Prior to the past two weeks I was feeling overwhelmed by all the material I was learning. More specifically, I was feeling overwhelmed because the information was not affecting me in any way, I wasn’t using it in any way, or it wasn’t information that was actually building a skill. Even the insights I read or listened to about the weekly Torah portion, which always relates to something personally, only touched me that day, maybe for the week, but no longer. It got to the tipping point when I recognized my intuition was trying to tell me something. I interpreted it to mean I need to be more active with my learning, especially in the mornings when I sip on coffee and learn prior to engaging in formal prayers.
Additionally, I had been listening to Limitless by Jim Kwik which, as I had familiarity with before from taking his speed reading course, is all about learning how to learn and how use your brain efficiently. Since I was familiar with the information, this learning served as a review. In reviewing the information, it evolved my current model of understanding. I was wont to connect all the dots of information I learned from leaders in both sciences - Dispenza and Jim Kwik - and in mysticism - hasidic rabbis and sages - that learning and reviewing is key to remembering.
The Talmud relates that “one who reviews his studies one hundred times is not comparable to one who reviews his studies one hundred and one times.” The Tzemach Tzedek brings a Gematria (numerology in which the letters of the Hebrew alphabet are substituted with corresponding numbers) which highlights the significance of the numbers 100 vs 101. The word in Hebrew for remember is זﬤר (zachor) which equals 227. The word for forget is שﬤח (shakach) which equals 328. The difference between them is 101. This, as written in the Chayenu section of the teachings of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok Schneerson on the Torah portion of Vayechi (lit. and he lived), illuminates what the Talmud relates that what stands between remembering and forgetting is reviewing 101 times. The additional 1 hints that a student would review more than the customary amount of 100 times i.e going above and beyond what’s recommended of the student.
This was exactly as I had learned during the weeklong meditation retreat with Dr. Joe Dispenza! If learning is creating new connections in the brain, then repeating it is keeping the connections there. Otherwise the circuits prune away within hours or days.
Furthermore, the Rebbe Maharash mentions this in his discourse entitled, Tract on Prayer, “for though a person studies laboriously to acquire wisdom and understanding, if he doesn’t engrave the words in his mind and heart through "service of the heart - this is prayer,” then within a short passage of time, the matter is entirely lost.“
In The Ethics of Our Fathers Chapter 6 number 2, the sages show a connection between the word for engrave and the word for freedom.
“The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved [charut] on the tablets” (Ex. 32:16). Read not charut, “engraved” but cherut, “freedom,” for the only person who is truly free is one who occupies himself with Torah study. Avot 6:2 (Ethics of Our Fathers 6:2).
The only person who is truly free is one who can apply what he is learning and make sure the concept is fully understood before moving on. Dispenza further comments that, "when you come to a concept that is complicated and you’re not getting it, if you keep reading past that point your comprehension goes down incrementally.” This is what the Rebbe Maharash meant/means by engraving one’s studies in his mind and in his heart.
If you can stay present with what you’re learning and build a complete model, and then integrate it into the network of neurons you already have, you will build the concept more and more and it will begin to wire more firmly in your brain. Once it is grasped intellectually, the information can give birth to an emotion - the feeling of satisfaction once something is really understood, like when you learn the reason behind a piece of art by an artist.
All of this is insightful, but now we know (once more!) that we must apply this so it sticks.
How can we evolve our ability to learn and to review information so that the information sticks?
In Limitless, brain coach Jim Kwik presents an optimal method to learning faster and in a more fun manner while building retention. He teaches the F.A.S.T.E.R. method:
F is for Forgetting what you already know i.e letting go of preconceived notions.
A is for Active learning. The learning and studying we engage in must be more active learning rather than passive learning - reading information but not doing anything with it.
S is for the State of being we learn in. A long term memory is equal to information times emotion (LT Memory = Information x Emotion). If there’s no emotion in the learning, the information won’t stick i.e anything x 0 is 0. The more intention and meaning behind what you’re doing, the better the results.
T is for Teaching. When you teach something you get to learn it twice. The approach to learning something in knowing you’re going to teach it is different than just learning for oneself.
E is for Entering the time to study in your calendar.
R is for Review. As we highlighted in today’s newsletter.
I grabbed my dotted notebook, drew a line down the page using the capture & create learning method, returned to my passion for doodling notes, asked myself questions as I read, and ultimately began again my active learning journey. It has illuminated with color the morning activities I do in an engaging and retentive way.
Before you start learning something new, ask yourself “how can I become more active in my learning?”