life in the detached manner that the recapitulation requires, there’s no way to go back to the same life.” (p. 4)
As Chuck wrote about in his blog, The Power of Experience, the unconscious is a major player in the recapitulation process. Within a lifetime the unconscious offers us many opportunities to access its hidden treasures. It offers us protection when we need it the most. It offers us insight and guidance when we need it, and it also prods us to grow when the time is right for that too.
Many of us fear what the unconscious has kept stored for us, perhaps initially experiencing it as frightening impenetrable darkness. It is indeed the shadowy side of ourselves, often a part that we rarely allow to emerge, or a part of ourselves that we reject as not the real self. The unconscious is in fact present to help us grow, as don Juan teaches Carlos. If accessed, thoroughly explored, allowed to be present in our lives we discover that it is not a frightening alien entity after all, but the most fascinating side of ourselves.
As an artist and writer I have always had a certain relationship with my unconscious, at least the part of it that I used in my creative endeavors. There were other darker aspects of it that often emerged in the creative process, and otherwise, that scared me. Often I would wonder where certain things came from, how I, a shy and gentle soul, could produce such dark and disturbing images, and sometimes truly frightening ones as well. I knew there was a dark side to my personality, but I had no clue as to how it got that way. As much as I allowed myself to creatively explore my unconscious, I was not fully aware of what it held in store for me until I met Chuck and began a process of deeper exploration of it. In that process, which, as it began to unfold, became entitled a recapitulation, I, slowly at first and then quicker as I got the hang of it, explored the depths of that disturbing and frightening inner darkness.
In the beginning, I often felt as if I were falling into an abyss, much like the experience of Alice falling down the rabbit hole. Many times I felt as if I would shatter as I took the plunge downward, fearing that the velocity of the fall itself would annihilate me, a brittle person made only of thin glass, as I rocketed into unknown territory. Other times I feared that I would crash and die upon impact, but these were mental imaginings that eventually gave way to curiosity and amazement as the plunge would invariably bring me to an experience of my past that I had no idea even existed.
The unconscious is both a mighty opponent and a mighty partner. When we fear it we see only the darkness, the possibility of death, the annihilation and the end of who we perceive ourselves to be. But when we engage it as a vital part of life, in dreams, in confronting it and asking it to show us something about ourselves, when we allow it to lead us into that darkness, we begin to understand that it is present not as an adversary but as a true companion who only wants us to grow. When we truly open up to the experience of recapitulation—greeting what the unconscious brings us to, points out to us or challenges us to investigate—we offer ourselves the opportunity to change the course of our lives, as Carlos suggests.
If, as I believe, we are each of us challenged to work through one core issue in a lifetime we will also, I believe, be presented with the means of working through that core issue as our life unfolds. We are invited to the process of confrontation in many ways, but it may not be until we are finally ready to tackle it that we will allow ourselves to take the plunge down the rabbit hole and find out what truly lurks in our inner darkness.
The choice to explore our unconscious is ours alone. Perhaps in the past we did not understand what we were being called to, but once we finally gain a clear understanding of our core issue, do we still refuse the call of the unconscious, as we have done so many times before? Do we elect to push it away, avoid it, die without resolving why we are here? In turning from the call of the unconscious we put ourselves in a position of having to grapple with it on many levels and in many forms, because once we acknowledge awareness of our core issue the unconscious, that wily opponent/partner, knows that we are awakening to the fact of its existence and beginning to understand the power it holds in our lives. During this period of grappling, our unconscious often becomes the leader, offering us what we need in order to get to that point of change that Carlos writes about.
Of course, there is so much more to the process, to the unconscious, and to the conscious self as well that I am not discussing today, but I wish to jump ahead to what Carlos states, that once we have reached a place of detachment “there’s no way to go back to the same life.” This might seem like a frightening prospect as well, but really it is what we are all here for, to keep going forward and eventually to evolve into new life. We won’t feel the need or the desire to go back if we truly allow ourselves to confront our darkness, to recapitulate, to free ourselves of the fear of falling down the rabbit hole. In fact, as the process unfolds we might find ourselves leaping down that rabbit hole, eager for the next experience, eager to see what is in store, because eventually we come out the other side and into a whole new world.
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Sending you all love and good wishes,