Techniques of Creative Visualization
When I first attempted to use visualization techniques, I thought that I would never be able to do it. Images were fuzzy and indistinct if they appeared at all, and I certainly couldn’t hang onto one. Discouraged at first, friends cheered me on until I felt that I was “getting it”.
Human activity cannot occur without some form of visualization or “seeing with the mind’s eye”. Although we may not be conscious of it, we have to do some kind of visualization in order to move our bodies around. We’re constantly imaging the expected objects which may appear in our path and using that image to navigate. It has nothing to do with ability, since it’s a basic mental function.
Just as we use images to help us get from point A to point B in the material world, we use them to get from point A to point B in our personal world. And we are doing it constantly. When we head to work, we can be visualizing the progress of our day. We see in our mind’s eye our expectations of what we’ll find when we get there, the superiors we’ll need to deal with, customers that have to be placated, etc.
Depending on our mood, the visualization will differ. If it’s Monday morning for instance, we may be groggy and visualize ourselves as less efficient and stumbling around. We needn’t be surprised if our morning turns out to be exactly that.
Our unconscious but continuous acts of visualization are the map-making activities of our lives. We “see” what we expect to encounter, and chances are, that’s what will happen. The metaphysics of creating our lives is happening on a continuous basis.
Visualization is one of the most important tools someone on a spiritual path can use. Through the use of creative visualization, we can propel ourself into new heights, remove barriers to our progress and establish a whole new level of serenity.
Ok, how? The most basic visualization which must occur, is the image of ourself. We hear a great deal about “self image” in psychological terms, but now we can get to the nitty-gritty of it. What is our self image now, and what do we want it to be? It can be helpful to sit in front of a mirror to accomplish this.
Get a good look at yourself in the mirror and then close your eyes. Do you see a human being there? Or do you see a composite of different parts? With many of my clients starting out, this is what they’ll see:
- Bad hair
- Big nose
These are evaluation judgements which get tied up in the visualization process. Surely, you’ve known people who, when taken apart in pieces, are not attractive (who is?). But, as a whole, they are striking, have an imposing presence or you just feel good around them. Their physical appearance is irrelevant. To start off, look for something like this in your self image. Visualize an “air about you”, a charisma which draws others to you. At some point in your life, you must have felt this. When life was particularly good, you were succeeding in some way, or felt loved. See that person in the mirror surrounded by this kind of magnetic energy. Spend as much time as you want, seeing it and feeling it.
Creative visualization works best if you have a foundation of experience to draw upon. Somewhere within you there is a seed of what you want for yourself that you’ve glimpsed before. Start with this. If you want greater peace in your life, remember a time when you felt peaceful and project that memory into your current visualization. If you begin with something you’ve gone all of your life believing impossible, you’re setting yourself up for a fall. Allow yourself to improve at a pace which is realistic for you and your belief system.
It only takes one or two successes with visualization to calm down the mind enough to be more receptive. This is why it’s important to begin with something you consider to be do-able. Allow yourself the time to grow, and exercise patience. This is not because visualization is a long and difficult process, because it isn’t. It’s only that impatience makes the process far more difficult and is actually a counter-visualization of it’s own. The counter-visualization is something like “Never getting this done in time”.
Giving yourself a simple visualization to practice with is important in any visualization endeavor whether it’s your first time or you’ve been doing it for years. If it’s a big project, such as changing your whole life style, begin with something like the way you would perceive your life in the new way. Leave out the details of a new wardrobe, home or job and just see yourself enjoying life and feeling fulfilled. Carry that image with you throughout your days. Feel it. Get comfortable with it, like an old, favorite robe. See it as perfectly right and natural for you, and anything else would be inconceivable. There. You’ve got it.
Some people have a difficult time with visualization techniques when they first begin. I was one of them. My problem was that my mind was unruly. Being something of a natural rebel, my mind tried to rebel against itself. I would attempt to see my life going well and it would immediately start listing all the reasons this couldn’t be so. I learned that this was the “try not to think of a pink elephant” trick. The effort of not thinking of something brings it immediately to mind. Many of us simply do not believe that we have control of our thought processes. This can change.
The neatest trick to handling this that I’ve found is the “comfy robe” approach mentioned above. This keeps the mind from getting skittish like a nervous horse. Of course you can visualize. Blind people visualize in their own way (frequently with greater effectiveness). It’s easy. It’s natural. You’ve been doing it all of your life. Now you’re doing it consciously, which only makes it more fun.
Some of us don’t do so well with a static image. We require motion or a story to keep our mind from going off on an expedition of it’s own. This alternate method of starting visualization is to make your daydreams work for you. Most of us will have one or two favorite daydreams that we play with a lot. Perhaps it’s redecorating your house. Or taking a cruise. Or telling off the boss. Whatever it is, no doubt you’ve rehearsed it well. You’ve added something here, removed something there.
All that you have to do is add something different to the story. Choose a blue couch for the living room instead of the brown one. Cruise to Tahiti instead of Maui. Leave the boss whimpering in a corner instead of stomping off. See? You’ve done it! You’re working with your everyday imaging abilities.
What if you feel you can’t get any image at all? I got stuck in this one for awhile. Oddly enough, creative visualization isn’t only pictures. Mental images include all the senses, all the feelings. Some of us can bring up the smell of bread baking or the scent of a loved one. What about the texture of a nubby carpet or soft satin? Can you hear the way Mom used to call you to come home from playing? How about the bite of last night’s salsa?
Being able to recreate any of the senses shows that you have the ability to image. In most “visualization” exercises you can begin with the sense that you’re able to work with most easily. Using our example of changing your lifestyle, try smelling the beach bum’s ocean breezes. Or tasting exotic East Indian food. Or feeling the desert heat.
It’s important that you not convince yourself that you’re incapable of doing this. Unless you’re in a coma, you’re imaging constantly whether you’re conscious of it or not.
Don’t scare yourself. It’s only images.