a gift idea

For the new year, a mental and emotional housecleaning with the aid of recapitulation.  Who’s on board?

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Sally Kempton, author of Meditation for the Love of It, introduced me to a new topic, recapitulation. It is a lovely combination of reflection at year’s end and a mental and emotional housecleaning.  Recapitulation is a ritual of release in which the practitioner writes down his or her emotionally charged events over the past year and releases them.

This practice offers us a chance to sweep out some of those imprints, or samskaras, that have been left in our subconscious.  Whether or not we realize they are hanging around… they are.  Have you ever noticed a reaction you have over and over (and over) to a certain situation? Or, a recurring thought pattern summoned after doing something you feel you “shouldn’t have.”  Those are well imprinted samskaras.

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Once we begin or continue the process of letting go and releasing that which no longer serves us,  we are clearing room for the new.  It is the mental equivalent of getting rid of junk we’ve kept in our house or the garage for years.  By cleaning out old habits and thought patterns, our new intentions and goals may become clearer for the upcoming year; as well as, I’d argue, easier to reach.

In her article, Sally describes the process of recapitulation in four steps, “recalling a charged event, bringing it to consciousness, feeling remorse if appropriate, and then letting it go.”  I used a simple, modified version of what she recommends for this exercise.  From a place of general acceptance, I 1) wrote down my most charged events over the last twelve months, and 2) next to each event, off to the side, I wrote its corresponding feeling or emotion. I found my most emotionally charged events brought up feelings of shame, frustration, anxiety, anger, and fear.  3) I then spent a few minutes setting an intention to change my reactions and do my best if confronted with the same or a similar situation in the future.  Finally, 4) I mindfully cut up and disposed of my sheet of paper repeating a few times as Sally recommends, “May these negative events, feelings, and actions dissolve.”

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Try not to become overwhelmed with the idea of recalling the year’s emotional events.  In other words, try not to over analyze this process.  My sense for this practice is letting those charged events pop into conscious memory when asked and write them down. Then, review the list with the intention of doing what we can differently if we find ourselves in a similar situation.  Finally, letting it all dissolve by disposing of the list.  It can be burned in a fire or torn up.  Most importantly it is an act of release, not a malicious intent of ripping up what we do not want.  Rather, it is a gentle goodbye to that which no longer serves us.

Sally goes on to describe in the article how brain science explains that when we want to change it is important to, “consciously create a different neural pathway.”  The act of recapitulation helps us create different neural pathways because it is a way of physically doing something that demonstrates our desire to change.

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I see this process as one of the best gifts we can give ourselves.  A shot at unloading some old baggage and freeing us up to function in healthier ways.  It doesn’t cost anything.  And, it is something we will most likely benefit from for the rest of our lives.