The inspiration for this blog comes from our neighbor Joseph McMoneagle’s book, The Ultimate Time Machine. His reflections on the relativity of the past, as a “reality” largely based upon interpretation, coincides neatly with the Shamans of Ancient Mexico’s experience of the Wheel of Time.
Recapitulation is an ancient shamanic practice that enables one to change the past. As McMoneagle points out, the past is largely defined by our interpretation system, which is mostly determined by our socialization by significant others since the moment of our birth. Thus, memory is largely colored by a feeling tone and cognitive understanding based on socialization.
When we recapitulate we relive the actual experience of the past with the consciousness of fresh eyes, or a point of awareness from the future, now, that affords a different view. From that new perspective, the past indeed changes. Yes, certain events happened that are the focus of the recapitulation, however, the interpretation of those facts is wide open to change.
Beyond actual interpretation is the feeling experience of the object of recapitulation. A traumatic event of violent proportion may at first be experienced as more physically and emotionally intense than actually previously remembered. This in and of itself changes the past because one is allowed, perhaps for the first time, a fuller experience of what actually happened.
The intensity of sensation and emotion emanating from a past event frequently shifts in recapitulation, to the point that remembering the event actually results in a neutral reaction. This is not the result of suppression or dissociation. The formerly traumatic event truly becomes a content of personal history that no longer casts a trigger shadow over present life. In fact, some horrific experiences in life can actually become transformed into objects of humor.
These are genuine examples of changing the past. The change is in having a much broader experience in all that happened in a way not possible when we first experienced it. We were limited by the level of our abilities at that stage of our development, as well as by the defenses our body and higher self brought into play, such as fragmentation and amnesia, as we simply were not ready to take in and make sense of the event as we experienced it. Now we are freed to know it and be with the past in a whole new way.
Recapitulation, then, is a valid technology to change the past, resulting in a fuller energetic presence in life now. In shamanic terms: we retrieve fragmented energy, parts of ourselves previously frozen in a “past” not fully known. This energetic retrieval is possible, as the past can now release it from the bondage of incompletion. The past is changed and the present is enlivened through this change in the past.
So, yes, change in the past can definitely change the present. Practice recapitulation, see what happens!
The bottom line for total healing is total acceptance. The bottom line for completion is total acceptance. The bottom line of preparation for one’s definitive journey in infinity is total acceptance.
What is total acceptance? It begins with total knowing. We needn’t remember every detail, but if we harbor a wish not to know what we have experienced then our lives revolve around maintaining not knowing. Something that we experienced still feels more powerful than our ability to assimilate it so we keep it at bay, and there we must stay.
There is no negative judgment for this predicament, but it defines our life no matter where we are: we remain fragmented, our wholeness contained in dissociation. That becomes our karma, the path that solves the riddle of our resistance to integration. When we solve that riddle we move deeper into acceptance.
When we can allow ourselves to fully know the truth of our lives we open to the emotions and sensations of our dreaded experiences. The energy of emotion must be felt and released through the sensations of the body’s channels, whether that be in movement, tear, sound, or breath.
When the dust of expired emotion settles we are left with the facts of our experience, but facts can be clouded by beliefs. Before we can view the facts from a broadened perspective we must address the limits of our beliefs.
Often simply allowing ourselves the discourse of sharing our dreaded secrets begins an updating process that clarifies a long held misinterpretation. Part of this is developmental. Often our unexamined beliefs were encased in distortion by our young minds. The encounter of these naive beliefs with our adult power of understanding frees us from the misunderstandings of the past.
Of course this then throws us directly into the moralistic hands of judgment. Adults with their firmly entrenched superegos must contend with the guilt of their imperfections and transgressions, with the fullness of their human nature. Total acceptance requires that we totally accept the full truth of what we have done, of what we have experienced.
Whether something is right or wrong, whether it should or shouldn’t have happened has no bearing here. If something happened it is a fact of personal history. To embrace our whole selves we must embrace the full truth of all our experiences. To embrace we must fully digest everything. The unacceptable of my experience is completely acceptable as a fact of my life because it truthfully is a real part of my life that can never be erased.
Total acceptance demands complete digestion of the facts of an experience. To have negative judgements about an experience may be a necessary part of that digestive process, but we must become freed of the clouds of judgment to know with utter clarity every nuance of our experience.
This is the knowing that is delivered to total acceptance: this is the fullness of the experience I had; I totally accept it without emotional residue, without judgment.
Total acceptance is squaring with the facts of our lives. Reconciled and freed we are fully energetically ready for the next adventure.
