A Sea of Memories



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Everyday, every moment of our lives, all of us undergo a range of experiences. With each experience is associated a memory. During an average lifetime, the storehouse of such memories is vast indeed, far more than any computer can hold.

A process of the human brain is to organize these memories in layers, the uppermost layer being the conscious mind. Below this are many layers of the subconscious mind that store not just the memories of this lifetime, but for those who believe in reincarnation, memories of previous lifetimes as well. Mystics believe that the deepest layers of memories are in the soul and contain knowledge of the universe. Reaching this layer is what is described as enlightenment. Nevertheless, restricting ourselves to the most immediately accessible layers of mind, we know that with each memory is connected certain emotions such as hate, anger, love, sorrow, happiness etc. Indeed it seems that only those memories are of value that have emotional value attached to them. Others, such as the knowledge of numbers and how to add them, may not have any emotional value attached and are mere temporary conveniences that do not impact deeply on our psyche.

From time to time, we are able to resolve an emotional memory so that it has no emotional impact left on us. At this time, the memory has no more value left than say a memory of the alphabet or numbers. This is what shrinks try to do when they talk to their patients whose memories have become so overwhelming so as to severely limit their daily functioning in the world. A lot of this resolution also takes place through dreams while we sleep. The quality of our dreams is an indicator of the quality of our suppressed emotion linked memories. 

It is these unresolved memories and their emotional impact that shape our personality. They are different for each human and therefore each human has his or her own unique personality. The accumulated unresolved memories at the end of a lifetime is some of what determines what our next life will be, from how we look to where we are born; just as the accumulated past memories have determined our present life. In Eastern philosophy this is called Karmashya or the store of Karma.

As our conscious mind preoccupies itself with whatever we are doing right now, from time to time old memories pop up along with their accompanying emotion. It could be love, happiness, satisfaction or a negative thing like hate or anger. If negative memories are far too many or too strong, they limit a person’s happiness, energy, intellect and abilities even though they may remain dormant in the subconscious mind. Resolving these lifts us out of negative things like fear, nervousness, depression etc.

It is a result of the quality of their memories that some people are just naturally happy souls full of energy and others are suppressed or depressed. Therefore, it is worthwhile for us to deal with our negative memories and resolve them so that their negative emotional impact on us is reduced or vanishes. Only then can we be truly at peace and happy on a sustainable basis. Persons who lead very busy lives, and have a lot of things on their do list keep their conscious minds so preoccupied that there is little opportunity for buried memories to emerge and resolve, even in dreams. That is why it is so important to have periods of mental silence in our lives. Processes such as communing with nature or meditation are some of these periods of near silence. An attitude embedded in love, truth and simplicity make this journey possible. That is where our spiritual journey must begin. That is when we shall discover our true selves, the soul within.

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