Memories Are Not Real

A Dreamlike Memory

A Dreamlike Memory


September 14, 2016 8:28 AM

My definition of real is,

If it requires my brain to exist, then it isn’t real. Conversely, if it can exist without my brain, then it is real.

Memories are not real.

From the book in progress (Inner Ego):

For painful memories—memories with strong emotions attached to them—I find it useful to think of them like dreams. While dreaming, we take the dream very seriously, but upon awakening, the dream stops feeling personal. It seems like other. When I revisit painful memories, I find it helps take the edge off them if I look at the memory as an old dream. A dream based on real-life characters. I know it wasn’t a dream, but it helps make it feel like a dream. The memory is a “dream of the Wayne that was,” not the here and now life of Wayne that is.

It helps if I look at something real (a tree, a table, etc.) while recalling the painful memory (dream). “This is real (tree, table, chair), this (painful memory) is not.”

Sounds like I’m crazy right? “This is real. This isn’t real. Is this reality or is it all just in my head?” Sounds like I’m kidding, like I’m making a joke.

The scary part is I’m not kidding. I’m not kidding at all. We’ve all known people who have suffered from painful memories. Suffered from the equivalent of a bad dream. Suffered from nothing more (now) than just some noise in their head.

The most miserable outcast hugs some memory or some illusion.

— Joseph Conrad

EDIT: Bob M made a very good point below that soul’s have memory (no brain). So let me revise my definition a little bit:

If it requires UNDERSTANDING to exist, then it isn’t real.

Better in a lot of ways. Thanks Bob!

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18 thoughts on “Memories Are Not Real

  1. Yes, no… maybe. 🙂
    Memories may not be real in physical terms, but they certainly have an effect on our physical being. The East practiced “beyond mind” living to manifest a more “authentic” reality – that they wish to experience.
    Memories and thoughts are as real as we make them out to be, that’s how powerful our minds are, so we need to master it through practice… living every moment mindfully. So real or not real isn’t really the issue…

    Yes, no… maybe. 🙂

  2. I agree. I tend to “beleive” there is nothing that is not real. Non existence exists through our own definiton / perception. We give life to painful memories. It’s in that first understanding that “healing” can begin. But even the pain and the healing is only as real as we agree to it. It is in our agreement that makes something real to us. That’s all I have to say a out that.

  3. People who have lived before and can then remember their previous lives prove that memories are not in the mind/brain but in the spiritual energy of the soul.

  4. I loved this post. As someone who has been working on letting go of mental and spiritual barriers for a long time this post can be embraced and utilized. Someone unfamiliar with the concepts might tend to believe you’re crazy.

    It seems like there are a zillion road maps to enlightenment. If only there were a specific path that would work every time for everybody. Such probably doesn’t exist. The next task would be to have a road map to locate the path that would work best for each situation. If one is willing to keep seeking no matter what, then in some distant lifetime enlightenment could happen.

    My path has hit a dead end so it seems. Posts like this one inspire me to see things from a different point of view. Thus opening a new path; at least for a while. Thank you.

    • I tend to think it’s all in the balancing of the core expanding and contracting energies of our soul / psyche. We think, think, think and do not balance that contracting energy with an expanding one. Our natural psychic place of expansion lies in the observational aspect of our psyche. When we pull loose from the extreme idea identification of the thinking mind and begin spending time with the natural portion of our psyche that is the counterpart to the contracting aspect of our mind, our identification expands and we become more than who we “thought” we were. I call this liberation (from the thinking mind).

  5. This reminds me of your ‘making it personal- who am I ? practice’ that I have been using alot to calm myself. Who am I ? Not this anxiety, not this guilt, not this pettiness, etc… These are really helpful; thank you.

  6. Regarding your 2nd definition… “understanding”… but then – does table require understanding to exist ? I don’t know , maybe a better word is needed.
    But the idea is clear and even familiar, I didn’t think you are crazy until you said it yourself.

  7. If something contains matter, exists in its own space and moves in the physical universe time stream. Then it is real. For anything to be real it must be observable. We can say a table is real. A tiny cell in the body is real. A dream, a bad memory are by that definition not real. But that definition of the word ‘real’ would only apply to the physical universe. To a person experiencing bad memories, they are very real and very solid. Like combat PTSD (terrible memories) which is real enough to cause a being to drop his body and move on. So a simpler and more accurate definition for the word real would be “anything that can be experienced or observed by the spiritual being”. Just because others cannot see it, doesn’t mean its not real. Is love real?

    • The whole purpose of this post is to help people to stop suffering from their thoughts and memories. Thoughts and memories are not real because they only exist in the head, nowhere else. They require cognition/understanding/a mental process. They are not real. They are illusion. Once this is recognized (beyond thoughts and definitions), then mental suffering ends because we cease to identify with our thoughts and memories.

      To take definitions too literally is a rabbit hole. Reality is the source of all definitions but isn’t made of definitions (the waves don’t make the Ocean).

      Thanks though Bob, for helping me clarify my definition (as limited as it is).

