The second experience occurred as the result of needing to memorize 90 pages of dialog for a theater production. A very daunting task that I eventually mastered by listening to the entire play recorded in my own voice every night while I slept. I surprised myself in dress rehearsal when I did not miss a single line. I had learned my dialogue while sleeping. How did I do that?
One of the primary principles taught in memory training is that we need to pay attention to something in order to remember it. When we can’t find our phone, likely we were not paying attention to where we put it down. But I was not paying attention when I learned 90 pages of dialogue in my sleep; at least my conscious mind was not available. So I must have learned it in my unconscious mind while asleep and was somehow allowed access during rehearsals and performances. Perhaps we can consider that there is both conscious memory and unconscious memory and we can invite the two to collaborate in helpful ways. Back in grad school I was taught that the unconscious mind remembers everything. While that theory is currently under question, I have had clients remember things using hypnosis to access the unconscious mind that they had not been previously able to recall. There are also different types of memory and apparently a skill (such as playing cards or driving a car) can often be remembered even when past personal experiences are not accessible.
"A person’s ability to recall events and experiences involves a variety of complex brain processes. Researchers still do not understand exactly what happens when a person commits something to memory or retrieves information stored in the brain." (from www.medicalnewstoday.com) And even so, there are techniques that facilitate the ability to remember. Mindfulness, paying attention to what we are doing, is perhaps the most helpful, as is associating something we want to remember with something out of the ordinary. So if I want to remember to buy peanuts and orange juice at the grocery, I may conjure up an image of Mr. Peanut with his top hat and monocle on a ladder picking oranges. Though that might seem like a lot of effort, it is a technique that memory competitors use in their tournaments with great success. One of the most important activities to keep your memory functional is to use your brain to actually think, to challenge your thought process with new activities and new thoughts.