The Nature of Memory

The following talk by Jeru Kabbal was recorded live and is part of a The Clarity Process training offered by the APT Institute.

I would like to speak this morning about the nature of memory, how it happens, and what kind of role it plays in our life. I’m sure you have the feeling that you know what memory is, and I’m sure that’s correct. But we need to look at it a little more deeply. First, it’s important to know that you take something like a photograph of everything that you experience. We don’t even know yet when that process starts. With some people it definitely starts in the womb, with some people it seems to begin as birth begins. If you have an experience, you record it. It’s like taking a picture.

Everything gets recorded

Some pictures are more traumatic, fearful, etc. and others are more bland and less interesting. But everything gets recorded. As you go through life, recording everything that happens to you, you create quite a collection of impressions. Almost like your own museum, with thousands and thousands, maybe even millions of photographs. Of course some of those pictures will be more important than others. One thing that is important to remember is that the subconscious can’t tell the difference between these photographs and life. This means that the subconscious is experiencing and re-experiencing and re-experiencing these old photographs. They are photographs, that they are put together like a home video. You have different scenes from your home video running all the time. It’s like one of these cinemas that we have today that has ten screens – if you want to, you can see a comedy, you can see a tragedy, you can see a love story, or whatever. You have the same thing going on in your head, only with a lot more screens. If somebody says, “I don’t like the way you did that,” then movie #2 comes up. If someone says, “Your hair looks nice,” then movie #45 comes up. Those movies are constantly running. And remember, the subconscious believes in them. Remember also, the relationship that the subconscious has to these movies is one of familiarity. To the subconscious, these movies actually feel more real than life does. It means that we are dealing with the same things, again and again and again, and almost never dealing with life. We project these movies onto life, and think that we are experiencing life. But really we are experiencing the movies still again. It’s for that reason that we are quite predictable. We don’t expect to change, because we don’t change as long as those movies are there, and as long as we believe that they are real. It’s amazing that we don’t get more bored with them, because they are so predictable, so monotonous. Yet because the subconscious thinks that they are real, we accept that and think that it’s life.

This is not life

If you are interested in transformation this is one of the most important things you can learn. You have to free yourself from your movies. First you have to recognize them, you have to recognize that this is a movie, this is not life. And then you’ll learn how to get out of the movie, how to convince the subconscious that this movie is no longer relevant. The first big thing is to recognize how powerful memory is. It is powerful because the subconscious believes it’s real. That is the situation. Most of us have given our lives over to our subconscious. We allow the subconscious to tell us what we are afraid of, to tell us what we like, what we can do, what we can’t do. We allow the subconscious to tell us what the world is like, what we are like in the world, and so forth. We have to take our life back from the subconscious. Because these movies are not relevant. They can be useful sometimes, but they are not really relevant any longer, because most of these movies, the really important ones, are movies of birth, and movies of our infancy. Yet the truth is we are not a newborn baby anymore. We are not an infant anymore.

The fear of an infant

Even though we made decisions at that time, those decisions are not relevant any longer, because we are not a helpless infant anymore. Most of our programs or strategies are all based on this fear of the infant. We will go into more detail on that later. Right now I want you to realize that who you think you are is coming from memory. What you think life is, is coming from memory. It’s not coming from your experience right now. You limit yourself because of memory, you hold yourself back because of memory, not because there are restraints on you today. This is one of the first things that we have to learn to ask: Am I feeling the way I am feeling right now because of memory, or because of reality? If you are feeling a certain way because of reality, then that’s justified. Then you want to do something appropriate, if anything needs to be done. Memory is not reality. It seems to be real to the subconscious, but it is an artificial reality, just like any movie is. You know that if you go to a movie, and there is a lot of action, if you would go up to the screen and look at it more closely, you would realize that it’s just a flat surface with light flickering on it. There are no people there, and what you see is not real. And even though you may sit in the audience and cry a genuine tear, even though your tear is genuine, it doesn’t prove there is something real happening on the screen, not at all. So don’t make that mistake. I say this because I hear people doing precisely that. They say, “Well, I’m feeling this, so therefore it’s real.” What you are feeling is real, but the cause of it is not. That’s the big difference. You are going to free yourself up, once you can free yourself from memory. This is the secret. If you are still looking at life through the eyes of memory, you will always be a victim of your own memory. There’s no way to get around it.