Our woundings define us, control us, give us structure and purpose. They offer crutches so we can limp along through life making the best of it. What would happen if we threw away those crutches, if we decided to let go of everything we think we need and instead go in search of our dreams? If we lose touch with our dreams we lose touch with our spirit. The only way of getting back to our spirit is to get back to not only dreaming our dreams but actualizing them, and to do that we must get rid of our crutches.
Crutches can be everything from ideas, such as that we are not worthy of success, or a mate, or wealth or health, that we must bear the life we have, continually punishing ourselves because of some idea that that’s just the way life is, or because we repeatedly blame someone else for hurting us, for leaving us, for abusing us. Well, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Crutches are also our comforts, and that’s where it gets tricky when we try to let them go. Part of us wants to just throw them away, but if we do will our back and legs be strong enough to carry us forward? Will our feet know where to take us? Do we have what it takes to go it alone without our crutches? Whatever our crutches may be they will try to convince us that we need them, that we can’t live without them, that we owe them for how they have helped us survive. How can you leave something, or someone, that has been so important to you? How can you just walk away?
When the time comes to change, to move on, to throw away the crutches, we have to dare ourselves to stand on our own two feet. It can feel as if we are throwing ourselves into the great unknown, which we are. As if we are jumping off a cliff, which we are. As if we are taking a great leap of faith, which we are. The first thing we will encounter as we take that leap is fear.
As we untether ourselves from what has kept us safe and secure for so long we go reeling into the great nothingness of free fall. We don’t know where we are, who we are, or how to navigate without our crutches. We don’t know what to do, so we grasp for our crutches again. “Just stay with me a little bit longer,” we say. “I know you and I trust you. Even though you are bad for me, you keep me safe and grounded.”
During my recapitulation such times of free fall indicated that I was actually making strides. I was being challenged to embrace life, to get out of my safety zone and confront reality. Perhaps letting go of a crutch meant challenging myself to go beyond my depression, such as: “I won’t stay in bed all day today. Today I will go to the grocery store, or make a phone call, or take a walk.” Such simple things, you might say, but to a traumatized person these present major feats. Sometimes every day could be like that.
Perhaps a moment of free fall was instigated by an outside influence, such as someone requesting something of me, someone else needing me, or a job that needed to be done. To go outside our comfort zone when we have been badly wounded takes courage, fortitude, and strength, such ordinary characteristics of being human that for someone suffering from PTSD present mountains to cross, rivers to ford, the great unknown to encounter, and all without our usual crutches!
If we are to heal we have to change, and if we are to change we have to leave our crutches behind. The things that now keep us safe also keep us isolated, lonely, stuck in reliving our woundings and our ideas of ourselves as wounded, over and over again.
“I am wounded, poor me! I will never have a good life because someone did something bad to me! I have trauma in my background so I have permission to be sad and lonely. It’s my lot in life.” These are some of the things we tell ourselves to keep us aligned with our woundings, and each time we speak them our crutches are right there for us to grab onto, saying, “Yes, you need me. I told you that you would always need me. You don’t need anything else. I am here for you.” Are we really going to settle for that?
We are easily convinced by our crutches because the truth is that yes, they have been our salvation, they have stood by us through it all, and they have worked for us, to a certain extent. But they have also kept us stuck in our nightmares, and the truth is we would be better off without them. We’d be healthier without them.
I used to run every day. It was one of my crutches. I thought I needed running to survive. I have not run in 12 years now. I just stopped one day. At first I felt bad about not running, thinking I’d get out of shape, physically and mentally, and for a long time I’d whine, “Oh, I should be running.” But I never did again and once I really let go of it, in my mind too, I was just fine. I am physically and mentally healthier than ever. I don’t need to rely on running anymore. I have myself to rely on.
When it’s time to finally let go of the crutches, the crutches will try to stay attached. We suffer with them and we suffer without them. But if we can look at them closely, examine them, ask why we think we need them, we are well on our way to getting rid of them forever. We have to ask: “Are they part of some idea, some ideal that I latched onto a long time ago at a time when I needed something to support me? Do I really need that kind of support now?”
Times change. We change. As we choose to heal from our traumas, our dreams come back to haunt us, reminding us of what we have left behind that might really matter to us. In the long run, it’s our dreams that we should go running to. Is it time to throw away the crutches and go running toward your dreams?
