Meditation for Life
Out with the Old
One of my intentions for that year was to get a clear sense of what I was meant to offer as a teacher. As the year went on, I found myself creating events and programs at a level I hadn't experienced before. I have no doubt that the clarity had a lot to do with having spent that time recognizing both my accomplishments and the things I regretted. The recapitulation process seemed to free me—literally, clearing karmic residues that might otherwise have created confusion or hidden regrets.
Ever since, I've spent time on New Year's Eve recollecting the events of the year gone by. Sometimes I do it with friends. Sometimes I do it alone. It's become one of the key ceremonies of my life. I've found it so effective that I now do it several times a year, especially during times when my life is in flux, or when I'm winding up old projects or starting new ones.
Taking time to consciously recollect your own words and actions is a powerful spiritual practice. Many traditional teachers consider it a crucial requirement for real personal growth, and some teachers suggest you do it at least once a week, or even once a day! Recapitulation is actually the precursor to letting go of the negativity and self-judgment embedded in memories of actions you regret.
You can't step consciously into the next phase of your life unless you bring consciousness to your past. Life moves fast—so fast that much of it seems to disappear behind you. You forget what you've accomplished. You forget the good things that have happened to you, the ways you've come closer to other people and to your true Self. And just as you lose sight of the positive moments, you often bury your discomfort about charged or difficult moments. Or, if you remember them, you beat yourself up about them, or try to justify yourself, or find someone other than yourself to blame. Any of these reactions simply lodges the discomfort more firmly in your unconscious.
When you have a charged conversation, or get your feelings hurt, or create unhappiness for another person, your subtle body registers it and holds onto it. The memory gets layered in your neurons, and eventually, into your muscles. Back and neck pain is notoriously linked to unprocessed emotions like anxiety and anger. Unless you acknowledge and consciously clear the emotions, they accumulate like sludge. That's why we often have strange feelings of discomfort, or nervousness, or seemingly unmotivated anger. When you hide or bury or in some way refuse to look at your charged emotions and thoughts, they leak out sideways, and they literally sabotage your best intentions, create pain in the body, and affect the way we speak and act.
Recapitulation—the process of recalling a charged event, bringing it to consciousness, feeling remorse if appropriate, and then letting it go—is actually a form of inner housekeeping. Just as taking a shower can revitalize you when you feel exhausted, a thorough session of recapitulation can give you new energy. As you acknowledge your accomplishments, admit your mistakes, and consciously let go of them, you free yourself of the emotional residue attached to them.
Nearly every tradition offers some form of recapitulation process. Whether we call it 'confession' or 'karma cleaning' or 'wise reflection', or even 'searching moral inventory', the purpose is the same. Recapitulation is our way of clearing the underbrush out of our inner field. When you make up your mind to look clearly at your own unconscious actions, or the inner murk that can hide your less savory motives, your self-honesty can all by itself dissolve a lot of the sludge that you carry around your heart.
An internationally known teacher of meditation and spiritual wisdom, Kempton is the author of Meditation for the Love of It and writes a monthly column for Yoga Journal. Follow her on Facebook and visit her website at www.sallykempton.com.