What do you remember? Is your brain like a video camera? Are you remembering your past like a bunch of selfies?
We think we have perfect memories. Really we have a series of stories that we have created in our minds that we string together and we call them memories. Still they are stories, fiction for the most part. They aren’t perfect recall, video testimony or even accurate.
Remember the telephone game? Someone tells a story and you pass the story along through a chain of people until it gets back to the originator. When it comes back around, the story is often so distorted, the storyteller doesn’t even recognize the original story. There are many studies that have proven, observed and measured this phenomena. One very interesting study demonstrated that we actually change our memories by inserting our current situation, feelings, emotions, conditioning. The memory we think is factual is often really a recall of a recall of a recall. When we were five and the dog chased us down the road we aren’t remembering the actual event but remembering when we were 20 remembering what we remembered when we were 15 when we remembered what we remembered when we were 10 when we were trying to tell a friend about being chased by a dog.
When we are lost to the illusion of a separate self and identify with the story of the ego, we “remember” our conditioned responses. We remember the situation or the circumstance through a filter of judgment and conditioning and opinion and the story of the person we think we are. The real you, the you that is not a story, the you that is not an object at all but is Consciousness focused at a temporal/spacial time/location, was there in the present moment and observed the story. The only constant, the only truth about “our” “memories” is the consciousness that we are. So memories can still be valuable when we “see” the event as the consciousness we are.
Years ago I was flying an event as a test pilot evaluating and measuring the response of a new aircraft under adverse conditions. The aircraft was a F/A-18E/F Super Hornet (the Navy’s newest fighter jet at the time) and the test was to simulate loosing an engine while launching off the aircraft carrier. As I slowed down in airspeed, loosing an engine was more difficult to control. On the last test point I couldn’t control the aircraft anymore. The aircraft departed i.e. the aircraft rolled upside down and I wasn’t in control. My starting altitude for the test maneuver was 2000 ft (pretty low). Upside down, out of control and that close to the water, my first instinct was to eject. A lot happened in just a few seconds. The details are pretty boring and technical (unless you are pilot). In the end I didn’t eject but I did miss hitting the water by only a few feet. That was an extremely intense day sprinkled with moments of sheer terror. Almost crashing a jet is a pretty serious life event. Today many of the details of that day are a little foggy but the intensity of that moment is still with me.
Shortly after this experience there were many that judged my performance in the aircraft. Some were elated and praised me for being such an awesome pilot. Others said it was my fault and I could have done better. For a long time, what I remembered about the event was what I remembered through judgment. I wanted to make those who didn’t approve my enemy and those who did approve my friends. That life or death moment couldn’t be seen for what it was but was instead a tool for division. I wanted to control the memory by controlling the way others witnessed the event. I was remembering as an ego.
And this brings us to the pointer…
Let’s make this easy and think of a “good” memory like an awesome ride on a roller coaster. You might remember the amusement park, the weather, the people you were with and maybe even what you were wearing. Now remember the ride. Just before the ride you were waiting in line. Maybe you thought about how long the line was or maybe you had one of those special days when the line was really short. While you are waiting, your nervousness is increasing. You might have been thinking about what would happen if it malfunctioned or how you might look weird screaming like everyone else or what you will do with your backpack during the ride. Then the moment of truth. You get on and you are so nervous you aren’t even sure how to strap in. The attendant helps you and you wonder if anyone noticed that you couldn’t figure out how to buckle your seatbelt.
You are waiting for the ride to start and you check you pockets again to see if your wallet has fallen out and if your sun glasses are not getting crushed by the huge harness around your neck. The countdown begins and it seems like the seconds are ticking by slower than normal. And away you go. During the ride all you feel is exhilaration. Any thoughts of the ride breaking don’t have a chance to surface because you are completely occupied by the twists and turns and loops. Just like the ups and downs your body grows tense and then relaxes between the loop and the next climb for the next fall and the next g-force moment. You forget you are screaming like everyone else. You don’t feel like a single person riding a ride but part of a group of riders. You get lost in the moment.
Now lets replay the event and take away a few things. Take away the amusement park and the weather and the “good” or “bad” judgment about the line. Take away any thoughts about what others might think. Take away any thoughts about ride malfunctions or loosing your wallet or breaking your sunglasses or your backpack being stolen. What is left? Feel those emotions. Feel those sensations. Feel those experiences without the thoughts that filled your mind. Now take away the roller coaster. Take away any thoughts about the next twist or turn or upside down moment. Just feel the ride without the ride. Let go of any judgment. What is left? Now take away any labels. Forget there is something called fear or something called anxiety or any concepts or conditioning or previous memories about other rides or what others might have said about rides. What is left?
When you take away all forms, all concepts, all conditions, all “things,” what is left? What is left is LIVING. What is left is formless. What is left is timeless. What is left is ETERNAL LIFE.
When I think about the dog chasing me down the street and I forget or put aside the thoughts about the bully that lived down the street and was the reason I had to ride my bike down the street where the dog lived and the people who were stupid enough to not chain up their dog…I remember LIFE. From a conditioned perspective, living the existence of an illusory egoic identity, I “remember” those judgements and those fears. From eternal life, I experience the life of the moment. If I don’t call it fear, I call it increased heart rate with blood pumping in my ears and an adrenaline release to ride really fast and the elation when the body is no longer responding to a perceived threat. I see beauty. I see majesty. I see the sacred. I see the divine. When all judgment is gone, the formless remains. When all conditioning is removed, life comes forth.
When I think about nearly dying in a fiery crash and I forget all the opinions, all the second guessing, all the self-assessment and self-doubt and self-criticism, I see life. I see a glorious moment where life lived through form to experience living. My body was on “autopilot” and my mind had taken a vacation and my critical thinking was a tool and not a distraction. I see eternity through form experiencing the temporal. I see the formless passing through what was veiled in a moment of transparency. What a moment of living that was.
Why do I share this pointer? Memories are for free. Memories can’t hurt us. Memories aren’t even truth. We can go into our memories, remove form and find formlessness. Try it for yourself. When you do a space opens up. In this space you will see the true self focused as attention on that past present moment. Now, when we bring this spaciousness into this present moment, you can experience eternal life in this present moment (which is the present moment). When we let go of the judgments and opinions and categories and conditioning, we can see the present moment as life and we can be the eternal life that is the present moment. When we are lost to form and we feel we are stuck in the egoic identity we can use this kind of pointer to step back, find spaciousness and find our true self. The circumstance, the situation, the egoic assessment of “good” and “bad” falls away and the formless is left.
These pointers are powerful “tools” that can be used as “exercises” to “re-condition” our minds and live from our true identity. The mind isn’t the enemy. The ego isn’t an enemy. It isn’t even real. Our form isn’t an enemy. These moments of spaciousness that are experienced through pointers begin to transform or transmute or transcend our form to become a transport form for the formless. We can live life as life through form to experience form as the formless.