Vedic Meditation for Memory and Dementia

“Our major problem is that we remember too much. We remember too much of that which is not important. We remember in a way that is not, not organized memory.”

Thom Knoles

According to the *Alzheimer’s Association, one in three seniors in the USA dies with some form of dementia. And with the rapidly-aging population, numbers are expected to double within the next thirty years. And as of this time, there is no surefire way to prevent dementia and memory loss.

These are sobering statistics but in this episode, Thom puts forward the Vedic perspective on the subject and a simple solution, which, ironically, lies in reviving our lost ability to forget.

Here, Thom discusses natural remedies for memory loss and dementia. He provides his incredible perspective on the benefits of meditation for dementia. 

Far from advocating for guided meditation for dementia and meditation for memory loss specifically, Thom reminds us of the benefits of a calm mind and a restful spirit.

With so many cognitive demands placed on us each day, and our obsessive need to remember, Thom reminds us that our twice-daily dose of Vedic Meditation gives our brain the much-needed respite from the demands of the day, and the chance to avoid the forced shut-down that dementia often provides in later life.

It’s a hopeful message about meditation for seniors with dementia, and the inexorable relief from Alzheimer’s that meditation may provide that could help many better understand the condition they fear more than any other.

*Alzheimer’s Association. 

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Episode Highlights


The Value of Memory



Fight/Flight Response



Structural and Material Changes that Pertain to Fighting or Fleeing



The Stress of Stress



Our Immune System – Reducing Neoplsams



Stress And Cancer



We Get Stressed by Everything



Our Memory and Memory in the Cells



Power of Consciousness



Hundreds of Thousands of Mantras



Prime Property of the Mantra



Forgetting and Remembrance Phenomenon



Letting Go of Irrelevancy



Letting Go of Attachment



Forget and Remember



The Major Problem



Purpose of Memory



Your Contribution to Evolution



What is it You’re Remembering and Forgetting?



What Form of Dying Frightens You the Most?



Everything is Forgotten



This Happened, and That Will Happen.



 Enjoy Forgetfulness



Remembering the Right Things


Jai Guru Deva



[00:45] The Value of Memory

Jai Guru Deva. Welcome to my podcast, The Vedic Worldview. I’m Thom Knoles. Today we’re going to speak on the subject of memory, and a related topic, dementia, and how the Vedic worldview assesses the value of memory. 

Actually, the word memory in Sanskrit, which is the ancient language of the Vedic time of India, is the word Smriti, S-M-R-I-T-I. Smriti is where we derive our English word smart, as in someone who has intelligence or is possessed of discernment or discrimination. Smriti. 

Smriti is considered to be a very desirable thing and, interestingly enough, the way that it’s attained to is by decluttering the awareness. What do I mean by decluttering? Our biggest problem is not so much memory or loss of memory. Our biggest problem has to do with remembering too much, too much trivia, too much tiny detail, too much overload of experience from the past, too much, basically, irrelevant thinking.

Our mind’s capacity is vast. Our brain’s capacity as a physical organ is probably more than 90% greater than what people use on average. According to one of my mentors, Sir John Eccles, who won the Nobel Prize in neurology. He’s a man from Australia, though I didn’t meet him there. I met him in New York, in upstate New York when, he was in semi-retirement.

According to Sir John, on average, people use about 2% of their brain’s available computing power. And that loss of capacity is due mainly to the way in which we are processing overloads of experience that have occurred in our past. 

[03:19] Fight/Flight Response

Let me explain. We have a certain set of expectations at any given moment. We might be saying we expect absolutely nothing, but that could be an inaccurate expectation. If there were a sudden thunderclap that produced a sound level of 150 decibels nearby, you were expecting nothing. It turned out that was inaccurate because something was coming and so expectations weren’t met. 

Disappointment. My master’s famous saying about disappointment was, “In order to have a disappointment, you have to make an appointment.” In other words, you have to develop an inaccurate expectation in order for your expectations to be not met. 

