“[We] are in the world to train [our]selves to be unbiased witnesses, so as to understand the mystery of ourselves and relish the exultation of finding what we really are…” – don Juan Matus*
Every year since I was very little, probably before I started school, I attended the December birthday party of a girl I knew. Our mothers were friends. She did not live in my neighborhood but she did attend the same Catholic School I did.
A lot of kids got invited, girls from school and girls from her neighborhood. The basement rec room at her house was packed with kids, parents and siblings, grandparents and anyone else who showed up. It was always a big affair. There was a table for presents, another table for birthday cake and ice cream, drinks, plates, snacks, etc., pin the tail on the donkey on the wall, a semi circle of chairs upon which all the party goers sat to play the various guessing games that we played year after year, guessing how many marbles were in a jar, how many shoelaces in another, how many chocolate kisses in another, etc. My memories of these birthday parties were that they were anxious affairs.
Why such anxiety over a birthday party? Well, each year this same scenario played out: I’d get invited. On the day of the party I would get ready. Where was the present? There wasn’t one. My mother never provided me with a gift to bring to the party. Instead I’d make a card and 2 or 3 dollar bills would go into the card.
My mother did not drive so I would need to get a ride with another friend going to the party. There was one other girl in my neighborhood who usually attended the party too. Her mother, who also had seven kids, like mine, knew how to drive and never seemed to have a problem stuffing any number of kids into her car and driving wherever needed. I usually got a lift with this mother.
One year she forgot to pick me up. I waited a long time outside in the cold, standing in my driveway wondering where she was. I waited patiently, aware that this mother often ran behind schedule. I finally went inside to find out if my mother had indeed set up a ride for me. Just then the other mother drove up, greatly apologetic. They had headed off to the party only to realize they had forgotten me and then driven all the way back to get me.
I got into the car, clutching my homemade card and feeling bad for needing the ride, only to be greeted by my friend holding in her lap a big, beautifully wrapped gift with a pretty bow on it. I was immediately embarrassed. Why couldn’t my mother do something like that? I covered my meager card with my hands, wishing I had a better, more sensitive mother. Didn’t she know you brought gifts to a party? I don’t remember ever having brought a gift.
At the party, I snuck my card onto the table laden with gifts hoping that no one would notice. When present opening began I cringed, waiting for my card to be presented to the birthday girl, usually last, sometimes not even noticed. Sometimes I’d see it lying there on the table long after the presents had been opened, unseen. When the birthday girl did finally open my card she was always thrilled, “Yay! Money!” she’d say, with such enthusiasm I had to believe she meant it.
With the party over it was time to be anxious about getting home. I’d hope that the mother from my neighborhood remembered I was riding with her. One year she left without me and the party girl’s mom had to find me another ride. Another year I had to stay on for several hours for my father to pick me up on his way home from work.
I don’t blame my mother for any of this. She didn’t drive until I was much older and so it was necessary for us to depend on the kindness of our neighbors. I have so many memories of other people driving me places, even to the hospital in emergencies. One time, when she was actually learning to drive, though I don’t think she had her license yet, my mother asked me to get into the car with her while she drove about 4 miles to the nearest little store to buy a few groceries.
She had me sit in the backseat with my littlest siblings while she bravely yet badly drove along the winding country roads to the store. She stalled the car, a stick shift, innumerable times, lurching down the road in gut-wrenching jolts, finally slamming on the brakes so hard as she arrived at the store that the car went into a long skid and we all went crashing to the floor. I remember thinking at the time—I was about 10 or 11—that when it came time for me to drive I would never drive like that!
When my mother did finally learn to drive she did so adequately enough, though she was a nervous driver and had numerous near misses. Several times while I was in the car with her she’d go off the shoulder on her side, veer over to the other lane, into oncoming traffic, and in just the last second somehow manage to swerve back into the right lane. “Well!” she’d say, and drive onward with a shake of her shoulders and a defiant aire.
One time she slammed on the brakes so hard I flew into the windshield and smashed it. I never knew why she’d done that, as we were about a quarter mile away from the car ahead of us. But this was the beginning of my ability to “see” and “know” things before they happened. I am convinced that this hard knock on the head activated my pineal gland and it has been active ever since.