In this time of #METOO, it is so important that we point fingers, that we expose the hypocrites, that we gather together, united against what has been going on in the shadows, but at the same time we can’t just stop there. It does no one any good if all we do is point fingers. If we are to heal our wounds we have to be willing to do the healing work, and that is an individual task. No one else can heal our wounds for us, for only we know what they truly are. Only we know what they have done to us and how we have survived with them and in spite of them. And only we know what all of our crutches are, many of which we have kept in the shadows of our own psyches.
Healing can only happen if we are each ready to take the personal journey within. If we are to heal we must put down our crutches, one at a time, and head off into free fall. In the end, I can attest, that we will land on our feet, and that our own two feet are indeed strong enough to bear the tension of taking back our health and our energy, as well as take us where we will go next. Time to take the dream back.
A blog by J. E. Ketchel, Author of The Recapitulation Diaries
We’ve all been taught to be nice girls and boys, to not rock the boat, not make anyone uncomfortable by bringing up disturbing issues. Who among us grew up in a household where things were really discussed, addressed, and resolved by coming to a deeper understanding of why we do the things we do? Not me.
In my house you kept quiet. You didn’t rock the boat, make anyone uncomfortable, or even talk about what bothered you the most. You held everything in and hoped for the best. If you got caught doing something bad you were blamed, shamed, and punished, but no one ever asked if you needed something. No one ever asked if you were in pain, in need, or suffering. No one wanted to know if something was disturbing you or confusing you. No one wanted to deal with feelings or emotions. They wanted it simple. You followed the rules so everything went according to plan, or else. You were told to act like a lady, get good grades, and stop being an embarrassment to your parents. In the end you just ended up feeling guilty, ashamed, and bad.
But growing up where nothing is ever discussed, where you are supposed to figure out some of the most frightening and complicated experiences in your life on your own is a daunting task, especially for a small child who just shuts up and shuts down, finds ways to self-soothe and somehow makes it through childhood and into adulthood. Having been sexually abused, I empathize with others who also had a bad time of it, but I also know that we must move beyond our traumas, not only entertain a new vision for ourselves and the world but embrace it as well. We must all dare to change.
In spite of my background I have always been able to see the good in others, no matter how bad they appear to be. Perhaps it’s just part of my personality, the part of me that somehow knew how to survive and thrive in spite of what happened to me. Suffice it to say, I’m an optimist. I’ve always been able to weigh all sides of an issue. Often this makes it impossible to take sides. I was never good at debating. I’m much better at taking in the whole picture and seeing how all the pieces fit together. This is a Buddhist perspective, the middle way, all things in harmony and balance. In the end, I tend to be okay with the way things are because I know that things have a way of resolving, often in the most unexpected of ways, but often in the most simple of ways.
For most of my life I felt like I was living in a daze. I didn’t really wake up, except occasionally, until I was 50. It was then that I started to gain clarity on what had actually transpired in my childhood, why I had lived in that daze for most of my life (because I was only half in this world, the other half still back in the past), but once all that insight about my past started to flood into me all I wanted to do was stay awake. I got interested in life in a new and different way.
I wanted to know why and how things happen, and how to change myself and the things in my life that I could change. I saw the bigger picture of what had been, but I also wanted to intend a new bigger picture for the future. I wanted to be actively involved in planning my future life in a different way, consciously aware of myself as part of the process. I didn’t want life to lead me; I wanted to meet life and take a new journey with all that it offered me. It meant I had to be prepared to really change. I had to learn how to let change work for me in positive and good ways, with intent and purpose, rather than just because it happened anyway.
I have since learned that not everyone wants to change, not everyone is ready to change, and in fact many people don’t care about changing at all, they just care about themselves. This seems to be what we are being confronted with now, just how many people really only care about themselves, how caught up they are in their own hubris, their own greed, and how little they care about others. We must all be accountable for what is happening now and we all have a responsibility to try and figure out how to resolve the chaos of our times. There are many forums, and many people are taking the opportunity to finally speak out, but for most of us perhaps the best forum is quietly within.
To truly know ourselves as human beings must be the first step in changing our world. Why did my abuser rape, torture, and assault me? Why did he sell me to others like himself? Why do people do the things they do?
I have discovered that if I am to understand others I must try to understand myself. The first step in doing that, I learned, is to give up all preconceived ideas of how things should be, all preconceived notions of what is right and what is wrong, of what is supposed to be. I learned that I have to empty my mind of everything and be open to understanding life at a totally different level and from many different perspectives, be open to new concepts, new twists, new notions of possibility never before imagined. I have to be totally nonjudgmental, abundantly curious, and insatiably interested in learning new things.