When there is a change of expectation, a sudden loud noise, a change of taste, a change of flavor, a change of emotional expectation, when we have overloads of experience of every kind, then what happens is our body goes into a reactive mode.

And this reactive mode famously is referred to as the “fight/flight response,” fight/flight response. Fight or flee, our body goes into this binary process of assessing a change of expectation as something that could, in fact, potentially be dangerous to our existence. 

And so we either will try to make the demand not a demand in the extreme version of the fight, part of the fight/flight reaction. This means trying to kill the demand, make it not a demand, make it go away. 

Or flight to flee. So we run away from whatever the demand was, try to get away from it. Fight or flight. And this is one way to safety. 

[05:30] Structural and Material Changes that Pertain to Fighting or Fleeing

Now, in actual physical terms, we may not literally fight or flee, but this doesn’t stop our brain from instructing our body to produce all of the chemical reactions, the structural and material changes that pertain to fighting or fleeing.

The adrenal gland becomes very active and begins pumping catecholamines. These are stress-related chemicals, and all of its subsets of cortisol and other chemicals, go into give us virtually superhuman strength for short periods of time so that we could fight with that kind of capability or flee.

Our peripheral vision narrows in. We can’t see 180 degrees anymore because our brain knows from biological evolution to zero in, and to remove all distractions from the sidelines could be important to winning a fight or successful fleeing. Our digestion stops because it’s not important to be digesting food if you’re fighting or fleeing.

And so then that means every other aspect of our entire digestive canal comes to a complete halt. Our stomach gets flooded with hydrochloric acid to quickly dissolve and move food down to the lower chambers. In extreme fight/flight reactivity, spontaneous defecation may occur, or spontaneous urination may occur. 

[07:07] The Stress of Stress

And so then we are dehydrating our body, wants to get rid of weight. And the fastest way to get rid of it is either to sweat it out. So we do sweat a lot when we’re under stress, having a stress reaction, or our bladder fills up and we feel the need to urinate. This is so the body can be nimble and quick in the fighting and fleeing stakes.

Our skin, which ordinarily has a certain health-giving longevity alkaline to acid ratio is in favor of alkaline, tends under stress to go acidic. That acidic skin has an evolutionary biological advantage if you’re fighting or fleeing from a predator and the predator manages to have a taste of you. 

It may not like the taste if you taste acidic. And possibly letting go of you might help you survive, and probably ancestors of ours survived to reproduce because they didn’t taste so good when they had acidic skin when being attacked by a predator. 

Like that, we have a large number of autonomic, by autonomic we can read the word automatic, biological functions that kick in and come into play every time we become stressed.

[08:31] Our Immune System – Reducing Neoplsams

Our immune system, which ordinarily is geared to do, at last count about 500 things, it can identify pathogens such as viruses and bacteria, and produce, in the case of viruses, macrophages that are virus-killing machines. 

Or in the case of bacteria, can produce antibodies which are bacteria-killing machines, that help remove disease-causing agents, pathogens from the body, allergens, to identify something to which you’re allergic and perhaps a production of histamine in response to that.

And so our body has these, you can start counting them up, there’s about 500 things that our immune system specifically is tasked with doing, recognizing and responding, recognizing and responding. 

One of the things that our body does is, when there’s an overproduction of cells in a particular region, which happens every day to everyone because we lose about 20 million cells a day, give or take, and our body has to reproduce enough cells to replace the dying, the naturally dying cells, and it tends to overproduce. So we might lose 20 million cells and we might produce a hundred million cells to replace those. 

And there is T-lymphocyte function, T-cell function that goes around the body identifying overproduced, neoplasm, new tissue, and which kills off or necrotizes unnecessary cells that will get in the way if there’s not some cleaning up after the overproduction that happens daily. 

[10:21] Stress And Cancer

 When our immune system, for a variety of reasons, become sluggish, then the T-cells, don’t get produced, and there’s a buildup of neoplasm, a buildup of new tissue. And when this causes lumps and bumps that connect things to things that aren’t supposed to be connected, we refer to neoplastic disease as cancer.