As children we trust the adults in our lives to take care of us, to provide and teach us, to nurture and sustain us until we are ready to go off on our own. I vowed to myself quite often that I would do things differently from my mother, her bad driving and lack of party etiquette just two examples. But the truth was that for a long time I was depressed, felt deserted, abandoned, neglected by the mother I got, and I did blame her for a lot of things. Now I see the reality of her life, stuck in the country with a bunch of children, unable to drive and depressed, shy, and withdrawn herself. I have to admit, she did the best she could.
It wasn’t until I took responsibility for my own depression that things began to change. By taking on the challenges of my own life, I was able to release my mother from any blame and really go on to live my own life. And I discovered that: No Blame = Freedom. Freedom is truly releasing emotional attachment to what was, to what is. Freedom is pure acceptance of the truth, with judgments peeled away and lessons gained. Freedom carries no blame. Freedom is living as an “unbiased witness,” as don Juan suggests.
By the time I was in sixth grade there were no more big parties at my friend’s house. Instead there was a much smaller sleepover with just four girls that year. This was much more to my liking. The main point was to stay up all night. No problem, I couldn’t sleep anyway! Still anxious!
Oh, and at that party I brought a real gift, one I had paid for and wrapped myself, the kind of gift I knew you brought to a birthday party, tied in a big bow!
A blog by J. E. Ketchel, Author of The Recapitulation Diaries
*The Fire From Within by Carlos Castaneda, p 152
The conscious self, the Adult Self, is the most powerful self we possess in our human form. It is the self that will determine the fate of our life in this world.
The crux of the adult self’s power lies in its freedom of choice. Even in the most dire of circumstances nothing can ever take away our freedom to choose the attitude we take toward our predicaments. And that attitude will define the path of our lifetime, now and beyond.
All circumstances in human form are not equal. Like all of nature, some circumstances are more physically favorable than others. A seed that lands in a fertilized garden is better positioned than a seed that squeezes into a sidewalk crack. Our first challenge is to recognize that life is not fair, all life is not treated to equal circumstances. Herein lies our primary opportunity to exercise our freedom of choice.
This is the fundamental truth the Shamans of Ancient Mexico teach: entitlement, which builds its protest from the unfairness of circumstance, and which consumes the lion’s share of our energy, can be squarely defeated by an attitude that acknowledges: “I am not special.”
This is not an attitude of resigned, negativistic defeatism, but an objective acknowledgment of the truth: being special is an ego construct rooted in entitlement. Being born entitles us to nothing other than an opportunity for life, and even that is not guaranteed for long.
Despite the glamour and power differentially distributed and enjoyed in the world, detachment from defining one’s value by dint of circumstance frees one to humbly navigate life without the burden and nuisance of entitlement.
To be unshackled from the chains of entitlement is to be freed to assess the truth of who we are, the circumstances we were planted in, and the core issues we are confronted with and need to solve in order to advance and resolve the problems that so weightily block us from the light of fulfillment. What are the karmic seeds fashioned for resolution by the context of our present lives?
From this perspective we can see that we are completely freed, in this life, to advance our spiritual journey and attain fulfillment. Our seed fell where it needed to fall to grant us the opportunity to specifically address and solve an impediment that is unique to our personal Soul’s journey.
From this perspective, from a Soul perspective, all lives are equal in that all lives are planted where they need to be planted for their own opportunity for advancement. To be born into another’s life, no matter how attractive that may appear, would have little value for our own unique journey of advancement in this lifetime, or in infinity beyond this life.
From this perspective, the greater the challenge in this life, the greater might also be the opportunity for advancement. For example, people who have experienced severe trauma in their lives have unparalleled opportunity for spiritual advancement.
Firstly, fully mastering the impact of trauma requires a mastery of entitlement issues in order to have the energy and focus to take on the impact of the truth. Secondly, trauma is a natural, or unnatural, hatchway to the discovery of the energy body or the living soul, that which is mental and emotional awareness that remains entwined with the physical body for the duration of physical life.
The direct experience of this spirit essence in trauma ushers the person deeper into the truth of who they really are at an energetic and soul level and what life really is: a spiritual EXPERIENCE, far beyond what any religious teaching rooted in faith and belief can offer.
