Our intentions and focuses cue up memory experiences

When we intend to bring something into awareness from memory, we cue it up. We use something associated with what we want to focus on. If I wanted to remember the first car I had, I would intend to remember based on the cue “first car I had.” If I could not access it based on that cue, I might cue up the year I bought the car or the dealership I bought it from. If that didn’t work, I might cue up the image of the street I lived on to see what was parked there. Sorting through the cues and resulting experience memories is what we call “thinking” or “remembering.” When we can cue up something related to what we’re trying to remember but can’t quite get the thing itself, we say “it’s on the tip of my tongue,” meaning we have part of the memory but can’t get all of it. I want to remember the name of the salesman who sold me my first car and I can recall he had bald hair, wore a suit too small for him, and spoke loudly. Sensory experiences such as sights and sounds are more easily remembered and cued up into awareness than verbal memories, such as names. But his name is just on the tip of my tongue. Then I remember it was an Irish name like O’something, and that cues his real name, O’Reilley. That cues his first name, “Simon.”

While the pianist is playing, the same principle is at work. The notes, changes in tempo, and pedal movements are all being cued up at incredible speed from the subconscious so the concerto unfolds from the pianist’s movements in the correct sequence. It’s all still cueing from one action to the next. There’s no thought or awareness involved. It’s all subconscious!

Where do these experiences we access as memories or skills come from? It is common to say that the experiences we bring into awareness are stored in a mysterious place we call memory. That is a mistaken notion. They are no memories stored in the brain or in Akashic records. Memory experiences are simply accessible. The term most often used for where they come from is the “subconscious.” But that also is mistaken. It is better to just refer to either what is in our awareness or the wide range of experiences accessible by our awareness. Memories and skills such as playing the piano are just accessible.