5. What is visualisation?
Updated: May 12, 2020
Have you ever daydreamed? Thought about what's for dinner tomorrow? Imagined what someone is doing at the same moment you are thinking of them? Well, all of that involves visualisation. Basically put, it's when you imagine or "visualise" something in your mind.
When you close your eyes, the images become more clear, vibrant, vivid, because you are removing stimulus from the outside world, so your brain can focus more on these internal images. Try it now, close your eyes and imagine a bright red car.
While counting your breathing is necessary when first starting your journey into mindfulness and meditation, or when cooling down rage or anxiety, it is only the foundation. Moving into visualisation is like taking the red pill and joining Neo down the rabbit hole into a whole new world of understanding, like Aladdin's cave of wonders or Willy Wonka's chocolate factory!
If you have ever had psychotherapy, then it's quite likely you already know what I'm talking about. You'll also know the power of visualisation, especially when you allow your subconscious to speak through it. But we'll come back to that in a later blog.
Moving your mindful sessions into ones which use visualisation takes time and will require a little patience and practice. But do persist as it will become an invaluable tool for you. In this context, when we visualise, we learn about what is really going on inside us. Inside our minds, our emotions and our subconscious. The things we don't normally hear for all the noise within our lives. Which is why it's so valuable to bring visualisation into your quiet times when you are fully engaging your PFC and PNS - (remember blog 4). And so here is this blog's key:
Visualisation is realisation.
Visualisation is realisation.
Before taking your visualisation into your quiet times, let's brush up on your skills.
Below is a 6 step visualisation. Use the page scroll to reveal the visualisation one step at a time. That way, you can focus on each step without the distraction of the next.
Close your eyes once you've read a step's instructions so you can visualise it. Once complete and you're ready to move on, open your eyes to read the next step and then close them again to visualise that one.
Step 1: Imagine a large, grey elephant. Give it movement, personality, actions, maybe it's drinking water. It's friendly and knows you, trusts you.
Step 2: Now turn your elephant bright pink. Yes, bright pink! Everything - its legs, trunk, tail, ears. I'll leave you to decide if the tusks stay ivory.
Step 3: Now give your elephant a huge set of white, strong, feather wings. Really huge! Give them movement, but don't fly anywhere, stay on the ground. Touch them, how do they feel. As they move, feel the air blow in your face.
Step 4: Now, climb onto the back of your large pink elephant with huge, white, feather wings and walk it to a cliff edge, below which has a drop-down to the ocean of what looks like 1km. Look left and right at just how large these wings are, like an aircraft! You feel safe on the elephant, which is good. Look out over the ocean, what do you see?
Step 5: The elephant jumps off the edge, falling at increasing speed before opening out those wings fully and levelling out just before you reach the ocean - your stomach feels the sudden pull-up. You notice while flying that your elephant keeps switching colours. Note which ones. Now enjoy the flight. What do you see, in the ocean, in the air? What do you hear? Are there any smells? Does your elephant do any flying stunts?
Step 6: You land back on the ground, softly. You dismount. The wings dissipate, vanishing into the air. And finally, your elephant turns grey again. Watching it, how do you feel?
So, that was a brief 5min example of visualisation. Did you find it easy? Hard? Fun? Did it feel visually strong? What part sticks out to you?
Notice how I asked you to touch things, smell things and hear things? This is all part of building up your ability to visualise. At the beginning, I said this is about imagining or visualising things. Well, it is, but inside that, just as in a dream, you can sense things too. Giving you a more visceral experience.
And why a pink elephant? Well, the brain doesn't find it natural to change things from what they should be. A flamingo isn't yellow, birds don't have elephant trunks and fish don't ride bicycles and elephants definitely don't have large, feather wings! So the pink was to push your powers of visualisation, forcing your brain to step away from what it is familiar with. Remember, visualisation is realisation.
As you play with your own visualisations, distort things like colours, mix and match, make small things large and vice versa. Flexing those imagination muscles will help as we go forward.
Please understand that in going through these blogs 1-5, we have moved incredibly fast. It is so important, if you are new to this, that you spend time working on your basic breathing techniques from blog 4. It is important to build up your relationship with your PFC and PNS so that being in that quiet place, focusing and consciously engaging, becomes something you have to think less about. This will help you learn to stop the mind wandering, focus on and stay in the moment and to keep focused like this for extended periods of time.
We will slowly build on your visualisations inside future Keycasts, but for now - Good Job!
"Thank you for flying with me."