Memory can be useful

I don’t mean to imply that memory is useless. It needs to be put in context. If you have a calendar hanging on the wall that says May, you realize that the piece of paper hanging on the wall is not May, it’s just a piece of paper hanging on the wall that makes you think better, or in a more organized way. But it’s not May. It’s just a piece of paper. It is a form of memory, in a sense. So we can use memory. As a matter of fact, we would be lost without memory. We speak English through the process of memory; there’s no need to give that up. You drive a car through the process of memory, no need to give that up. But put memory into context. See that your memory comes from something like a computer, and some of the memories will be useful and helpful, and some of them will actually be harmful. You have to be able to see the difference. As I said earlier, we have turned our lives over to the subconscious, which means that we have turned our lives over to this computer. If we want to transform ourselves, if we truly want to be free, we have to free ourselves from the computer, and begin using the computer instead of the computer using us. It’s that simple. For now, be aware that you have all these photographs that you have taken. You have put them together in something like a series of home videos. Now the subconscious is looking at these all the time, and reacting to them.

The movie is familiar

If someone says hello to you, then a certain movie starts, and you automatically do what the subconscious wants you to do. You act shy, you act happy, but whatever it is, it’s all predictable, totally predictable. If you have element A, B, C and D, then you have enough elements to be absolutely and totally predictable, and you are most of the time. Not that you like it, but you are. You feel comfortable with that because it’s familiar. That is one of the biggest problems we have in transformation – this feeling that it’s comfortable, because we know it. We know the movie, we know how to handle it, we know what to do about it, we are comfortable with it. Even if we hate it, we are still comfortable with it. So we tend to let it continue to dominate us. One of the first things you are going to have to do is convince the subconscious of this process that I just mentioned. That when something happens to you, you take a photograph of it, but the photograph is not the event. Let’s say that this is a little camera, and I take a picture of Robert. The moment I go “click,” there is an image that is frozen on the film, and that image is not going to change. If this were a polaroid, I would have the picture in a matter of minutes.

Pictures last forever

I can enclose that picture in plastic, and it will probably last a thousand years. That picture will never change, not one bit. That image is going to stay fixed. In the meantime, Robert will be going through all kinds of other processes. Yet here I am with this picture. People think that the picture is the same as that which is pictured, but it isn’t. This picture is not Robert, it’s a piece of paper. It is not Robert, it never was Robert, and it will not become Robert. This is something absolutely, totally separate from the event that I photographed, or the object, which is Robert. Do you get that? This is an important point. Memory is never that which happened. You don’t even know if the memory is accurate. Memory is something separate from that which happens. As you let go of memory, you are only letting go of a document. The experience itself that you photographed ended the moment you went “snap” with the camera. A minute later, Robert is a different person. His heart has been beating a certain number of times, he has breathed a certain number of times, his cells have changed, his digestion has moved, all kinds of things have happened. Life is a flow. It is always flowing.

The picture never changes

Memory is stagnant, and is always stagnant. It doesn’t matter if it looks like a movie, it is still stagnant, and it is dead, absolutely dead. So that’s a very, very important distinction that we have to make: that your memory is nothing precious. It can be useful, but it’s nothing holy. If someone hits you when you are a child, and you take a photograph of that, your subconscious can feel that you are being hit all the time, because that photograph is there all the time, and the subconscious is looking at it all the time. Yet the photograph was never, ever the experience of being hit. You are kidding yourself if you think that the photograph of being hit is the experience of being hit, because it isn’t. The experience of being hit ends when you getting hit ends. If you had the ability to do the wisest thing you could do, you would drop this memory. Yet the subconscious doesn’t do that, the subconscious looks at that photograph again and again, lives in it, thinks it’s happening all the time, and reacts correspondingly, either with fear, or with anger, or mistrust, or whatever. We have to be aware of that. What happens often, especially in childhood, is that we take a picture, and we can’t handle it. So we repress the memory. That means we push it down deeper into the subconscious, with the idea that if I push it down deeper, it won’t affect me, and I don’t have to deal with it. Unfortunately, just the opposite is true. If you push something down, when you repress it, you keep it in cold storage, you keep it alive. You are not so aware of it, but it’s poisoning you at the subconscious level.

