What do you remember? How do you remember it?
It is easy to look at our memories like a photo or a recording of a moment in time that we have captured exactly the way we felt and thought at that time.
When we look at past events such as meeting a friend for the first time, we each have our happy or humorous memories that we repeat to ourselves and others. In the retelling over the years, the events have taken on their own shape and significance.
When we remember tragedies or emotional shocks, they also can take on a level of significance different than our experience at the time. These memories can be better or worse than the actual experience.
But there is an important reality to both positive and negative memories, our emotional and mental memories are not what existed at that moment. The memories have become imbued with personal and cultural significance over time.
Rather than thinking of memories like a photograph or recording, a better analogy would be to think of a mountainous sky that is continually changing and shifting as storm systems roll over the mountains and up the valleys. The sky may appear to hold steady, but it is constantly shifting and changing.
Sitting for a few minutes in meditation can help us experience this. As we sit, we can watch the thoughts, feelings and experiences like storm systems arise and fade away in the mind. We can watch how the mind follows positive or negative feelings and experiences at each moment.
If we can observe this for just a few minutes in silence, we can teach our mind that these feelings and memories are transient. They may be a good or bad story that we have created and choose to pull toward us or to push away.
Remembering tragic events such as 9/11 can be a healthy and moving way of reflecting on how we remember our emotions then and now. But mindfulness can help us also stay grounded in the reality that each memory and each moment is a projection of our mind, both positive and negative.
So you might sit for a few minutes and reflect on the idea of 9/11 and notice what emotions, both good and bad that arise. See if you can watch how they change, how they shift, and how it is like watching a storm blow over the mountains with sun one moment and rain clouds the next.