And cancer is ultimately a problem of the immune system. The treatments that are used for getting rid of cancer, which are surgery, chemo and radio really are only buying time for the immune system to wake up and do the thing that it’s supposed to be doing, which is spontaneously killing off unnecessary tissue and necrotizing unnecessary masses.

And so then, when we look at what’s happening in the physiology when we get stressed, though stress may, in fact, be an evolutionary response because we could either survive or not if we have a stress reaction. There’s nothing wrong, therefore, with getting stressed. Stress is natural under the correct circumstances.

But what happens if we get stressed and we do not release stress? We begin accumulating in our cells memories of having been stressed. It’s not a conscious, intellectually discerning memory, though we do have those. We’re talking about memories that are held in the cells of the body in the form of chemical substrates.

Chemicals that retain a memory, not only of the thing that stressed us, what it looked like, what it smelled like, what it sounded like, all the rest of it. And by the way, it need not have been a predator animal. 

[12:28] We Get Stressed by Everything

It could have been someone who you were hoping was going to give you a job, but then didn’t even though you expected that you were going to succeed in your job application, and you had a stress reaction, or any number of other scenarios that you can easily imagine because all of us have been through so many. 

Not only are we stressed by the thing, the primary thing that stresses us and that chemical memory lodged in the cells of the body, but we are also stressed by everything else that happened to be around at the time, the innocent colors, flavors, ambient aromas, tactile sensations, the relative humidity, the feeling in the air, and so on and so forth. 

So, taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound, all five senses constantly are gathering information and at a time of having a stress reaction, we’re having a reaction not only to the primary thing that is stressing us but to everything else that happens to be in the environment at that moment, and this is what we refer to as premature cognitive commitment. 

Premature means that prematurely a commitment is being made to an otherwise innocent cognition. Supposing that you had some green colored scarf in your hand at a time that a thunderclap came and rain poured down and your favorite suit that you were wearing got saturated between moving from the car to the party that you were going to. 

[14:20] Our Memory and Memory in the Cells

You may have had a stress reaction about the rain, about the suit, and about the fact that you were the star of the show and now you were drenched, but your brain also, because of the predominance of that green scarf in your hand, is going to be memorizing the feel of the scarf and the color green. 

We don’t consciously remember most of our premature cognitive commitments. These are the sideline things that we got stressed by in addition to the mainstream thing. We don’t consciously remember them, but they do continue to affect us. 

So that as the days and weeks and months and years flip by, our body and brain together are scanning every environment, looking for colors and smells, flavors, and sounds, and all the rest of it that could contain something that might be “dangerous” to us, the color green in this particular example. 

And so then, this is a memory in the cell’s, memory, we’re talking about memory, remember, we’re talking about memory, and memory in the cells. A distorted memory, a memory that’s given distorted importance in the cells. Green didn’t do anything to you. It just happened to be around when you got drenched once and embarrassed, but there it is.

Now you’re jumpy about green, and you don’t know. Or even if you did know, you can’t stop your body. You can’t countermand it by thinking it out of your body. “Okay, body don’t react to green now.” 

[16:11] Power of Consciousness

We may find out about what some of our premature cognitive commitments are, but finding out about them, thinking about them, and attempting with thought to counteract them, is really only a coping mechanism. We’re not actually eliminating the reactivity. So, where do we go with that? 

One of the things we can do is to learn Vedic Meditation. In Vedic Meditation, we make use consciously, of a phenomenon of one of the greatest powers that consciousness has. And this is going to sound so odd in a discussion about memory and, ultimately, about dementia, which we will touch on later in this talk.

We use that greatest power that our mind has, which is the power consciously to decide to forget. How do we decide to forget? In Vedic Meditation, famously, we use mantras, specific kind of mantra. Everybody knows the word mantra. 

I read every day that The Republican Party of America has a mantra which has to do with something with its political agenda. And The Democratic Party of America also has a mantra which has to do with its political agenda. 