We didn’t really want little Johnny

When I talk about this, I am reminded of a session I did with a man some years ago, who had trouble relating to women, relating to men – he really had a lot of trouble. We did some regression work, and found out that when he was about four, he was playing in the backyard. His mother was also in the backyard leaning over the fence talking to the neighbor. And she was saying to the neighbor, “Well, we didn’t really want little Johnny.” And that’s all it took. Little Johnny heard that and took off. Of course she went on to say, undoubtably, “But, you know, when he came along we were happy about it – but in the beginning we didn’t really want him.” Little Johnny only heard, “I’m not wanted.” And from that moment on, he couldn’t trust his mother. It didn’t matter what she said. He couldn’t trust his father. He felt totally alone in the world, totally lost, and was just kind of making it through. Not being relaxed, not feeling loved, not being at home. If his parents would say, “You know, we really love you,” he would think, “Oh, they are lying again.” And he repressed that memory because he couldn’t handle it. What is a four year old going to do when he finds out that his parents don’t want him? He can’t pack his bags and go down to the airport, and go to Florida. He doesn’t know what to do. He can’t even go next door. He can only repress it. That’s the only thing he can do, pretend it didn’t happen. And yet, he knew it did happen.

Repressed Memories

We are all carrying repressed memories. The easiest way to get rid of repressed memories is to realize that they are dead, that they are harmless, that they are just pictures. But the subconscious is not going to agree with that so quickly, because the subconscious has lived with these repressed memories, and your whole life has been built around them. Yet if you can convince the subconscious that these things are dead, that they are no longer relevant, you are going to find that these old repressed memories will start bubbling up with no effort. The only reason they are down there now is because you are using a tremendous amount of energy to push them down. When you stop pushing them down, they’re going to start bubbling up. That’s the nature of memory. And the moment they bubble up, and open up to the sun and the air, and to your objective perception, they disappear. Because they have no strength, they have no energy. People will talk about memories and say, “Oh, that’s a strong one.” In truth they are all equally dead. If you were to look at one of those big reels film that’s used in a movie, and you have a film canister that has a comedy in it, and right next to it you have a canister that has a horror movie in it… if you put your hands over each of those canisters, you’re not going to feel any difference in energy. If you should burn both of them, they’re going to have the same amount of energy, because it’s just dead film. But when light is projected through those films, and projected onto the screen, then you allow yourself the illusion that these things are real, the illusion that people are moving, the illusion that someone loves someone, someone hates someone, someone kills someone. Yet it’s all illusion. The film itself has no energy.

Memory has no energy

Your memory itself has no energy. You take energy from each moment to make it feel like it has energy. But the reality is, it has no energy. If you let go of the memory, it just becomes a useless thing, like a dry leaf blowing in the air. It is very important to see the un-reality of your memories. If you think memories are real, especially if your subconscious continues to think that they’re real, you will be struggling and struggling. If you can begin to see that what you think is a dragon in your life, is in reality just an illusion, then you don’t have to fight with the dragon. If you believe in the illusion, then you are going to have to do something about the dragon. Many people get to be pretty good dragon slayers, but it’s an endless job. The best way is to realize that what you think is the dragon in your life is just an illusion. And then let go of it. Then there’s nothing left to do. You are saving your energy. We want to learn to recognize memory as separate from reality. Because memories are not reality. Once we recognize that this is memory, we are going to need to work with the subconscious to also convince the subconscious that it is memory.

