How Does Visualization Create Changes in Life?

Visualization is an extremely powerful technique that uses the imagination to create particular states of mind and being. It is becoming increasingly popular and can be used for a wide variety of purposes, such as improving the concentration and training the mind or increasing self-confidence and problem solving. It can even be used for healing or for helping to achieve spiritual enlightenment.

How Visualization Works

Visualization goes far beyond just the imagination. Although it uses the imagination to create mental images of things, it goes much farther because it involves all the senses and not just sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste but the emotions as well. Some visualizations can manifest themselves on a physical level.

As an example of this, try to remember a situation that you found particularly frightening. It could be a terrifying car ride, for example, or a lonely walk late at night in a dark, secluded street. If you can’t remember, what about any phobias you might have? For example, if you are frightened of spiders, imagine one jumping onto your hand or into your hair. If you are afraid of heights, imagine jumping out of an airplane. If you visualize this clearly enough so that you can recall that past experience in detail or feel the spider moving in your hair, you will find that your body responds to this stress and you will notice some physical reactions taking place. For example, you will probably tense up and your pulse will get quicker. You might also find that you are breathing more rapidly. If the stress is strong enough, you might even find yourself sweating or shivering.

The reason your body is responding in this way is that our bodies do not distinguish between things we visualize and reality itself. So, if the situation you are visualizing is stressful enough, it will trigger the body’s fight, freeze or flight mechanism.

As we have already seen, when the fight or flight response kicks in, your body will shut down all the systems that are not essential to immediate survival, adrenaline and anti-inflammatory agents will be pumped into the system and your body will be posed for potentially life saving flight.

Benefits of Visualization

The good news about this is that you can use visualization to achieve beneficial effects. For example, when we daydream about something that makes us happy, the brain produces endorphins and other pleasure-giving chemicals and our bodies experience the physical sensations of joy. We can use visualization to achieve the same effects.

If we now go back to our man with the fear of public speaking, we can easily see how he could use visualization to help himself over his fear. He could simply visualize himself over his fear. He could simply visualize himself in front of his audience, speaking confidently and clearly. The audience is smiling and hanging onto every word he says. He is enjoying himself and feeling very calm and comfortable. At the end of his speech, the audience applauds enthusiastically. If he keeps on visualizing this situation in the same positive way, eventually the right side of his brain will come to associate the thought of public speaking with pleasure and he will find that his fear disappears.

So, visualization is not just all in the mind. Although it starts in the mind, it can have profoundly physical effects.

Making Visualization Work for You

As mentioned earlier, visualization can be hugely beneficial and can help you to achieve all kinds of things. If you want to conquer a fear, you can use visualization to help you, as our man with the fear of public speaking could have done. If you want to cure an addiction, perhaps to give up smoking, drinking caffeine or you would like to increase your self-confidence, you can use visualization to help with that too.

The main thing to bear in mind with visualization is that you should endeavor to do it as clearly and in as much detail as possible. You also need to keep doing it, in order to reinforce the message, you are giving to the right side of your brain. This side of the brain, you will recall, Is the side that deals with feelings and intuition rather than thinking and speaking. It will receive your visualizations without question and transform them into feelings, once you get them past the left side of the brain. Practice and repetition will help you achieve this.

Using The Power of Visualization

Visualization involves using the two different kinds of imagery: active and receptive. Active imagery can be any image that is chosen and focused on for a particular purpose. Receptive imagery on the other hand, involves allowing images to arise from the subconscious mind and following where they lead. Some people prefer the discipline of active imagery, while others feel more comfortable letting images surface in their own way. Some people feel comfortable using both types of imagery.

Whichever imagery you find you prefer; you can use either active or receptive images to help train the mind. If you would like to find out how easy or difficult it is for you to visualize something and whether you prefer active or receptive imagery, try the visualization skills exercise below.

Visualization Skills

This meditation is excellent for assessing and sharpening your powers of visualization. Practice in a quiet place when you know you won’t be disturbed.

1. Adopt any posture that feels comfortable. The seated or cross-legged postures are best, but the lying down posture can also be used if you are not tired. Breathe naturally and close your eyes.

