Monday, February 18, 2008


The existence of forgetting has never been proved: We only know that some things don't come to mind when we want them.
— Friedrich Nietzsche

Memories. Now that our spouse is gone, memories are all we have of them. Never again will they laugh with us, cry with us, or comfort us. No new memories will be created with them. A big part of our grief is learning just how to come to terms with this awful reality. How does one come to terms with this? "How" questions are excellent Grief Recovery Tools and will guide you where you need to go.

As I mentioned in my last post about unbelievable healing, I'm reading Joe Vitale's Zero Limits. Before I share some of the startling insights in the book, be warned that they will likely go against everything you have ever learned about life and relationships here in the West. To say they are controversial, especially in the context of grieving, is an understatement.

It is important to recognize that life in Western civilization is one of acquisition. More money, a bigger house, faster car, prettier wife, smarter kids. A deep undercurrent of grasping greed pervades the newspapers, radio, and television. Your friends and neighbors likely chat about the newest thing they have bought or acquired.

And then one day, your spouse dies. You have lost your spouse, which makes you, by definition, a loser. People don't like to be around losers. If it could happen to you, it could happen to them. And life is just about what you can get, right? He who dies with the most toys wins?

You no longer have your spouse, but you do have your memories of your past life together with him or her. And no one can take those away from you! Whole industries have sprung up to help you memorialize your departed mate. Everything from the traditional tombstone to photo memory books, memorial websites, and charitable donations in their name. You can name buildings, awards, and children after him or her. Make a shrine in your house, hang pictures of them on your walls. Listen to the music they used to listen to. Keep their clothing so you can catch a bit of their smell to trigger the memories.

And then, as the years go by, you notice the memories beginning to fade. How can this be? So much has already been stolen from you! The life you should have had, together with your loved one, snatched away. And now the precious memories are beginning to recede. Their impermanent nature can no longer be ignored. Where is the fairness in all this?

I realize this is going to be a bit too much of a stretch at this point, but try to take the perspective, just for a moment, of looking directly opposite the view that receding memories is a bad thing. Dare to accept, just for a moment, that the day could come where this might not be a bad thing. It might even be a good thing.

Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len, the therapist who cured the ward of criminally insane patients in Hawaii, says that every problem in our life, every one, is because of our memories. The majority of our thoughts are tied up thinking about our memories. The solution? Let them go [pg 31]:

"When you erase something from your computer, where does it go?" he asked the room.
"To the recycle bin," someone shouted out.
"Exactly," Dr. Hew Len said. "It's still on your computer, but it's out of sight. Your memories are like that. They are still in you, just out of sight. What you want to do is erase them completely and permanently."
I found this fascinating, but I had no idea what it meant or where it was going. Why would I want memories permanently deleted?
"You have two ways to live your life," Dr. Hew Len explained. "From memory or from inspiration. Memories are old programs replaying. Inspiration is the Divine giving you a message.You want to come from inspiration. The only way to hear the Divine and receive inspiration is to clean all memories. The only thing you have to do is clean."
Dr. Hew Len spent a lot of time explaining how the Divine is our zero state — it's where we have zero limits. No memories. No identity. Nothing but the Divine.

You were warned ;-) Before I go on, let me be clear: the essence of your dead spouse has been infused into every cell in your body. They are now a part of you. I talked about this in my early post about some photos I found of Deb in my basement. If the above passage has made you angry, anxious, or afraid, realize that you have literally hundreds of thousands to millions of memories of your loved one. All those memories are recorded in your body somewhere. If you aren't interested in this kind of healing, rest assured that it will take a very long time for all those memories to fade, and there's lots you can do to hang on to those memories if you choose to do so.

If the idea of all your problems stemming from your memories has resonated with you, though, I'll close here with the simple method Dr. Hew Len uses to "clean" his memories. He simply repeats four simple phrases:

"I love you."
"I'm sorry."
"Please forgive me."
"Thank you."

As an experiment, try repeating the four phrases every time a memory of your departed loved one surfaces and causes you pain. In my next post, I'll explain how, due to my Vipassana meditation training, I could immediately see the wisdom of this point of view, and I'll go into a bit more depth as to how I spent 10 days cleaning my memories without ever being aware that I was doing so. All I know is that I am more at peace now than I have ever been in my entire life.


Anonymous said...

"who cured the ward of criminally insane patients in Hawaii..."
no he didn't.
(Retired from
Forensic Unit
Arkansas State Hospital)

Vic said...

Hello anonymous, thanks for the comment. You'll need to take it up with Joe Vitale directly -- I only quote his book. Have a great day!