The energetic theme this week has been pervasive: a meeting of the opposites of freedom and limitation. Seeking an objective energy reading I turned to the I Ching, only to be presented, synchronistically (DUH!) with the Hexagram of Limitation, #60. The I Ching itself has always struck me as an oracle that reconciles the opposition of freedom and limitation, with its limited 64 Hexagrams encapsulating infinite possibility.
The Hexagram of Limitation derives its meaning from the juxtaposition of water over a lake. Water is an inexhaustible element, however a lake occupies a fixed, limited space. Rain that fills the lake beyond its banks will be lost to the lake; it can only hold so much. A lake could not exist without the limitation of its fixed banks; they create a container for the inexhaustible resource of water. Without the lake life would diminish and the freedom of nature to birth and expand would be deeply compromised. Within this image freedom and limitation reveal their sibling oneness, their mutual dependence—opposite sides of a creative force.
Our human creative expression is the consequence of this same interplay of opposites. To gather the energy for an enterprise we must limit our activity. To gather the resource for a great undertaking we must limit our expenditures. As Jan’s blog this week suggests, gathering together the disparate parts of the self to allow for ultimate freedom in this life requires suffering the limitation and containment by the adult self, as it undergoes transformation through the process of recapitulation.
Without containment there can be no freedom and no transformation. For example, the dancer who dances with such abandon has suffered a lifetime of painful, regulated practice—containment—encountering, living, and releasing all resistance before reaching such a peak of perfect abandon.
The crowning achievement of conjunctio in alchemy, the realization of the opus—Gold—is achieved through a series of chemical operations that require limitation within a sealed container, or retort, where the disparate elements ultimately congeal and transform into a unified whole. Likewise, only with a unified whole self can complete freedom and fulfillment be realized in this life as well.
Of course, the I Ching, in its infinite wisdom, cautions that galling limitation must not be persevered in. We must place limitation even upon limitation. Thus, to deny the needs or feelings of any part of the self would defeat the goal of full self-realization. All parts must be considered and lived, in some way, in order to realize full freedom in this life.
So, in recapitulation, within the adult self as container, a solution is made in which all parts of the self are given full expression, and the end result is freedom—transformation and fulfillment in this lifetime. Conjunctio—Gold—is achieved.
What does it mean to do a recapitulation and how do you start? These are some of the questions that people ask. In my experience, recapitulation, when approached from a clinical point of view, isn’t something you do, it’s something that comes to you and takes you on a journey. It’s something that you know you just cannot avoid any longer. It’s your spirit urging you to finally face what has been eating away at your insides your whole life. It’s your fragmented self stating the obvious, that it’s tired of running and hiding, of playing the old games, dodging the truth. The truth hurts, it tells you, but this is hurting more, so let’s stop now, let’s do it differently.
So, how do you start? You answer the call. You say: Okay, I’m ready to find out who I am. I’m ready to find out what it is that won’t let me rest, that won’t let me live and love in a calm and balanced way, totally present, totally accepting of all that comes to me, totally allowing me to be me.
Taisha Abelar, a cohort of Carlos Castaneda, was suspended from a tree during part of her recapitulation, tied up and left to deal with her unconscious and its onslaughts. Later she moved into a tree house in the same tree and lived alone there for months, learning to climb and swing from the branches of this tree that became her home for the duration of her recapitulation. Everything she needed was contained within the container of Self in containment in that tree.
In taking up the process of recapitulation we don’t necessarily need to be tied into a tree. Our psyches have a way of making sure we get what we need, however, some sort of containment is needed. And just how our psyches will work with us will be unique to each of us. Some days we may feel like we are indeed suspended from a tree and other days it may feel as if we are inside a dark cave, another favorite location the Shamans took full advantage of during recapitulation. Containment and learning how to sit with the tension of our inner world is part of the process. As the process naturally unfolds we learn patience, which comes over time, as we practice bearing that tension within containment.
