I Forget What It Is, But There Seems To Be A Problem With Memory
When asked if he could sum up the most important thing his students should do to attain enlightenment, a Zen Master of old answered "Attention". When asked to elaborate on this, he replied "Attention, Attention, Attention".
From the day we are born, and most likely even when we were in the womb, our memories have been keeping track of the events of our lives. All people have several types of memories being collected simultaneously: our sense perceptions are all being recorded separately, as if there was an inner video-camera focusing on our sense of sight, another on our taste buds, another on what we hear, one on what our body feels and yet another recording the aromas that float by our nostrils. Our emotional experiences are also collecting on their own VHS tape as are our minds thoughts.
Since we rarely consciously experience the here and now, we are usually unaware of the recordings being made as they happen, but rather recall them after the fact or call on them as we try to project future actions. Even when we pay attention to the present, we habitually have an incomplete experience of all the data being received. We all have different inclinations of what we pay attention to. For instance, one person may witness their visual input primarily while another may be more cognizant of their emotions and another may mainly focus on their bodily temperature. So, we tend to ignore some of the tapes being made more than others and when we do pay attention to our preferred tape, we don't get a "real" view of the content anyway because we usually only observe a few of the many things being received. For instance, we rarely notice more than a few colors at one time even though our "cameras" often are recording thousands simultaneously. The same holds true of our other sense receptions -- there are always multiple aromas, noises, tastes, and tactile sensations. Furthermore, our mind is often aware of only a drop in the ocean of our thoughts and emotions which at all times have a deep quantity and quality of activity on multiple conscious and subconscious levels.
As we try to use our tape collection, we rarely have the ability to recapture more than a small percentage of the material available of any given scene we have recorded. On rare occasions such as times of shock, or under hypnosis, our tapes replay with a clarity that often times surpasses our experiences as we went through them. Police departments, for example, often hypnotize witnesses to crimes who can then recall previously unnoticed details, such as license plat numbers.
We could do on and on but there isn't really any point -- you get the idea and probably won't remember the details anyway.
So, the only thing left to do is to devise a game plan to deal with our faulty memory camcorder problems. Meditation offers a perfect one: Witness your life as it takes place -- your mind's eye is capable of observation of reality as it occurs. We only have to see what our sensual, emotional, and intellectual cameras are recording now, at this moment, and their contents will be replayable when needed with a fullness, accuracy, and usefullness never before available to us. We must simply witness -- not judge, compare, comment or anything else. As we see ourselves rehashing the past or fantasizing about the future, we must simply say "oh well" inwardly -- without chastising ourselves -- and go back to witnessing. This simple action rewards us with a depth and clarity of memory that will help us gain control of our life and freedom from the consequences of limited, habitual, unconscious behavior. All it takes is "Attention, Attention, Attention."