Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Martin LeFevre: Deleting Memory Awakens Insight

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

Deleting Memory Awakens Insight

After a light but all-night rain, the clouds cleared and the sun made a welcome appearance in the early afternoon. People got outside and into the parkland in droves, including me. Meditation was just igniting through undivided, undirected observation when a rollicking group of boys descended on my sitting place.

They all wore the same orange striped shirt, and none saw me sitting on the other side of a tree as they ran down the bank. Their father (he seemed rather old to be their father but one of the four called him Dad) looked down from above. “There’s a man fishin,’” he said. Not fishin’, I replied. “Wishin’ then,” he retorted. Not that either, I thought.

One of the boys came around the tree and stood next to me. He was about seven, and had a wide-eyed, innocent face. ‘Why are you all wearing the same shirt?’ I asked. He smiled, as if he’d been asked this question many times, and just said something about “looking for oak balls.”

‘Oh I know what you mean,’ I replied, and it occurred to me that they could well be quadruplets, since they all looked the same age. The boys had obviously thrown the fungal spores (which grow in large numbers on the plentiful oaks in the park) into the creek upstream, and had run downstream to watch them float by.

In the meditative state, there was no distance between the boy and oneself, and indeed, it seemed almost as though I was looking at myself as a boy of his age. It wasn’t just that he reminded me of myself as a boy, but in a deep sense, there was no separation at all.

Without attention, the pathways of conditioning in childhood become well-worn ruts as we age. Children under seven or so don’t have the barriers and barricades of fixed identity. They could be shown how to observe in a way that keeps their brains young and insights flowing even into old age. Instead, memory is overvalued and given primacy, as it is by Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel in his book, “In Search of Memory.”

Kandel says that he would “like to develop a reductionist approach to the problem of attention.” He reflexively links his question, “what is the nature of the spotlight of attention?” with “the encoding of memory throughout the neural circuitry.” For Kandel, “selective attention is one of the royal roads to consciousness” because it encodes and seals memory.

To my mind, that is false and wrongheaded. Kandel is really talking about concentration when he speaks of “selective attention.” Inclusive and undirected attention is essential to awaken meditation and higher states of consciousness. Concentration does indeed “encode memory,” whereas attention deletes memory. And erasing memory is far more important than encoding it.

Why? Because most memories are not just unneeded, they are harmful to healthy brains and cultures.

The brain automatically records and accumulates experience as memory, perhaps nearly all experience--though of course not all memory is consciously available. That is the heart of the problem; most people act out of a vast unseen reservoir of mental and emotional memory, the residue from family, culture, race, class, and personal conditioning. A human being, on the other hand, is essentially free from conditioning. And to be free from conditioning, one must be able to delete divisive and useless memory.

Discerning which memories to delete and which to keep is not an act of conscious choice, but of the intelligence of awareness. Observing the movement of the mind and emotion, the spurious barrier between the conscious and unconscious mind dissolves, and the entire movement of thought and emotion reveals itself. Sustaining a non-exclusive and intense attention, the mind/brain effortlessly lets go of everything.

Paradoxically, the ‘amnesia’ produced by inclusive, undirected, and intense attention in the meditative state sharpens the faculties of thought, including memory. With complete silence of the content and mechanisms of thought, the brain is renewed. Rather than the synapses tunneling in the same old ruts, one is liberated from deepening grooves of memory and habits of thought.

In letting go of psychological memory, the mind has the space and energy to see and create anew.

************

- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: martinlefevre@sbcglobal.net. The author welcomes comments.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Biden In Tokyo: Killing Strategic Ambiguity
Could it have been just another case of bumbling poor judgment, the mind softened as the mouth opened? A question was put to US President Joe Biden, visiting Tokyo and standing beside Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida: “You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?” The answer: “Yes. That’s a commitment we made.”.. More>>

Dunne Speaks: Robertson's Budget Gamble On Treasury
The popular test of the success or failure of Grant Robertson’s fifth Budget will be its impact on the soaring cost of living. In today’s climate little else matters. Because governments come and governments go – about every six to seven years on average since 1945 – getting too focused on their long-term fiscal aspirations is often pointless... More>>

Keith Rankin: Liberal Democracy In The New Neonationalist Era: The Three 'O's
The proposed ‘New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme’ (‘the scheme’) has attracted strong debate among the more left-wing and liberal groupings, within New Zealand-Aotearoa. This debate should be seen as a positive rather than negative tension because of the opportunity to consider and learn from the implications and sharpen advocacy... More>>


Digitl: Infrastructure Commission wants digital strategy
Earlier this month Te Waihanga, New Zealand’s infrastructure commission, tabled its first Infrastructure Strategy: Rautaki Hanganga o Aotearoa. Te Waihanga describes its document as a road map for a thriving New Zealand... More>>


Binoy Kampmark: Leaking For Roe V Wade
The US Supreme Court Chief Justice was furious. For the first time in history, the raw judicial process of one of the most powerful, and opaque arms of government, had been exposed via media – at least in preliminary form. It resembled, in no negligible way, the publication by WikiLeaks of various drafts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership... More>>




The Conversation: Cheaper food comes with other costs – why cutting GST isn't the answer

As New Zealand considers the removal of the goods and services tax (GST) from food to reduce costs for low income households, advocates need to consider the impact cheap food has on the environment and whether there are better options to help struggling families... More>>