Ever since I was a kid, it seemed implied in Bahá’í culture that we should memorize the Writings and prayers not only because they became more readily accessible during the teaching of the Faith but also because it had a deep spiritual impact within.
“From the texts of the wondrous, heavenly Scriptures they should memorize phrases and passages” Bahá’u’lláh enjoins in one of His Tablets, and Hand of the Cause Collis Featherstone used to say that we should memorize prayers because when we die we can’t take our prayer books with us, but we can take our memory!
The importance of memorization has also been stressed in recent times through the Institute Process. Both as participants and as tutors we have seen ourselves and many others struggling when memorizing quotes, complaining how they are not young anymore or how the quotes are too long. But memory is like any other muscle or skill, it may be unused but it’s right there waiting for us to make the most out of it, and the more we use it, the stronger it gets.
What I want to attempt in this post is not to address the importance of memorizing the writings nor an analysis on the spiritual power of memory, but I want to share some practical tips that I have personally found helpful when memorizing quotes and passages.
Tip # 1 – Just Do It
We all know how important motivation is for any task we want to accomplish but it feels to me that this is particularly notorious for mental activities. Memorizing anything when you don’t want to is close to impossible. The first thing we should do is find the inner or outer source of motivation that is inspiring us to memorize and tap into that energy. Memorizing is hard work, we get tired and having the source of your motivation at hand, ready when we feel tired or weak, makes things so much easier.
Tip # 2 – Divide and Conquer
Every now and then I see some people attempting to memorize big quotes entirely. They keep on reading the whole quote until they have committed the entire paragraph or prayer to memory. Even though it’s very admirable, dividing the quote into manageable bite sized bits seems more practical and easier. So basically you start with a phrase within the quote and memorize that, then you memorize the next phrase and you try to say the both phrases, memorize a third phrase and then say all three. Most people do this instinctively. Divide and conquer.
Tip # 3 – Rinse and Repeat
Scientific research seems to suggest that “remember to repeat” is fundamental to memorizing anything. To memorize something you should repeat it over and over again. To memorize something you should repeat it over and over again (pun!). Repetition makes our memory muscles stronger more than anything else. When you have committed something to memory, the challenge becomes keeping it there. What I found useful is making a schedule in which you program repetitions. For example, you memorized a quote one night, you program the repetition maybe twice a day for the next couple of days, once a day for a week after that and then once a week. “Repeat to remember” research suggest for memorizing long term.
Tip # 4 – Walk the Talk
I find it almost impossible to memorize anything while I’m sitting down. Not only walking (in any direction or motion) helps me a lot but also saying things out lout. There is some scientific explanation on why this happens that I’m not going to get into but it seems that it is mostly because we are memorizing through many senses and the same time (kinetic memory versus visual memory versus auditory memory). The more the merrier I say.
Tip # 5 – Bring It On!
Last but not least, I’ve found that whenever I have challenged myself with memorizing a quote, passages, prayers or even books, not only my motivation becomes greater but also my skill and ability to memorize grows. I challenge you to challenge yourself with something you have always wanted to memorize, maybe the Long Obligatory Prayer or the Tablet of Ahmad or even the Hidden Words. When you accomplish these things it feels like a double win, you have accomplished something you set for yourself to do, and you have written the Sacred Writings in your heart.
I hope this helps, and if you have any other techniques or methods you’d like to share, it would be great to hear about them, so please add them to the comments section below.