Yoga Sutra 1.11: Humans Have a Memory Virus

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ANUBHŪTA VISAYĀSAMPRAMOSAH SMRTIH.
When a mental modification of an object previously experienced and not forgotten comes back to consciousness, that is memory.

Memory is the last of the vrittis, and it’s also possibly the trickiest. After all, the things we remember are real to us, even though they only exist in the past. How many times have you been sitting quietly, minding your own business, when some memory pops up in your mind for no clear reason? The memory may make you feel sad, or you might cringe with embarrassment. Maybe it makes you long for some happy time in the past or starts you wandering down a winding path of tangential thoughts. Suddenly, you’re not in the moment at all. You’re in the past. That’s memory.

If your computer randomly pulls up items from its memory regardless of their relevance to the current task, it’s really annoying, right? It crashes your game, slows down your work, and generally frustrates you. Same thing for human memory.

Like all the vrittis, memory has its place. We learn from it — I remember the only time I burned myself on a hot stove, so I don’t have to repeat that lesson! But I can’t keep thinking about that one time I burned myself when I was a little kid every time I try to cook something. If I get too distracted with that thought, I’ll wind up setting something on fire or just never trying to cook again. So, we do better when we moderate this vritti like all the others.

And how do we do that, you may ask? Well, that’s what we’ll start discussing with next week’s sutra! In the mean time, here’s a little bonus practice for you!

Bonus!

This week, practice being in the present. Keep an eye on your thoughts as you go through your days. Whenever a memory comes up or you find yourself lost in thought, pause, let the thought go, and bring your awareness back to the present moment. This sounds pretty simple, but you’ll soon find that the mind really likes to wander more than we usually realize. Make some mental notes or write in your journal about what kind of recurring thoughts you encounter and what happens when you let them go. Next week, we’ll delve more into practice and non-attachment.

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for one day a very long time from now

It’s 2 a.m. and for some reason I’ve been unable to sleep tonight. I was thinking about this poem I wrote a really long time ago and how I haven’t been able to find a copy of it for years. I decided to go through my old journals to try and find it. I didn’t find the poem, but I did find this:

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Today, Dad gave me a hug. Not just any hug, but a hug to save specifically for a day when I am grown up and feeling lonely. He said, “One day, a very long time from now, you’ll be standing in your kitchen in your own house, and you’ll be feeling lonely, so this is for then.” Then he hugged me and said I should remember that. I hope I never forget it.

Of course, I forgot he did that, but I’m really glad I wrote it down. Apparently 17 year old me was not entirely stupid.

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The Best Mix CD I’ve Ever Received

Feel The Music!

This is the playlist from the best mix CD I’ve ever received. I’ve lost a lot of good mixes over the years, but I managed to hang on to this one from my brother, who has possibly the best musical taste of anyone I know. He gave me this CD in the early 2000s when Modest Mouse was one of those bands you’d mention pseudo-casually to see if anyone noticed how cool you were for knowing about them. I’ve reconstructed the playlist on Youtube in order to share it with you. 🙂

As I was listening to this CD, I felt compelled to share it for several reasons. First of all, every track on here is pretty stellar. Second, I don’t know anyone else who can put Frank Sinatra and NOFX on the same playlist and make it work. Third, I find it fascinating how music stays with me over the years, and songs somehow take on more meaning. Anyway, I’m utterly in love with this playlist, and I’ve even considered having a listening party in which this CD is the focal point. Give it a listen and see what you think!

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memories like dreams

Good morning from New York City!

I  made this little video last night as a way of announcing that I will soon be releasing my essay collection into the world.

I spent a long time pondering what to do with this one, and after much deliberation, settled on self-publishing.I thought really hard about traditional publishing and talked to a lot of people about it. There is the whole idea that traditional publishing gives your book more currency. Being accepted by an agent, an editor, and a publisher is a significant stamp of approval. But I decided I don’t want their approval. I did this work. It’s mine. And now I’m sending it out into the world to have a life of its own.

If I went the traditional publishing route, my life would continue to revolve around getting this thing out the door for the next year at least. But I don’t want to do that. I want to move on to the next thing.

So, in the next month, keep an eye out, and I’ll keep you posted on the progress. Wish me luck!

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Your Creative Self is Still You

I was reading Question 3 of “Five Questions for a Life of Fun, Inspiration & Action” from Michael Bungay Stanier at Box of Crayons (makers of the Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun) — guys, this is the most useful e-mail news letter thing I’ve ever signed up for, and it’s free. I sincerely suggest you check out this site.386986672_8f82012830

Anyway, at one point, Michael mentions “Did you know the biggest influence on your ability to be creative is your belief that YOU CAN be creative? So just for the next five minutes, pretend that you’re creative and that you’re up for this.

Wow. It makes me remember something I said to myself and others with disturbing frequency during a particularly difficult time a few years ago: I wish you knew me when I was younger. I was so creative and fun back then. I don’t know what happened.

Keep in mind that a few years ago, I was in college, so when I said “when I was younger,” I was talking about high school. Oh, that makes me LOL. Really. I considered high school the high point of my creativity. Thank God I snapped out of that! Eventually, I realized that if I had once upon a time been a very creative and fun person, I was probably still that person deep down, and I just needed to find ways to be myself again. I needed to tune in to that creative part of myself, the joyful, lovely person who I knew lived deep inside somewhere, and revitalize her!

Do you ever feel like you used to be fabulous, and like maybe the process of growing up and becoming a responsible bill-paying adult has snuffed out something special in you? It’s a heartbreaking feeling, but you don’t have to feel that way. Right now, do me a favor. Tune in to the amazing, creative person you remember being once upon a time. Remember how fun it was just to be that person. Maybe you were a kid making clothes for your paper dolls, building inventions out of sticks from the back yard, making outfits out of the oddest of ends, finger painting or learning to cook. Remember how it felt when you were most at home in your own skin. And just know, even just for a second, that that wonderful person you love to remember is still you.

Beautiful, ain’t it?

P.S.

Today is my birthday!

*Photo from Pink Sherbert Photography

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