All of our senses trigger memories. I was just driving home and Boston’s “More That A Feeling” came on the oldies radio. That song immediately triggered a memory of a lovely afternoon in my college dorm just after that song came out. From the second floor of the dorm you could go out of a window to the roof. It was our beach. Standing there, More Than a Feeling was playing out of several open dorm windows. I was a little high and when the song came to the part where the guitars soar, so did I.
So why do I remember that moment. I believe it’s because, well before I knew anything about Zen, I had decided to pay special attention to moments that mattered. You know the ones. Out loud, or to yourself, you say, “it doesn’t get any better than this.” We all do this but often without the commitment to truly know that is true. If you can do that, your memory becomes a personal story, triggered and told for a lifetime.
I come from storytellers. I have deep Scots-Irish roots from both gene pools. I heard stories from my great grandparents and on down the line to my generation. I love this oral tradition and take some joy in passing on stories that have been handed to me for safekeeping. No doubt, time and memory, and the simple truth that the fish always gets bigger, have altered the details of these stories. But their core of truth remains intact. The lesson or joke or joy or sadness is all still there for the taking. I think the lasting stories are the products of knowing when you in the midst of something special.
I am not sure why, but at a young age I decided it was important to recognize and savor some moments. Now, I know that this habit is actually an essential part of Buddhist thought. I recognized both impermanence (we won’t go this way again) and mindfulness (know this moment) were somehow essential. In each experience I put down a marker, emotional and intellectual. I build in a tiny pause to appreciate.
Many of my moments are like the dorm story. What could be more mundane than Sally and I lounging in chairs, sleeping dogs our feet, looking out at the ocean with a perfect temperature breeze in our face. But in that moment I paused to know this was special. Some memories are obvious like standing on as street corner looking, really looking, at the U.S. Capital for the first time. Others involve the completion of long lifetime circles. For much of my adult life I couldn’t fly. I had always wanted to go to Spring Training to see my Giants. For every real fan there is a special moment when you step out of the concourse and see the green of the field for the first time. That time I stopped in my tracks and felt that moment in every part of my body knowing it was a hard earned memory.
As I sit here, I am awash in times I knew I had only one chance, that moment, to know the completeness of an act, a place, or a person. It is far too easy to rush through life and thoughtlessly pile up memories. And no, the easy access to a phone camera is not a friend here. Images without mindfulness scroll by as thought triggers not memory makers. I am happy to know that driving down the road I can put myself in a moment that at the time I recognized as singular, ephemeral and essential. The next time you have the thought, “it doesn’t get any better than this” take that as sign that the moment deserves your full attention. If only for a few seconds, take everything in because one day that moment will become a your story. Something essential that you can share.