Memories Are Made of This

It’s been hectic here lately, as I prepare to leave on a trip to Tucson. In my 12 years there, I met and married Ken, we survived his traumatic brain injury and my bout with breast cancer, and I began my journaling work. While I’m there, I’ll have an opportunity to visit our old home and meet the new owner. I’m looking forward to that.

The vista from our large back windows began with the Catalina Mountains off to the right and then ranged for miles, all the way across the valley to the far side of the high-desert city. From our cozy vantage point, we watched the monsoon rains roll towards us from the horizon, often leaving behind a glorious sunset, and marveled as the turkey buzzards—ugly birds up close—transformed into gorgeous gliders as they soared on the thermals, circling up and up and up until they disappeared from view. Coyotes regularly loped across the open desert of our backyard. A bobcat or two appeared over the years, more hesitant than the coyotes. Javelina, too, often barreled through, at least before the neighborhood was built up.

As I now sit here in the much greener landscape of Southwestern Indiana, remembering my time in Tucson conjures so many memories. I am aware of them as thoughts but also as physical sensations I can’t really name. Is “nostalgia” a physical thing? Sure feels like it. Our brains can’t really distinguish between what we experience and what we imagine, so when I recall the lush beauty of that harsh landscape blossoming after the heavy rains, the delicate, just-washed fragrance of the desert, and the sensation of the cool, post-rain air against my skin, my body feels much the same joyous sensations as it did then. Then there was the morning after a rare snowfall that left an inch or two of white blanketing everything from our patio for miles up to the tops of the Catalinas (the photo above)—the brilliant memory makes my breath catch nearly as much as it did on that day. I feel almost transported back there.

Searching for the exact words to communicate all of this is hard, but discovering the ones that convey what I want to say brings up a “felt sense, “ a little internal sizzle, a tiny “yes!” somewhere in physical body as a result of my thoughts. Have you ever noticed this feeling, as you write or paint or do something you love but which takes a little effort?

This inseparable linkage between mind and body—wait, it’s not a link; the two really are one entity, a bodymind is more like it—this is the reason I love the whole concept of A Living, Breathing Story. It’s because that is what we are. And we are always capable of positive change. It might not be easy, but it is possible, with the right tools (journaling sure is helpful), determination, and the belief that it is possible.

Everyone, you have a good week while I’m gone, presenting a couple of workshops and visiting with old friends in old haunts. And if you’ve a mind to try them, here are a few journaling prompts that can help you experience your bodymind.

  • Recall a pleasant vivid experience from your memory. Sit quietly for a few moments as you let it wash over you and experience the physical sensations again: What did you see, hear, smell, feel, and/or taste? When you are ready, begin writing about that experience with as much sensory detail as possible. Keep your pen moving for 10 minutes or longer, until the writing feels complete. Pay attention to the ways your memories (thoughts) affect your physical body and record that after the main write is done.
  • Sit in a favorite spot, either indoors or out, quietly observing and taking in what your senses pick up: sights, smells, tastes, sounds, touch. Write them down as you become aware of them and then explore your thoughts about them. Don’t judge or criticize: it’s all good.
  • Over several days, take a few minutes to write down your thoughts and how your body feels about them. Once you get some experience with this, it will become easier to determine what’s really going on inside during confusing times because your body always responds to your thoughts.



2 replies
  1. Valarie le James
    Valarie le James says:

    Wonderful post Barbara. Writing, especially journaling inevitably transports me back to that ‘felt sense.’ Moments, otherwise fleeting, become an enriched memory, a sustained sense of soul. I get to live life twice, appreciating it all the more…

  2. Barbara Stahura
    Barbara Stahura says:

    Valerie, thanks for your comment. You are so right about the way journaling can transport us back in time to memories, which we can then savor again. And it can also transport us into our envisioned future and help us discover a pathway ahead.

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