2. Try to visualize an oak leaf. What is it life? Try to see it in your mind’s eye as though it really exists. See it in as much detail as you can. Notice everything about it; its color, shape and texture. Notice every fine line on it. Turn the leaf over and study the other side. If you can bring in the other senses, so much the better. Rub the oak leaf between your fingers. What does it feel like? Can you hear the sound of your fingers rubbing the leaf? Put the leaf to your nose, can you smell it?

3. Open your eyes. Write down every sensation and detail. Repeat this exercise with the following objects: a coin, a rose and ice-cream.

Active or Receptive?

What did you notice about each of the objects you have just visualized? Was the leaf vibrant or withered? Smooth or crumbly? What did you do with the coin? Was the rose hard to visualize? Could you taste the ice-cream? If you could only keep the object in view for a short time, you need to keep practicing until you can hold each image for extended periods.

If you found you couldn’t visualize these objects at all, don’t worry: many people find visualization hard but master it with practice. Alternatively, you may have found that your brain substituted different images, such as a dahlia instead of a rose. If so, you may be more comfortable with the flexibility of receptive imagery. Receptive images can be just as revealing as active ones and both will help you to train your mind. Eventually, you should aim to be at ease with both types.

Increasing Your Understanding

Images are the language of your subconscious mind. If you can learn to communicate with your subconscious mind using and interpreting these images, you will have found a way to communicate with your subconscious and use the understanding it can bring. For example, if you want to understand other people or a situation you find confusing, you can ask your subconscious mind to help you. You will need to use receptive imagery to do this- in other words, you will need to let images arise freely.

So, the next time you are in a situation you find difficult to understand, try the “gaining insight” experiment below.

Gaining Insight
Try this technique to help you understand a particular feeling or situation.

1. Adopt the seated or cross-legged posture. Alternatively, you can do this meditation in the standing posture. Relax into your chosen posture and breathe naturally for a few moments.

2. Close your eyes and hold the feeling or situation you want to explore in your concentration for a few moments. When you are ready, ask your subconscious mind to produce an image that describes either the situation or the feeling that you are trying to understand.

3. Let the image surface. At first it may seem to have nothing to do with what you are asking. Persevere- it may take practice to understand the symbols of your mind. Perhaps your image is of a barking dog-then you realize the person you are trying to fathom is “all bark and no bite.”

4. Once you have the image and have studied it, close down the meditation and open your eyes. Think about the image when you are not meditating.

Sacred Space

Visualization can help you to find a sacred space, a sanctuary you can go to in order to rest and receive comfort if you need it. If you also need to seek guidance, you can use visualization to help you find a guide there.

There are many guided meditations to help you with this. Some are available on tape and talk you through the visualization so that you can concentrate on responding to the imagery. In sanctuary meditation, you will need to use active and receptive imagery. When you have finished, think about what you saw and heard. It may take time before you fully understand it or you may understand it immediately.

Sanctuary Meditation

You can do this meditation whenever you like. Choose a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.

1. Adopt the seated or cross-legged posture, whichever feels most comfortable to you. Once you have adopted your posture, take a few moments to relax into it and breathe naturally.

2. Close your eyes and see yourself walking into the woods. You are following a small stream. You can hear the water flowing gently, trickling over the rocks and you can see patches of shining blue sky between the leaves of the trees. Squirrels run up the trunks of the trees in front of you. What color are the squirrels? Birds are warbling in the branches over your head and you can hear the crunch of twigs and leaves under your feet as you walk. You feel very comfortable and very relaxed.

3. Up ahead, the trees’ part and you enter a large clearing. The stream flows through the clearing and you can smell the heady scent of woodland flowers as you emerge into the glades. The clearing is peaceful, except for the sound of the water and occasional birdsong.

4. Lie down on the ground here and relax totally. Soak in the warm sun. you are perfectly safe here and feel free to do as you wish. Stay here as long as you like until you feel both rested and refreshed.

5. Now is the time, if you want to meet your guide. Relax, and wait for your guide to enter the glade from the trees on the far side. Your guide may be a man, a woman, or an animal. When you have greeted each other, pay special attention to anything your guide says. You can also use this time to ask questions on everyday or spiritual matters.

6. When you have finished, thank your guide and make your way out of the clearing and into the wood. Gradually close down your meditation and come back to everyday consciousness. Open your eyes.


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