Walking meditation and PAOs

Walking meditation is a great activity to deal with stress and feel closer to nature. We usually walk in the local park. As the itinerary is repetitive, we can make it more fun by placing PAO visualizations as we walk. Reviewing these PAO visualizations we may be reminded of the tasks we want to perform every day, like a gratitude diary. Alternatively, while performing walking meditation we may be encouraged to do something creative like solving a complex puzzle, like zen koans or mathematical problems.

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Outdoor mental palaces

Mental palaces do not have to be indoors. Sure, it is easier to use walls and corners than place visualizations near trees and benches. Yet there are several key advantages to outdoor mental palaces – provided you have walking roots you know intimately well.

  1. Stress reduction. Most nature-related activities reduce stress.
  2. Body state memory. Not all of our knowledge is work-related and not all jobs are office jobs. Spiritual subjects, jokes, songs, and history might work better outdoors.
  3. Creativity and brainstorming. Many people find it easier to focus and come up with new ideas when walking.
  4. Embrace boredom. Some walking and jogging can be inherently boring. Reframing this boredom into an opportunity is a good idea.

You do not have to make physical efforts. Even visualizing a walk can have a positive effect on your wellbeing.


Many games have non-player characters that you can address in key locations. These characters offer distractions, guidance, quests, location marking, and many other benefits.  Game companies create NPCs as a way to upgrade our user experience. Life is free to play. We can upgrade. It only makes sense to add PAO (person, action, object) visualizations to our daily walking routines.

These visualized creatures might be amusing. They might encode cues for some activities we should or should not do. Maybe they should urge some emotional work.

In big cities, there are actual people who engage with tourists. They may be drawing on the pavement or selling small items, preaching or demonstrating, or maybe playing music. You can add all of these behaviors and more to your mental structures. Even when a person is not there, you may visualize the presence.

Languages and PAOs for hard words

While practical memorization benefits of outdoor mental palaces are not always clear, they are clear when we learn new languages. Learning languages is an immersive experience, and many of the common situations can be visualized outdoors: traffic, cafe and restaurant, social contacts, arts, and entertainment. The outdoor scenarios are very colorful and they can easily show local highlights from various angles.

Actually placing the relevant visualizations in culturally relevant settings seriously improves their memorability.

Walking meditation

The practice of walking meditation is very cool. Instead of meditating in a sitting position or some yoga pose, the practitioner walks mindfully. This means being fully aware of the body and the surrounding, including full awareness at each step of making the step itself.  The practice of walking meditation increases the feeling of control and improves emotional regulation and awareness. However, it may be very boring and repetitive. Monks fix this by walking in really beautiful locations with strong weather effects. So every time they walk is different.

If you simply walk in your local park, it may be best to introduce PAOs along the way, as a reminder of things you could and should do. For example, you could do a specific breathing exercise, you could contemplate the nature of human existence, or you could think of 10 things you are grateful about. Or maybe do hundreds of other useful things. Simply placing reminders along the way of the activities you could do, opens you up to new activities.

PAO technicalities

It is normal to visualize a specific person doing some simple action with a unique object. The person could encode some words, but could also be an emotional anchor. For example, you can visualize your role model or one of the American presidents.  The person may be accessorized for a more specific meaning.

The action can be quite simple, like sitting or strolling, but it is best to exagurate it. Try various poses used in wedding photography or in Sheaksperian theater. When the PAO is in an indoor palace, the actions are usually more constrained and violent. Outdoors the actions will usually be smoother, freer, and soothing. Such actions are not naturally memorable unless you add some artistic element to them.

The object is typically unique and often encodes three different words: the generic object class and two details. You can really fine-tune the experience by imagining a very specific, inspiring but not really practical

Placement of PAO visualizations

You should ideally repeat the same very simple itinerary each time you do walking meditation. You can have multiple independent itineraries. Once you add visualizations, even if this is the same park and the same walk the meaning of the experience changes, so it is a very different mental palace.

Usually, it is normal to place PAO visualizations in specific easily recognizable locations: specific benches, trees with the unusual shape of branches, crossroads, and other memorable places. The place should be sufficiently unique for effortless placement and revisiting of the visualization.

Extra mental


You can also put large mental palaces if there is a sufficiently large clearing and visualize the itinerary within. Usually, such structures coincide with sitting on a bench or lying on the grass. We substitute physical motion in space with visualized motion in the mental palace.

I do not really have a good use case for such placement. Personally, I used to build such palaces for humanitarian subjects: museums of arts, history, and so on. This way I could admire the rich world of cultural experiences while walking.  For me, it was a purely esthetic experience.

When the weather is really bad

If you cannot walk the actual walk you can still visualize it. If you travel, or if you are sick, or when the weather is so bad that you prefer to stay indoors, you can still visualize the entire walking experience. Typically the speed will be x10 faster and the benefits x10 smaller. Still a great Pomodoro break.

If you relocate or if there is a large construction project, you can still visualize landscapes that are no longer there. You can do the trick with some park you used to love as a child. Doing that, you partially become your inner child, which might be a good thing.

Revisiting is a benefit and not a chore

We often do not like revisiting our mental palaces. The experience is often boring and frustrating. So we try to limit visitation to the bare minimum. The outdoor mental palaces should be fun to visit and revisit. Each revisiting should connect us with our values and strengths, reduce the stress and empower us.

People are different, with very different passions and strengths. You should fine-tune your itineraries both physical and mental to maximize your well-being. Even if you are simply walking a dog, it can be a dip spiritual experience.

Walking meditation PAO

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