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How to Cultivate a Good Memory by Paramhansa Yogananda

Praecepta Volume 6 Praeceptum #144

What is memory?

Memory is that power by which you recollect your past experiences. For instance, if you have no memory, you have forgotten all your childhood experiences. All the experiences that you have had are reproduced by your mental subconscious faculty so that you may be able to profit by some of them and discard the rest. Memory is something which we all must have. It was given to us by God lest we forget our desirable experiences and fail to learn the lessons they teach.

Why is memory ever asleep?

Some people can remember things that others cannot remember. Memory has different grades in different people according to brain capacity. In order to develop your memory, you need education, concentration, meditation, and experiences. Unless you have developed your memory, you are not an educated person. If you have had a certain experience and, if you forget it then it is not yours.

Memory can be developed by recalling all the beautiful things that have happened in our lives. We never become tired of agreeable experiences and good deeds. We should repeat them again and again in our consciousness and replete our lives with better experiences.

Special Exercises

One way to develop your memory is to connect certain things with some brilliant affair, and then you won’t forget. Memory develops by the association of one thing with another. It is true that most people have a certain amount of memory from birth, but if you limit your memory, you limit your Soul. Memory must be developed. It can be stretched like rubber. It is eternal, elastic, and can record many things if you develop it.

All our faculties have to be cultivated. Some people never give their memory any exercise to develop it. If you practice addition, subtraction, and multiplication mentally, it will help to develop your memory. Try to remember or visualize something. Every day try to recall what you did a week ago that day. That will help a good deal. You must also try to recall what happened in your life much earlier. Try to remember only the constructive things that happened.

Another way to develop your memory is to pay strict attention to the thing that you want to remember. Why do you remember the greatest sorrows of your life...because you direct more attention to them? Deep attention is a strong force that develops memory. If you have a poor memory, it usually indicates that you have a butterfly mind. You flit from one thing to another, without giving careful attention to each individual thing. Exercise is very important. You must link one idea with another. Connect certain things with certain other things.

The art of visualization is very important. Look steadily at a certain object, or at some scenery, or in a show window, and then see how many of the details you can enumerate. The deeper your impressions, the more details you will be able to remember. Most people perform life’s duties absent-mindedly. That is why they cannot remember much. There is a wide gulf between their actions and their thoughts. You must put great attention upon whatever you wish to remember.

Memory has No Discrimination: It Imitates

You say: We do not remember what we were before we came to this earth. That is because you do not possess the Divine memory. Jesus knew exactly where he came from, where he was going, and so on. This mortal memory is extremely necessary in order to get the best out of experiences. Memory does not discriminate. It takes in anything you will it to take. It imitates. It would be a misuse of memory if you tried to bring back into your consciousness all the evil things that occurred in the past. That would be very bad.

Your memory will do exactly what you tell it to do, so be careful that you do not let it repeat any unpleasant experience. So many people want to give up bad habits but they have repeated them so many times that they have become automatic. Sometimes memory won’t let you forget, so you must not feed your memory with the wrong food, or you will suffer from the effect of wrong thoughts and actions. Even the most evil habit if constantly practiced after a while will seem to be all right to you, but it will surely lead to unhappiness in the end. Never repeat anything that is wrong. Give it up quickly. Do not let it remain in your consciousness. I am not telling you to be negative, but you must not be a slave to anything. Remember in your consciousness there are all kinds of records, both good and bad. You must destroy all records that revive memories of unhappiness and evil deeds and unkindness. You must scatter them to the winds.

Sometimes You Must Learn to Forget

We must increase the quality of the memory so that, being powerful, we shall remember all the good things that went before. According to many scientists, memory cannot be developed, but we know that it can be developed by exercise. If you are a born weakling and I insist that you cannot become strong, that is a false statement. There is always something greater if you know where to seek it. Some scientists do not know the art of concentration and memory development, so when they find a weak brain they say: According to the laws of heredity, this is going to last to the end of his days. That is foolish.

One great metaphysician said: Memory gives the power of reproduction. If you can remember some of the experiences of different people in this life, why can’t you remember those that have happened in the Soul? Mortal memory reproduces experiences in this life and Divine memory reproduces all the experiences in the Soul.

Memory was given to you to reproduce good things. You must not train it to remember that which is evil. If you remember someone that you hate and every day you are killing him in your mind because you remember what he did, you are misusing your memory. You must not recall such experiences. They are gone and do not now belong to you. By remembering a thing, you live it over again. Develop forgetfulness in such a case.

God is the Essence of All Good Things

Remember only the beautiful things that you have felt and seen and experienced. If your five senses only behold the good, then your Soul will be a garden of blossoming qualities, and in the garden of memory there will be no weeds of wrong thoughts, but only blossoms of beautiful thoughts, then in that garden of beautiful memories God will visit you. He who loves all good things and remembers all good things will at last remember God, the Essence of all good things. Someday an Invisible Power will come and will smash all the windows of your memory into one big opening through which you may see and remember that you are One with God.