Mindful of Memory

Warrior on the Beach

Walking on the malecón this morning alongside a calm, blue ocean, I was roused by waves of memory. As I raised my cell phone to call my sister, Jennie, on her birthday, I remembered the many times I have called her over the years from this same Mexican island. Instantly, I pictured the various phones I have used in my life—from a bag phone that plugged into the car cigarette lighter to a rotary dial landline and back to a party line in Granny’s house in Mt. Airy. 

Memories are part of the transient nature of thoughts. As yogis we practice staying in the moment as we learn to be attentive to our experience as it arises. We strive to notice when we are ambushed by emotions or wander off on a tangent of thoughts. At that very moment of noticing, we become conscious of our current mind state. Then we can utilize our memory in a different manner—to use the yogic teachings. 

I’m fascinated by how memories show up either spontaneously or when prompted by a sight, sound, smell, or story. Because I’ve vacationed on Isla Mujeres, Mexico, yearly for decades, memories frequently arise about events that occurred on previous visits. The other night as I watched the sunset over the ocean with my husband and our cherished Canadian friends, one of them remarked, “Remember last year when we saw that guy drop down on his knee on the beach and ask his girlfriend to marry him?” I’d forgotten all about that until Shelley mentioned it. We had shared the experience and I didn’t recall it until prompted.

I’m not suggesting that memories are bad or that we shouldn’t reflect on the past or write a memoir. Stories connect us with one another. Shared experiences bond us. It’s important to notice, however, if we are so caught up in the stories that memory archives that we are inattentive to the present-moment connections that occur with every encounter. 

On a day-to day-basis, having a sharp memory allows us to remember where we placed our glasses and what to buy at the store (especially if we forgot to take the list). We can recall the names of our friends and how to get back home. We’re able to bring to mind the wisdom gleaned from prior experiences. Each moment of existence includes the past. The mind becomes our servant rather than our master. There’s less thinking and more awareness. 

Taking this concept to the mat, each Warrior Pose has its own life. Recalling the basics of the pose, I’m able to move into the Warrior-Pose-of the Day with joyful readiness—not attached to a memory of when I “did the pose better.” If I’m pondering the past, I’m not in the pose. I’m in my head. When I wake up to that idea, I turn my attention to physical sensations. I feel my feet. I lift my chest. I remember to be present.

Taking this into daily life, tomorrow, as I sally forth on my morning walk on the malecón, my intention is to be present to the sunrise of that day without comparing it to another one. I want to feel the warm ocean breeze, hear the low roar of the waves. I recognize that memories of today or expectations of the next day may color that precious moment. I’ll take a breath. Maybe I’ll simply sit down and be. I don’t want to miss a moment of this life. 

Namaste and nos vemos,