Mantra has gone into the common parlance, the common vernacular, and means something that you repeat again and again and again. That’s what a mantra has come to be known as in popular press. But mantra in the Vedic Worldview has a very specific meaning.

[17:53] Hundreds of Thousands of Mantras

There are hundreds of thousands of mantras that are known to have hundreds of thousands of effects. There are mantras, for example, that a cook can think in order to be a jolly cook instead of a grumpy cook. There are mantras that a mother can sing to a baby to make the baby sleepy and fall asleep quickly. There are mantras that are known for making a soldier courageous in battle. 

I’m only touching on a few just to say that there are libraries worth of mantras, sounds that have specific intentions and even sounds that have specific meanings. You go to a yoga studio, and in the yoga studio, people are chanting Om or chanting Om Namah Shivaya. These all have very specific meanings. 

Then there is a particular category of mantras. They’re referred to as Bija, B-I-J-A, Bija. Bija mantras, which have no intended meaning, but whose vibratory effect is known to cause the mind of the thinker to forget to think about superficial things. This is very interesting. 

And there are different mantras that are suitable to different psychophysiological types, different for people in different life stages. And a given mantra learned for the purpose of Vedic Meditation is taught by a teacher who is qualified to teach these mantras that have come down through the Shankaracharya tradition.

That’s my tradition from which I received all this knowledge. I’m a member of that tradition, and my master Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was a member of that tradition. His master Guru Deva Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, was considered The King of the Yogis of that tradition, Shankaracharya tradition. 

[20:05] Prime Property of the Mantra

These mantras that we use in Vedic Meditation when properly instructed, a person receives a specific mantra for themself, for use strictly by themself, because they’re different mantras that are deemed suitable for different people, and then when you think the mantra effortlessly, something quite lovely begins to happen. 

The mantra is a word that you learn verbally, but when you think it is completely silent, and yet you’re thinking a vibration, if you think about it that way, a word is a sound that’s being made in the mind. 

When I say it’s a word, again I want to emphasize it has no intended meaning. It’s not a verb or a noun or an adjective or an adverb or an article or anything like that. It’s a completely meaningless word. But when you think it effortlessly, its impact is to cause resonance with that deep inner layer of you inside. Sympathetic vibration is set up. 

Effortlessly thinking the mantra, what begins to happen is the mantra spontaneously becomes subtler. This is its prime property. Bija mantras have many properties, but its prime property is that when you think it effortlessly, repeatedly, then spontaneously, it will become subtler, meaning fainter, quieter, softer, more abstract with each repetition. 

As the mantra becomes subtler, softer, quieter, the mantra then also becomes spontaneously, more and more charming to think. The phenomenology, the vibratory quality of the mantra, becomes more and more pleasant with each increasingly subtle repetition of the sound in the mind. 

And occasionally, the mantra becomes so faint, so charming, but so faint, that it is almost imperceptible, almost italicized, and then the mantra just disappears. And for a moment, the mind is left in a state where there’s no mantra and no thought replacing it. And what is that? 

It’s a dual awareness, a perfect forgetting of all thought. You’ve forgotten to think. Why? Because the bliss, the supreme inter contentedness, is so great, the mind cannot conceive of greater charm or greater happiness than the pure saturation of contentedness which it’s experiencing in that moment.

Thoughts are designed to take us to something more charming than where we are. And we are now in the most charmed state possible, an enchanted inner condition of pure Consciousness, where consciousness is experiencing Consciousness. Consciousness is the Knower, Consciousness is the means by which knowledge is being gained, and Consciousness is the object.

Consciousness satisfies all three. It is the Knower. It is the process of Knowing, and it is the Known. And in that moment of pure self-referential Consciousness, Being, capital B, Being. Capital S, the Self, the Self knows itself. 

[24:01] Forgetting and Remembrance Phenomenon

And then, of course, that state doesn’t last very long, particularly in a new meditator. The first thought that you have is, “Wow, this is it.” But, of course, this isn’t it anymore. Now you’ve come out of it. 

