I share a passage I was reading this morning from an old favorite of mine, Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. He reminds us “that everything changes is the basic truth for each existence. No one can deny this truth, and all the teaching of Buddhism is condensed within it. This is the teaching for all of us.”
He goes on to say, “Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure. But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it. Because we cannot accept the truth of transiency, we suffer. So the cause of suffering is our non-acceptance of this truth.”
Those of us who have difficulty accepting our own truths may also find difficulty in accepting the transiency of life. Often we want things to stay the same so we don’t have to feel or re-experience what once caused so much distress, that which fragmented us and sent us into depression, dissociative habits, and any number of behaviors that we deemed necessary for our survival.
The truth is that life is all about change. Life would not exist without constant change. We know this to be truth in our own lives. If we don’t change nothing happens, we stay the same, and yes, we suffer. We aren’t able to more fully live and embrace life if we are afraid of making a move to change something in our lives. In the end we may even find pleasure in our pain and in our refusal to change; we elect suffering over change.
Recapitulation is all about daring the self to accept the changing aspects of life. It means we are saying that we are ready to face what holds us back so we can finally live in this world. Otherwise we remain entrenched in a world that is not real, a world where perhaps only fear and loathing exist, where change is given the boot, and we miss out on the true reality of this world. I spent most of my life in that other world. It’s what my books are all about, the rediscovery of my traumatic beginnings but also the discovery of just how entrenched I had become in the world I had created for myself in order to feel safe.
If we can dare ourselves to investigate just what it is that has us in its grip we slowly begin to find ourselves evermore ready to accept the changing aspects of life. And it’s then that we realize change is life, and that in daring to change ourselves, through the deep inner work of recapitulation, we offer ourselves footholds in new life, in a changing world. As we do deep work on ourselves we begin to trust and enjoy that changing world in previously unimaginable ways.
As we accept that life is change we begin to flow with all the changes that come our way, bidden and unbidden, knowing that this is how life is, and that this time will soon change too. Every time we accept that life is change we let ourselves experience more of living and eventually we are flowing right along, no longer afraid of change, no longer suffering in the way we once did.
Part of accepting that life is change and change is life is accepting that which we run from, that which we hide from, that which scares us the most. It entails turning and facing and finally accepting what once happened to us without judgment, without self-hatred, without fear but with compassion for our frightened self, with kindness for our traumatized self, with love for our noble and strong self.
We remember that those bad times in the past eventually changed too and that new things happened to us, so we see that we have already learned the lessons of change, but to learn those lessons in full awareness is what the process of recapitulation entails. To consciously elect change and allow ourselves the benefit of life in a new way is to readily accept what life offers us to help us grow and evolve.
Then we understand what Suzuki means when he says, “When we realize the everlasting truth of ‘everything changes’ and find our composure in it, we find ourselves in Nirvana.”
The road to Nirvana—to composure and to acceptance of all that is as it changes, without attachment—is one well worth traveling. If I can do it, so can you!
-A blog by J. E. Ketchel, Author of The Recapitulation Diaries