In his book The Art of Navigation Felix Wolf shares the following anecdote from Carlos Castaneda.
“The Nagual always maintained that the average man traveled through life in the caboose, always looking back, always keenly aware of his personal history, his experiences, and his identity as an accumulation of the past. It was one of his favorite analogies. A warrior who wants to become a man of knowledge, however, has to turn around and face life as it unfolds in front of him. Instead of facing receding time he has to face oncoming time, as he put it. Life in the caboose versus life in the engine.” (From page 60. *)
Isn’t the shamanic practice of recapitulation in fact living in the past, the exact opposite of facing oncoming time? Is there not a contradiction here? Doesn’t recapitulation strap us firmly to a seat in the caboose with a view out the back window, at life that has already passed us by? What about total presence in the NOW, the coveted goal Carlos describes as being seated in the engine, directly perceiving oncoming time, engaging life to the fullest? To answer these questions and resolve this seeming paradox we must first explore what it takes to truly live life in the moment.
Both the seers of ancient Mexico and the Buddhists place a premium on reaching a state of inner silence to become mindful, fully aware and present in the NOW. Toward that end Buddhist masters prescribe the practice of meditation where we learn to quiet our restless hearts and become keen observers of all that presents. The molding of this observing self that allows life to be known directly, without the interference of the thinking, judging mind, prepares us to be innocently present in the moment, freed of the cogitations of the mind that interprets versus lives in the moment. Achieving detachment from the ceaseless internal dialogue of the mind is certainly a major component of mindfulness. Like the Buddhists, the seers of ancient Mexico employ their own active meditation practice of magical passes to achieve this coveted state.
Another major component of mindfulness is access to a fully integrated self. How can we be fully present if parts of who we are remain fragmented, unknown and tucked away in the luggage compartment of the self? Furthermore, the legacy of our hidden baggage is the burden it places on life in the present. For instance, if we carry deep wounds of loss, abandonment, negligence, and violation, we will surely be limited in opening to all that life invites us to in the present moment. Recapitulation is the shamanic practice that frees us from these limitations and fully unites the self to be present in the NOW.
In recapitulation we allow ourselves to be taken on a train ride to all the stations of life already lived. We arrive at each of these old stations with our present self keenly observing, taking the journey with our younger self that has been stranded at the station, frozen in time. Our present self opens to the full experience of our younger self, and thereby faces fully the confusion and struggle that once froze our younger self. Often we discover in recapitulation that our younger self was forced to leave its body under the impact of overwhelming trauma and hence the full truth of that moment was never consolidated and made real. In recapitulation the full truth of the past becomes known, allowing its burdens to be released. The energy and innocence of the younger self is freed and united with the present self, firmly seated in the engine, facing oncoming time.
Part of what we encounter as we face oncoming time are triggers that take us out of the present moment. Meditation can help us to remain present in spite of a trigger, but it can’t help us to fully open to the moment if the trigger signifies a lost, frozen part of the self. Life often places triggers in our path to awaken us to discover our lost selves. We cannot simply transcend our triggers and fully open to life without recapitulating the truth that lies behind the trigger. We must be open to completing all our journeys, especially the train wrecks buried deeply within the self if we are ever to be fully available to life in the NOW.
Recapitulation, then, is actually a major component of being able to face oncoming time. Freed from the past we can allow life to approach us with all that it offers, unfiltered, without limitation. From this vantage point, firmly seated in the engine, we can read clearly the signs and synchronicities life presents us with to guide our evolutionary journeys, in infinity—NOW!
If you wish to correspond, please feel free to post a comment below.
Until we meet again,
* NOTE: The book mentioned in this blog is available through our Store listed under the category of Shamanism.