Repeating the mantra and forgetting, ending up an abstract thought, enjoying that, forgetting the abstract thought, and then remembering again that you’re meditating, doing the mantra, and then forgetting.

And then ultimately, through remembrance and forgetting, through remembrance and forgetting, forgetting absolutely everything, but we called it dual, we are remembering the true nature of the Self, knowledge of the Knower, knowledge of Consciousness itself. 

So through forgetting everything, we remember everything. Everything, meaning the most important fundamental baseline consciousness field, knowledge of the self. So forgetting and remembering, forgetting and remembering. Forgetting is remembering. 

Forgetting means we’re moving out of whatever no longer is relevant into what is highly relevant. And practitioners of Vedic Meditation are using this mechanism of spontaneous, effortless charmful forgetting and charmful remembrance and charmful forgetting, over and over and over again for 20 minutes, twice every day, and learning how, by doing so, to awaken all of the subtlest levels. 

[25:43] Letting Go of Irrelevancy

But there’s another important phenomenon going on. Through the mechanism, our body goes into a state of deep rest because our mind is in its least-excited state. The least-excited state of the mind drives a least-excited state of the body. Our body always is a printout of whatever our mind is. 

So when our mind is experiencing its least-excited state, the simplest form of awareness or Being, then the body will be experiencing its least-excited state, a state of wakeful, hypo-metabolism, a state of rest, many times deeper than that state of rest that can be gained at any point in a night’s sleep.

This allows the body to also let go of irrelevancy. Our body chemically changes its chemistry from a baseline of fight/flight readiness, stress readiness, to a baseline of stay-and-play readiness. 

A change of expectation comes, and because there is a baseline of stability and adaptability, adaptation energy is at a height in people who meditate twice every day. Then what happens is when a demand is made on us, we go into interactive mode. 

We interact with the demand, change of expectation, fine always happens, we get change of expectation several times a day, every day. And we deal with the demand by interacting with it successfully.

A successful interaction with the demand brings waves of happiness. Unsuccessful interaction, meaning reactivity to demand, brings waves of stressfulness. So instead of being stress reactive, meditators become interactive with demands. They become interactive creatures. 

[27:59] Letting Go of Attachment

In the backdrop of all of this, during the meditation practice, the body is letting go of its attachment to the appropriateness of fighting and fleeing all the time. “I experienced the green scarf in my hand at a time when I got drenched and embarrassed. 

“The embarrassment and the drenching was the thing that was the primary stressor. But, evidently, my brain decided that the green scarf in the hand also had something to do with being stressed. 

“So the next time I see Lincoln Green in any shape, or form, without consciously recognizing it and without consciously giving any permission to do so, my body goes into stress reactivity. How do I get rid of such a thing?” 

You practice meditation twice a day. By practicing meditation twice a day, de-exciting the body regularly, strategically, systematically, every day twice, our body begins to let go of the overall background concept that flight/flight reactivity is the most important thing to maintain because at any time green might appear or any one of the other a hundred thousand potential stressors, potential memory triggers may appear. 

Now the body is rapidly resting deeply enough to release all of those stresses and to move into stay-and-play mode. That stability, that adaptability, that capacity to integrate change into life, to purify out irrelevant reactivity. 

[29:44] Forget and Remember

The meditator is beginning to notice that meditation is not just a thing, that when you do it twice each day, that during meditation, you’re having this lovely experience of forget-remember, forget-remember, forget-remember, and allowing your mind to transition back and forth between those effortlessly. But also, outside of meditation with eyes open, one is beginning to become a far more interactive adaptive creature. 

So what happens as a result of this? It’s very, very interesting. One begins with a greater objectivity to be able to view all the memorable phenomena of one’s life as those major changes of expectation, turn into what we call pivot points. 

A pivot point is not necessarily something that, “Oh, I wish that hadn’t happened because that thing happened and now, look it’s turned me into a stress bag.” 

