The sun was shining, seemingly brighter and earlier than normal after a couple of days of overcast skies and thunderstorms. I was eager to walk in it’s first light.
“Don Juan says never carry anything in your hands when you walk,” Chuck reminded me, so I put my tiny digital camera in my pocket, wondering if I’d encounter something special, beautiful, or profound to photograph as we walked.
After we’d walked along for a while, talking quietly, I noted that there wasn’t much happening in the world around us. It wasn’t presenting its usual natural wonders, nothing to take a picture of. It seemed quiet. One car passed us. Then a bicyclist passed by, head down. Slumped over the handlebars he seemed focused on the front wheel endlessly turning as it rode the pavement. I recognized him as someone we pass often at that hour. He always seems depressed, never utters a greeting, never looks up, focused only on the road in front of him. Other than that I noted again the quiet of the morning. But then, at the same time, we both saw a rabbit, the first sign of real life. We smiled and acknowledged that nature does not disappoint.
Then I realized that I’d been like the man on the bike today, my head down, my eyes on the road ahead of me. As I’d taken each step I’d been aware only of what lay at my feet: the color of the pavement, the interplay of shadows and light, the leaves, bark, twigs and branches that came down in the violent storms that came through yesterday afternoon. The rabbit reminded me to look around, to lift my head from the path and see what else was available in my world at that moment.
Now the walk was different. Suddenly I was engaged in what was happening around me. Suddenly the perceived dull and sleepy world was alive and I was too. I noted how mistaken I was in my assumption that not much was happening. I recalled the first sounds we’d heard upon awakening in the morning, the baby foxes yipping and yelping in the backyard. I remembered the male bluebird who sat outside our window on the railing of the deck, letting us know that he and his mate have returned to the nesting box nearby for a third time this year, another egg-laying in progress, life giving new life.
As I recapitulated these earlier experiences, I studied again the bike rider, envisioning his riding posture, his energy stuck in his routine of riding along the same route each day, not noticing what else was around him. Unable to lift his head, I wondered what plagued him, and what he might be missing that could set him on a different path. I found myself empathizing with his dilemma, whatever it might be, for I too fall into the same patterns, ride the same road, only taking in the next step as I watch my foot hit the ground in front of me. Little changes, and even less is noticed, if I do not lift my eyes from the path in front of me.
This is what happens to all of us as we live out our lives, staying within our routines, caught in the endless turning of the wheel, whether it’s the endless wheel of work-worry-sleep, followed by more work-worry-sleep, or if it’s simply the daily routines we set out for ourselves. Even as we act out the habitual must-dos that really lead us nowhere, underneath it all we really do know that we need something else to make our lives meaningful and happy. But how do we step off the wheel? Today, I was reminded that if I just look up and away, in an instant the world becomes an entirely different place.
Once we set the intent to recapitulate, we can fall into the same kinds of habitual patterns, get stuck on similar wheels. Our personal dilemmas and deepest issues can overwhelm us. We can get caught in feeling sorry for ourselves, feeling neglected, abandoned, sad and depressed as we revisit our past and confront how we have lived, whether by choice or by circumstance. As we’re drawn back to recapitulate, we may forget to take in the world around us. Even while in deep recapitulation we must lift our heads and be in the world, for in my experience, it’s the world around us that offers us the help we need to interpret, to guide, to revision ourselves, as well as offering us the means to resolution. It’s also only in the world around us that we will find the means to relieve the stresses and intensities of doing deep inner work.
It’s also the world around us that offers us the opportunities to stretch our legs, so to speak, to experience ourselves as changing beings. As we recapitulate, we’re offered the chance to show ourselves and the world just how much we’ve changed, by refusing to do things the old way. As we face daily challenges in our old world, we’re offered the opportunity to test the new perspectives gained through the hard work of recapitulation. There is no better test ground or world in which to advance than the one we live in. This is the place we must do our evolutionary work in, and recapitulation is evolutionary work.
After the sighting of the rabbit I knew all I had to do was look up and allow the world to greet me with whatever it had to offer. As the second half of today’s walk progressed I lifted my eyes from the road and began to notice all the edible wild foods growing alongside the rural road we walk along, the prickly lettuce, the lambs ear, and plantain. I lifted my eyes higher and noticed that swallows now line the wires near the wetlands area where a few weeks ago the red winged blackbirds sat, sentinels guarding their nesting flocks in the tall grasses. As I walked even a week ago they’d dive down at me, warning me to keep away. They’ve moved on now, leaving the swallows their old perch. The world is constantly changing, I noted.
I heard the croak of a raven behind me and, looking higher still, I saw a tiny bird attacking him high in the sky, keeping him from raiding a nest no doubt. The hungry raven was no match for the tiny sharp-beaked bird and he flew off, cro-cro-croaking his guttural cry.
“What does that mean?” I wondered, for I find the raven most significant in my own world.
“Cro-Cro-CROAK! Cro-Cro-CROAK! Cro-Cro-CROAK!” replied the raven in answer to my question.
I repeated this phrase to myself a few times before I finally got the meaning of the raven’s call.
Don’t Forget! Don’t Forget! Don’t Forget! he seemed to be saying.
Don’t forget to use the world around you every day as you go through life. Don’t forget to lift your eyes from your well-worn path, from the routines, and notice what else is available to guide you along. Don’t forget that everything is available, possible, a guiding force, a messenger, a reminder. Don’t forget that as you recapitulate you learn new things about yourself and that you may not be as stuck and unavailable to change as you may think. Don’t forget to exercise the new you in the world. Don’t forget to actually put to use the new ideas, thoughts, and experiences you’ve been having. Don’t forget to trust your journey as perfectly right for you. And overall, don’t forget to allow yourself to experience the world differently.
You already know that the world is not as you at first perceive it, the raven reminds. This is what you learn all the time, but can you allow yourself to actually participate in that different world that you have worked so hard to enter, to understand, and to embrace?
The world of nature and the personal world we each live in, offers us everything we need to grow and change. To recapitulate or not is our personal choice. However, in my experience, everyday life is offering us opportunities to recapitulate and to use what we learn about ourselves all the time. We just don’t know this until we decide that it’s so, when we set the intent to re-experience how we’ve understood the world. Sometimes all we need to jump-start new life it the realization that we’re eager for a new perspective because the old one just doesn’t work for us anymore. That was my walking experience this morning.
As soon as I lifted my eyes from the hard gray road in front of me, I discovered a world of wonder. What is recapitulation anyway, but an opportunity to look at ourselves and our world with different eyes. Sometimes we need someone else’s eyes to show us what we’ve been missing. Sometimes we have to dare ourselves, push ourselves to go beyond our routines, ask ourselves to break through our old habits. Sometimes we have to ask ourselves to face our truths so we can move on, without regret, without sadness, simply because it’s time and right to do so. Recapitulation is happening all the time. Do you notice?
By the time I’d gotten home from my walk, I was in a new world. The bluebird greeted me on the deck again, showing me just how much in alignment with my spirit’s eagerness for changing life our natural world really is.
What are you being offered today to change your perspective, your outlook, your inner world, your relationship to self and others? There’s always something out there. What was the first indication in your world today that it’s just not as routine and boring as you’ve perceived it to be? Even in the subtlest ways, nature guides us.
Sending love and good wishes, and I thank the raven for posing ever so briefly so I could snap a photo of him!