Memory is dangerous. It can be fraught with mines. This is why I have always prided myself in having a terrible memory. I don’t want to remember painful events of the past, but I do hold dear those memories that bring me joy. Maybe it has something to do with leaning closer to the sixty year mark than fifty, but recently pictures of the past are exploding in my mind. So I thought “mining memory” would be an entertaining blogpost. Suddenly, a long-ago image of kittens in the car comes to mind. Then , BAM, an explosion of queasiness as associated thoughts emerge – a land mine. It is life, colorful and conflicting. The good, the bad and the ugly all wrapped up together.
Ok, new version. I want to enhance my memory. I want to use memory to enhance my life, my personal growth. Because I’m all about growth. So let’s call the blogpost “Minding Memory” instead. Ahh… much better. A yogic connection is bubbling to the surface, calming me and erasing fears.
How to do it? There are some tried and true ways to ramp up the recall.
1. Hit the drawing board. Jotting words down and adding a doodle of visual imagery or some physical movement uses a diverse range of coordinated brain processes and stimulates the quality of recall. Try non-dominate hand writing to put all three together. This practice hones thoughts down to their essence.
2. Roll out the yoga mat. Yoga’s movement, meditation, chanting and breathing exercises improve’s visual-spacial memory, helping you to remember where you left your keys, for example. It exercises brain regions responsible for cognitive function through the conscious linking of a movement or breath sequence. Equally beneficial is the dispersement of anxiety and depression, leading to a calm and clear mind better able to appreciate the bigger story in a mental picture.
3. Run, dance and play barefoot. Paying close attention to where you put your feet, sans shoes, forces you to be fully present to sensation, increasing blood flow and working memory simultaneously. We have a tremendous amount of proprioceptive nerves in our feet and ankles that communicate our exact place in the here and now. Safety not withstanding, if you are able to mix cardiovascular training with deep focus, your memory is bound to improve too.
4. Get outside. Stepping into a natural environment is known to improve a host of cognitive functions, including memory. Any city dweller knows from experience that navigating passing cars and streetlights keeps you in a stressful “fight or flight” mode. Relaxing in a natural setting allows your brain to go into its “rest and digest” mode by accessing the parasympathetic nervous system. Even surrounding yourself with photographs and sounds of nature will do the trick.
Overall, one of the goals of “minding memory” is learning how to pause and observe the mind while in the act of remembering. It is a form of meditation. When an uncomfortable memory is jogged ask, “How can I be free of the old storyline of me, my defaults and negative self-talk? How can I partner with the eyes behind my eyes and see a bigger picture and bigger pattern?” It’s worth hitting a few unexpected land mines in search of the gold. Mining memory for nuggets of wisdom is a valiant pursuit. And if that means more yoga in the yard and dancing in the rain, all the better.