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Memory sports and vipassana

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Memory sports and vipassana
Answer
8/20/20 11:55 PM
Hi all!

I am curious as to what others think about the usefulness of memory sports in Vipassana.

The memory athelets are those who try to memorize random sets of data (images, numbers, names, etc.) in small amounts of time (e.g. 30 images, 52 cards, etc. under one minute, for instance, see link below).

https://memoryleague.com/

I
 am curious as to how this training can be useful in Vipassana.

I know it is not Vipassana per se.  Perhaps it is a form of Samatha training, since the objects you memorize are concepts.   

However, the kind of Samatha you train in memory sports is very similar to the kind of samatha you need for vipassana (e.g. momentary, clear, analytical and precise attention on objects).   It's also a very good way to improve your perceptual bandwith for processing more information.  There is also a clearly defined and achievable goal, e.g. how many things you can memorize under how many seconds, which is a great boost to your motivation.

My experience has been that I typically do some amount of memory training, like playing the memory game in the above link before my sit.  When I do sit, I immediately notice that my perceptual field is brighter, and insights (impermanence, dukkha and no-self) are seen more clearly.  It seems that after memory training, my mental system is primed to process more information and when I aim the system to the typical objects of vipassana like the 4 foundations, the system just starts to process the information and produce insights.

Could this be a form of Samatha-Vipassana?  I am curious as to hear the upside and also the downside to do vipassana in this, admittedly, nonstandard way.

RE: Memory sports and vipassana
Answer
8/21/20 5:12 AM as a reply to Luke.
Luke:
Hi all!

I am curious as to what others think about the usefulness of memory sports in Vipassana.

The memory athelets are those who try to memorize random sets of data (images, numbers, names, etc.) in small amounts of time (e.g. 30 images, 52 cards, etc. under one minute, for instance, see link below).

https://memoryleague.com/

I
 am curious as to how this training can be useful in Vipassana.

I know it is not Vipassana per se.  Perhaps it is a form of Samatha training, since the objects you memorize are concepts.   

However, the kind of Samatha you train in memory sports is very similar to the kind of samatha you need for vipassana (e.g. momentary, clear, analytical and precise attention on objects).   It's also a very good way to improve your perceptual bandwith for processing more information.  There is also a clearly defined and achievable goal, e.g. how many things you can memorize under how many seconds, which is a great boost to your motivation.

My experience has been that I typically do some amount of memory training, like playing the memory game in the above link before my sit.  When I do sit, I immediately notice that my perceptual field is brighter, and insights (impermanence, dukkha and no-self) are seen more clearly.  It seems that after memory training, my mental system is primed to process more information and when I aim the system to the typical objects of vipassana like the 4 foundations, the system just starts to process the information and produce insights.

Could this be a form of Samatha-Vipassana?  I am curious as to hear the upside and also the downside to do vipassana in this, admittedly, nonstandard way.

Hi Luke,

I see you've been posting here since 2012, so I will just assume you're building on a base of longterm practice and are having fun with memory right now, that you're finding it fascinating, and delighting in the way it can intertwine with your practice. You've probably long since read Francis Yates's wonderful study of historic The Art of Memory--- https://www.amazon.com/Art-Memory-Frances-Yates-ebook/dp/B005TKD6UC/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Frances+Yates&qid=1598004206&s=digital-text&sr=1-1

You're sort of gearing up to write "The Zen of Memory" or something, maybe. I think that might sell, too, lol.

I guess my only remark beyond the obvious upside of you delighting in all of the above is simply that at its heart, meditation in all its forms, including shamatha and vipassana, was primarily conceived and practiced, historically, as a method of liberation of the human heart and mind and soul, in whatever spin the various traditions give that. In pragmatic dharma terms, if you slip the surly bonds of dukkha soaring in the skies of memory, you go, guy.

I am hoping to do the same thing playing Microsoft Solitaire! Seriously.

I'll be interested in other people's responses here too, if i can just remember to check this thread!

love, tim

RE: Memory sports and vipassana
Answer
8/22/20 10:11 AM as a reply to Luke.
If liberation is a form of letting go, it's somewhat hard to imagine letting go can be encouraged by holding on to more mental experiences.

At least in my own experience, my memory's gotten worse and worse with each baseline shift (not that this is a particular problem).

Metta and YMMV.

Edit: You're your own best teacher, so if you find a practice useful, no reason not to continue with it.

RE: Memory sports and vipassana
Answer
8/23/20 8:52 AM as a reply to Luke.
@Tim: 
Thanks for your comments.  I did not know The Art of Memory, I will check it out sometimes for sure. 

Yeah, I think that Solitaire and meditation may not be so different than we realize!

@punto:
Thanks for your comments.  I think my delight in memory is a form of clinging to some degree.

On the other hand...one of the ways letting go happen, at least to my understanding, is when I remember things like.. "ah hah, what my mind is doing right at this moment..is the very thing that buddha said would cause suffering (e.g. clinging to stuff)". 

This "ah hah" moment is not unlike remembering where your keys were when you lost them, or when you just recalled the name of the person you forgot.

I am sure training in memory sports per se probably would not help us let go, but still I find it interesting that another translation for sati is "remembrance", and since there is not a whole lot of emphasis on viewing mindfulness meditation in terms of the act of "remembering" in the current meditation scene, there might be more that can be said and explored about the relationship between how memory works or what we can do to improve our memory and how to let go or how to decrease our suffering.