The Subconscious needs convincing

There are always two parts to this work. First we have to get it consciously, intellectually, and then we have to convince the subconscious. Some people make a tremendously big mistake in thinking that when they have an insight – when their conscious mind has an insight – that their whole being has that insight. But that’s not true. The subconscious needs to be convinced, because it’s a totally different animal. It can have ideas and opinions that are exactly the opposite of yours. We have to remember that this is another important step that needs to be taken. When you have an insight, you want to pass it along to your subconscious. Just because you have an insight, don’t think that the job is finished – if anything, it’s just beginning. At best it’s a very good place to start, but it’s just a start. You still have to go into this computer and tell the computer to remove that program, because it’s no longer relevant. And the computer is going to say, “Hey, what are you talking about? We’ve been using this all of our life, and I’m not going to let go of this program. I’m not programmed to let go of this program.” Therefore you have to keep working with the computer until you can convince it that the program is not relevant. Then you can remove the program and move along.

If you just go in for a moment, and see how much you understand and agree with what I’ve said so far, this means that your conscious mind is evaluating what I’ve said, but it doesn’t say anything at all about your subconscious. That’s another issue that we’ll get to a bit later. Now, what questions does your conscious mind have about what I’ve said so far?

Question: “How about the emotional experiences attached to memories?”

Jeru: “That’s a very important question. There are some people who are on the path who consider emotions divine. They are convinced that if you have emotions, that means you are alive. If you have emotions, that means you are not repressing. Yet the emotions are simply an outgrowth of thought. If you don’t have thoughts, you are not going to have the same emotions. Your emotions are reactions to what you think is happening. As I said about sitting in the movie theatre and crying a real tear: Even though nothing is happening, these actors and actresses are getting paid sixteen million dollars to have their eyes water in front of the camera to pretend that they are sad. Then you cry a real tear, and your tear is real, but the cause of it is definitely not real. This can happen when you have an emotion: You go through certain chemical changes, your heart can beat slower, or faster, and all kinds of things can be happening chemically. But the real question is: What’s causing this? Is it because my subconscious is at the movies, and believing something is happening which actually isn’t happening, or is this coming from the present moment? That’s a question you have to ask yourself each time. You are going to find that most of the time it’s coming from memory.

Question: “And then we project our memories onto real people..”

Jeru: “Yes, exactly. If you didn’t trust your mother, if you hated your mother, then you probably hate all women, and you go through it every day, you repeat it every day. If a clerk or someone says something to you crossways, and it’s a female clerk, you hate her again, even though nothing much really happened. It can be that the memory of hating your mother is repressed, and it can be that it’s something that you go through all the time. Either one is possible. The point is, it’s coming from the past. It’s coming from memory. And this is another point I would like to make. We talk about the past, and we talk about memory as coming from the past, but you need to know – and I’m sure you’ve heard this – but you also need to get at a very deep level that there is no past. Memory is happening in the present, because these photographs exist now. In our culture we live with so many myths. We think we are intelligent, yet so much of our life is based on myth. One of the myths is that there is a past. I know that not one of you have ever seen a past, I know that. You have never experienced anything in the past. You have never taken a breath in the past. You have never taken a step in the past. Everything you have ever done has been in the present, because that’s all there is. And it’s the same thing with the future. We have a folk saying that says, “the future never comes,” or “tomorrow never comes.” That’s true. There is no future. It is very, very important to get this. It’s a myth that is so deeply engrained, that most people can’t get it. But the proof is there – all you have to do is look at the proof. Memory only exists in the present, as does everything. It’s like this building, it exists in the present. The fact that it was built in a present thirty years ago is irrelevant; it exists now in the present. When you get that, you will realize that it’s more important to experience life in the present. Because if you are trying to experience it in the past or in the future, you are missing that which is real. That’s a tough one to get intellectually, and also a tough one to get at the subconscious level. You have to experience and learn to trust the now. When you can trust the now, then you are not so concerned about the so-called past, or the so-called future.

Question: “What about working with victims of sexual abuse, for example, incest victims?”