The most important step, as Chuck wrote about in his blog last week, is establishing an adult self to ground us and take the journey with us, an adult self to sit beside the child self, in containment, and explain what is really happening. This is where the first sense of balance is established—inside the self—with a sort of parent self who can plant its feet firmly in reality, set down roots, and outline some rules of engagement. This is the self that knows that some limitations and boundaries are necessary if progress is to be made, like the parent who knows that the kid in you won’t be in a good mood tomorrow if it doesn’t get enough sleep. This is the parent who knows what your life is really like and how you tend to handle things or don’t. This is also the parent who knows how you react when you get scared or triggered.
All of our parts engage in recapitulation, but this parent self has a major role. It lets us know how important it is to set some limits and establish some boundaries to handle the past as it comes flying up to greet us. It knows that it’s going to not only be helpful as we begin our recapitulation, but absolutely necessary. These limits and boundaries will work in many ways, at first in keeping the fragmented self safe while memories come. These limits and boundaries will also be present to let some new ideas and new energy in, in amounts that we can handle. These limits and boundaries extend inward, challenging deeply embedded ideas of the self that must be allowed simultaneous protection and release. These limits and boundaries will challenge us by keeping us safe sometimes and confronting us at others, both supporting and failing us as appropriate, as we go through our recapitulation. These limits and boundaries, as I found out, may at first be well established, firmly entrenched adult patterns of behavior learned from others, from our own parents for instance.
My adult self was pretty much always in control. Firmly established at a young age, she dominated. She was a combination of my own two parents, her responses to life mimicking theirs. I took in, as we are programmed to do, what I saw in my parents. My father, once a free spirit, was dampened by fear and duty later in life. However, he didn’t lose his extraverted desire to be in the world, to get ahead, to always be one step ahead of the next guy until middle age. Before then he was always in a hurry, eager to engage life. Having suffered polio as a young child, his leg never healing properly, he could not run, but that did not stop him from giving the impression that he was always running. What he was running from I never knew, but I somehow understood that you ran from things. And so I took on this characteristic of his and ran too, in more ways than one.
My mother was the opposite of my father. Introverted and withdrawn, she rarely engaged the world. She let him do that while she retreated behind her books, judgments, and intellect. Rational and unsentimental, her boundaries were solid and impenetrable. From observing her, I saw that withdrawing from the world was the way to be, as much as running was. I took on my mother’s protective shell. I watched her retreat from the world, and, although I had no idea why, I knew it was a world of great fear. This was easy to intuit. I became fearful because my parents, in each of their own ways, showed me that the world was a frightening place. I also encountered my own reasons for fear. And so, what my parents taught me about the world proved true and their behaviors, learned at a very young age, served me well for a long time.
In the beginning of my recapitulation, my adult self was much like my parents. Her spirits dampened by fear, she was stern and judgmental. Frightened of everything, she preferred remaining safe in the ways that had always worked. She ran for miles each day, staying attached to an unrelenting code of discipline, running from what she knew not, and then she retreated for the rest of the day, until the next morning when she’d get up and begin again. Day after day, year after year, she used this method to maintain balance, shoring herself up and then shutting herself in.
As the recapitulation progressed, this adult self began to soften, to let things in and let things out in ways that she never would have or could have as her previous self. Holed up within the container of self, she began to see how her own actions had the possibility of negatively affecting her own children. She saw how we inherit not only our genes but everything else from our parents and the world we grow up in. She had to face that what she had inherited did not necessarily belong to her or sit right with her. She also had to face that she was indeed just like her parents.
Thus recapitulation, at this point, entered a new phase of change. With this clarity, the old self began breaking down, along with the rules and regulations placed on the old self by life and circumstance, and a new process of trying on new ideas and a new self began. It literally felt like my clothes didn’t fit anymore, my body didn’t move the same way; my brain reverberated and vibrated constantly as it literally let go of old ideas and attempted to assimilate new concepts of how life works. As new life was experienced outwardly, in the world I lived in, everything changed yet again.
(To be continued next week…)
Still journeying, and always humbly grateful for the opportunity,
Dear Infinity: What message of guidance do you offer us today?
