Practices From the Inside Out: We Remember and We Forget

Practices From the Inside Out: We Remember and We Forget May 25, 2019

We Remember

This is a weekend for us to remember.

We take time in our busy schedules to pay attention to the giants on whose shoulders we stand. Some of them are people we have known who helped shape our lives. There are those who fought to bring about and protect the freedoms we enjoy.

This long weekend is an opportunity for us to remember and be grateful.

We remember by setting aside our assumptions and preconceptions and taking time to listen. When we remember we hear the voices of the people who have taught us. Some of them taught us in school while others wrote books which changed our lives.

There are times we try helping ourselves remember by building a memorial. We might erect a statue or a building, put up a tombstone or a website, or get a tattoo.

Each memorial we build is intended to help us remember something or someone. The memorials we see remind us of the stories behind them.

We remember when we take time to pay attention to the memorials we experience. Many of us walk past memorials built to help us remember people killed in war. Some of us visit museums or parks designed to remind us what life was like in other times or places.

People do not build memorials to motivate us to live in the past. We remember, which inspires us to find new ways to live in the future.

Each of us has our own ways of remembering. Some of us remember in ways which twist and turn our past to fit it into our own desires. Other people work hard not to remember what they struggle to put behind them.

How we remember shapes how we understand ourselves and the world around us.

We Remember and We Forget

We tend to forget.

Things happen we think we will remember for the rest of our lives, but new experiences push them aside. Moments we struggle for years to achieve fade into the forgotten past. People who teach us things which change our lives get lost in the crowds within our memories.

It is easy for us to become intrigued and distracted. We lose sight of what is important to us in the swirling tides of urgent demands. Many of us get caught up in winning and earning until we forget what inspired us in the first place.

We set aside a weekend for remembering, but we spend it running errands and grilling hotdogs.

It takes practice to remember well.

Remembering well means we choose what we remember. We make decisions, set our priorities, and commit ourselves.

Some of us practice remembering the way we would practice a sport. We exercise our memories, setting aside time regularly to train and strengthen our ability to remember like a muscle. Remembering well takes time and effort.

Our remembering well is not limited to recalling our experiences accurately. Remembering grows deeper and produces wisdom as we reflect on what we can recall. We spend time contemplating our memories, letting them live in us, experiencing them in new ways. As we reflect we begin to find things we have missed and to see them from new perspectives.

The people, the ideas, the emotions, the experiences which shaped us come back to visit us again. We spend time renewing our acquaintance with them, remembering and reflecting. As we grow in understanding we are shaped again and gain new insights.

We remember, allowing the past to wash over us in the present and continue to shape us for the future.

We Remember Even When We Forget

Even when we are not holding something in the direct view of our minds’ eye, we remember.

We remember what we experience and it shapes how we respond to new experiences. Even when we are not able to recall details or have put it out of our minds, we remember.

I know people who have detailed, specific memories of experience which changed how they live. Even when we remember dramatic experiences, we only remember them from our own point of view.

There have been people in my life who I did not like. Some of them I feared and toward some of them I felt anger. They had treated me with tremendous injustice. I knew what I knew based on tangible evidence beyond any reasonable doubt.

My memories of some of these people shaped the ways I saw myself and the world around me.

After years of holding onto my fear and resentment and anger, reflection revealed something new to me. A contemplative approach to my own memories began to show me what I was missing. I was only seeing what had happened from my own perspective.

Spiritual life urges me to remember from other people’s points of view.

Remembering Changes How We Remember

This weekend we remember the people who have shaped our lives. How and what we remember can change how we remember of this weekend.

Many of us will look back and remember how the weather affected our weekends. We may create fond memories of sharing good food with good friends in the spring air. Some of us will remember what we did with our families and friends.

None of those memories would be unpleasant or particularly harmful.

This weekend is an opportunity for us to change how we remember.

We can take time this weekend remembering people and experiences which have shaped us. Sitting still and remembering would be a good habit to begin this weekend.

It is not physically challenging. We simply spend some time listening to the sacred stillness within us and in the world around us.

As we sit still, listening, we will be reminded of those people who have poured their lives into us. We may hear suggestions of the people into whom we could pour our own lives.

How we remember this weekend could become a memorial to remind us of our own story.

What will change how we remember today?

When will we remember and when will we forget this week, and this weekend?

[Image by Lapichon]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is, and his email address is

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