Breathing as a Magical, Life-giving Act

(The Art of Dreaming)

“You are not yet ready for a true merging of your dreaming reality and your daily reality,” he concluded. “You must recapitulate your life further.”

“But I’ve done all the recapitulating possible,” I protested. “I’ve been recapitulating for years.

There is nothing more I can remember about my life.”

“There must be much more,” he said adamantly, “otherwise, you wouldn’t wake up screaming.”

I did not like the idea of having to recapitulate again. I had done it, and I believed I had done it so well that I did not need to touch the subject ever again.

“The recapitulation of our lives never ends, no matter how well we’ve done it once,” don Juan said. “The reason average people lack volition in their dreams is that they have never recapitulated and their lives are filled to capacity with heavily loaded emotions like memories, hopes, fears, et cetera, et cetera.

“Sorcerers, in contrast, are relatively free from heavy, binding emotions, because of their recapitulation. And if something stops them, as it has stopped you at this moment, the assumption is that there still is something in them that is not quite clear.”

“To recapitulate is too involving, don Juan. Maybe there is something else I can do instead.”

“No. There isn’t. Recapitulating and dreaming go hand in hand. As we regurgitate our lives, we get more and more airborne.”

Don Juan had given me very detailed and explicit instructions about the recapitulation. It consisted of reliving the totality of one’s life experiences by remembering every possible minute detail of them. He saw the recapitulation as the essential factor in a dreamer’s redefinition and redeployment of energy.

“The recapitulation sets free energy imprisoned within us, and without this liberated energy dreaming is not possible.” That was his statement.

Years before, don Juan had coached me to make a list of all the people I had met in my life, starting at the present. He helped me to arrange my list in an orderly fashion, breaking it down into areas of activity, such as jobs I had had, schools I had attended. Then he guided me to go, without deviation, from the first person on my list to the last one, reliving every one of my interactions with them.

He explained that recapitulating an event starts with one’s mind arranging everything pertinent to what is being recapitulated. Arranging means reconstructing the event, piece by piece, starting by recollecting the physical details of the surroundings, then going to the person with whom one shared the interaction, and then going to oneself, to the examination of one’s feelings. Don Juan taught me that the recapitulation is coupled with a natural, rhythmical breathing. Long exhalations are performed as the head moves gently and slowly from right to left; and long inhalations are taken as the head moves back from left to right. He called this act of moving the head from side to side “fanning the event.” The mind examines the event from beginning to end while the body fans, on and on, everything the mind focuses on.

Don Juan said that the sorcerers of antiquity, the inventors of the recapitulation, viewed breathing as a magical, life-giving act and used it, accordingly, as a magical vehicle; the exhalation, to eject the foreign energy left in them during the interaction being recapitulated and the inhalation to pull back the energy that they themselves left behind during the interaction.

Because of my academic training, I took the recapitulation to be the process of analyzing one’s life. But don Juan insisted that it was more involved than an intellectual psychoanalysis. He postulated the recapitulation as a sorcerer’s ploy to induce a minute but steady displacement of the assemblage point. He said that the assemblage point, under the impact of reviewing past actions and feelings, goes back and forth between its present site and the site it occupied when the event being recapitulated took place.

Don Juan stated that the old sorcerers’ rationale behind the recapitulation was their conviction that there is an inconceivable dissolving force in the universe, which makes organisms live by lending them awareness. That force also makes organisms die, in order to extract the same lent awareness, which organisms have enhanced through their life experiences. Don Juan explained the old sorcerers’ reasoning. They believed that since it is our life experience this force is after, it is of supreme importance that it can be satisfied with a facsimile of our life experience: the recapitulation. Having had what it seeks, the dissolving force then lets sorcerers go, free to expand their capacity to perceive and reach with it the confines of time and space.

When I started again to recapitulate, it was a great surprise to me that my dreaming practices were automatically suspended the moment my recapitulation began. I asked don Juan about this unwanted recess.

Dreaming requires every bit of our available energy,” he replied. “If there is a deep preoccupation in our life, there is no possibility of dreaming.”

“But I have been deeply preoccupied before,” I said, “and my practices were never interrupted.”

“It must be then that every time you thought you were preoccupied, you were only egomaniacally disturbed,” he said, laughing. “To be preoccupied, for sorcerers, means that all your energy sources are taken on. This is the first time you’ve engaged your energy sources in their totality. The rest of the time, even when you recapitulated before, you were not completely absorbed.”

Don Juan gave me this time a new recapitulation pattern. I was supposed to construct a jigsaw puzzle by recapitulating, without any apparent order, different events of my life.

“But it’s going to be a mess,” I protested.

“No, it won’t be,” he assured me. “It’ll be a mess if you let your pettiness choose the events you are going to recapitulate. Instead, let the spirit decide. Be silent, and then get to the event the spirit points out.”

The results of that pattern of recapitulation were shocking to me on many levels. It was very impressive to find out that, whenever I silenced my mind, a seemingly independent force immediately plunged me into a most detailed memory of some event in my life. But it was even more impressive that a very orderly configuration resulted. What I thought was going to be chaotic turned out to be extremely effective.

I asked don Juan why he had not made me recapitulate in this manner from the start. He replied that there are two basic rounds to the recapitulation, that the first is called formality and rigidity, and the second fluidity.

I had no inkling about how different my recapitulation was going to be this time. The ability to concentrate, which I had acquired by means of my dreaming practices, permitted me to examine my life at a depth I would never have imagined possible. It took me over a year to view and review all I could about my life experiences. At the end, I had to agree with don Juan: there had been immensities of loaded emotions hidden so deeply inside me as to be virtually inaccessible.