In being open in this manner I come back to myself, to that young girl who could always empathize, who could always see the good in others, who could always see all sides of an issue or a problem. That little Buddhist girl is still in me and she still presents me with her open mind, and every day I am grateful for her. I had to work very hard to find my way back to her, wading through the muck of years of duty and adherence to principles and ideas I did not really believe in but followed blindly because I did not want to rock the boat, get into trouble, or be misunderstood. Then I decided it was high time for a different approach. I recapitulated. In so doing I had to break down the world I knew into dust and debris and pick from it only what was important and leave the rest of it behind, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Sometimes that’s all it is, just something to leave behind.
Now, as I said, I am awake, and in being awake I have to look at myself from all different angles all the time. How am I like those men who abuse? How am I like my own abuser? How do I abuse others? How can I judge another when I know I am not perfect?
When I accept that I have deviant behaviors inside myself, perhaps even to the same extent as some of the worst offenders, then I begin to know why people do the things they do. I do the things I do because I act impulsively or greedily or selfishly. I might be fearful, sad or lonely. I might lash out. I might take. I might overdo. I might be greedy today and selfless tomorrow. I might be hostile now and loving later. I might be inflated in the morning and by nightfall totally deflated and depressed. I might hate one minute and feel bad about it the next. I might get angry and vent, knowing that it’s important to state what is bothering me, but then I can also be the kindest person in the room, wanting the people around me only to feel comfortable and happy. I am all of these things because I’m human.
I have written about my demons, I accept them as part of me. Even if I don’t act on all my impulses, even if I don’t let all my demons out of the bag, I have to accept that they exist inside me. I too am culpable, fallible, weak, and sometimes I fail. That’s what it means to be human. And that’s why I cannot hate, even those who do bad things to me. I can only love. Love is what I always come back to. It is the glue that holds us all together and it is the glue that must keep us together as we address the current climate of change, as people in power get sacked for their indiscretions, as others suffer the shock of knowing that people they love did bad things. What do you do with all that? You just keep loving them.
Love is powerful and hopefully it will get us through this to a deeper understanding of all that we are, the human animals as well as the loving spirits. We accept the loving spirit part of ourselves so easily, but it’s much harder to deal with the other side that we are too, the instinctual animal that we have yet to fully confront and accept into our lives and our world. We all need to work at it, within ourselves first and foremost. Only then will we understand why people do the things they do, because we do them too and we know why. Then we can truly be empathic, nonjudgmental, loving, total humans. Then we will be able to not just accept the bigger picture but embrace our wholeness as well.
Some things just have to be accepted as we wade our way through the chaos we now find ourselves in. Some people just won’t get it, will refuse to change no matter how much they are confronted with how badly their behavior harms others. Some people just aren’t that evolved yet and we have to let them be where they are, for the truth is they are part of what creates balance, they are part of that bigger picture. The Buddhists know that you can’t have the light without the dark, the good without the evil, the day without the night.
At the same time that I accept all that, I do have expectations of everyone I know and everyone I don’t know. I expect to be treated as a fellow human being. I expect to be given the same opportunities as everyone else. I expect the same fairness I grant others. I expect the same kindness and compassion I extend to others. I expect to be allowed to live in a safe world, free from violence, war, nuclear disaster, free of angry people with guns. I expect the same for others.
I want us all to live in a world where we make room for others, where we share what we have with others, where we embrace everyone as human beings just like us, where color and race and gender are not issues of divisiveness but what bring us together. I want the bigger picture to be bigger in love and kindness and compassion.
At the same time, I see how we are all rushing to the same side of the boat now, tipping it too far in our exposing, in our rooting out the evil in others in our need for validation. We have gone from never tipping the boat to nearly capsizing it! The truth does matter, but it can be taken too far, doing more harm than good in our eagerness for a quick solution. There is no quick solution. We might just tip that boat over and then where would we be but all awash in the same stuff we dredged up.
Somehow we have to get back into the middle of the boat again, back on the middle way, where everyone is given the opportunity to work on their issues with support and help, because the beautiful outcome of this process could be that we have finally exposed that we all have issues that need to be addressed without judgment, without blame, and without shame. We all know what judgment, blame, and shame do to us, how devastating they can be, sending us deeper into our traumas and deeper into hiding. We are all just human after all.