Jeru: “If you are working with somebody, or talking to someone who has a memory of incest, it will seem a bit disrespectful in the beginning, but you have to help her see that she is reacting to a photograph, to something that maybe never happened. Now she has a choice – to live her life focused on this photograph, or to realize that the photograph never was the act, that the act itself has disappeared. She is, in the meantime, a strong and capable adult. Now all of the wonders and the mysteries of the now, and of Existence, are available to her. She doesn’t need to be scarred at all. The scars are just memory. In a case like this, it is not so easy to tell somebody. You probably can’t just tell them that. You would have to take them through a slow process where they can digest this step by step. I think it’s one of the greatest tragedies of our current times, that this whole idea of child abuse and incest is such a sickness. Because people who dwell in that are sick. They are dwelling on something that is totally and absolutely artificial. Whether it happened or not doesn’t matter, because they are not reacting to what happened, they are reacting to the photographs. Then again, we don’t even know if the photographs are accurate. There are so many things that we don’t know yet about the mind, even the subconscious. If we were to open up the body to look for the subconscious, we would not find anything. And yet we definitely have one, no question about that. It’s hard to generalize, because everybody has such a different experience of life. Yet do be open to the idea, to the possibility, that you could release these memories from the mind. Again, the secret will be that if you can convince the mind or the subconscious that these memories are harmless, that they are not alive, that they are dead, then they will just start bubbling up on their own. You will release memories without even knowing it, things that were maybe very heavy for you. They will just disappear, because they have no energy. We are pumping energy into them because we believe in them, and they scare us. But once you get the point that only this moment is real, that something that happened when you were four, or two, or one is not happening now, then life becomes very simple, because all you have to deal with is now. It is so much easier than trying to deal with your whole so-called past, and your whole so-called future. That’s a heavy load compared to just being in the now. My experience is that in the beginning, people still believe in the pictures, even though they are releasing them. In that sense, crying can be satisfying. You will also get to the point when you look at these things that used to be so horrendous, and say, “It’s just like the newspaper from last year, it’s nothing.” Most traumatic memories can be released. It can be a true release. You are not crying, you are not regretting. You see it’s just irrelevant. It’s like it happened to somebody else, like it’s a past life. All of your memory is a past life. If it’s not happening right now, it’s not this life.

Question: “So waking up is about recognizing memories as just memories, not as reality, and about focusing on being in the now…is that IT?”

Jeru: “Well, at least that’s what you would want. I wouldn’t say that’s IT, nevertheless it will expand your life about a thousand fold. It will be more than you can handle at first. Being in the now will be like some people’s drug experience, it will be so full that you can’t even believe it. I’ve had people tell me, “Oh, I tried that once, being in the now, and it was boring.” This statement means that they weren’t really in the now. Notice that it does not mean that you give up memory. It doesn’t mean that you burn all of your photographs. Being in the now means that you are not affected by them. You can use them, and you can make your judgments based on memories, but your photographs don’t fill you with fear and apprehension, and keep you confined to them.

Question: “Letting go of the past and focusing on the present seems so simple..and yet it seems to take great courage to even consider it.”

Jeru: “It’s a matter of trusting Existence. And this is what is so satisfying, because it’s like coming home. You can say, “Oh, I can let go now,” knowing that you are going to be taken care of. It’s just like how our hearts beat from the time of conception, or at least from sometime in the womb, and just keep beating until we are finished. We don’t ever think about that, we don’t realize how absolutely vital the heartbeat is to our life, and yet the heart goes on pumping day and night, regardless of what we are going through. We trust it so completely, we don’t even think to trust it. We don’t think to be grateful for it. We don’t wake up in the morning and say, “Thank you, heart. You’ve been very efficient and very diligent and energetic, and you’ve been pumping all night long, and I thank you for that.” We don’t do that. And we take Existence for granted in the same way. But if we can start to see how much we are taken care of, just the way Existence beats our heart, then we can start to relax. We begin feeling at home. But this can only happen when we are in the now. For a lot of people, memory is like living in a nightmare. I wouldn’t say it’s that way for everyone, but it is more or less true for most people. Because the major part of the movie, and of memory, is being helpless, being dependent, being inadequate. That’s not very pleasant, that’s not a lot of fun. To be totally dependent, totally inadequate, totally helpless – that’s a real drag. Even if we have the most loving parents in the world. Do most of you feel like you understand these main principles that I just mentioned? That memory is basically dead, that it’s an artificial kind of reality that has no real energy of it’s own. That memory is not the event, never was, and never will be. That the subconscious, in spite of this, believes that these movies, these home videos, these photographs are really happening right now. Now we have to help the subconscious to see that these memories are not happening.

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