Memory and Self Awareness
What is the role of memory in Self Awareness and Enlightenment? Does it serve a purpose? Or is it a hindrance?
As we progress through life we are constantly experiencing new phenomenon, and through the process of judging, we give certain phenomenon higher priority in our memory storage system. The problem most of us have with memory is that we judge nearly everything we experience. We like, dislike, want, don't want, call it good, bad, etc. and inadvertently give everything higher priority than it requires, which then causes confusion to the recall process, and often causes inner conflict as well.
To understand memory, it is best to view it with an analogy. Memory is like a huge underground catacomb of storage rooms filled with filing cabinets, stacked up row upon row, aisle after aisle. Every judgement we make creates an entry that has to be stored and filed away. The ones we find most significant, or have the greatest impact upon us, are given the highest priority. This priority filing system is based upon individual (what the Ego wants) preference.
A filing system built on priority quickly looses efficiency as the size of the filing system grows. It quickly becomes difficult to properly assess what is stored at what priority level. This means more time looking for the file, and increases the chances of being distracted by other files that have to be searched along the way. In the real world, a small priority based filing system, such as for bills at home will work OK, but a large filing system such as in businesses or hospital can not function this way and requires something more logical such as alphabetical. Our memory system is far more vast than any filing system in any office or on any computer.
We are adding new entries into our storage system on a continuous basis, causing our memory system to grow beyond easy retrieval. Every moment of our lives presents a new opportunity to create a new judgement and a new prioritized memory. To further complicate this, prioritizing allows our most important memories to surface spontaneously. They appear as discursive Egoic thought patterns, warning us of perceived danger, and reminding us of what we want to attract into our life. In other words, they set up our patterns of desire and aversion.
As well, when a discursive thought appears in our consciousness, it is like an invitation to enter the catacombs, browse through our memories, and use the material stored within to project into our mind theatre a different version of reality. This is what daydreams and fantasies are. We can find ourselves, if we are not aware of our thoughts, lost in the catacombs for long periods of time. Many of us find that we are on a constant cycle of entering into this fantasy world only to emerge and re-enter on the next discursive thought that emerges.
When one has learned Self Awareness, one recognizes when they have entered the catacombs, consciously chooses to exit, and instead prefers to remain fully present, in the Here and Now. As well, a Self Aware person is conscious of any thought patterns that occur, and avoids the process of judging. By not judging, new memories are no longer prioritized in a way that will allow them to re-emerge as unsolicited discursive thoughts. In Eastern philosophy, they are not creating any new karma.
Memory still exists and can still be retrieved when required, but without the prioritization caused by preference. This can be thought of as being a more logical filing system. The system now allows retrieval of what needs to be retrieved and becomes easier to find what is being sought because the entire system becomes organized in a logical format rather than a priority basis.
|Michael L. Fournier|