The other day, as Chuck and I walked in the early morning, a strange sight greeted us. We had just arrived at a “T” intersection when to our left a commotion arose.
Out of the treetops a strange creature appeared. Squawking and flapping, it came towards us, a phoenix or some other mythical beast. On second glance it appeared to be some manmade object, whirring and clunking along in the sky, much like a Leonardo da Vinci flying machine. As it drew nearer it changed again, into a hawk with two small birds clutched in its claws, the birds flapping and shrieking wildly in an attempt to free themselves from the clutches of this, indeed, mythical beast.
As we watched, one of the birds did free itself. Somehow able to wriggle out of the grip of the sharp claws, it quickly flew off into the woods with nary a backward glance. The hawk flew over us, and though its tasty meal still struggled frantically, it seemed that its fate was sealed.
Much startled by this sight, we turned to the right and continued our walk, our thoughts and discussion turning too. We had been talking about our deepening practice as spiritual beings on a journey in this world, of constantly having to balance the magic of other worlds with the duties and needs of this world. And thus, we could not help but wonder what this sighting could possibly mean.
Our kind hearts immediately projected onto the poor little birds. And two of them! We thought in terms of loved ones. Who was at risk; who would be confronted with some terrible trauma today or in the near future? What did it signify for us, the first thing to catch our attention on this day, and so early in the morning? What did it portend in our own lives?
As we watched the hawk fly off down the road ahead of us, the siren cries of blue jays—the birds I interpret as the police force of the skies—alerted other creatures to be aware that a predator was in their midst. But there was really nothing to be concerned about, for the hawk had gotten what it wanted; its only intent now was to consume it.
My thoughts turned away from my projections and fears, for self and others, and instead began to look at the reality of what had occurred. The hawk began to lose its predatory role and take on the role of life itself, doing what it needed to survive in this world, much as we all do in our own lives, consuming and taking what we need. The two birds lost their roles as poor creatures of circumstance and instead became the choices we all make each day: the choice to live one way or another, the choice to do one thing or another, the choice to come into this world at all.
“You know,” I said to Chuck, “one bird is going to live and it looks like the other will die, but who’s to judge which one got the better deal. Do I feel sorry for the one that’s facing death? Perhaps it’s being given the opportunity to go deeper into its evolutionary experience? The very thing we seek all the time.”
As I pondered the significance of the event, I realized that we all get carried away by predators in our own lives, by our compulsions, addictions, attachments, our fears, our psychological makeup, by our very nature, and by the very energy of life that is as unstoppable as the predatory hawk simply searching for sustenance to survive. We are all both the hawk and the two birds. Often enough, we are caught unaware, taken from our perch and thrown into turmoil, forced to fight for our lives, to make a choice that will take us on a new journey. Even in the most mundane of circumstances our choices matter. As we plod along in our daily lives it becomes increasingly necessary to train our awareness to stay upon the path of growth, intent upon a life of meaning and evolution, no matter what our circumstances.
I could not judge the outcome of the event, for I saw the potential for growth in both life and death. I see the potential for growth, for going deeper into the life we are in, no matter where we end up. I cannot judge another for where they are in their life, just as I do not wish to be judged for the choices I’ve made in my own.
We all have the same choice to make: How are we going to deal with where we are now? Are we going to be the evolutionary beings we are meant to be, conserve our energy for our journey and go deeper into our experience, no matter what it is? Or are we going to succumb to the predator, our energy consumed by another, by everything from worry and fear to mental illness and disease?
As the shamans of Ancient Mexico point out, we are beings who are going to die. I see death as offering as much choice as life. As I saw what was happening to the two birds, I knew that one chose life and the other chose death, but also that both were worthy choices, both presenting evolutionary opportunities. The opportunity—and this is what we are training ourselves for as we recapitulate, and as we seek connection with our deeper spiritual selves—is to remain aware of our evolutionary potential at all times.
Recapitulation offers us the opportunity to practice the skills necessary to maintain our awareness. Each time we recapitulate we experience a little death, a loss of our perceived self, while we simultaneously regain a part of our lost energetic self. This involves remaining aware that we are in two worlds at once, both in the energy of the predator and simultaneously the victim of our circumstances, like the two birds in the claws of the hawk that flew over Chuck and I the other morning. Recapitulation is as much practice for how to live this life as it is practice for facing the moment of death from this life, two evolutionary paths of equal value and potential.
We all stand at a “T” intersection every day of our lives—we have choices to make, and those choices matter. No matter what our fate, whether we are the little bird that gets away or the little bird that goes to its death, we always have the opportunity to go deeper, or not.