[From Dialogue on Awakening]
“Why does the mind lose its short term memory as people get older?”
It is not a question of the mind losing anything, nor is it a function of age or time. Your mind is ageless. However, when you accept your body as being the total identification of you, then naturally the mind is also associated with the body. And as you believe the body should deteriorate, you create the belief that the mind will follow the same pattern.
Another widely accepted belief is that you are only worthy and lovable to the degree that you can contribute to the support and pleasure of others. Since this support usually occurs in one’s younger and middle years, as you age beyond your sense of usefulness, you redirect your mind’s attention to that past productive period of your life. The current time period is ignored and the focus of your mind is directed away from it because you see yourself contributing no value. The only value it then holds for you is how you are able to relate it, to manipulate or reshape it, to fit into that time period when you allowed yourself to feel self value. In societies in which age is valued, equated with wisdom and usefulness, you do not find short term memory loss or senility in older people.
You ask yourself, what then can I do to change this social trend of thinking, to help older people see the value of their age and wisdom? The answer is simply this: change the way you think about yourself having to experience the aging process. If you find it difficult to accept that aging is unnecessary, try at least to discard the notion that your worth has anything at all to do with your ability or willingness to provide support or pleasure to anyone else in any way except to be consistently and unconditionally loving. It will only be in your accepting this release for yourself that you can acknowledge its validity for any other. When that acknowledgment has been wholly made, you will discover it has been forever so. There is nothing more to change.
Does Alzheimer’s Disease have a similar cause?
This is a form of retreat from dealing with pain when people reach a point in their life where an accumulation of fear makes them unwilling to cope with life as they are experiencing it. The pain will most often have been accumulated from a central feeling of rejection, and that rejected feeling becomes pervasive throughout their other experiences. In other words, whatever experiences they are having, because their perception has become overwhelmed with a feeling of lack of worth due to rejection, they then see all their experiences as being confirmation of this rejection.
A general feeling is developed that whatever experience is taking place would take place better without them in it, and they therefore retreat from the experience. In the beginning stages, there is a tendency to project their lack of self-esteem onto those whom they feel have rejected them, and that creates anger. The way they deal with their anger as it is experienced through the perception of dwindling self esteem, is to withdraw from that experience. The more those experiences encompass their total experience of life, the more they retreat from participation.
The body, being a reflector of the thinking process, correspondingly shuts down the neurological functions that physically characterize those activities which they are withdrawing from. Normally, these activities do not include those things which function from the automatic response system such as breathing, implementing the digestive process, or being able to spatially identify things within their vision, but it does, in most cases, shut down the response to pain which is the primary reflex that they are attempting to avoid. You could refer to it as a case of general amnesia.
[ch 8, pg 207]