We’ve already rocked the boat. Now let’s get it back into calmer waters and meet in the middle, bringing with us all that what we’ve learned about others and ourselves. Let’s offer the same support to others that we expect to receive ourselves. Let’s not be the family that refuses to accept feelings and emotions. Let’s be the family that sits down together and talks at a deeper level and tries to understand each other. Let’s be the family that talks about all that uncomfortable stuff that has left a lot of people feeling confused and frightened, perhaps resorting to acting out because they don’t know what to do with it all.
Let’s try to figure out what we’ve been missing in our personal and workplace relationships, and what’s really needed for us all to heal and finally live peaceably together, as one, in the middle of the boat.
A blog by J. E. Ketchel, Author of The Recapitulation Diaries
The body works feverishly to protect us from outside invaders such as bacteria and viruses. The psyche, the mental self, is similarly challenged to protect us from disturbing thoughts, feelings, and anxieties that originate within the mind, as well as those that stream into us from the outside world.
We humans are extremely suggestible beings, quick to be influenced or rattled by inner thoughts and outer events. Behind it all we are well protected by our ancient natural defenses that unconsciously take over to defend and preserve our sanity in the face of real danger. Evidence of this ancient archetypal defense system is staggering, as the powerful psychic mechanisms that take control during trauma reveal.
In countless examples, trauma victims have been served by ancient inner programs that encapsulate their trauma, keeping it unknown to the fledgling ego that strives, while under attack, to maintain its tentative hold on reality and its cohesive identity while being overwhelmed by shattering assault. The decision to “forget” in trauma is not a conscious one; it is a function of a far more instinctive self that knows what is needed for survival. Sometimes we need to forget for a while, sometimes for a long while.
Human beings are additionally equipped with ego consciousness, which can supplement nature’s deeper defenses and greatly improve psychic hygiene. As we live now in a world in the very early stages of major transformation, with instability in governance and terror daily breaking through its unstable seams, we must take conscious responsibility to stabilize our own psychic balance, that is, we must do our conscious best to supplement the defenses of our ancient self.
With respect to potential psychic infection from the outside world, the ego really does have vast control over the influx of outside energy. In a nutshell, where we put our attention largely decides what comes into us.
In our time, social media is a huge raging river of collective energy that greatly excites and equally exhausts our psychic energy but also can vastly impact moods—highs and lows—as well as our ability to process objectively all that barrages us. The decision to limit exposure to social media promotes psychic balance; it offers as well the opportunity to step back and begin to think for oneself. Collective energy can usurp one’s identity. We can be swept into a tribal identity, losing the boundaries of our “individual” self, losing also the ability to think for ourselves.
The partisan divide currently infecting the whole world can, as well, seduce us into one polarized corner or another. We are in an either/or state right now that does not see resolution in a reconciliation with the opposites but calls for unity through divisiveness. Divisiveness in the psyche sets the stage for psychic disunity, as the disenfranchised parts of the psyche will rebel, usually through disturbing symptoms of anxiety, dread, panic, fear or rage.
Suspending judgment toward all groups in the world, regardless of their political persuasion, with an eye toward understanding the why of differences, can create greater empathy and inclusiveness for all points of view and all peoples. This in turn promotes inner calmness within the self and reflects greater inner acceptance of even the most recalcitrant aspects of the self!
Inwardly, the attitude of ego consciousness toward the vaster unconscious self is a critical determinant of psychic health. For instance, if the ego rules daily life through a narcissistic self-centered lens, it is likely to alienate itself from the rest of the self, with the result again being far-reaching symptoms, even perhaps the manifestation of bodily disease in an attempt to physically communicate the reactions of the deeper self toward the ego’s non-inclusive leadership in the affairs of daily life.
If the ego can see its role as ascertaining and caring for the true needs of the overall self versus its narrow special interests, then the unconscious will be grateful and better poised to support its ego partner. This can be established through remembering, recording and contemplating the dreams dreamed each night. Dreams remain the royal road to the unconscious, they are a latent golden portal to the deeper self, awaiting just a little attention.
As well, a willingness to calm frantic energy through meditation and a practice such as pranayama breathing can allow for a still heart that communicates objective truths, perhaps even suggesting actions for the ego to follow. This inner relationship with different parts of the self can lead to an inner harmony, greatly promoting psychic hygiene.
An overall willingness to introvert daily—that is, to pull attention away from outside energy, to be calm in nature for instance, or simply content within the confines of the self—is perhaps the most important ego practice to counter the overpowering extroverted draw of our time and restore psychic balance.
There are still rocky seas before us, but good psychic hygiene can provide the necessary ark of awareness to safely maintain our balance through the troubled waters of our times.