I am of a “certain age,” as they say, when memory becomes less reliable. This can be hard to gracefully accept and adjust to. I can recollect in my youth having almost photo recall, when I could bring all kinds of information from storage to speech in an instant. Not so today. I depend more on writing notes and lists, which works fairly well when I remember where I’ve put them!

I try to make light of these lapses – failing to think of a person’s name or where I left my keys – and I’m pretty good at letting them go. But the inconvenience can be… well, inconvenient. If you’re young and not yet dealing with this condition, trust me, your chance will come! 

Driving around these days, we are likely to see a now familiar sign: “Road work ahead. Expect delays.” This is precisely the message I receive when slowing down to fix a cranial connection that has come apart. Suddenly there’s a flagger in the path of my mental acuity with a sign that says, “Stop,” and there I am, waiting for the signal to proceed, while the workers in my brain try to repair the link to wherever my thought was going.

Most of us view the decline of memory with a measure of distress. Although it is largely a natural phenomenon, we tend to bemoan it, often with twinges of anxiety and vexation. Yet, even when a bit embarrassing, how important is this to our spiritual welfare and growth? Truly, it is not. 

Several years ago I was returning from a month-long stay in India, bringing with me many things that belonged to my wife and me when we lived there. I was traveling alone with two 50 lb. suitcases, a 20 lb. carry-on, and a shoulder bag with wallet, money, cell phone, passport and boarding pass. 

Getting from our ashram in Gurgaon to the Delhi airport at midnight became an awkward juggling act, made more problematic when five miles into the drive, I discovered that my cell phone was missing. Despite being almost compulsively careful to avoid such oversights, I had left it on a table where I was writing a thank-you note to my housemates before heading to the street and my waiting cab. On the way back to retrieve it, we hit some heavy traffic, and my nerves began to riot over the chance of missing my flight. 

When I finally woke up what I was doing to myself, my focus shifted. Even if stranded for another day at the airport, how unfortunate would that be? Where would this episode fit in the longer rhythm of my life? Would I even remember it except as a story to share for a good laugh?

What we really need to remember is to forget the voice inside us that causes us to lose our peace. 

When I think of Swami Kriyananda, the trials of illness and betrayal he endured, and his enormous creative output in the very midst of them, what comes to mind above all is that none of that was ever about him. His self-forgetful attunement to God and Guru gave him what he needed when he needed it, and freed his inner peace from the onset of any disturbance. What he modeled for us was bliss under every circumstance. 

It is tempting to excuse ourselves from that level of consciousness, to say that Swamiji was simply more advanced than any of us. Maybe so. But wouldn’t we like to be as he was? Remembering to forget ourselves is the “how to.”

When “Road work ahead” causes cognitive delays or detours that take extra time and are out of the way, put it in perspective, and just give it a smile.

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