A Day in a Life: Recapitulation & Walking

During the summer while strolling around our rural neighborhood with Chuck, in a ten minute span, I related to him three memories in vivid detail, the first sparked by the scent of black locust trees in bloom and each subsequent memory linked by some detail in the previous one. This chain of memories was sparked by what the seers of ancient Mexico would call the usher. In The Active Side of Infinity don Juan instructs Carlos Castaneda to begin the process of recapitulation by walking. Here is what don Juan says to Carlos on page 149:

Walking is always something that precipitates memories. The sorcerers of ancient Mexico believed that everything we live we store as a sensation on the backs of the legs. They considered the backs of the legs to be the warehouse of man’s personal history. So, let’s go for a walk in the hills now.”

We walked until it was almost dark,” writes Carlos.

I think I have made you walk long enough,” don Juan said when we were back at his house, “to have you ready to begin this sorcerer’s maneuver of finding an usher: an event in your life that you will remember with such clarity that it will serve as a spotlight to illuminate everything else in your recapitulation with the same, or comparable, clarity. Do what sorcerers call recapitulating pieces of a puzzle. Something will lead you to remember the event that will serve as your usher.”

In my experience while walking with Chuck the strong smell of the locust blossoms sent me back into a memory that seamlessly led to other memories; the smell of those blossoms was indeed my usher on that occasion. Several years ago while in the midst of my recapitulation I was walking with an acquaintance across a field on a hot summer day when he inadvertently slapped me across my shoulder blades while making a point and although the slap was not particularly hard it immediately sent me into an old memory. Suddenly I was four years old again and walking across a sunny field with the man who had abused me during my childhood. In this state of heightened awareness I was once again a frightened little girl sensing that I was caught in a trap I could not get out of. In one reality I walked next to my acquaintance who, still talking, had no idea that I was no longer truly present but was in fact being presented with an old experience. In fact, I believe the slap across my shoulders, light though it was, actually ushered me into that memory, the force of it just enough to cause a shift of the assemblage point.

Carlos writes often of don Juan slapping him on the back in order to cause a shift in his assemblage point. In The Art of Dreaming he mentions, on pages 15 and 16, the following:

This was the first time, in my memory, that he deliberately talked about something he had been doing all along: making me enter into some incomprehensible state of awareness that defied my idea of the world and of myself, a state he called the second attention. So, to make my assemblage point shift to a position more suitable to perceiving energy directly, don Juan slapped my back, between my shoulder blades, with such a force that he made me lose my breath.”

Although the blow I received that day while walking with my friend was really just a light tap it was enough to send me off into a dark memory of falling into a black abyss because I was already well into and open to the recapitulation process. In fact, once begun, the memories flew up at me, eagerly asking to be acknowledged, clearly studied and relived, and, finally, truthfully accepted and laid to rest. Carlos also writes in The Active Side of Infinity, on page 160, about the unfolding of his own recapitulation in a similar manner. He states:

The clarity of the usher brought a new impetus to my recapitulation. A new mood replaced the old one. From then on, I began to recollect events in my life with maddening clarity. It was exactly as if a barrier had been built inside me that had kept me holding rigidly on to meager and unclear memories, and the usher had smashed it. My memory faculty had been for me, prior to that event, a vague way of referring to things that had happened, but which I wanted most of the time to forget.”

In the past I used to get up every morning at 5:30 and run for three miles. I did this for perhaps fifteen or twenty years, but one day I could no longer run. I couldn’t get out of bed and run even one more mile. That signaled the beginning of a new life for me. I learned to walk, and eventually I learned a lot more—things about myself, but things about the world too, not the world I used to see every morning as I ran in the dark, but the world I could not see through the darkness inside myself.

At first I used to walk very fast, still trying to run away from that which sought to catch up with me, all the memories I kept at bay. One day Chuck said to me during one of our shamanic sessions: “Why don’t you stroll? Learn to stroll.” In so saying he pointed out to me my penchant for wanting to always stay one step ahead of the past. In learning to stroll I learned how to slow down so the past could finally catch up with me and teach me what I needed to learn about it.

I had no idea that my own past held such treasures, that my own fears and frightening memories were such gems in disguise. In slowing down, letting them come to me in their own time, greeting them—in the beginning with my resistance and fear and later being open to them—I was able to uncover the jewels hidden inside the black hole of that abyss I saw that day as I walked across a sunny field.

Yes, a slight brush against my shoulders was enough that day to send me into a place I needed to go, just as on that other day last summer the scent of the locusts was enough to lead me to recapitulate, in rapid recall, several other events a lot less remarkable and frightening, but recapitulation nonetheless.

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Sending you all love and good wishes for good walking experiences,

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