Be mindful of the body self. Be aware that pain signifies a need for change. Be also aware that in change itself there is indeed pain. Pain may be a catalyst to change and change, in turn, may trigger pain, but either way, in offering pain, life is suggesting that change is necessary.
Why must we change? As human beings life is all about change. From the moment of conception until death, change is constantly taking place, both incrementally and in leaps and bounds. Sometimes we find ourselves perfectly happy to be along for the ride and at other times quite reluctant. But, in the end, change happens anyway.
There is a determining factor, often overlooked, in the changing process and its outcome, and that factor is the self, the aware self. In training the aware self, one becomes attuned to what the body self indicates in its daily alerts.
Pay attention to pain, not as something to be suppressed and gotten rid of, but as a challenge to raise self-awareness. Pay attention to what pain is trying to tell you, often on a very deep level. Pain may come in the form of physical pain, but it is also likely to come in the form of emotional or mental pain as well.
Allow the self to treat pain differently now. Attend to it differently. Ask it to clarify its message. Ask it to guide you to understanding and release—for pain requires a response on your part if it is to truly be released. In release comes greater clarity and growth, the kind of growth that leads to more acute awareness of the self, both the physical body self and its messages as well as the higher, aware, self and its messages.
Inner work can begin simply by bringing attention to pain in the body—physical, mental, emotional, spiritual—in whatever form it appears. Ask it to let you in on why you must suffer. The higher self and the body self communicate quite well already, but you lie somewhere in the middle of the communication, often not privy to the real messages being sent. Learn to speak the silent language of body-mind communication. It’s not really that hard to do.
Ask pain, in whatever form it comes, to lead you to clarity. Know that it is necessary, first of all, and know, as well, that it is equally necessary to acquiesce to the release of it. It is what happens in between that matters. Old pain left behind creates blockages and communication between the body self and the higher self suffers as a result, leaving you feeling distant, in muffled unawareness.
Find time for quiet talk within. Learn the secret language of body-mind communication. Begin with that. Sit with quiet mind and wait for insight. You will receive it. Decide what needs to be done to begin a process of change that is right for you alone. If a course of action is not clear, ask again. Receive another message and ask another question. In patience, await your body-mind response. It will come.
There is always a part of you ready to give the answer. There is another part of you that must be ready to receive it. Once you begin to recognize these two parts and the language that they alone speak, you will be well on your way to changing in a different way, all aspects of self—body, mind, spirit, physical, mental, emotional—communicating nicely.
Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy the process, one of the most engaging and enlightening, that of being human with awareness!
Thank you infinity!
Most humbly and gratefully channeled by Jan Ketchel.
The purpose of initiation is to provide a viable bridge for crossing from one stage of self to another. The child, who must become an adult, must be released from a deep instinctual longing for symbiotic comfort and fully move forward into adult fulfillment.
If that deep instinctual longing is not transformed into adult aims, what ensues, as we move through the life cycle, is a splintering of self. That uninitiated, splintered self, with no clear bridge to cross, is left to deal with its fragments as best it can as it stumbles forward, unprepared, into adult life. Of necessity, a present self, an adult self of sorts, will be forged, charged with adapting to the flow and expectations of everyday life. Denied, splintered parts of the self will take up residence in the background of the psyche, separate selves with separate needs, islands of discontent and protest, creating disturbance in the great sea of the self.
Indigenous human ancestors performed initiation rites to safely transport youth into full-fledged adulthood, thus creating a definite bridge between childhood and adult life. These rites forced the initiate into ritual sacrifice that consisted of some form of wounding, be it circumcision, a solo journey, or other form of transformative encounter. Survivors of the ordeal were then welcomed back into the community, in adult roles now, never to return to their childhood homes. Through a deeply meaningful process, longing was transformed into love and protection of the greater community and finding a mate to create one’s own nuclear family.
