Memory Hopscotch

In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, during a specific stage of death, the psychopomp attempts to soothe the horror of the listener's departing entity when they visually encounter wrathful figures with 12 arms and 12 legs. These wrathful figures, the listener is reminded, are actually a virtue contained in themselves, a clear light. When I visualize these figures, I tend to relate them to the pathways of memory, winding, labyrinthine neural structures with arms that reach everywhere, irrevocably altering and effecting everything they contact. Memory ultimately fuels personality by way of indicating which habits have favorable results (lead to the release of pleasant chemical combinations, or produce states where unpleasant chemical combinations are no longer released). What we experience alters and changes our processes. Particularly during moments in time where an individual has a high sensitivity to imprinting. In fact, imprinting events tend to affect many classes of later formed habits and potential actions.

These synapses have a high vulnerability to alteration, but meaningfully and willfully altering them either takes some degree of fortunate or 'lucky' circumstance, or many years of regular and seemingly tedious practice. A fortunate circumstance would possess a critical mass of factors that either directly relate to, or are highly symbolic of, the same number of factors in the original circumstances surrounding the initial imprint or memory. Years of meditative practices, particularly those involving the objective observation of the process of mind and a heavy emphasis on visualization practices can bring mental pattering to a similar state. The former has fewer components of deliberate mindfulness and therefore a higher potential for a non-favorable outcome in the untrained. Quiet and deliberate practice in directing the mind leads to a more disciplined outcome in either case. 

Theoretically, when, through many hours of mindful practice, these imprinting or habit-forming events that occurred on some date previous to the present can project lucidly and clearly into the infinite space behind the eyes, a very powerful sympathetic magic can occur. During this state the practitioner can play act within their own memory and alter not only their reaction to the event, but also change the way they participated in the event. If an invocation to imprint vulnerability, performed just previously to this strong visualization, showed measurable signs of success then the memory of this evoked event will permanently change to adhere to the freshly visualized alterations. If the preceding invocation did not achieve success, and continues to fail, then the end of altering the imprint requires many more subsequent successful visualizations. 

Perhaps my work with children combines easily with my own memories of youth, but those memories, long buried, have crawled and clawed their way to the surface and into my field of vision with a reliable frequency. The one that showed up this week occurred in Kindergarten. The current version of the memory involves a young girl, a nun named Sister Julia, and me. When someone raised their hand in class and had difficulty spitting out a correct answer, this teacher would look around the room and say "Can anybody help him/her?" before calling on someone else who would then give the correct answer. We were each individually engaged in a math assignment, something having to do with circling groups of numbers in a specific pattern. A girl in class was having trouble and the teacher asked me to help her. I have no memory of how this came about, only that she specifically emphasized my helping her. I did what most humans at 5 years old, only possessing those two basic pieces of information, would do. I gave her the correct answers. Sister Julia came over while I was in the middle of giving the girl the last two correct answers. I remember circling a 5 and a 9 in some versions of the movie, and a 5 and a 3 in others. She was infuriated by what she saw, pulled me aside grabbed and gripped the tops of both ears between pointer finger and thumb. Then she pulled up hard.

In some versions of the memory my feet leave the ground, in others they don't. I buried this memory, but not in the conventional way. After I was about 15 I experienced no discofort talking about it, but I refused to re-experience it or reframe it. In this way I convinced myself that it had no effect on me. This, such a great conceit. It began to come up in my seated practice every once in a while in my mid twenties. When I experience the internal movie now I no longer experience the pain of the event and I no longer feel shame afterwards, just the wind at the top of the icy mountain.

Although, the we cannot change the things that occurred in our histories, the past has an equal flexibility and plasticity to the present, particularly through the lens of consistent practice.