Entitlement is a vestige of archetypal domination from infancy that produces an imprisoned self, sentenced for life due to a felt paucity of material or emotional advantage. In other words, lifes’ circumstances run deep, even deeper than we might suspect. We are all dealing not only with the circumstances of our present lives, but also with the deeper issues of being alive in a world that is set up for us to have to confront and learn about our personal spiritual journey separate from this world and all that keeps us attached to it.
Though crimes should be prosecuted and victims recompensed, spiritual freedom requires a shift of attitude. And spiritual freedom is the essence of life. Physical circumstance is the playing field for spirit life and spirit evolution. Freedom from the bondage of physical entitlement sets the stage to truly resolve the seeds of our karmic load as materialized in the circumstances of our lives.
As Janis Joplin put it: “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose…” And I would add: because our karmic load is completely sewn, completely freeing us now to choose where we go next!
Working on it,
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 is freedom? What does it mean to be free? As I work on my book, The Recapitulation Diaries, I feel as if I’m writing about someone else, as if the experiences of my child self happened in a different lifetime. I’m no longer attached to her story as my own. The things that happened to her no longer personally affect me.
Even the adult I was a few years ago no longer exists. I no longer feel the way she felt. I no longer perceive the world as she did. I no longer fear the way she did. I no longer hide or withdraw the way she did. I no longer interact with others the way she did. I no longer even think the way she did. I am a completely different person. That is freedom!
To transform is a choice. Going deeply into the personal is a choice. To achieve the impersonal is transformative and freeing. What do I mean by the impersonal? Well, in the old days, when I was that other person I took everything personally. I trusted no one. I felt misunderstood, bad, ignored, neglected, mistreated, angry, and fearful. The world was not my oyster, but instead a place to withdraw from as often as possible. In fact, the truth is, that was how I perceived the world, not how the world perceived me.
At the time, I was still attached to feelings and issues that had been part of my life from earliest childhood. By the time I was a grown woman those issues had me in their clutches. I was in a critical state of discontent, just holding onto reality by a thin thread. Nervous and afraid, getting angrier and angrier and more depressed than ever, I’d often force myself to make changes. I knew change was good; it had worked often enough in the past to break the deadlock within, at least for a time. But the truth is that the changes themselves never led to anything because they were predictable, fairly safe changes, totally under my control.
It wasn’t until I felt death breathing down my neck, clearly knowing that I would die if I didn’t make a real change, that I dared myself to begin a different kind of journey. At the time I didn’t know it would lead to a total transformation. It wasn’t until I met Chuck and began a shamanic recapitulation that the idea of transformation appeared as something even remotely possible.
I know I write about recapitulation a lot in these blogs, as does Chuck, but I just can’t help it. During my recapitulation, I met Jeanne, first in real life and then as an otherworldly entity. She told me, in the early days of my recapitulation when she came to me in her energy body, appearing when I was in the middle of recapitulating a horrific traumatic event, that I had a three-year journey to complete. She told me that I’d already made a good start, and that at the end of that time I would understand everything. She said I had to stay focused on the recapitulation, without being distracted by other things.
“Let everything else go for now,” she said. “Don’t worry about anything. Life will unfold as it should and all that is right will come to pass as you take this journey. Stay focused. It’s crucial that nothing distract you from this most important task. This is your work now.”
This is your work now?! What the heck did that mean? I had no clear idea at the time, but here I am ten years later and I know exactly what that means. My recapitulation did become the central focus of my life then, and the shamanic practice of recapitulation continues to be a central focus.
Once again I’m in a unique position, being offered another transformative opportunity as I prepare my book for publication. The process of writing about recapitulation has been transformative as well, as I realize just how thorough a job I did in recapitulating a brutal past. I am no longer attached to it in any way. I am totally free.
Transformation is possible, but it takes work. There’s no doubt about that, but I would not trade those years of deepest recapitulation for anything in the world. I had more experiences during that time and learned more about life than I could have learned anywhere else. I learned more about everything. And all I had to do was go inside myself. It was all there waiting for me.
Remembering to stay connected to the path of transformation, until next time,