We’ve already seen how to develop perfect memory by building palaces in our minds. That’s an amazing technique, but a great memory is only a hint of how powerful mental environments can be.
How about using your imagination to create a place that you can go to at any time to generate or recreate any feeling, emotion or memory you feel like?
This place can serve as a relaxing place for meditation, a place to feel energized, to bring good memories or feelings, overcome fears, solve problems or perform any change in your mood. In fact, how about creating a place that can achieve all of this and more?
Enter the Mental Sanctuary
The Mental Sanctuary is a metaphor for a specially designed place that exists only in your imagination. Think of that place as your personal fortress — a safe haven that you can “enter” at any time to recreate any feeling or mental state.
The place you choose as your mental sanctuary may be based on a real place you know well, or on one completely made up. Anything goes, as long as you can vividly picture it in your mind.
In that regard, the Mental Sanctuary is a virtual environment that works in the exact same way as the ones in the Memory Palace technique. (If you haven’t done so, I really urge you to read the article explaining the technique, as it lays out the foundation and shows the basic principles on how to create mental places.)
Ideally, your mental sanctuary should be a place with many ‘sub-places’ or compartments — such as a house with many rooms. The Mental Sanctuary can have a vast multitude of uses; each one of these uses will be associated with one specific sub-place. For every emotion you want to recreate — for every mental state you want to put yourself in — you should have a specifically designed place in your sanctuary.
That’s why I recommend that your mental sanctuary be an actual construction — such as a palace or big house. The highly-structured way these places are built — based on rooms, doors and corridors — makes them very effective as the basis for creating our visual environments. Of course, you can design your sanctuary in any way you want — just make sure it’s a pleasant place and make it as rich as you can so you can use it in many ways and expand it in the future.
Let me show how a mental sanctuary works by sharing some ideas of what you can do with it.
Ideas for Your Sanctuary
Here are some ideas you can use for your own sanctuary, based on the most important rooms of my own (which is a medieval castle in a mountain):
1. Relaxation Room
Relaxing is perhaps the reason people most often mentally transport themselves to other places (don’t you ever daydream about your next holiday destination?). In your sanctuary, you can have a special place to relax, and set it up the way it works for you.
As for me, this is the flat rooftop of my sanctuary. From there I can enjoy a magnificent view of green mountains. I can also hear the splashing of a waterfall nearby. The room is completely empty except for a small cushion on the floor I sit on to meditate.
In my imagination, my eyes are wide open, absorbing the visual richness of that virtual world. And this is how I meditate: instead of using common meditation techniques — such as focusing on a mantra or on your own breathing — my object of focus is simply keeping the imagery vivid at all times. I found that very effective for focusing and training the mind to ignore fleeting or unrelated thoughts.
2. Energization Room
Just like there are times when you must relax, there are also times when all you need is to be filled with enthusiasm. Here, again, your mental sanctuary can help. How about having at your disposal one environment especially designed to energize you?
In that room, you can place objects or people that are sources of motivation and inspiration for you. You can, for example, have a big LCD screen on the wall highlighting goal-achieving moments that are yet to come.
In my sanctuary, right next door from the stairway to the meditation rooftop, there’s a wooden door that takes me to what I call my ‘Vision Room': a room that has the sole purpose of getting me motivated and energized about my goals. There, I have three pictures on the wall that represent my lifelong goals. Whenever I go in that room, I choose one picture, take a careful look at it and commit to do one action — no matter how small — towards that goal as soon as I get back out of the sanctuary. Grabbing the doorknob as I leave the room is the trigger to make sure I don’t forget to set that action.
3. Gratitude Room
Having a specific place and time to be thankful for all the things that you care about is a great way to put your life in perspective. This is a place that I believe every Mental Sanctuary should have, as it’s a terrific way to make you feel good — especially when done regularly.
How you set up this room — just like all the others — is a very personal choice. You can have objects, pictures, sculptures — anything. You can even meet real people that are important to you — either alive or those who already passed away.
One thing that I recommend is making this room the entrance hall of your sanctuary, so that it is impossible to miss it both on your way in or out.
Empowering Rituals as Journeys
Just like it happens with the Memory Palace technique, you tap into the full power of the technique when you define specific walkthroughs in your sanctuary, instead of just imagining isolated scenes.
By defining and following predefined routes in your sanctuary, you can easily go through any kind of standard ritual, procedure or checklist you have. Some quick examples:
- If you have some kind of empowering morning ritual, you can easily transform it into a walk in your sanctuary. You can, for example, pay a visit to your gratitude room, and then head to your goal room to kickstart the day.
- Instead of having just a relaxation room, you could, for instance, have a relaxation path, where you visit multiple rooms; maybe a corridor or outside path, where you progressively relax as you walk.
- Follow through any checklist you like, even the ones that are ‘more technical’. If you’re into
Getting Things Done for example, you can make your weekly review a virtual walk. By adding this sensory dimension to it, you can make it much more enjoyable than going through a dull, linear checklist.
You’re the Architect
Remember that you are the master of your mental sanctuary and, as such, its design is only limited by your imagination.
There are an unlimited number of ideas that might work for your Mental Sanctuary. You could have, for instance, a ‘Creativity Room’. Or maybe a place to talk to your future self. If you’re afraid of talking in public, you could build an auditorium and fill it with people.
The point is: the Mental Sanctuary gives you a structured framework that accommodates any visualization technique you like, in a very personal and powerful way.
As you become more familiar with your sanctuary, you’ll start ‘paying attention’ — creating, that is — sounds, scents and smells and all sorts of tiny details, just like a vivid dream. Being able to be in such a realistic and pleasant place at will is a truly rewarding experience.
Although my own sanctuary has only a few rooms, I’m enjoying the benefits from it and am really excited about expanding it.
Do you have your own Mental Sanctuary? Would you like to share some creative design ideas for new rooms?