Originally written and submitted by 'Lusciniam'.
In our busy and very complicated social/digital landscape that we must learn to circumnavigate with whatever skills, attitudes and backgrounds we come from, some fly above the storm and do not feel its howling winds, darkened skies and tormented seas. Not so, for most of us. Sadly we do not get to feel the warm blanket of the sun, or the light, gentle breeze of the everglades wind.
Or so we lead ourselves to believe.
In truth, anyone, with a little effort and faith, can be like those who do. Because those who do, do not do because of what they have outside of themselves, their circumstances, or their backgrounds (while they can help). It is those who learn to gain mastery over the greatest of enemies who lead the most peaceful lives, because they learn that the greatest of enemies can also be the very closest ally, if we are willing to make friends with it. An old Dharma quote I heard once goes like this, "It is better for a person to cover the soles of their feet with leather than to cover the entire earth". And it's a very central Buddhist concept. Because we spend so much of our lives trying to control a very out of control external world, when the real treasure, the real jewel behind the iron curtains of our misguided views lives in you!
What is a Mind Palace?
The notion of a mind palace may be a term you have come across in the past, be it in works of fiction or Aristotle's first approach to memory exercises. Mind palaces have been knocking around for centuries to say the least. This article comes directly not from a historical source, as much as it's inspired by it, but from my own personal experience and seeks to guide you in designing your own. It is an exercise and tool that requires discipline from its seeker, but will stay with its victor for the reminder of their life!
A mind palace is something that, quite simply put, is a place that lives inside your mind. Typically a mind palace is used for memory recollection, but as I have learned, the mind can do a lot more than just remembering fancy bits information. Your mind, as you may have heard from a million other gurus and self-help boffins, is a powerful tool. And they are not wrong either. But one must dare themselves in order to find out just how amazing your mind truly is.
Not only do we learn to look after ourselves better by looking after our minds, but we also look after our world and each other better. If we so choose it. Have you ever been in a crowded space and had to dodge many people who are busy looking at their smart phones, only to find yourself in a grump over it?
There's a lovely little solution to this. You can turn it into a live action game. I call it 'people dodging'. All that happens in my game is, I walk through the crowded area as I usually would. Then a visual program is activated using the vision centres of my brain to act as a kind of mental google glass headset display.
In front of me I see lines that calculate the optimum path through the crowd based on the speed of nearby pedestrians. If there is a sudden change to the current configuration, so do the lines of the new exit path out of the crowd. And you'd think that took practise!
Actually what I've experienced is my mind seems to automatically do it, as if in a flow state and I move through the crowd with ease. Not only have I just avoided getting annoyed at petty things, but I've also made something that used to be frustrating an enjoyable experience! That is just one example out of many more to come in this series about the things you can do with your mind. As this is something I have practised and cultivated carefully over the last decade, I would like to share as much as I can before moving onto meditation topics (which a mind palace is certainly useful for), as this will be the first of a number of posts regarding how to build, update and look after your mind palace.
Knowing Yourself and your Mind
In order to build your mind palace you must first ask the question, why do you need one? Or better yet, do you need one? Once you have figured this out. You now have a starting point.
And it's really that simple.
Building a mind palace is something that requires two things only:
1) Your imagination
2) Memory recall
The title of this section reads as if the mind is a separate entity; here's some unsettling news. I'm afraid it is not your mind that is, but you are. You see, our brains form an identity during childhood very quickly as when we are born, we cannot distinguish between yourself and the world. Over time we do, but we make a personality as it helps us to maintain a sense of order in social situations. Our survival depends on it. That is why we say things like "I" and "me" rather than refer to ourselves in the 3rd person. It is why we feel as we are real and reality is "there".
We are partly correct, but due to our genetic make-up we are also programed to not see it! While it is vital for survival and for us sending ourselves, it is also the reason we get angry, hurt or upset at stimuli that otherwise wouldn't pose a threat to our survival. Buddha worked this out to a high degree back in 586BC during his enlightenment. That is why he left the palace, because he saw that to be truly free we must go back to see through this veil. It's not scary to do it, the scary part is seeing that our personalities are merely an invention we've come to believe are real.
Now this does not mean you should lose your mind or that your personality needs to be rid of! Not at all! In fact you can still live with it, while seeing through its veil. Because what then happens is we learn to take ourselves, and life, a little less seriously.
Why is this relevant?
Because when you learn to see that your mind is very much an organ like everything else, we will strive to work at it the same way we go to the gym or eat a healthy meal. You'll see it's sentient, not just you.
Or that the sentence you think is yours was a creation of your mind to begin with. Which is a very humbling but gentle experience to realize, that in a way, we are a lot like the music emitted from a record player. Our brains are like the disc and the needle is the electrical impulses shooting through the nerves. The needle hits the record and gives rise to our consciousness.
In my next post I will begin detailing how to go about building your mind palace, using memory techniques to help store vast quantities and how I designed my very own.
Thank you for reading!