Have you ever read a spiritual or self-development and found an interesting practice that asks you to “close your eyes and visualise”? I am sure you have. And I suspect that many of you have found it a bit frustrating that usually there are not instructions or guidelines on how exactly you are supposed to visualise. This is especially true if you are just getting started in this marvellous (and sometimes crazy) world of self-exploration and growth. That is why today I am sharing this mini visualisation course with you. I hope you find the lessons helpful and you do stick to the practice, because creative visualisation is the moving force behind many spiritual techniques that can help you achieve your dreams. Lo let’s get started!
What is visualisation?
In a nutshell, visualisation is using your imagination to see yourself doing and achieving a certain result. This imagery is rich in details such as colours, sounds, tastes, feelings. The more intense the imagery, the stronger its power. You can imagine yourself at the final stage of your goal or you can break your goal into several phases and imagine yourself achieving each one. Some people use the power of visualisation as a training ground for ideas and strategies. The clearer your goal becomes, the clearer you can see the options, steps, changes and adaptations that you may need to make it true.
In some esoteric and spiritual beliefs, visualisation is a connection of sorts between inspiration and what Aristotle called “the world of ideas”: the energetic essence or template of every possibility, of every potential invention, creation, life changing action. In a more down-to-earth way, this world of subtle creative templates can be seen as idea-seeds collected by the subconscious through our lifetime, waiting for the conscious will to tap into them, develop them and use them as a compass for fruitful action.
In the film Hero, with Jet Li, there is a scene where two warriors are facing each other, ready for combat. But before they move a muscle, they go into themselves, into the world of imagination, and visualise the pending battle from different angles, anticipating potential moves and how they would counteract them. In the movie, this mental exercise lasts several minutes. The actual fight, a few seconds. This is one of the best examples of visualisation that I have seen. You can also observe it in the mannerisms of top-class athletes before a race; in the inquisitive expression of a designer when looking at the potential of a room and the future engineer dreaming of cars as she looks at clouds on an autumn day.
Visualisation allows us to see more clearly the result we want. It sets a destination for the unconscious mind, which in turn motivates it to chart or create a path towards it. To the mind it makes no difference that the image is “real” or imagined: it will accept it as truth and deal with it accordingly. This can be in the form of finding inner resources that help bring forth your visualised outcome; beginning to see patterns and insights on how to achieve your goal; and bring “proof” from past experiences or beliefs, that you have what it takes to make this image true in the material world. If emotion is added to the mix, you get extra support, as positive emotions will put you in a more creative mind-set, help you go beyond those moments of doubt and frustration, and inspire and motivate you to keep moving forwards. From a spiritual point of view, visualisation transforms thought into energy and releases it into the Universal clockworks or programmes, thus placing the image into the process of creation and manifestation.
So let’s learn how to visualise.
The Centring Practice
Silence gives you the chance to free yourself for a short while from everyday distractions.
It’s also an opportunity to align yourself to the rhythm of Life.
The first element of visualisation is peace and relaxation, since both promote creativity. So find a time and space when and where you will not be disturbed. Sit or lie in a comfortable position. One of the easiest ways to relax and connect to inner peace is breathing and scanning. If you feel comfortable doing it, close your eyes and place your attention on your breathing. Please read the instructions several times or have someone read them out loud for you.
Feel the air passing through your nostrils, the back of your throat, down to your chest.
Bring the air into your belly, until it “pops” out a bit.
Exhale gently, pressing your abdomen muscles lightly, so all the air can come out.
Breathe in this way for several minutes and then return to your regular pattern of breathing.
Now, think about your toes. If it helps, press the muscles lightly in this part of the body.
Think about your legs, your knees, your thighs.
Become aware of your abdomen, buttocks, back, chest, shoulders.
Think about your arms, elbows, wrists, hands, fingers.
Focus your attention now on the back of your neck, on the muscles around your jaw line, on your cheeks, around your eyes, on the back and top of your head.
