Training in Observation

Brain knowledge

This technique may help you if you find that you have difficulties in being able form images or concentrate on material.
I have found that people tend to fall into one of two camps before they start to develop memory. Either they are people who concentrate very well on material but are unable to create imaginative links with material; or else they find their mind wandering at precisely those times when they would prefer to be concentrating. Both of these situations is of course unacceptable and unwelcome!

As a youthworker I have often played a game called ‘kims game’ which will be familiar to you. A large number of objects are placed on a table or on a tray and the players are asked to remember as many of the objects as possible. Without a memory system this task is very difficult.


Before we go any further I would like you to play this game. Find a part of your house which has a large number of items – cluttered
dressing table for example! – or if not find someone who can gather the objects for you – you need about 20. You could get your own,
however if may influence this quick experiment.

Now, close your eyes and try to recall as an image in front of you all those items.

How did you do? Chances are you were only able to recall 25 to 50% of all the items. Of course by now if you were to use a memory
system you would expect to be able to recall 100% of the items, but that is not the point of this little test. What we are looking for is
the type of brain you have – do you concentrate or are you a dreamer.

Please realize however, that one is not preferable to the other. Infact you need a balance of both to successfully memorise. By ay of
explanation, lets take a look at the two different types of thinker.

If your mind wanders while trying to undertake study, then you will not be able to hold and study the information completely, distractions will always spoil your study time and memory formations. And your own imagination is your worst enemy! You dream your study time away, and possibly procrastination (putting it off) is the way it shows itself.

If you are able to concentrate you may find that you are able to have a very productive session of study and be able to accurately recall the information you have studied… For a time at least. But this information has no solidity about it – as you have learned so far linguistic information is insufficient and to be regained you must create an image which is memorable and solid. Otherwise you will not be able to link it to other information. So which are you? The previous experiment will have shown this.

As you tried to remember the objects did you find yourself able to concentrate, but then had difficulties recalling the information? If
that is the case then you are a focused individual – but your creativity needs a boost.

If as you tried to remember the objects you found your mind flickering backwards and forwards from sounds, other thoughts, cares of the things going on in your life – even only short other images – you are a dreamer. Perhaps you got (or get) into trouble at school or work for being distracted. Perhaps you have been told you are a dreamer in a negative way. This is a great asset however! Your creativity means that you are able to create memorable images, think in a way which is creative and great for solving problems. But your concentration needs a boost.

Please now repeat the experiment. You may use the same items. But this time work around the objects from one, moving in an orderly fashion to the next one. Concentrate on where the objects are, and this time touch them, tap them (do they make a sound). Also, what purpose do they have. Imagine yourself using the object. Don’t be distracted by other thoughts if you can help it. Now recall.

Your recall may still not be 100%, however it will now be much greater. Without using any memory systems you have improved your
memory. Those who concentrate sill have used creativity in being able to imagine using the items, picturing the items in their minds;
those who are able to be creative but have problems concentrating. The actual act of picking it up will help you to concentrate because
you are engaging more of yor senses.

There are some techniques that will help both sorts of people.

Firstly, take some time out a few times a day to really be! By that I mean to concentrate on the here and now, without focus shifting to other thoughts. This should start once a day with trying this for 5 minutes, although for the rest of the day this would probably be impractical and just a few moments will be sufficient.

Find a place where you can be comfortable. Do not permit yourself to think of anything else apart from the here and now. Notice the five sense working – smell, sight, sound, touch and taste. What can you sense around you. What are those sounds. Keep focusing, not judging or evaluating any of it. By that I mean not deciding if you like it, don’t like it, or what it could be. Just recognize it. At first you may only be able to do this for a few seconds, this is not unusual, and with practice you will be able to increase this time. On the
other occasions throughout the day try to repeat the procedure, but not for as long.

Secondly, take some time during the day, perhaps even with the same moments as noted above, to recognize that around you and the to be creative with it. Is that sound that you can hear a car, what kind of car is it? Would it be a car you would like to own… What would it feel like to drive such a car! Where would you travel? This is the exact opposite of the concentration exercise. Partnering these two exercises will

  1. Encourage you to be able to concentrate on your work at hand
  2. Be creative with those images and form creative memorable links and ideas.
    At the end of the day recall as many of these experiences as you can – hopefully you will be amazed.
    When it comes to using your memory systems, whatever they are, they will benefit from your ability to imagine, and create memorable scenes and images, as well as being able to concentrate on the formation of those images without be distracted by other thoughts. This mind work out a few times a day will strengthen this ability.

Merlyn Ross


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