John & Jenny TCM College
How to Memorize Acupuncture Points and TCM Herbs – Memory Palaces
Updated: Apr 22, 2021
Here at JJTCMC we make the authentic accessible to all audiences. In this blog series on study tips for TCM and Acupuncture, we will offer some study methods to consider on your journey throughout your Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) education. Note that these study tools and techniques can be applied to any subject be it TCM, Acupuncture, or other. Remember, equip yourself with the tools you need to succeed now and throughout your professional career; this means that the aim is not to simply remember something to pass a test; rather, it is to commit information to your long term memory. Now, here is the problem: what is the quickest or most effective ways to commit things to long term memory? At JJTCMC, we empower and encourage our students to work smart not hard; read on to learn how!
Today’s discussion is focused on using memory palaces.
Did you know that there is such a thing as a World Memory Championship? Did you also know that memory champions report employing this ancient Greek and Roman technique to win these competitions! Be a memory champion and acquire enormous lists of unrelated or related intelligible or unintelligible (foreign) information at an astonishingly rapid rate with this simple practice.
How to memorize with memory palaces?
The practice of Memory Palaces is, in essence, a form of visual learning. Fundamentally, learners make associations to new concepts using what they already know and have experienced in the world. To begin, learners must select their palace. This is a physical, real world location that the learner can close their eyes and immediately picture in their mind’s eye all details of that environment. The more familiar you are with your palace, the better. Next, learners need to decide on a walking journey that they will take through their palace. In order to associate unknown and unintelligible items with commonly known and familiar items, learners will have to place these unknown objects along their path within their memory palace. Once done, memorizing is simply akin to taking a walk through your memory palace to the object of interest and recalling all visual details about that scene in your palace.
Wait! Before we lose you, allow us to provide you with an example of using memory palaces to memorize TCM classical formulae:
Let’s say you live in a house with multiple floors. You select your house to be your memory palace. You happen to be studying for an exam with some formulae for exterior conditions and others for interior conditions. So, you decide that the area outside and around your house, the exterior of your house, will be where you place the exterior formulae and the inside of the house will be where you place your interior formulae. You also decide that your journey through your house will start with you walking up the driveway, along the side of your house, towards your back gate, into the back yard, and eventually into the house from a back entrance. Now we need to work on placing some formulae along this path.
The first formula is Mahuang Tang. The first problem is the name of the formula is unintelligible so you need to approximate the pronunciation to known items in a language that you know. Using English “Ma” might call to mind one’s mother, “huang” might call to mind the verb “hang”. So to encode the name “MaHuang” we need to have our mother hanging something. Since MaHuang Tang is Exterior releasing, we will have her placed outside of the house. Since it is acrid and warm (treats wind-cold), you can visualize it to be a very cold and windy day. Since this specifically treats Taiyang cold strike with dyspnea, you can imagine that one’s mother is hanging a picture outdoors and the picture is a portrait of someone with their back completely exposed to the cold and windy elements. The person in the picture looks frigid and appears to be gasping for air. Since this treats excessive conditions, perhaps you can have one’s mother hang multiple portraits of the same picture. Finally, since she needs a wall to hang the portrait, you decide that you will encounter her along your journey when you walk up your driveway and see her trying to hang these portraits on the garage doors. Congratulations, you have placed your first formula along your path through your memory palace.
After placing all of the formulae within your memory palace, you are ready to study: simply walk through your palace recalling all of the visualizations and decoding them appropriately.
Some tips and tricks to recall your palaces and images more effectively.
Creating memory palaces is an extremely creative process and over time one becomes familiar with the types of images that yield strong recall. Usually, the more ridiculous or out-of-this-world the scene is, the more likely one is to remember its details – for an apple is an apple, but if an apple was using a hoola hoop and doing somersaults, you’d remember it more.
Though it is a creative process, creating memory palace imagery doesn’t need to take a long time and the more you do it, the less time it will take to create new ones. So keep at it.
Don’t spend too much time creating your scenes in your memory palaces, usually the first image that comes to mind to represent a new object is the best image.
To improve on memory recall, do be strategic about where you encounter new scenes along your path. For instance, making the outside correspond to exterior, the inside correspond to interior, one room correspond to wind-cold, and another room correspond to wind-damp, etc. This will ensure that you don’t need to walk through your whole memory palace in order to recall a formula; instead, you might only need to walk through one room of your palace.
Though this technique is primarily visual, one can reinforce recall kinesthetically by physically walking through the physical location that they have selected as their memory palace.
Do we recommend it?
Absolutely! Our recommendation is to try it on a small set of information and test how long you can recall the information from your memory palace. You may surprise yourself.
Though memory palaces are a great short term memory hack, note that in order for you to internalize the encoded information in your memory palaces, one is required to continually revisit their memory palace and train it.
We encourage those interested to consult any resources published by memory world champions and any other online resources on the topic of memory palaces.
If you feel intimidated by the prospect of creating you memory palace or feel it to be a daunting task, our next blog entry on Visual Aides may be a good place to start prior to diving into memory palaces. Continue reading the blog entries for this series to learn more!
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