Repeat the process, but now you are going to tell yourself that when you think about a specific part of the body, the whole of your being relaxes 10 times more.
If you are good at imagining, see a scanner, like the ones in the supermarkets that are used to scan the barcodes, going slowly from the tip of your toes to the top of your head.
Tell yourself that where the scan passes, your whole body relaxes 10 times more. If you can’t imagine the scan, repeat the previous step of thinking about and/or pressing different body parts and telling yourself that each time your body relaxes 10 times more.
Breathe in deeply one more time.
Become aware of your surroundings. Wiggle your toes and fingers. When you are ready, open your eyes.
The Visualisation Exercises
This is your life and life is made out of the choices we have made and the perceptions we have put our attentions unto. Direct your life to where you want to go.
In spite of the name, visualisation doesn’t have to be a visual exercise. It can be as simple as “thinking” about what you are visualising, or using your mental voice to tell you what you are visualising. For the purpose of this explanation, I’ll use words such as “seeing” and “watch.” Let’s then perform our first visualisation exercise.
(Note: read the following instructions before carrying out the next task.)
Perform your centring practice.
Think about your house. That’s it, just think about your house.
Now think about your front door.
Think about your bedroom.
Think about your closet.
Think about your favourite shoes or the shoes you use the most. See the shoes. Good.
Now breathe in, get up, stretch, have some fresh water, and get an object, anything, a photo frame, a fruit, a book, something that feels comfortable to hold and handle.
Look at it carefully. What shape is it? What colour? Are there any particular marks or designs on it? What is it made of? How does it feel? Is it smooth, rough, cool, warm? What’s its smell? How heavy is it? If possible, taste it.
Put the object in a place where you cannot see it, and get some pencil and paper.
Breathe in deeply and close your eyes and think about the object. Can you see the colour, the shape? Can you see the pattern or design? Can you sense the taste, how it weighs in your hand, its texture?
Now say out loud all the information in your mind.
Breathe in deeply, open your eyes, and write down all this information. Take out the object and compare it with your notes. How close were they to the solid object?
Perform the centring practice and the first visualisation exercise for a few days (I suggest three to nine), using different objects each time. If you like, you can start the visualisation as we did here, thinking about places and things from your everyday life: your car, the route you take to work, your kitchen, your street, your favourite pub or restaurant and so forth. Doing so will be a gentle reminder to your mind that you already have the capacity of visualising - you just have to master it.
For the second visualisation exercise, you are going to need a picture of yourself during a holiday. It can include family, friends, pets or a special location - anything that triggers the memories of the day. Perform your relaxation, centring practice. Please remember to read all the instructions before carrying out the tasks. If you think it can help, record them before the visualisation. Leave a few pauses in between questions.
Look at the picture carefully and see how many things can you remember about the day or moment it was taken.
Close your eyes and bring forth that moment in your mind. Where are you? Who is with you? What are you doing? What can you hear? What’s the weather like? How are you feeling? What can you see that is not in the picture? Can you zoom in on a person or object that is either far way or blurred in the picture?
Breathe in deeply and open your eyes.
As with the previous practice, write down the information that came to mind and then compare it to the picture. As before, perform your relaxation practice and this exercise for a few days, using different pictures each time.
So, now we are ready for our third visualisation exercise. I am sure that by now your constant practice is helping to make the whole process a bit easier. For this exercise, you will need a short passage from a book that is very descriptive. It would be good if it included people talking or acting. Read the passage a few times. As always, read fully or record the instructions before visualising.
Undertake your relaxation routine.
Close your eyes.
Imagine you are seeing the passage come to life, as if in a film. What’s the environment and the people like? What are they saying? What’s going on? How does the image and/or actions make you feel?
When you are ready, breathe in deeply, open your eyes, and write down your ideas. See how they compare to the passage. Do this a few times with different books.