- Education and Science
The Basics Of Number Memorization The ability to remember numbers has many benefits. --Part 2
How To Build & Use A Memory Palace
We're going to get into a lot of detail about constructing well-formed Memory Palaces, but for now, sit back, relax and let the concept sink in. Memory Palaces will provide you with the ultimate organizational system, a cheat or crib sheet for your mind. The best part is using Memory Palaces to store information in your mind is never cheating. Everything you've memorized has been learned in a legitimate way. You just learned it faster and more "magnetically" than anyone else did. We've already talked about grouping. Memory Palaces take your number memory game one massive step further by "super-grouping." When you use all the techniques I've already described in this book, you are in effect making your mind "Magnetic." As an important aside, let's look at this term "Magnetic," talk about why it deserves capitalization and what it means for you.
The Magnetic Memory Method uses the term magnetic for two reasons First, it is about attracting.
information in a way that makes it stick in your mind for as long as you want. Second, using the other feature of a magnet, the Magnetic Memory Method helps you repel information. Why would you want to repel information? Because there are a lot of things that you don't want in your memory which includes excessive information that causes cognitive overload. The Magnetic Memory Method and the Memory Palaces help you create and let you focus on the most important thing: getting only the information you want into your memory so that you can repel the rest. For better or worse, it's difficult So explain exactly why this occurs. But once you're using the Magnetic Memory Method, you'll feel it.
What Is A Memory Palace? A Memory Palace is a mental construct based on a familiar location. It allows for rapid and efficient journeys where you "meet" the associative-imagery you've created using the techniques in this book. Memory Palaces are the best way to store and recall information in a way that takes you to the level of memory expert. They create such massive success for Memorizers because they rely on actual locations.
Why Are Actual LocationsSo Important?
The answer is simple: The mind has the incredible ability to recall places that you already know with ease. By "places," we mean buildings in particular, rather than outdoors locations. And this is why I suggest that you build Memory Palaces based on buildings. My experience, along with feedback from hundreds of my readers, demonstrates that buildings make for better Memory Palaces. This is because they come pre-structured. Forest paths and beaches, on the other hand, come without structure and you need to imposeartificial order on them.
You need to impose order on buildings like your home too, but in a way based upon an existing architectural order. The patterns upon which you can "overlay" a reliable journey in a forest in no way compare to the stability of a familiar floor plan. I do not want to confuse you with a contradiction here, but I would like to invite you to hear an alternate opinion. Phil Chambers, Chief Arbiter of the World Memory Championships, gave us an interview on the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast. In our discussion, Phil gives his opinion about indoor and outdoor locations as Memory Palaces. You can listen free here:Memory Palace History Before we begin learning to build Memory Palaces, it will serve you to know a little bit about their history. No one really knows about whether or not the following story is true, especially given that there are so many variations of it to choose from, but as we'll see, what really matters is that the legend has clues about how to use memory techniques within it
I suspect it is for this reason that the "origin story" of Memory Palaces has survived. Back in Ancient Greece, Simonides of Ceos (c. 546-468 BCE) found himself giving a speech at a
banquet before a group of distinguished guests. The building collapsed and everyone but Simonides died. In some versions of the story, Simonides was called out of the banquet by Castor and Pollux, mythical boxers who represent heroism. There doesn't appear to be any reason these two figures called him out of the banquet, but the occasion did save him from being crushed to death.
Regardless of how the story is told, because Simonides knew the secrets of combining images with locations, he knew exactly where everyone in the building had been sitting and was able to help the authorities identify the bodies so they could be properly buried the mourning families who would never have experienced closure otherwise. It is Simonides' ability to do this in combination with the building itself that led to the creation of the Memory Palace technique. The major point of the story that we will be referring to many times in this book is that Simonides used location to "store" and "revisit" memorized information.
The Important Mechanics of Memory Palaces
Location-based memorization is useful on many counts, mostly because it allows us to leverage the mind's natural ability to mentally organize space without significant effort.
Try this: close your eyes and visually reconstruct the room you're sitting in with your imagination. Chances are that you easily can do so. You might actually "see" it or only see a kind of floor plan made of simple shapes. You may even only "feel" or "sense" the concept of the room, but, one way or another you can reconstruct the room in your mind. After that simple task is done, mentally move out into the hallway and reconstruct that space. Move throughout the entire building, recreating its rooms and its nooks and crannies in your mind. Work on making it visual, or simply develop what is now becoming a Memory Palace in whatever way works for you.
What we are doing in this exercise is using something we already know to create a powerful mental "link" that can be revisited at will with (almost) zero effort. We can place information at various points in this mental construct, "magnetize" that information by using associative-imagery and then revisit it later in order to retrieve the information we've memorized. At least at the beginning, we want to always use what I call "non-arbitrary spaces." They are non-arbitrary because they mean something to us. These include places like:
Homes of relatives
Homes of friends
Grocery stores … and the list never really ends. You can always visit new places at just about any time that you wish in order to develop new Memory Palaces. About The Term "Memory Palace" Speaking of which, "Memory Palace" is the sexy term for "non-arbitrary space." Some people don't like the term "Memory Palace," so if you're already gagging at the idea of using it as we'll be doing throughout this book, feel free to find a replacement. I once coached on 80 year old man through email who went on to memorize
hundreds of lines of poetry using the Magnetic Memory Method, but only after he finally decided to call his Memory Palaces "apartments with compartments" because he found the term "Memory Palace" too hard to bear. Whatever you do, don't let the terminology get in the way of making progress with the techniques you're going to learn in this book. Simply come up with your own if you don't like the terms. Maybe you'll wind up writing a book of your own one day and come up with something even more fashionable!
This raises the interesting questions of why we call them "Memory Palaces" in the first place. There are many potential answer but one of my favorites appears in St. Augustine (354-430 ACE). In his Confessions he wrote "And I come to the fields and spacious palaces (praetoria memoriae) of my memory, where are the treasures of innumerable images, brought into it from things of all sorts perceived by the senses." This is important because Augustine is pointing out the important fact that in order for Memory Palaces to become useful, we need to combine locations with all of our senses in order to create "treasure." By putting sensations together with locations, we can make information Magnetic so that it will come back to us whenever we wish.
know that location-based memory techniques appear to have existed before people like Augustine and Simonides worked with them. In her book on the Buddha, Karen Armstrong mentions the use of memory techniques in Yoga involving locations and the Buddhist instructor Michael Roach has spoken in great detail about how various meditations were remembered by the monks by placing imagery in different parts of the temple. For example, in a meditation which asks us to remember that death is always behind us, monks were advised to place a black dog at a particular part of the temple to remind them of this principle. Interestingly, later religious