Collective initiation rites have long since faded from the human landscape. Modern humans are largely left to their own devices to navigate through major life transitions. Recapitulation is such a device to successfully traverse life changes. Through recapitulation we gather up the multiplicity of our splintered selves, take a ritual solo journey, and launch a united self into life’s fulfillment.
Recapitulation, like all initiation rites, incorporates sacrifice. In recapitulation the present self enters the world of the younger self and bears witness to and personally experiences the feelings, physical sensations, needs and confusions of its splintered self.
The most important task of the recapitulation process is for the adult self to be fully present, to take the journey without judgment, as the truths of life lived are revealed in intimate detail. Sometimes the process unfolds slowly, in piecemeal recall; at other times in rapid-fire reliving, like a labor that can’t be stopped until the total experience is fully birthed.
The ability of the adult self to remain fully present with the younger self through the contractions of this birthing process allows the defensive structures that held back secrets and maintained separation to be dismantled once and for all—they are no longer necessary.
The deepest needs of the splintered self are met through the stable presence of the adult self. No matter what shape that adult self is in, it must remain firmly present, even though it must also face the same fear, shame, anger, hatred, etc. that the younger self encounters as it relives its experiences. As the adult self reencounters experiences alongside the younger self, it must constantly reassert its present state of knowing, maintaining balanced awareness of the two worlds it must navigate through. It must bring to bear tools and guidance that the younger self did not have available, constantly reasserting its mature knowledge of how the world and the psyche work.
As the younger self faces the past head on, the adult self aids the process as the journey unfolds, gradually growing in acceptance of and love for the younger self and the journey taken. Eventually, this integration process of acceptance and love extends to loving and caring for the present adult self as well. Thus, the energy and aims of the younger self are allowed to be born and integrated into the evolving whole of the present self, manifesting in real life changes of attitude, appearance, and behavior. This is change. This is transformation. We are then freed, a new present adult self fully ready to take up the task of living our unlived life. This is recapitulation launching us into individuation, wholeness, and fulfillment.
This ancient practice of recapitulation is fully available in modern times, but in contrast to the collective initiation rites of our ancestors, it can only be done on an individual basis. Who else could recapitulate my life but me?
Though others can facilitate and support, the process of becoming whole requires taking a journey of assimilation within the self. And that assimilation requires a mature present self willing to embrace and endure the full process, as the truth of the self is revealed.
In the recapitulating of past woundings the adult self goes through the necessary initiation to cross the bridge into fuller adulthood and fuller responsibility for life lived and life yet to unfold. This endurance of old woundings is the sacrifice necessary to free the stifled energy of splintered selves into finding real life in the evolving wholeness of the present self.
In taking the solo journey to assimilation we free ourselves to fully live in this lifetime, as caring, loving individuals, and we have no idea what that might mean until we are there, living it!
Petty Tyrants come in many forms and present us with many disturbing quandaries. I recently faced a petty tyrant, not a person I had perceived as such before, and it took me a few days to realize that I had been challenged very deeply. My petty tyrant ascertained that I must, of course, feel a certain way.
“No, actually, I don’t feel that way at all,” I responded. But almost immediately a small voice inside me posed a question. “Am I doing something wrong?” it wanted to know, and a feeling that I’m not doing life properly set in. I’m a disappointment. I’m bad. I don’t uphold certain conventions of family, of relationship, the structures of society that are often perceived as so proper and utterly necessary: this is how things are done and if you don’t uphold these standards then something is wrong with you. I was uncomfortable in that moment. A shadow descended and stayed with me for days before I finally realized that a petty tyrant had come into my midst.
A petty tyrant, according to the Seers of Ancient Mexico, is anyone or thing that makes us question ourselves, makes us angry, puts us on the defensive, affronts us or makes us feel foolish, diminished, unworthy. They come to fool with us, to challenge us, and to ask us to face our true selves. Unfathomed by boundaries they slip into our lives and wreak havoc, wrecking our staunch perceptions of the world. Judging, condescending, and selfish, they criticize us and pummel our egos.
