"I know you will remember me," she wrote, "and as long as you do, I will be with you."
Our memories are threads that tie us to the places we have been and the people we have loved. Author Lynda Sexson tells of an old man who once showed her a china cabinet he had filled with items belonging to his deceased wife. In Lynda's view, this is a sacred box, in the manner of the Ark of the Covenant or the Christian Tabernacle. Creating "treasure" boxes, rituals or traditions to contain memories of those who have died imbues them with a kind of holiness - and helps to keep their spirits alive. Shortly before writer Isabel Allende's daughter slipped into a coma caused by an inherited metabolic disorder, she composed a sealed letter to her family. Isabel later found comfort in her words, which reflect the solace of memory: "I know you will remember me," she wrote, "and as long as you do, I will be with you."
In many cultures, sacred memories extend not only to specific loved ones, but also to others who have gone before, providing an unbroken link to the past. Asians and Native Americans are among peoples who have believed that the lives of ancestors lived on in the spirit world: Rituals and offerings, such as Hula dances in Hawaii, are presented to nourish them. Ancestral memories are kept by tribal elders, who also act as memory banks for anything culture considers sacred - connections with people, the animals, the land. Their deeply felt stories and ceremonies assist the entire community in remembering important relationships that might otherwise be forgotten.
If we have lost our memory of our sacred ties, we can retrieve them, says Irish poet John O'Donohue, Everything is stored within your soul in the Temple of Memory, he writes, and integrating all that has happened to you is a vital part of discovering your inner belonging. We can visit this temple time and time again, learning to honor where we have come from and who we have been. Inside its doors can be found 'the memory of our deepest spiritual natures - the knowledge of our enduring connection to the stream of being. Remembering this can help free us from habitual ways of living, from our modern tendency to operate on automatic pilot. Everyday experiences will then become richer and fuller.
When we take care to honor our pasts with loving thoughts for ourselves and others we will be able to create the positive futures we desire, for the seeds we are nurturing into being now are contained in our personal and collective memories. Native American writer Jamie Sams tells of a Paiute Teaching called "The Taking of the Shawl," which came about when some members of the Red Race found they could no longer live among the White people. Those Native Americans who chose to return home and embrace the teachings of their Elders took on the Shawl, a symbol of returning to the arms of the Earth Mother and being wrapped in her nurturing love. Here they could heal and remember their place in creation.
We are each born into love and bliss, instinctively knowing our connection to the earth and the living. When we take time to recollect, we will again remember where we are - in a magnificent garden – and that we are here to shower upon it our rare and miraculous gifts.
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