Meditation for Life
Out with the Old
The miracle of recapitulation is that it creates a natural current of self-awareness that can bring transformation all by itself. The more you get in the habit of looking back at your day or week or month, and clearing your discomfort or charge, the more automatic it becomes. Eventually, the self-clearing process will be something you do regularly, the way you brush your teeth or clean your house. And, just the way you enjoy the feeling of a clean environment or clean sheets, you'll learn to enjoy the openness and freedom that comes when you've looked at and offered up the residue of charged events in your life.
How to Do It
One secret of recapitulation is to do it inside a safe container, with a basic attitude of self-acceptance. You can practice recapitulation with a partner, or even with a group of trusted practice buddies. Working with other people is powerful if the group can create a shared space of compassionate witnessing. The people in your group should be able to act as clear mirrors for each other rather than being judgmental of one another's failures or envious of each other's success.
But it is equally powerful, and often more convenient, to do your recapitulation process alone.
There are four parts to this process.
- First, spend a few minutes summoning a feeling of loving presence and acceptance. One way to do this is simply to recall a moment when you felt truly accepted, by another person, or in nature. Then, create a sense memory of the feeling of being accepted, and let yourself sink into the felt sense that arises. Another way is to ask, out loud, "May I (or we) feel how deeply we are accepted by the universe of which we are a part." Creating a felt sense of acceptance helps give you the courage to take the second step.
- Write down events, words, and ideas that have particular charge for you. Some of these will be positive, and worthy of gratitude and celebration. These are important. But for this exercise, the real charge is often in the relatively negative events. Write just a few words to note the event. Or, write the story of what happened, including what you or another person did or said. Do this as objectively as possible. Describe your feelings with the same objectivity—were you proud? Angry? Ashamed? Scared?
- Read through the list. If there's something that you need to apologize for or somehow 'fix', note that. Resolve to take any actions you need to in order to release the energy bottled up in a past event. Decide that you'll do your very best not to make this mistake again.
- The next—and crucial—step is to tear up the paper with your negative list, burn it, or otherwise dispose of it. As you do, have the conscious thought: "May these negative events, feelings, and actions be dissolved, and may no harm come to any being because of them."
Brain science tells us that when you want to change a habit or a way of thinking, its important to consciously create a different neural pathway. The most effective way to do this is by associating a thought with a symbolic or actual physical action—in other words, by physically doing something that expresses your desire to change. The simple act of recollecting, writing, and then destroying what you've written will actually create an experience of having dissolved the negative thought or act that you want to release. And when you work with recapitulation, this principle can go a long way toward helping you change unconscious patterns and painful habits.
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.