Hello sweet souls, it’s been a good long week. I hope you all had an absolutely brilliant holiday. I certainly did. Blessed home space, small town quiet, quality time with the family, playing on the farm, doggy love, good book reading, yoga, hiking, cycling, hot tubbing, plant-based cooking, gift giving and receiving, picture taking, abundant laughing, tons of hugging, warm snuggling, good films, loads of tea and seriously nourishing, “slept like a rock” sleep. What more could I ask for?!
As we shift from the busy holiday into the turning over of a new leaf, may I propose a simultaneously uplifting and deeply grounding practice? Recapitulation. I wrote about it last year and practiced it myself. The definition of recapitulation is “an act or instance of summarizing and restating the main points of something.” It’s a practice I read about two years ago in a beautiful article by Sally Kempton in Yoga Journal. The suggestion is that, rather than focusing on resolutions, we focus on summarizing the highlights of the past year and what we wish to take into the new year from that reservoir. At least that’s my interpretation.
Instead of harping on what I did wrong all year and how I will “fix” it in the coming year, I instead choose to meditate on the past year as a whole. Good, bad, glorious, ugly, successes, failures…all of it. I find it to be a much more holistic approach to the start of a new year.
I worked at a health club for five years, so I’ve seen the best of new year’s resolutions come and go. Our sales and membership always skyrocketed in January, and then fell completely off come April. Instead of setting myself up for physical, emotional, mental and spiritual failure, I prefer a gentler approach. I’m not suggesting that all new year’s resolutions fail, or are a bad idea; not at all. What I am saying is that I personally find the “cold turkey,” knee-jerk approach to life changes to be so drastic and jarring that we oftentimes revisit the other side just for a bit of comfort.
I won’t say to myself that I won’t be negative in the new year. Firstly, that might be a lie. Secondly, it isn’t productive. Instead, I’ll look back on 2013. With gentle eyes and a respectful observation, I will replay my year…all the times I was negative, positive, patient, kind, difficult, angry. All of the many lenses through which I saw the world, all of the many forms in which I was me. I will try, sincerely, to complete this practice without judgment. Also without ego. No excessive pride or self-deprication. Simply seeing. Compiling a list of the main events of the past year and how I feel they helped me evolve.
I’ll focus on experiences, emotions, accomplishments, mistakes…everything that chipped in, that guided me, that crafted me into the person I am today…the person I was not yet, I could not yet be, one year ago. Isn’t there something magical to that? How much change can occur in just one year? A year can be so filled with sadness, beauty, bliss…it can be so exquisitely shocking and mind-blowing, astonishingly ordinary, earth-shatteringly colorful. Some years can fly by while others tiptoe, slowly, taking their precious time so as not to wake the Universe.
Paying attention to these little details is part of my recapitulation practice. Giving equal attention to the big events like trips, milestones, losses and life-altering decisions, as we do to the minute (but oh-s0-important) events like discovering a new favorite food, seeing the most brilliant autumn sunset, that awkward blind date, the achingly awful romantic comedy we paid $10.50 (and the frightful fact that it’s now over ten bucks to see a movie in theatre).
Ideally, to practice recapitulation, one should take to a quiet space – both physically and spiritually – and sit with every little bit of the past year. Just notice every piece of it that jumps out at us. We needn’t rake through every single moment, but rather let the moments of grander importance come to us, without setting parameters or judgements. I’m talking everything from college graduation to mastering a yoga pose. Losing a loved one to seeing a meteor shower. It’s all important. It’s all part of the puzzle. It’s all part of us.
This life is a journey. While setting intentions for the future is important, so is a deep reverence for the thread from which our tapestry is woven. The practice is not to suggest we focus or harp on the past, nor that we attach to it. But simply that we give it due acknowledgement. Only in the expression of gratitude for what has come before can we truly set our gaze straight on what we wish to manifest up ahead. So see it. Remember it. Feel it in our bones. Live it over again, in our mind’s eye. Invite the past year into our consciousness and sit with it a while. Note whatever comes up during the process.
Then what, you ask? That’s up to us. Ideally we write out the practice. Either in a journal or on an independent sheet of paper that we can dispose of afterwards, like in a roaring fire or something equally dramatic. Recapitulation allows me to better get to know myself. It brings my attention to the present moment, upon completion, and gives me clearer eyes through which to see my intentions.
I prefer to use that word, intention, instead of resolution. While I’ve always made resolutions, and have nothing against them, my personality resonates far more with the idea of intention setting. Gently releasing intentions into the cool, wintry air of the Universe, watching them float away on a breeze as powerfully fragile as a butterfly’s wings. This is an anchoring practice. Not a practice to say this is who I’m going to be this coming year, but rather this is who I am right now, and this is what I’m taking with me into the coming year. Paving solid ground for the journey to continue. Making the choice to see ourselves as we truly are; beautifully flawed. Accepting that this gorgeously flawed state is a blessing, it’s human nature, and it’s what we will always be. Making the decision to embrace that fact. Resisting the rat race of New Year’s Resolutions that leave us feeling weakened, inferior and as though we are failures. As though we are not already good enough. We are good enough, already. Intrinsically.
Resisting that rat race and, instead, taking the best and worst of the previous 365 days considerately in our grasp and welcoming the perfectly imperfect 365 that are up ahead.
So, my lovebursts, let us practice as we will…and if anything gorgeous or exquisite, haunting or illuminating comes up, please feel free to share in the comments. More than anything, may we be gentle with ourselves. May we welcome the New Year with open arms, open minds and open hearts. May we release the urge to perfect our already perfect selves and simply be…flowing into the New Year with the inherent grace that pulses beneath our surface.
Namaste, and Happy New Year. x x