• Richard Collins

Inside the Mind Palace (Part One)

Updated: Nov 6

Ever heard of the Mind Palace?

Arthur Conan Doyle apparently called it a ‘brain attic.’ In fact, it’s an ancient memory technique invented by the ancient Greeks. Cicero used it to help him memorise his speeches.


In Sherlock, our eponymous sleuth uses the Mind Palace to store all his memories. His brain is so big, he remembers . . . well, he remembers everything he’s ever seen or heard. You can imagine him, can’t you, wandering down passageways and going into room after room, each one filled with shelves. On each shelf, there’s an image or an object which triggers the memory.


I think this metaphor is fantastic. I wish I had a memory like Sherlock’s.


So I’m going to steal it. The metaphor, not the memory (sadly!)


I’d like to put it to another use. I think a Mind Palace is an excellent metaphor for our mental lives. It’s where we go when we temporarily shut out the world, and live inside our heads. In fact, we visit our palaces whenever we ruminate on things. Mull over. Cogitate. Think. It’s also where we pray.


That room I’ve decided to call The Soul Room.


Our mental lives are extremely important. They drive our external, physical lives. What goes on inside our heads, when we think and pray, is really the most important thing about us, because our souls – and in particular our hearts, wills, spirits (three words – same meaning) – govern the physical lives we live in the world. To the degree that we are able to exercise agency.


So why am I talking about this subject on the eve of a national lockdown (for those of us in England)? Because potentially, lockdowns give greater space to our mental lives. Unable to meet with people physically, leaders often have more time on their hands. For some, this is a gift.


But not for those who are running, running.


Ever wondered why busy people are so . . . busy?! Busyness is often driven by fear of the Mind Palace. There are an awful lot of rooms in there which the busy person would prefer not to enter. It’s not surprising, really.


Come on in.


Down the passage lined with doors, we head for the Soul Room. For some reason, however, we end up stumbling into a room marked Worry, Fear and Frustration. Its shelves are full to bursting. So much to occupy our thoughts. Further down the hall, there’s Lament and Regret. Next to that one is Unresolved Conflicts. For some people, that one is quite big. For others, there’s a room which they’d prefer to destroy. It’s called Damaged Family Relationships. Near the end is one called Unanswered Prayer.


The busy leader knows about these rooms, which is why busyness acts as a shield.


But now we’re in lockdown.


Now there is time to enter your Mind Palace and spend some time in there. Now there is the opportunity to go straight to the Soul Room. Don’t allow yourself to be waylaid. Go straight there.


When you arrive, don’t be put off by two discouraging signs which you put up on the wall during previous visits. They’re marked ‘Not Long Enough,’ and ‘Not Doing It Right.’ These are lies which must be rejected. In fact, why don’t you just take them down? And don’t ever put them up again. There is no ‘long enough.’ There is no ‘doing it right.’


Take a seat in the Soul Room. A comfortable chair. Enjoy just sitting there. Don’t do anything. Just sit. Leave your phone in the kitchen. For once, don’t go through a list. Forget ACTS. Forget the lists. Don’t have a plan. Just enjoy being with your heavenly Father, who loves you. Or picture yourself talking to Jesus.


Read some Scripture. Meditate on some verses. Perhaps do a lectio divina.


Slow down. Really slow down, and joyfully ‘waste’ time in the presence of your Creator.


Be refreshed.

We're continuing to update and expand our library of articles to help you in your walk with the Lord and your ministry. New this week: Genevieve Jennings lays out nine helpful "principles of life" for single people. Read more >
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