Sometime in our life when we have pivoted because we had a whole set of expectations, and those expectations turned out not to be accurate about what was actually happening in our world, and when things pivoted, we had to let go, and the letting go may have been extremely painful for us because we’re not in the habit of letting go. 

We look back at that as a meditator, and we say, “Well, now that I have a broader perspective and a greater capacity to conceptually delineate all the events of my life, I can see that if that hadn’t happened, that thing, which at the time I thought was so undesirable, then all the cascade of things that happened after that, that brought me into the consciousness and awareness that I’m in now, also couldn’t have happened.”

[31:49] The Major Problem

And so, to what extent was that, in fact, just a purely negative phenomenon? I had a change of expectation. I had a stress reaction to it. To what extent was it actually just nothing but a negative phenomenon? 

I’m beginning to recognize that, in fact, it was pivotal to my development, dare I say, pivotal to my evolution, I learned. This is how the meditator’s mind begins to get a bigger perspective and to process destructive memories of the past into pivotal moments that change the whole way in which they fit into the context of one’s life. 

One starts to see oneself as a product of having learned not only from those desirable things from which we learned but also even from the things that you wouldn’t desire, the things that you would never intend to happen, if your intention made any difference.

And so, one starts to see oneself as a true product of evolution. Evolution occurs not only through the processes of having desirable experiences, evolution also occurs through the process of having undesirable experiences. 

But since evolution itself is overarchingly desirable, one starts to be able to identify with the fact of that overall desirability and then begins to be able to understand and develop, could we call it a response to it all, which is comprehensive. A comprehensive understanding of what it is that makes me. 

Memory is a very interesting thing, when I said at the beginning that our major problem is that we remember too much. We remember too much of that which is not important. We remember in a way that is not, not organized memory.

[34:11] Purpose of Memory

Imagine if you were an important figure and you had many, many concerns and if you were a public figure, there were many inputs into your desk, onto your laptop, and onto your desktop. 

And then imagine if you had an assistant, a secretary, who constantly put everything that came into the office on your desk in front of you, you would be inundated, snowed under by a vast amount of irrelevancy. 

Now, we contrast that with having a very efficient assistant, a very efficient secretary, who places in front of you on your desk, only those items, only those matters, which if dealt with today and in the next five minutes or the next one hour, are going to be steps of progress towards today’s major priority achievement. A far better assistant, a far better secretary. 

If memory is not serving us in the same way that an efficient assistant or secretary would serve someone, then our memory is actually causing us to have irrelevant behavior throughout our day. The whole purpose of memory is to allow us to behave with relevance to what is our purpose in the need of the time.

What’s the greatest contribution our individuality can make to the actual need of the time, to the need right now? 

As a meditator, through this process of releasing stress, through the process of removing from the physiology all of those chemical substrates that are causing irrelevant provocation into stress reactivity, by removing the stresses, and by allowing the mind to experience a relaxed approach to forgetting and remembrance, forgetting and remembrance, this is the whole mechanism of the practice of Vedic Meditation. 

[36:45] Your Contribution to Evolution

By awakening the deep inner-self, remembrance of that, by letting go of and forgetting about, those things that were pivotal to our evolution, but assignment of something terribly negative to them, forgetting about that and moving onto acceptance of the present steady state and the enhancement of that present steady state, into a condition of readiness to meet adequately, to meet interactively, to meet effectively the demand of the moment, the demands of evolution. 

What is our personal contribution to the evolution of everything right now? What is it that you’re doing, right now, that is relevant to the actual need of the time? What’s the greatest need of the time? To what extent can you recognize that? 

And what is your personal contribution to it? The greatest contribution you can make, the highest and best of your contributions. This is what the demand is on us.

An inefficient memory that’s saying, “Oh yes, but then I was expecting strawberries when I was 16, and strawberries didn’t come. It was raspberries instead. And I can’t stand raspberries. Besides, I’m slightly allergic, and now I’m 35, and I’m still stuck on the fact that raspberries came instead of strawberries.”

