Look after your mind
A special place
A very effective way of calming the mind and ‘chilling out’ is to imagine a pleasant place that has some significant meaning for you. Such a place might be an actual location, somewhere you went on holiday for example, or it can be entirely imaginary.
A friend of mine, Ben, has created a fictional retreat that he imagines whenever he feels stressed, or simply wants to experience a few minutes of peace. Ben’s special place is a bamboo hut set on a hillock overlooking a dense forest. It’s early autumn and the landscape is ablaze with colour. Ben arrives there in the evening. He sits outside, his back resting against a hay bale, facing west. He watches the sun dip towards the horizon and delights in the gently changing quality of the light as the last rays tinge thin wisps of cloud.
Refreshing the mind
Once the sun has set and the darkness deepens, the Milky Way arches like mist across the sky. But, playfully, Ben has located his world much closer to the centre of the galaxy than we are, here on Earth. As such, clouds of stars shine out in their millions. Now and then a meteor streaks by above; Ben makes each meteor trail a different vivid colour. Soon afterwards, two moons rise above the roof of the hut; one moon being small, like ours, the other much larger.
After enjoying the spectacle for a while, Ben enters the hut. There is a cosy wood fire burning in a fire bowl. Opposite the doorway there are bookshelves lined with Ben’s favourite books and precious belongings, some of them going back to Ben’s childhood and long gone in the real world. Sometimes there’s a new object that Ben didn’t anticipate, a gift from the subconscious you might say. Ben always returns from his special place refreshed and feeling good.
If you choose to practise this technique, sit somewhere quiet and bring your special place to mind. Don’t struggle to imagine details and don’t worry if the mental image seems vague or your mind keeps jumping to other things. Be patient with yourself. Over time, your retreat will ‘stabilise’ in your imagination, and at that point you can begin adding further details. Ben has reached the stage where he feels happy to invite others to join him; fictional characters, loved ones who are no longer with him, childhood friends and so on.
As with so many techniques, that look after your mind, this one is effective, brings cumulative benefits, takes up little time – and it’s free!