A Day in a Life: The Four-Fold Process Of Recapitulation

The four-fold path is ever-unfolding... - Art by Jan Ketchel
The four-fold path is ever-unfolding…
– Art by Jan Ketchel

Show up.
Pay attention.
Tell the truth.
Don’t get attached to the outcome

These four basic principles of many shamanic traditions have been put to modern usage in a variety of well-established models of healing and recovery. Indeed, Carl Jung suggested squaring the circle, grounding in four points of consciousness to fully access and achieve the wholeness that we truly are. Claudia Black in her seminal work on co-dependency, Double Duty, sets out four basic agreements that adult children of chemically dependent parents follow to achieve recovery: to show up and explore their past; to pay attention to and identify what was learned as a child; to without judgment tell the truth about old behaviors, reframing them into survival skills; and to not get attached to the outcome but to break through all ideas of the past to take full ownership of true feelings, beliefs, and responsibility for new life. Angeles Arrien brought the process of indigenous shamanism alive in her own seminal work, The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary. I see these same four strategies clearly spelled out in the shamanic process of recapitulation that turned my own life on its ear as I embarked on a journey of deep self-exploration and healing, marking the square within the circle of my own wholeness.

During the shamanic process of recapitulation, showing up might mean being present for what shows up in your life and points out what must be recapitulated and what must be received. Often a recapitulation process seems to begin out of nowhere, but deeper reflection might reveal that it has been in the works for a long time. If you are ready, if you choose to commit, if you align with the intent of your spirit, you will be on the healing journey of a lifetime, into your own body and psyche, where all that you are and all that you have the potential to become waits for reconciliation. Though many people do recapitulation on their own—indeed the bulk of the process is often done alone—a seasoned guide may become a necessary part of the process. Such a guide would offer tools for grounding and empowerment that would enable you to realign and return to your journey, fully present again rather than constricted by worry or fear.

Paying attention might mean not turning away from the truth, no matter how painfully crushing or ugly. It can be difficult at first to hold your ground as memories overwhelm or as traumatic events, or even sad events, are reckoned with, but over time paying attention becomes easier; staying present becomes easier. After a while, the way your specific process unfolds becomes more predictable. You learn the signals that a recapitulation is about to begin. You learn that you can gain a little control by asking it to wait, but you also learn that you must let it know that you will attend to it at an appropriate time. You learn that you are not a victim but a strong independent being and that although you are willing to take the journey into the deeper self you are not willing to be destroyed by the journey. You gain invaluable experience in the unfolding of the process, especially as you begin to realize that even as you once survived your trauma so too do you survive the reliving of your trauma during recapitulation.

To blossom is natural... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
To blossom is natural…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Eventually, you begin to decipher between what is you and what is not you, what has heart and meaning for you and what does not. You notice that blocks and obstacles begin to melt and you become softer, gentler with yourself. Eventually you are more open, able to be compassionate and giving toward others in a new and different way too. You find that life holds possibilities previously unimagined. This is paying attention.

Telling the truth during recapitulation might mean looking at your past without judgment or blame, focusing instead on discovering all that was, so that you are not left with any mysteries or burdens to bear, so that your maturity may blossom and all that once kept you locked in old beliefs and behaviors may fade away. During recapitulation you focus on expressing yourself truthfully and with integrity as you search for your authentic self, waiting to hear the voice of your own true inner being. You are recapitulating so that your authentic self may fully live and speak your truths without fear or restraint, as you are no longer willing to be held back from enjoying the fullness of the life you are in and who you truly are.

Eventually, the process becomes a fascinating journey, as the events of your life are studied and valued for what they have to teach you and for what they bring you. But the longterm intent of recapitulation is to retrieve the parts of yourself that were split off during the traumatic events of your life and bring them home. It is a holistic healing process, a soul retrieval that you do for yourself. How could anyone else ever do it for you? I discovered this during my own recapitulation; I was the only one who could possibly take my own inner journey. I was the only one who could possibly know and recognize the real me.

Not getting attached to the outcome might mean letting your process guide you forward rather than deciding where you think the journey should take you. It means learning to trust that everything is part of the journey, finding a way to be comfortable with the ever-changing self. Yes, it’s good to begin recapitulation with the intent of reconciliation and healing, but reconciliation might take on a whole new meaning, and healing, by the end of the journey, might be something quite different from what you had imagined when the journey began. Overall, a recapitulation must be undertaken with openness, with readiness to finally make sense of life on a deeper level, specifically your own life.

Recapitulation is really a spiritual practice, and with all spiritual practices it requires acquiescence of a sort, to allowing the practice itself to show the way. It also requires acquiescence to the inevitability of change and to really allowing the self to change on the deepest level. Change means letting go of a lot of things, even people who no longer are part of your journey, but it also means inviting in a lot of new things and people and moving on without regret, fully accepting of all that once was, fully open to all that is still possible.

Eventually it all makes sense... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Eventually it all makes sense…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Not being attached to outcome is part of acquiescing, not in a giving up way or even a giving in way, but in an acknowledgement of your spirit and the truths it speaks to you of. As life, the universe, and your spirit take you forward on your journey—both during your recapitulation and in your new life beyond recapitulation—you realize you really have no control over what happens, and this too is acquiescence, yet you still exercise the ability to choose to live life according to what is right and good for you and your spirit.

Spiritual and shamanic traditions look to nature to offer guidance during times of change, to show the way, rather than denying that change is happening. Recapitulation offers a path of healing that looks to the nature of the Self to show the way, where all that we naturally are is waiting for us to free it.

On the recapitulation path,

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