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Lions Roar : July 2014
Do Memories Make Us Happy? Buddhist teacher Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche & psychologist Marsha Lucas Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche: First and foremost, we must relate to everything that’s external. So no matter if it’s visual or something that you hear or feel, you must relate to what’s happening in front of you. Yet whatever happens, we tend to project something onto it. So whatever we think is manifesting is not the way it actually exists. The moment we think, “This may be a projection,” we have a chance to relate to what’s happening. If we’re able to inte- grate with what’s manifesting, it cannot bother or hinder us. When there’s fear, there’s insecurity. Memory is based on insecurity. If we are not insecure, we don’t need memory. If we’re 100 percent confident that we can handle everything at any given moment, memory will not exist. Marsha Lucas: I can stay with you about not needing to have memory for facts and information at the ready so I can look smart. But what about memories that inform us about how we came to be in our life at this moment? You and I both have a history of having been born, an experience of being raised, an experience of marrying, and so forth. All of those experiences are stored within us. Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche: Those memories are never help- ful in making us happy. They make us unhappy! Marsha Lucas: I’m going to challenge you on that. I think about the memory I have of the happy moment when my husband and I were wed. How does that add to my unhappiness? Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche: When you think about that memory, you want to experience that happy moment forever. Marsha Lucas: Ah, so there’s a longing, an attachment to that feeling. I think about that when people are first practic- ing mindfulness meditation. They have that moment where it starts to feel so wonderful, then they get frustrated and unhappy because they can’t have that every time they sit. Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche: This is very common. In Tibetan we call that nyam, temporary experience. Nyam is like mist. It doesn’t last. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with mem- ory. What I’m saying is that there’s something much deeper. There’s nothing we cannot figure out as long as we’re confi- dent in our essence. To be present in the moment requires an incredible amount of conviction and courage. Because of our memory, we lack confidence in being in the moment. Left: A Nepalese double-sided banner showing two Hindu mother goddesses: (top) Varahi, the female aspect of the Hindu boar god; (bottom) Varuni, goddess of water, dancing on a water monster. SHAMBHALA SUN JULy 2014 34