And how difficult that was, or “I was intending this, and that happened, and I was intending that, and this other thing happened. I was expecting this other thing, and then something else happened beside that. And I’m just a product of all of these changes of expectation, and who’s to blame? Let me find who’s to blame and point a finger at them.”

[38:35] What is it You’re Remembering and Forgetting? 

I was speaking to a tribal friend here in North America, where I live in Arizona, who said to me that it had been in their tribe, in the tribe of the Diné, the Navajo, an ancient truth that when you point a finger at somebody else, there are three fingers of the same hand pointing back at you. In other words, a failure to take responsibility for your role in whatever it is you’re experiencing.

We live in a world where, we’re very tempted to always be a victim of somebody else. If that continues, we’re going to end up with a very ineffectual social structure. We need to develop the capacity for individuals to live a life of invincibility. 

Individual invincibility comes about by releasing stress in the physiology, not just talking about it, not trying to find blame for it, but actually releasing it, getting rid of it so that we have all of our potentials unleashed and we’re capable of bringing our best, our creativity, our intelligence, our energy, our stamina, staying power, and all the rest of it to the need of the time.

This is what Vedic Meditation brings us. And so what is it you’re remembering, and what is it you’re forgetting? 

[40:03] What Form of Dying Frightens You the Most?

In a survey that was done more than 20 years ago, a poll that was done and it was associated with Time Incorporated, the Time Magazine people. Irrespective of who arranged it, the result of the poll was very fascinating.

What form of dying frightens you the most? All respondents lived in America. So there’s a, perhaps, a classically American response. And included in this were 500 choices of the way that people die. 

So including things like car accident, pretty dreadful way to die, electrocution in the bath, pretty dreadful way to die, I could imagine. Murder by spouse, pretty dreadful way to die, I suppose, so on and so forth. Poisoning, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, all the usual things. 

Of all of the things that could kill you, Americans responded with the greatest alarm, the number one most terrifying thing was dementia.

What does dementia mean? Well, it could mean at any number of things, frankly. We’ve given all these fancy new names to every kind of syndrome and phenomenon, such as Alzheimer’s and so on. 

Back in the old days, people were just getting old, and there’d be relegated with the word forgetfulness, getting forgetful, dementia. But the idea to this group of respondents that you could die through a process that involved amongst other things that are problems with dementia, that you couldn’t remember who people were around you and you couldn’t remember forms and phenomena, and you couldn’t remember this, and you couldn’t remember that. Loss of memory, first short-term memory, and then long-term memory, and then all of it goes kaput.

[42:01] Everything is Forgotten

The fear of it, and it’s a very interesting thing. One of the things we look at in the Vedic approach to health, which is known as Ayurveda, A-Y-U-R, Ayur, Veda, V-E-D-A, is the need of the human mind to experience forgetfulness and abstraction on a daily basis. 

When we close our eyes and meditate twice every day, we go into a beautiful forgetfulness, we intentionally sit in a chair, and we fully have the intention of forgetting absolutely everything, and we succeed.

When the mind transcends, when the mind goes beyond thought and experiences the unbounded awareness, the bliss of Being, long before you even get to the state of Being, even when you investigate into a few of the finer states of the mantra and more abstract levels of thinking, all those things that are so dear to you, all the people, your own body, where your body’s sitting, all of that, easily forgotten, even though you’re fully conscious, capable of responding to a stimulus like that. 

Perfectly capable of responding, and yet, everything that’s dear to you, to say nothing of everything that’s dreaded by you, easily forgotten when the mind starts to experience the charm of the bliss that underlies the conscious thinking level, and you know that it’s only going to last, this forgetfulness, this delightful forgetfulness, is going to last for about 20 minutes, but you’re able to indulge yourself in the delight of forgetting everything. 

[43:55] This Happened, and That Will Happen.

