No memory is ever alone; it’s at the end of a trail of memories, a dozen trails that each have their own associations.

~ Louis L’Amour

How do you associate things in your mind? What are the reminders that bring up long-forgotten memories? Why do certain sights, smells, or tastes evoke such strong associations?

You’ve for sure heard the phrase “One thing leads to another.” That speaks to linear relationships between things such as the chain reaction of dominoes or Rube Goldberg assemblies.

Another old saw is the term “It came out of left field!” While this one is obviously a metaphor from the world of baseball, it speaks to the unpredictable nature of our non-linear universe.

The ‘grey matter’ inside your skull is no larger than half of a good-sized cantaloupe. If you are to include a mango’s worth of mirror neurons spread around your heart and nervous system you’re still working with less than a small bucket of brain cells in total.

Yet the storage capacity of this seemingly small sum of wet wiring deep in your body is somehow greater than the largest and fastest hard-drives know to the computing world.

It’s not just the fact that terabyte upon terabyte of valuable information and pointless trivia can be absorbed by the hungry sponge in your skull. It’s that no matter how much you cram in, there’s always room for more.

This is the truly mind-boggling feature of human intelligence that defies logic and easy explanations. Pondering this phenomenon puts you up against the mystery that science has long skirted around: What if there’s more to your mind than what fits in your skin?

Think about any movie fanatic, music aficionado, or serious sports fan you know. The number of scenes, sounds, or on-field scenarios they can recall is practically infinite. Almost any data point or remarkable moment can be summoned at will, provided the proper trigger or association is cued up.

My older daughter and my older brother are both prime examples of this. It’s hard to name a film from the past 30 or 40 years that they haven’t seen. Beyond the plot, they can also name the actors and quickly recall other films they’ve been in.

For me it’s music. I’ve probably acquainted myself with hundreds of thousands of different records over the years and can point to the connections between them with ease.

Yet the three of us are rank amateurs at best. Folks who are vastly more well-informed on these topics and more can run circles around us. So where does all this data get stored? It’s not as if I can replay every record or my daughter can show every film end to end.

But almost any moment is somehow there for the recall. It’s the association with some other tiny feeling or factoid that brings them to the surface without fail. It’s when one thing brings another to mind and you realize you haven’t thought about it in years that the mystery of the mind comes to light.

It’s as if you have this vast repository of rarely-accessed information that lies just beneath the surface of your in-the-moment mind. Perhaps it’s not beneath the surface, but rather beyond your skin? This is the question science has yet to answer: What if there is, in fact, a universal mind or morphogenetic field where all this data lives?

While that mystery remains, our experience of it speaks for itself. Whether or not every scrap of data lies within, our bodies are where the thoughts, feelings, sensations and emotions happen. And it’s those internal phenomena that trigger the associations that bring the deeply held memories to the surface.

I was driving through the dry hills of California this weekend when I observed one of these associations in action. There’s a certain grayish-green weed that thrives in the driest roadsides. When you squeeze the leaves it has an unusual smell.

Every time I see this aromatic little weed it brings to mind the time in my life that I first encountered it, way back in the early 90s. I remember the road trip I was on, and who I was with, in particular an old hippie named Fitz who was a mineral and crystal aficionado.

He used the term ‘chatoyant ’ to describe the way the leaves looked in the light. It’s a word I’d never heard before that refers to how light reflects in aligned inclusions in stone such as malachite.

So whenever I see that weed that I’ve yet to identify, the word chatoyant pops into my head, along with all the circumstances around me learning it. I’m sure it would work the other way around as well, if I run across that word I’m for sure going to think of Fitz and our road trip to Humboldt County.

Where all of the connections, associations, and details get stored is beyond me, but one thing is for sure. Our bodies are like antenna in some unknowable way and when we stay limber and in motion we’re in better shape to tune in.

When we dance, sweat, and let our bodies set our minds aside for a time, we clear the channels that keep us in touch with our own library of hidden details and the wisdom of the universe at large.

Keep it light and stay in tune! Much love and motion till next week!


Mark Metz
Director of the Dance First Association
Publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine