I am learning Dutch and the word herinneringen is one I came across at the weekend, I wanted to say: “memories are a funny thing”. (I didn’t get much beyond the first word, herinneringen!).
What is the memory of this summer just gone, was it a good one? What defines that?
Memories are part and parcel of the complex nature of being, some form deep emotional roots, others are so transient they evaporate. We cannot be who we are without our backlog of memory files, created moment by moment; they form and shape the narrative of our identity. Some files gets edited and re-edited as we retrieve them, talk about them, and embellish them. The weight of those files, is either the baggage we carry on our backs, or, the notepad that weighs very little.
Herinneringen is an interesting concept when we talk about mindfulness. Mindfulness is often interpreted as moment to moment awareness, but it is of course bound up with memory. The traditional Pali meaning of the word mindfulness (Sati), is seated somewhere in the realms of remembering, calling to mind. How we experience successions of now moments is based on the history of how we experience and interpret our life.
Think back on part of your summer, how much of what you remember and recollect truly reflects the experience? There is a tendency for the remembering self to focus on the negative aspects, even if they only constitute a small part of the overall experience.
The cultivation of mindfulness helps create memory files that are less judgemental, less prone to mental elaboration. We learn to experience our day to day without getting caught up in the proliferating narrative and the meta narrative that ensues. This happens over time as we develop our mindfulness practice and get to know our selves better.