I have a terrible memory, and to compensate for this I’ve spent years of my life stressed out, trying my hardest to memorize my experience. Ticking away my waking hours worried that the time would come where I would have to remember that one specific thing that I know I once knew but I cannot remember now!
“How horrible will this be,” I thought, “having the solution on the tip of my tongue, but no farther!”
Because of the importance I attributed to remembering things, being asked to recall information was always a particularly anxiety-causing event for me. My mind would start spinning, cursing itself for its horrible memory. Thoughts, memories, the Rolodex of facts I had stored, spinning faster and faster into a chaotic jumble of disjointed information mixed in with creeping shame for not having a quick reply.
The only room left in my brain was for that little voice to whisper, “They are going to think you’re stupid. They probably already do. You can’t remember fast enough. Just give it up.”
And like a computer, maxed out on RAM, I would crash, admit defeat, blame my terrible memory, and pass the conversation on to the next person.
This obsession with memory not only impacted me as a contributor to conversation, it also affected my presence as a listener. As I talked with friends, I was working hard to memorize the contents of what they were sharing—the names of their family members, the dates of their upcoming vacation, their previous three boyfriends.
“They will think I’m not listening if I can’t remember these things. I want to be a good friend. I need to have the facts straight!”
Instead of really hearing what I was being told, listening to and learning about my friend, I would bullet point trivia in my head. And trivia is trivial. I was missing the big picture—in others’ lives, and in my own.
Until one day, while lying flat on my back on the ground after a particularly intense yoga practice, it dawned on me:
I didn’t have to memorize or even realize every muscle that contracted and released during my practice to receive the benefit of consciously using my body. I didn’t have to understand the step-by-step process of respiration to be nourished by my breath.
My body was absorbing my yoga practice whether my mind grasped on to that memory or not. Forgetting I practiced yoga last week didn’t change the fact that I did. The experience itself is cumulative!
By God, I didn’t have to memorize a damn thing! Life went on, whether I was keeping track of it or not! Holy shit, this is so FREEING!
Up until this moment, I overvalued memorizing details and undervalued being fully present in the moment. The conscious brain can only process one thought at a time. Often, I chose to focus on remembering the details rather than continue listening for more.
My shift into the Here and Now came for me with this realization: The simple act of listening, being present in the moment, was enough.
I didn’t have to waste space in my mind fretting about what I might forget. The mental effort I previously spent memorizing a few details could now be dedicated to registering the ever-expanding moment; insatiably slurping in more and more nuance instead of fixating on committing the most conspicuous details to memory.
I now have a new mantra: “It happened. It’s in there,” I say, as I point to my head. I don’t approach life like I’m studying for an exam anymore. I know that my experience is what shapes my perspective.
What I share with others in this life is based on my experience—what I know, hear, see, and feel. Knowing this helps me stay present in the moment, so that I can show up and share more fully, so that I can bring more value to this world.
“It happened. It’s in there,” continues to have an incredible impact on my life. Since I have liberated myself from the minutia, I am able to approach people more open-mindedly and with less pre-conceived notion. My participation in conversation is more spontaneous, my insights more meaningful, my friendship more nourishing.
In short, I’m a more considerate listener and a more valuable human being than I once was. As for those things I spent so much time hoping to remember, they come out of my brain when they are needed. “It happened. It’s in there.”
Since that moment in yoga when I stepped outside my hopeless reliance on memorized facts and into the depth of my real-time experience, I have been humbled to the infinity of the moment.
I approach no edge as I open my body and mind to the present, seeking out a complete experience of Here and Now. There is no end in sight. I broaden my senses to absorb more of the moment and the moment expands out forever.
And, as I consider where I am, inside this moment, I realize that this moment is the only place I’ll ever be. Finally, I find myself right where I’ve always been—firmly planted Here, right Now.