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Entering the Memory Palace

Much has been said and written about how our memories work, and how they work less efficiently as we age. About 40% of people age 65 and older have age-related memory impairment. Instead of passively accepting this diagnosis, what if we used our creative minds to enhance our cognition while retaining recall of conversations, events, and people more clearly?

The Method of Loci

Apparently, ancient Romans and Greeks used a process called The Method of Loci, facilitating memorization of facts by linking them to a visual diagram (I find the term “Memory Palace” more elegant and visually appealing). As I’ve been experimenting with this new approach, I wanted to share it with you. In college, I remember spending hundreds of hours remembering hard, cold facts about history, anthropology, and literature. I literally created piles of facts!

Use your Imagination

Inside your own Memory Palace, for example, you imagine a certain number of items being placed in the front room, the foyer, the kitchen, dining room, the master bedroom and so on. You might store 4 items in the foyer, 5 in the kitchen, and 6 in the dining room.  You picture each item or person/animal etc. clearly in your mind, stored in a spot in its designated room in the palace.

Let’s take a very simple example. Imagine you’ve been asked to judge dogs at a local competition, while automatically recalling their breed in order of appearance. Four of them are stored in the foyer. The first breed is “German Shepherd” (depicted with the visual of a sheepherder); the second is a Beagle (Bee + Eagle), the third is a Boxer (a man with boxing gloves), and the fourth is a St. Bernard (image of a small barrel around a dog collar). As you enter the kitchen the fifth breed is a Border Collie (picture sheep in a field) and the sixth is a Pointer (a stick pointing at a blackboard), and so on. In your mind’s eye, as you move from one room to the next you link the image of each dog while grouping them in the same room.

Placing images in unique places stimulates one’s memory

Storing images in a “room” isn’t the only way to enhance memorization. Instead, you can select a path in a forest, or a bicycle route and imagine storing these images (or files) along the way, perhaps behind a large cedar tree, or on the porch of the red house up the street. Placing these images in unique places stimulates one’s memory as well as creating curiosity about the settings where these images are placed.

Chess players may enhance their skills by storing images of the positions of their opponent’s pieces in the Palace. Or, you might consider organizing the facts and trends developing around your next presentation to your work team.

My Memory Challenge:

Memorize the first 30 songs composed by my #1 jazz genius, John Coltrane.

Care to share your own contribution to the Memory Challenge?

To Your Success!

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