  8. Hi Wayne, I’m neither agreeing or disagreeing with your hypothesis.
    Sorry to be a pain, but how can one definitively prove that thoughts and/or memories are real or not, how would you categorize dreams, intuition, or perhaps imagination which may be considered precursor to creation itself? Wayne, you are a rational mystic, how can one categorically say one way or the other, true or false, when our very minds operate from polarity? What can be said for esoteric subjects like religion or even enlightenment. Unless experienced directly, aren’t all arguments “mental masturbation” – conceptualized mind games?

    In the words of Lin-chi:
    This is the quality of wu-shih, of naturalness without any contrivances or means for being natural, such as thoughts of Zen, of the Tao, or of the Buddha. One does not exclude such thoughts; they simply fall away when seen to be unnecessary. “He does not linger where the Buddha was, and where there is no Buddha he passes right on.”

    For as the Zenrin says again:

    To be conscious of the original mind, the original nature–
    Just this is the great disease of Zen!

    As “the fish swims in the water but is unmindful of the water, the bird flies in the wind but knows not of the wind,” so the true life of Zen has no need to “raise waves when no wind is blowing,” to drag in religion or spirituality as something over and above life itself. This is why the sage Fa-yung received no more offerings of flowers from the birds after he had had his interview with the Fourth Patriarch, for his holiness no longer “stood out like a sore thumb.”

    Of such a man the Zenrin says:

    Entering the forest he moves not the grass;
    Entering the water he makes not a ripple.
    No one notices him because he does not notice himself.

    It is often said that to be clinging to oneself is like having a thorn in the skin, and that Buddhism is a second thorn to extract the first. When it is out, both thorns are thrown away. But in the moment when Buddhism, when philosophy or religion, becomes another way of clinging to oneself through seeking a spiritual security, the two thorns become one–and how is it to be taken out? This, as Bankei said, is “wiping off blood with blood.” Therefore in Zen there is neither self nor Buddha to which one can cling, no good to gain and no evil to be avoided, no thoughts to be eradicated and no mind to be purified, no body to perish and no soul to be saved. At one blow this entire framework of abstractions is shattered to fragments.

    As the Zenrin says:

    To save life it must be destroyed.
    When utterly destroyed, one
    dwells for the first time in peace.
    One word settles heaven and earth;
    One sword levels the whole world.

    Of this “one sword” Lin-chi said:

    If a man cultivates the Tao, the Tao will not work–on all sides evil conditions will head up competitively. But when the sword of wisdom [prajna] comes out there’s not one thing left.

    The “sword of prajna” which cuts away abstraction is that “direct pointing” whereby Zen avoids the entanglements of religiosity and goes straight to the heart. Thus when the Governor of Lang asked Yao-shan, “What is the Tao?” the master pointed upwards to the sky and downwards to a water jug beside him. Asked for an explanation, he replied:

    “A cloud in the sky and water in the jug.”

    • The zen mind is like a clear lake, it reflects the moon perfectly. But the zen mind is not like looking at the moon directly, nor the non-zen mind of looking at the moon through clouds. The mind is filled with reflections, with illusions, with UN-reality. (Memories are not real, thoughts are not real, the reflections in the mind are not real).

      Another, from your last example. Yao-Shan FIRST pointed at the cloud and the water jug (the first things he saw above him and below him). Only after his student, the governor, didn’t understand did he EXPLAIN using UN-real words. “Cloud” is not the cloud. “Water” is not the water. (Memories are not real, thoughts are not real, the reflections in the mind are not real).

      When my frog master sat for two hours undisturbed, he sat because (Memories are not real, thoughts are not real, the reflections in the mind are not real) his inner experience was still and mine wasn’t.

      When the Buddha help up a flower, he did not say, “Flower” (Memories are not real, thoughts are not real, the reflections in the mind are not real), he said, 🙂

      Don’t get hung up on the word real. If you must, then define it yourself, but be sure you qualify the difference between the moon and the reflection of the moon.

      Peace, Maddie. I love you.

  9. Thanks for your well expressed explanation Wayne, I believe we are trying to relay the same message… to experience that wordless word/ soundless sound… just like the frog master… to just be.
    I understand the distinction between words and discrete objects. Just like the WORDS “memories/ thoughts/ mind” are not that, but points to that for the sake of mental comprehension. What if we drop the WORDS and the THOUGHTS all-together!? Then “real” and “unreal” outside of our mental realm loses meaning, and it’s grip on our polarized collective reality.
    Like I said, I’m not interested in a mental debate whether memories are real or not… I can care less. Dropping the idea of real, and reality presents itself to us quite naturally… just live it! I know this quite well because both of us are living exactly that.
    I can understand you without words, but for the sake of this blog and your readers, what choice do we have but to blather on… or simply remain silent.
    The subtle and the stillness are our primary nature, or original face, it can go by many names, ideas, expressions… LOVE works for me. 🙂 <3

    I LOVE you too Wayne, many blessings and continued awakenings!

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