In this blog I am talking about the benefits of visualization and how you can use them on the path of Meditation. You will learn how to direct the creative powers of visualization in order to help you relax, heal and manifest your spiritual goals. I will also cover the limits of visualization and imaginative methods.
What is Visualization?
When you visualize something, you are using your imagination and your ability to shape feelings in order to tap into a specific experience. Some use it to shape their future, others want to overcome trauma and change the way they see their past. Visualization has been scientifically proven to help in many areas of life. Whether we focus on healing, career, relationships or spiritual goals – imagination can be a powerful tool to help us achieve them.
When we use inner vision to create a certain image and tap into the feeling tone of this image, we visualize. The effects of this practice are far reaching and beneficial. Research shows us, that our brain can’t distinguish between an actual situation and an imagined one (Check this Post from David R. Hamilton PhD). When you are lost in your inner world, it will react in identical ways. You might keep yourself wide awake by imagining how you will fail tomorrow’s exam. You can also feel the healthy sense of comfort and love that came with your first kiss by recalling it vividly.
How does it help with Meditation Practice?
The practice of visualization has been greatly refined by many spiritual traditions allover the world. Many adepts and masters use it widely within prayers, rituals and meditative trainings. My own knowledge about the various techniques is extremely limited however. From my own experience I can tell that it has greatly helped me on this path of mind training. I personally use techniques to help me get into the feeling state of “being able to meditate well” for example. To me this would be more useful than dwelling in the imagination that I am absolutely useless and undeserving.
In my case it has mainly helped me with establishing a healthy sense of self that serves as a better vehicle on the spiritual path. Our sense of self is what runs the show – that is until we go beyond it. The self serves as a boat that gets us to the island of enlightenment/awakening. Once on the island, we can safely let go of the vessel. I would encourage all practitioners not to let go prematurely. Instead, work on refining the vehicle while you still rely on it. One way among many is to “pimp your boat” by using visualization techniques. Use your imagination skillfully to sculpt yourself into a kind, compassionate and equanimous being. This is more constructive and wise than using it in ways that reaffirm our sense of inability and fear.
One way to practice
Rather than trying to relax your body parts in stage one of the practice, see as they relax. Imagine how they melt or dissolve. Watch the tension evaporate or sink into the earth beneath you. There are no limits to your creativity. You definitely want to make sure that it helps you to get into the feeling-state. Practice regularly to work on an image that helps you to access the feeling of relaxation and healing (You could perhaps even do an entire “Dharana 21 day Challenge“). This is particularly important in the first stage of the practice. Later on we need to let go of all mental forms of fabrication anyways. The first stage however gets you into the zone that empowers you to go deeper. It’s your foundation, so spend time with it and refine it well.
You can also take it further and build an entire personality based on kindness, compassion and other wholesome qualities. Reconstruct yourself as a divine being, able to meditate, creating far-reaching positive and beneficial impact on yourself and the surrounding. I would suggest to make use of this powerful tool in order to make yourself more refined, mature and kind. Make sure to question your intention thoroughly before you re-create yourself. Whatever we do with our body and mind has consequences.
The boots are not the path
While I encourage some people to visualize some of the time, I certainly don’t say that visualization is always the best thing for every situation and everybody. Let’s say you have a nice pair of boots (visualization). If you do nothing but admire them all day long, you get nowhere. You might sit around in your nice boots and enjoy the comfy feeling of wearing them, but it still doesn’t replace a walk guided by a powerful purpose. Boots are made for walking, remember? They simply make your walk more comfortable, that’s all!
The practice of visualization does exactly the same. It makes your life a bit easier, more comfortable. You get to places faster and progress is more smooth. Visualization however is empty without a clear sense of purpose. A visualizer without purpose is much like a headless chicken wearing comfy boots. The path consists of many elements and we need to learn how to walk in a balanced way. Some people say “It’s all about the intellect”, others suggest, “Stop the scholarly nonsense, it’s all about love!” and yet others exclaim “Just be yourself”. As I have experienced the spiritual practice so far: All elements are needed and important to complete the path. Visualization is a helpful element on this path for many beings. It’s not the end-goal, just a tool.