The Nature of Memories

How our minds construct memories

When I think about my past, I unconsciously assume that what I have in my mind is actually a pretty good representation of the events that happened. You have probably already learned that this is not the case. Our brains are not truth machines. But rather survival-machines. Energy was highly important in our evolutionary past and conservation of energy an important adaptation. This resulted in a sorting mechanism for your memories that is geared towards securing your survival, so that you can pass on your genes and keep your offspring alive long enough so they can do the same.

Old Train
The further we go back in time the more vague our memories are

This situation is fundamentally counterproductive if we try to remember the past as it actually was. Emotions and sensory input blends into a vague feeling of who and what it was that we encountered in that situation. Inner and outer world have no clear distinction. And to make it worth, every time we remember or tell our friends about a past event, our memory actually changes. What we remembered in the past of an event becomes the event. This is where it get's interesting.

Over time we construct a story of who we think were in the past. The further we go back in time, the more we become the stories which we have told ourselves and others about ourselves. A few of our memories stand out more than others, even though they only represent a tiny slice of our past. We need to realize here that what we think we are, is mostly a self constructed story. Our egos are these self-constructed, biased stories we believe was actually our past. The ego is larger than this, but this is a fundamental part of it.

How this understanding leads to deeper insight into ourselves

The first step is the realization of this. If we understand that the past is mainly a self-created story in our minds, which is geared towards survival and not a mechanism to accurately represent truth, it allows us a greater degree of freedom. In not taking the past so seriously, we gain another degree of freedom. It opens us up to the path of truth-realization, in the sense that we can now begin to realize what we truly are. A story, among an infinite number of stories, playing itself out as it has to. Because otherwise, absolute infinity would miss exactly your current experience. We gain the freedom to realize that in all this, there is no consciousness which is separate from appearance. That appearance is inherently self-conscious, and that what we are is not what we thought we were.

We become free from the limitations of the ego through the realization that the self-identification is no more than a story. And this story is playing itself out without a separate I. But with strong attachments in the dimension of thought and with a particular strong emphasis on thoughts about a largely illusory past, which it calls "I".

Further down this path, it opens us up to the deepest insight into our human psyche. Which is the insight that we are not that story and that what we are is not separate from the ground of all being. The stateless state that already existed before our universe with all it's inherent qualities and dimensions of time and space was born. That state where all of existence is fundamentally one and not yet manifested as the seemingly separated world which we perceive now.

The practical methods

There are people out there, many of them following the neo-advaitans, who believe that the logical understanding of this is already enough and all is already realized. In my experience this is not true. The manual is not good enough, we also got to practice. And most enlightened beings have worked hard to reach a high level of truth realization.

If you want to improve your capability to deal with your every day life, than I recommend you install a daily meditation practice. Meditate for about 30-60 minutes every day and make it a habit. Largely focus on developing concentration. Sit still and allow yourself to rest in simple being and focus on the breath.

If you are interested in seeing through the illusions of the ego for yourself you got to do self-inquiry and probably psychedelics.


If anything, I would wish that this article gave you some sense of freedom. I hope you were able to realize that you are in the position to choose how much of yourself you want to be defined by this story of your past. Maybe it can even set you free to discover those realization and insights for yourself.

Popular Posts