What is recollection? Even my spell check doesn’t seem to recognize it. We value recollection enough to name our approach to meditation “Recollective Awareness Meditation”.

I practiced mindfulness meditation for about 25 years. I was sincerely committed to the practice, meditating daily and regularly attending meditation retreats. I attended to the sights, sounds, and body sensations throughout the course of each day. I started young, in my twenties, and later in life believed that mindfulness meditation had “made me who I was”. I often said that I did not know who I would have been if not for this meditation practice. What I mean by this was mindfulness had altered my thought stream or consciousness. Rather than being caught up in so many disturbing thoughts and reactions, I became very practiced in refocusing my attention. For example, rather than worrying about my finances I could focus on my feet touching the ground. Or rather than being upset when the person I was sexually attracted to seemed disinterested in me, I would send them thoughts of loving kindness or “metta”. I felt calmer and less reactive.

Eight years ago when I was introduced to Recollective Awareness Meditation, I was immediately riveted by the aliveness, honesty and kindness I heard in the “recollective interviews”, when other meditators reflected on their experience in meditation and Jason Siff questioned them. I took up recollective awareness as I had taken up mindfulness, in a serious and committed way. Now “recollection” is seamlessly integrated into my thoughts. My consciousness seems infused with a questioning and looking back at what just happened. I am really interested, at times even fascinated, by what I think and do. This way of looking back or recollecting can feel like a treasure hunt, the treasure being a new perspective or more understanding.

Something is often missing from my consciousness that used to be there. A harshness or underlying belief that I really should be doing better- whatever I am doing or thinking. Somehow it gets trumped by curiosity and the search for more understanding.


  1. Lori said:

    Interesting…I hope to get to that state, too!

  2. Dena Wilder said:

    I feel that since practicing Recollective Awareness I am gaining insights about myself more quickly. It also feels a bit like life is throwing me some hard balls so that I have opportunities to look at these things! I am releasing the need to “try harder” and settling into what is hard…and what is easy and what is fun…whatever is there. This has definitely created more self-compassion. I love using the words, “being curious”. I approach myself with an amused wondering when I see repeated patterns or new fixations. When I find myself hurting, I access the tender caregiver and begin to gently unfurl my wounds to see what is there.

  3. Pam Crow said:

    Nelly, I really like how you draw the distinction between clearing, or re-focusing the mind to keep out disturbing thoughts/feelings, and this approach which welcomes all of it. I know we say versions of this all the time, but this is the important piece people need to hear. Thanks for sharing this! Pam

  4. Sophie Davis-Cohen said:

    I think the quality that has always most drawn me to this meditation is honesty. Again and again, something in me shouts, “Thank you!,” when I allow myself to be honest about what I’m thinking and feeling. And as you wrote, this honesty leads to more interest in me, because I don’t know what’s in store when I close my eyes.

  5. Brita Gould said:

    The pure pleasure of trusting my own meditative process is what brings me to Recollective Awareness. Since embracing RA what is often missing from my consciousness is the tension and concern about whether I’m “doing it right.” Aw relief …… aw acceptance.

  6. Stacey said:

    I wonder if my moments of unguarded contemplation are similar or equivalent to RA since I find watching the birds and wind and rain outside my window to relieve me of the self consciousness of “going inside” even as I am observing and learning most deeply about myself and my relationships in that moment and I am pleased by the process so much even disturbing revelations seem wonderful in that context. I wonder.