How to Remember what you Learn?

Question: “I have the tendency to spend a lot of time studying, and then forgetting all I’ve studied. Same goes for hearing classes and notetaking. How to study sastra/hear classes in such a way as to remember everything, and especially not loose the message/or essence in the process?

Budhi (intellect) has three functions:

(1) detecting patterns in the data it gets through the ears, eyes, etc.,

(2) comprehending those patterns by matching them with the fully or partially comprehended patterns it has stored in memory, and

(3) (a) filling up the “memory” with comprehended patterns through “education” and (b) keeping those patterns sharp and organized for efficient indexing and access.

When you study or listen to a teacher, you are doing “3.a.” You are asking about a “memory leak” – where the patterns seem to go in, but then leak back out.

Patterns leak out of memory when they are not frequently used.

Budhi is an organic, hyper-physical supercomputer. It keeps its “hard disk” (memory) efficient and organized. One way it does so is by deleting unimportant “files” (comprehended patterns). The deletion is gradual, just as modern computer OS’ first move the file to a “trash bin” and only later “empty the trash.” Similarly, memories “fade” as they get more and more flags from the budhi “OS” marking them as candidates for deletion.

The key to remembering what you learn is to use and interact with it regularly.

A “file” of information in your memory will be marked for deletion if it hasn’t been used in a while. So the key to remembering what you learn is to use it and interact with it regularly.

If you learn something from a book or a class, for example, you should immediately try to write it in your diary or notebook in your own words, and try to make it relevant and useful by linking it to other “patterns” in your life, investigating what it means in context of various things you believe or do or think. This will put a “useful” flag on the bit of info, which is very important.

If you want to remember something – ask questions about it! Ask the author, ask the speaker, ask your mother’s uncle, or even ask yourself – but ask! The more clearly you understand the relevance of information, the longer it will persist in your memory. Like Google, when things are related to other things, they are more “relevant,” and so come up more frequently in “searches” and thus get more “traffic.” The more traffic a bit of memory gets, the more important it must be, and thus the more carefully budhi keeps it stored.

Ask questions while learning. Otherwise the info won’t get “written to the Hard Disk.”

Asking questions and writing the ideas out in your own words right away is very important for remembering things, because information has to be marked “useful” soon after we get it, otherwise it will not be transferred from short- to long- term memory, but will instead disappear when the short term memory is “refreshed” (which happens frequently). Just like a regular computer, buddhi has “RAM” (immediate, working memory), which it cleans much more frequently and than its “Hard Disk” (long term memory). So, if you immediately try to use the info you’ve learned by putting it in your own words or asking how it relates to other things that currently exist in your own life and outlook, then you mark the info as useful while it is in “RAM” short-term memory, and thus allow it to survive the dangerous and frequent “RAM refreshes” and get transitioned to the “Hard Disk” (long term memory).

Apply the new information to how you live, how you act, and how you see the world. This will keep it relevant – and budhi will then make sure it remains sharp and clear at the top of your “memory stack.”

Once information is on memory’s “Hard Disk” you still have to utilize the pattern, or it will fade gradually. You do this by applying the pattern of information to how you live, act, and see the world. This keeps it relevant – and budhi will then make sure to keep it sharp and clear right at the top of your “memory stack.”

So, to reiterate, we remember useful things. So if we want to remember something from a book or a lecture, we have to make it useful to us – which means we need to incorporate it into our daily life – our conversations, our actions, and our way of looking at things.

Vraja Kishor

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