Ever heard of a mind palace? It’s called the “method of loci” and it’s a method to memorize and analyze information. With enough imagination, you can use it to do just about anything that you want. Most people are familiar with the term because of BBC’s TV series Sherlock. That’s how I learned what it was called, but I first became familiar with the practice because of my mother.
Seems like everything great in my life came/comes from her.
Now, you might say, “What’s the point of a mind palace? How can it be useful? Would I even be able to do it?”
Well, to the first question, the point can be whatever you want it to be. When I was 8, it was mostly a fun place to go to in my imagination. It didn’t serve much purpose other than that. It didn’t need to.
To the second, it can be incredibly useful in memorizing terms. When I took my GE Biology class in college I utilized my mind palace to keep track of facts that I had to memorize. It helped me tremendously on my tests.
And the third? Well, that’s entirely up to how dusty your imagination is, but I’d think that with a bit of practice anyone can do this to some extent. I do know that there are some people who don’t think in images, so I’m not certain how it would work for them.
I also want to make it clear that I’m not an expert on the subject, and that my version of a mind palace might not be the common way. I just figured it might be interesting.
But how does one go about it?
Step 1: Get to your mental landscape.
This is incredibly important. For the mind palace to work most effectively, it’s important to be in a meditative state. The method my mother taught me is in two parts.
Get in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Then name and picture every color that you can imagine. When you have a clear image of one color, move onto the next. Eventually, you’ll get to the point where you can breeze through this section without picturing every single color. I generally go red, yellow, green, blue, purple, orange, cerise, chartreuse, aqua, mauve, beige, and ultramarine. Sometimes I get every color in between, but I don’t do it every time.
The second part is when you really start picturing the start of your palace. You need to picture yourself walking up steps. As you move up them, imagine each step more fully. Count up to your age as you move up. Imagine the color of the stone, the width of the cracks between sections, the flowers lining the path, anything that can help you gain a clearer picture.
When you reach the top, you should be in your mental landscape, primed and ready to build your palace. As you do it, it will become faster.
Step 2: Construct your palace.
This part shouldn’t be too difficult. The least that you have to do is imagine a door. Once you step through that door, you can add or remove rooms as necessary. I personally like to envision a facade, but that’s up to preference. Now it’s time to make the rooms and features. Here are a few ideas.
Film room: This is a room where you can access any piece of film from your recent life and play it back. It can be useful to go over the day one more time before filing it away. My film room is rather small and cozy, with a projector and rolls of film.
Elevator: This elevator is brilliant. You can use it to call up anyone, living, dead, or fictional to talk with. This can be useful to work out that conversation with your boss without actually talking to him yet. Or if you just want to have a chat with Abraham Lincoln for some reason, you can do that too. I’ve used this as an author to try and get into my character’s heads a bit more.
Subject rooms: This is where using your memory comes into play. I create different rooms for different subjects that I might have to memorize facts from. As I need to memorize facts, I’ll place objects in the room that remind me of that fact. They need to be specific. For instance, let’s say that we needed to remember that Moby Dick was published in 1851. You could have a painting on the wall of a whale, signed by Herman Melville and dated 1851. Or you could have a whale plushy, that when you squeezed it, it said 1851. Something like that.
Library: You can use this room to look up anything you want.
Fun rooms: Whatever you want to make, you can make. I have a room wherein I can turn a dial and enter any setting Dr. Strange style. I have a room specifically for each of my plots to try and figure out ways around certain issues. The sky isn’t even the limit here.
Step 3: Visit often
If the mind palace is going to work for you in any way, you need to utilize it frequently. If you’re going to use it to work through personal issues or file away important things from each day, you need to use it every day. If you’re going to be using it to memorize information, start as early as you can and visit as often as you can to keep that object in tact within the palace. It needs maintenance. That room for my GE Biology class? It’s dusty and covered in white sheets. I couldn’t even tell you what objects I used for anything. I’ll probably replace it soon. The more you utilize it, the faster it will be for you to access it and to remember any given fact. As your palace gets larger, you might need to create way points. These are alcoves or specific objects designed to help you get further into your mind palace without have to start from the front door every time.
Basically, try it out! Have fun with it! And see if it can work for you. There are tons of other resources online too. This is just my way of doing it.