In psychological terms, a petty tyrant bears our projections; our deepest issues and fears are placed on another, while we unconsciously ask them to carry them for us. In turn we may despise this other person, find fault with them, disagree with them, and overall find their company disturbing and uncomfortable.
We can stay attached to our petty tyrants for years. We begin our lives with them, in our parents, our teachers, our siblings, our childhood friends and foes. Often they follow us into adulthood, deeply embedded inside us. Along for the ride they find new residence in others we meet and interact with, in those we marry and have relationships with.
In my book, The Man in the Woods, book one of The Recapitulation Diaries, I write of my process of facing the petty tyrants that had haunted and controlled me far into adulthood. I confronted not only people but also ideas, thoughts, and beliefs that had been ingrained in the natural process of growing up in the family and society I encountered during childhood.
Later, in adulthood, with those conventions still active, I lived steeped in great inner conflict. Uncertain as to what was so wrong with me, I nonetheless knew that I was deeply wounded. However, I could not allow myself to attach much significance to that deep inner truth, for I had been taught that it was selfish to even think about the self in any way. Time and thoughts were meant to be utilized in the rational world, in being part of an external world that I found deeply disturbing.
It was not until I faced the disturbing world inside myself that I was finally able to release myself from that disturbing outer world that I just could not find a foothold in. Through recapitulating everything about myself, by allowing myself to be selfish enough to do deep inner exploration, I found my way through a myriad of false impressions and beliefs. Fully conscious, I faced and did battle with all manner of petty tyrants during my recapitulation. I reconnected with my inner spirit, the quiet one within, who had been calling to me for decades, asking me to find her again and live her life, a life of individuality and freedom, open to a far greater world than the conventional, rational, fearful one I had grown up in.
I think I did a pretty good job of recapitulating, so that when I recently found myself being challenged to react in an expected way, I immediately recoiled. “No, I don’t think that way at all!” But in the next second I found myself stumbling before this mighty view of reality. I faltered in the face of expectation that, of course, I would give the correct, pat answer, that I would agree, conventional boundaries upheld, the world as it should be, undisturbed.
In the second that I stumbled, I became inarticulate, and the inner child self immediately stepped in and asked that old question, “Oh dear, am I bad? Am I heartless, cold and unfeeling because I don’t think like that anymore?”
Now I see that I was set up to confront the decisions I make every day as I continue my journey. I have been offered such freedom as I have shed old world structures and ideas that I no longer believe in or care to uphold. No, I was being challenged to more firmly realize just how committed I am to my path.
For a short while my foot wavered as I lifted it, ready to take my next step. Where would I put it down? Would I let it fall back in an old world, simply for convention’s sake, to appease the petty tyrant? Or would I let it fall solidly on the path I have been on for so long now, committed to following my spirit, in spite of what others might think of me? Could I shed my ego in more ways than one, inflated ego and deflated ego alike, and stay true to my evolving spirit self?
As I put my foot firmly down on my spiritual path, solidly aligned with my recapitulating self, I also acknowledged the role of the petty tyrants in my life. Those petty tyrants do indeed still step out of the shadows and challenge me. Some of them I am used to. I meet them regularly enough and I am rarely thrown by them. But there are others, friends and strangers alike, who offer more abrupt and unexpected challenges. And then the question becomes, whom do I disappoint, them or my spirit? I choose the path of my spirit every time, even if it takes me a few days to realize that I have been wavering, confused, doggedly pursued by a petty tyrant.
Now, having recognized the situation for what it was, I am once again back on track, seeking balance in this world while simultaneously exploring the meaning and possibilities that lie ahead, in this world and all worlds.
As boundaries between worlds constantly dissolve, I find that we are all petty tyrants, to ourselves as well as to others. We challenge as much as we are challenged. Can we accept ourselves in such roles? In addition, I have discovered that my inner spirit is my own greatest petty tyrant, the quiet one within who constantly challenges me to keep questioning and keep questing. Who are your petty tyrants and how do they challenge you?
Recapitulating in everyday life is the way to keep changing and growing, to stay connected to the quiet one within, the inner spirit self who, we discover, knows all.