(Recapitulate as I remember it- is to write your story including anything you can remember that ever happened to you- according to the shamanic tradition which Carlos Castenada was trained under.)
Writing my memoir was the most difficult work of art I have ever embarked on. Not because the writing was so hard but because through the process, I had to relive everything that I had experienced.
The actual act of writing my story first came from a lesson in shamanism called recapitulation, about processing your experiences. I got it from the Naguals tradition of Mexico. For this exercise the apprentice shaman was supposed to write down everything that they could possibly remember ever happening to them. Through this exercise you could retrieve energy that you had left behind in the experience and leave behind energy that you had brought with you from the experience. It was a way of healing and creating a deep clearing in the shamanic apprentice.
I had known since I was a young adult that I would write my story one day but now I also knew that I could not write it until I did this practice of remembering. So that is where I started. I wanted to see what this process could do to help me evolve on my spiritual path. It took me ten years to do it because it was indeed very difficult to relive painful events. I could write for hours about the beautiful things but then when I got to a hard part, I might put it down for months or years, before I felt comfortable enough to continue writing.
At one point, while writing some of the hardest parts of my life, I was lucky enough to be in the Virgin Islands. I was there volunteering for five weeks with sea turtles. I had made it a priority to continue the exercise while I was there. I found that each time I wrote something super intense from my past, I could get into the ocean and will the pain or sadness to wash away with the current. It was a powerful exercise. An incredible reminder that water is an ally and healer.
For this exercise however, I did not write all the way to the end of my life. I felt I was still processing the later part and it had taken ten years just to write everything I remembered to my thirties. I was satisfied with the work I had done for the time. (I am determined to start again sometime later in life.)
After doing that, I knew that soon I would write it again, for others to read. I did not know how or when but I knew I would. I did not push myself, I just waited. It took a couple of years and then one day something said, “It’s time to write your story.” So, I opened my computer and began to write, starting from when I was born. I had thought I might use my notes from the recapitulation exercise but I did not need to. It came naturally.
When I sat down to write the memoir, it just flowed through me. And once I started, I could not stop. For the first two weeks, it was all that I did. I woke up and wrote until I went to sleep again, sometimes for twelve hours straight. It took four weeks to finish that first draft. In a way, the first draft was pretty easy because I think I actually channeled it.
Then the hard part came. I had to edit it, which meant rewriting and rewriting which also meant reliving it over and over again. This was as hard as the recapitulation exercise because I really had to dig deep to express my feelings behind each event rather than just recording it from memory.
And this was a different story anyway, the parts I felt safe to share. Though some of those parts took me a couple of years to really feel okay to share. Then my aunt gave me the best possible insight saying, “Your past does not define you.”
That was almost three years ago and now my story is done and ready to publish. I am currently seeking a literary agent. (You can view my query on my new website at Visions and Reflections). It’s is only the first half of my life. Another book is in the works.
Whatever it’s taken to write this book, I know that I have learned more about myself than I ever thought I would. It’s been an unexpected gift to myself.