• Resilient Practice

How to Visualise

“The clearer you are when visualising your dreams, the brighter the spotlight will be to lead you on the right path”

Gail Lynne Goodwin

Visualisation: the formation of a mental image of something

Guided meditations, are often aiming to set a scene, creating a picture to work with. For example: imagine a beautiful waterfall. Sometimes we are aiming to recall memory.

We are trying to create a scene which is easy for our subconscious mind to work with. This reduces resistance. It prevents our conscious mind from stepping in and telling us that we cannot see a believable picture and therefore we cannot progress any further.

Being able to visualise is a key skill in meditative practice.

The VAK model first introduced by Barbe[1] and later expanded upon by Fleming[2] suggests that some people are better able to learn and process with the use of one sense rather than another. In fact, we all learn using a combination of all of our senses but the extent to which we utilise each one varies from person to person.

People who describe themselves as visual learners will use phrases like, “I see what you are saying” and “Picture this.” They find it easy to picture events and recall and describe settings.

Auditory people will say “I hear you,” “sounds good to me.” They will always remember what was said to them at key events.

Kinaesthetic people will use visceral phrases like “My gut feeling is…” “it didn’t feel right.” They will be sensitive to changes of mood picked up in the non-verbal communication.

Olfactory people will be very connected to taste and smell and may use language like “I smell a rat” or “it left a nasty taste in my mouth.” We have all experienced the evocative effect of taste and smell, on memory and emotion.

What does this have to do with visualisation?

The pictures that we see do not always appear like post cards or photographs. The best thing to do if you are worried that you are not seeing images is to relax and simply know that they are there.

When we are visualising during an exercise, we must intensify the image with information from our other senses. Such information can provide important insights.

In shamanic journeying we are not given guidance as to what to ‘see’.’ We are asked to accept and trust what comes. We are better able to achieve this when we are practised at visualisation.

Below are some exercises to improve visualisation skills:

Try this:

· Take a simple object from your surroundings. Hold it in your hands. Examine it closely taking in every piece of information that it has to offer you. Do not forget about your other senses.

Now put down the object and close your eyes. Try to picture it in your mind’s eye, just exactly as it was when you were looking at It. If it begins to fade, repeat the process.

Now put the object out of sight and write or speak a detailed description of it. Know that without visualisation of the object, you would not be able to describe it.

Alternatively, put the object out of sight and take a pencil and paper. Begin to recall the object and draw it exactly as it appears to you in your mind’s eye. The quality of your artwork is not important here. Just know that object is out of sight and so the image that you produced came only from your visualisation.

· Now try the above exercise with a more detailed image such as a photograph or several different objects. Remember to use your mind’s eye to create a detailed description or image rather than verbally recalling what was there.

· Now create a mental image of a simple object without a visual reference. For example: an apple. It is easy to remember what an apple looks like, but you cannot describe your particular apple without visualisation.

You can also draw your apple.

With your improved visualisation skills have a go at some guided meditations.

Meditation has been the focus of much scientific study. It has been proven to have a beneficial effect on BP, anxiety, depression, sleep, pain and cognitive function[3]. A recent systemic review of the scientific evidence of the effect of meditation through to 2016 found meditation led to an increase in positive emotions and behaviours[4]. A more recent study showed 15 mins of mediation a day had a similar effect on mood and wellbeing as a day of holiday[5].

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[1] Barbe, Walter Burke; Swassing, Raymond H.; Milone, Michael N. (1979). Teaching through modality strengths: concepts practices. Columbus, Ohio: Zaner-Bloser. [2] Fleming, Neil D. (2014). "The VARK modalities". [3] Horowitz S. Health benefits of meditation. Altern Complement Ther. 2010;16:223–8 Chan D, Woollacott M. Effects of level of meditation experience on attentional focus: Is the efficiency of executive or orientation networks improved? J Altern Complement Med. 2007;13:651–7. Burns JL, Lee RM, Brown LJ. The effect of meditation on self-reported measures of stress, anxiety, depression, and perfectionism in a college population. J College Stud Psychother. 2011;25:132–44 [4] Luberto, Christina M.; Shinday, Nina; Song, Rhayun; Philpotts, Lisa L.; Park, Elyse R.; Fricchione, Gregory L.; Yeh, Gloria Y. (2017). "A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of the Effects of Meditation on Empathy, Compassion, and Prosocial Behaviors". Mindfulness. 9 (3): 708–24. [5] Christopher J. May, Brian D. Ostafin & Evelien Snippe (2020) The relative impact of 15-minutes of meditation compared to a day of vacation in daily life: An exploratory analysis, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 15:2, 278-284

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