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Memory and the Moment

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

by David Russell

In any moment, what fills my mind, aside from sensory observations, are images and sounds from the past or from my own imaginings. I know that both of them are created by my mind, but they don’t occur to me that way. They occur as happening to me, as experiences I am subjected to.

My mind is particularly susceptible to retaining musical sounds. After I’ve listened to some of my favorite music, which I do with great attentiveness and emotion, bits of the music recur in my mind for the next few days. If I’ve listened to something piercing and raw, the echoes are particularly intense, but even gentle music reverberates. Usually it’s just a snippet—a phrase, a measure—that I notice, but then I sense that more of the music continues to play behind my resumed thoughts. This used to bother me, but not so much now. I just go about my business.

There’s another, lovelier, version of this eruption of memory into the moment. As I make my way through my day, I often find that I’m thinking of people from my past, people with whom I’m not usually in contact. To have in my mind the faces of past friends and lovers feels nice. I feel like I’m keeping company. Whatever conflicts there were have faded; what remains is the savor of those relationships and those times. The felt presence of these people reminds me how fortunate I’ve been to know, love, and be loved by so many various, interesting, lovable human beings. I welcome them into my present moments. I don’t mind sharing the here and now.

Participants’ Reflections

  • I loved your share re music. I must have gotten a love for music from the womb. My dad was studying opera at that time. Music is a soother, I find self-comfort from it. I play music a lot. It’s a gift, a tool. The backstory of life, listening while I do other things.

  • I liked the idea of welcoming people from the past into the present. This works for passed loved ones as well. It’s good to intentionally bring them all into the present. It makes me smile.

  • I loved the reading. I’ve had two major losses in my life recently. I love the idea of savoring relationships. It brought me joy.

  • I like the idea of bringing loved ones into the moment. I’ve gone to the Rowe Conference Center for 30 years. I carry love and connection to the land and the people I’ve spent time with there. During the meditation, I felt like I was floating, on the labyrinth, in the water, holding Rowe in my heart.

  • Repeated songs are called earworms. I’m thankful we have them. I am fortunate to sing with a group. During the meditation, names of songs came to me: You’ll Never Walk Alone. I Will Carry You. Blessed Be the Time That Bonds. There is Music in my Mother’s House. Music is the last sense to go.

  • I always thought if, it came down to it, that I’d prefer to be deaf than blind. But losing music would be hard.

  • As a musician, I always have music in my head. We talked about “Amazing Grace” yesterday, and it was in my head all day, the arrangement we sang in college with its tight harmonies. I’m grateful to understand where the song came from.

  • You spoke of dichotomies and during the meditation I thought about the pain of the past and fear of the future. I turned that thought around into cherishing the past and having expectancy for the unknown future and having joy for what I will learn and experience.

Photo credit: Palimpsest shadow by Lisa Pressman

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