By far, the most common questions I get asked are about how to have more/more interesting/different experiences.
Which is cool… because that’s what I do. And it’s always a fun discussion.
Everyone wants to have awesome spiritual adventures. So I’m happy to help where I can.
But having an experience is only one part of the equation…
You also have to remember it when it’s done.
And that’s not something that people tend to think about.
It’s an issue you run into every morning when you wake up…
During the night, you have all kinds of cool dreams.
And then you wake up… and they’re gone.
But the thing is, it isn’t just dreams.
Any altered state or spiritual experience presents the same problem.
If you’re too far out there… If you wander too far afield… Then you risk forgetting your adventure when you come back to normal waking consciousness.
And if you don’t remember your experiences afterward… well what’s the fun in that??
So, here are some tips on working with memory…
So that you actually remember your adventures after you get back!
Memory is such a pervasive and obvious facet of life that we rarely give it the attention it deserves.
Despite the fact that we still don’t know exactly how it works, we treat the subject with prosaic disinterest.
It’s not really our fault… Like most of the profound mysteries in life, we are told that scientists basically understand it, so it’s really nothing to worry about. (The qualifier “basically” lets us know we should stop asking questions or we’ll have to start worrying again.)
There are plenty of theories floating around out there. But there’s one in particular that I’ve always kind of liked…
The idea is that memories are distributed throughout our brains like the information in a hologram. (We won’t dive into all the nerdy details, but the theory came about because memories don’t seem to be stored in localized spots.)
Whether or not the holographic model turns out to be biologically true, it’s a good way to look at memory in practice. Particularly in the context of dreams and altered states of consciousness.
But the thing is, it isn’t just our experience that follows from our conscious state…
Our memories rely on them as well.
Basically, as we dream or have spiritual experiences—or even just go about our day—our memories get recorded in the state we’re in when we have them.
So if you move too far from that initial state, you don’t just leave the experience… you lose the memory as well.
The technical term is state-dependent memory.
Now, one of the interesting things about holograms is that they can change depending on how you look at them…
Look from one perspective and you see one image. Look from another angle, and the first image vanishes and a completely different picture appears.
Memories work the same way.
They’re like the images in a hologram… As long as you look from the right angle, they’re easy to see.
But stray too far… and the image of an event fades from your conscious mind and you “forget” what happened.
Which is actually pretty cool! (Even if it sucks in practice.)
Even more cool: the images are still there when you go back.
Changing perspectives on a hologram may cause an image to vanish, but it isn’t lost forever. It hasn’t been erased. The image disappearing is just a quirk of the geometry of light.
All you need do is shift back to your original perspective, and the original image returns.
And the same thing happens with altered states of consciousness…
You may forget your dreams and experiences when you shift back to everyday reality.
But when you return to that same altered state—when you shift back to your original perspective—the memories of your experiences are still there waiting for you!
The Trick to Remembering
Whether you’re dealing with dreams, or with deep contemplative states, the trick to remembering is the same.
But we’ll start with dreams, since they’re a lot more common…
Every morning, as we begin our day, we are changing states of consciousness.
And every morning, the memories of what we’ve been doing throughout the night fade away.
It’s a fascinating thing… One moment we remember, the next moment, it’s gone.
We don’t give it much thought though… Supposedly, that’s just the way dreams are—ephemeral and elusive.
But the problem isn’t the inherent nature of dreams.
The problem is the sudden and drastic change of state…
We go from adventures in wonderland, to sunlight and squalling alarm clocks in a matter of moments!
Any time you leap too quickly from one state to another, your memories get left behind.
So the first trick to remembering is to make your transitions more gradual…
In the case of dreams, stay in bed with your eyes closed for a few minutes when you first wake up.
Don’t move. Don’t start your mind racing on all the things you need to do… Just lie there and ask yourself what you were just doing a moment before.
Even if you can only catch a snippet or two, that’s okay.
The first time you try it, you may only remember scraps. But if you keep at it, you’ll remember more and more.
For some people, even a week or two is enough to increase dream recall from a few vague sensations to several pages worth of detailed journaling.
Remembering your dreams in the morning is a good place to practice working with memory, since it happens every day.
Just keeping your eyes closed when you wake up prolongs the transition from sleep. And that helps transfer the memories from one state to another.
But it’s the same for any deep contemplative state…
Practice transitioning slowly. And keep the memories of your experience in the front of your mind as you do.
You can’t let go, and you can’t move too fast…
But if you shift slow and steady, you can bring the memory with you.
That’s trick number one… And that’s the biggest piece.
Trick number two is:
Write your experiences down!
Write them down right away.
You may feel like you are all the way back once you open your eyes and ground into your familiar environment. But I promise, you aren’t as “back” as you think…
You can still lose everything.
Writing down your experiences continues the transition. And helps drag the memory into a full waking state.
Not to mention, leaves you with a written reminder… Which also gives you an opportunity to revisit and reinterpret your experiences as you grow.
You’ll be surprised how many dreams and experiences you’ll retain if you write them down. Even years and years later, you’ll still remember.
Oh, and one last trick…
Don’t make exceptions to the “write it down” rule!
You may have a particularly intense or lucid experience… And you’ll think, Oh, that was way too cool to forget. I’ll remember that for sure!
No, you won’t.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen for this!
It doesn’t matter how intense or spectacular an experience is… State-dependent is state-dependent.
Shift too far off-state and it’s gone…
Write it down!
The holographic concept of memory paints a very different picture of remembering than what we were taught in school…
Rather than being a passive act of request and retrieval, remembering becomes an active change in the geometry of our consciousness.
By manipulating our perspective, we can explore our minds and discover lost memories. Recall our dreams. And hold on to our adventures.
But it can also be used to dig into the deeper reaches of our being, beyond the limits of our current persona.
After all, there’s more to life than this life…
If you liked this post, please consider sharing, along with a brief comment of what you thought… It doesn’t sound like much. But these small gestures make a tremendous impact on building our community, and helping other wayward rebels find a perspective that they can resonate with.
And if it spoke to you, why not Join the Tribe? It's free.. And this is just one tiny piece of more than two decades of impassioned work...... And YOU probably belong here with the rest of us!!
In any case, thanks so much for stopping by! – \m/ – Z
About Zach Herbert
I teach people to do cool things with their consciousness, and break their brains with beautiful ideas.
Professional heretic. Unlikely mystic. Host to rebels, misfits and independent thinkers.
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