The mind, which regularly satisfies its capacity to enjoy the blissfulness of forgetting everything, to experience unbounded awareness, the remembrance of the true Self inside, the forgetfulness of everything else. That mind has satisfied the need to experience that unboundedness and that mind, therefore, as age progresses, is more and more immune to the overall forgetfulness that could occur in the senior years. Dementia. Dementia. 

In other words, when people haven’t had an opportunity, strategically and systematically twice every day to experience the deep forgetfulness of the state of Being. When people haven’t afforded themselves the opportunity to have the joy of letting go of the surface, letting go of all the logic, letting go of all this will lead to that, and that will lead to that, and that will lead to that, most of which is all about the past, and all about the future. 

“This is what happened in the past. The ever-repeating known, this happened, this happened, this happened, this happened, this happened, this happened, and this is what happened to me. This is what happened to me. This is what happened to me. This is what happened to me. 

“And then the future. Oh, and as a result of that, this is what’s going to happen to me. This is what’s going to happen. This is what’s going to happen. This thing’s going to happen. This thing’s going to happen. That thing’s going to happen.” 

To be able to transcend all that chatter, to be able to transcend all that ever-repeating known, to be able to transcend in the case of speculating with worry about the future, to be able to transcend the speculation, the shoddy guesswork basically, such a great joy twice every day to be able to suspend all of that.

[45:59] Enjoy Forgetfulness

Someone who has done that strategically and systematically, their mind is not likely in the senior years to just dive into abstraction. And from the Vedic perspective, that is, in fact, what dementia is. It represents a product of having not strategically approached forgetfulness in an everyday, twice-a-day fashion. 

When you get to enjoy forgetfulness strategically, systematically every day, there’s not a buildup of a requirement to do that. The Vedic worldview is that as one gets older, there is such a pressing need to transcend, such a pressing need to desert the superficial concerns of life and go into the abstract. It turns into a pathology. 

It causes the mind and the brain, forces them into the only place where it can find the peace of not being bothered by the outside world, and that is to move into the dreamlike abstraction. 

And so enforced dreamlike abstraction that comes upon somebody an old age in many ways, is a product of not being, able to take advantage of strategic, systematic forgetfulness. 

In a certain way, you could say that people who practice Vedic Meditation are practicing dementia for about 20 minutes twice a day. After all, we go into a state where we can’t even remember the room we’re in. 

Can’t remember the people we love. Can’t remember anything because the mind enters into a state of the bliss of abstraction and even the bliss of silence, silence of Being. 

Having satisfied that need, one is able to maintain one’s discrimination, discernment, and intellectual prowess much later than otherwise would be afforded to or accorded to someone who hasn’t had that strategic approach to it.

[48:17] Remembering the Right Things

 Looking at it either as a preventative measure or, if we’re planning to learn Vedic Meditation, and we’re already in senior years as I am, into my eighth decade now, if we go about it in a way that allows us to just enjoy the deep inner forgetfulness as a strategy, as a system, rather than, “Oh no, I’m afraid of it. I have to keep my wits, I have to practice all these puzzles.” 

“Let’s get the dementia program up, the dementia app, the anti-dementia app, where, you know, I go through all these puzzles and do an intellectually sharpening exercise and play chess with people at the coffee shop, and…” no harm in doing all that.

But in the end, the thing which is the most preventative, and the most curative is systematic transcendence. Systematic transcendence and the spontaneous organizing power of sorting out what’s worth remembering and what isn’t. And the contextualizing of memory. 

Being able to remember the right thing at the right time, perfect, but not being plagued with remembering that thing until it’s the right thing at the right time, also perfect. But how many of us can claim to have such a memory? 

“I’m constantly remembering all the wrong things at the wrong times. I’m being forced to remember things that aren’t really helpful to me. I’m being forced into behaviors that are based on something in the past.” All of that is a waste of human potential. 

So those are some opening thoughts on the subject of memory and then ultimately on the subject of dementia. We can talk more about this in question and answer time when one day you have an opportunity to present some questions, and we’ll dive into some answers. It’s a very fascinating and very cogent subject.

Jai Guru Deva.

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