Creative visualisation—or, more simply, visualisation—is the technique of consciously focusing the imagination to create a particular result, and is often used in self-development for changing our reality or expanding our awareness. In this post I will be talking about how visualisation—like mindfulness and meditation—can be used as a practice for finding your true self. This is important because finding your true self, or authentic self, enables you to develop and direct your personality so that you can be more yourself and live your full potential and true life purpose.
Visualisation and the Imagination
Visualisation harnesses one of our great, often untapped and underestimated powers: the imagination. In mass culture the imagination is often supplanted by received images from the mass media, including the spectacle of materialism. This, along with the emphasis that socialisation places on the rational mind, leads to the neglect of our imagination, except when it is used to produce art and entertainment for consumption, or when it is indulged in the consumption of art and entertainment.
We are taught that foolish things are imaginary, that as a child we must grow out of talking to imaginary friends, and that the imagination isn’t to be trusted and can lead to delusion and madness. In doing so we lose our freedom of spirit—for with imagination there comes the freedom to find ourselves, to soar in our potential, and to live our dreams. Imagination is how we can dream and break out of our robotic and reactive patterns that reduce our humanity to the role of passive consumers. Imagination allows us to be creative and to think outside the box. It is vital for self-development.
Visualisation is an important skill because the imagination is a doorway to information and potential. Through our imagination we can interact with our unconscious power and awareness, often through the the language of symbols, which bridge the conscious and unconscious realms of experience. When the rational mind is rigid and sceptical, the imagination can release important information to us symbolically that would otherwise be analysed away and rejected. This happens in dreams, and can also happen in visualisation. The key thing to realise is that the imagination is something that does not only have to be controlled by reason—which is what normally happens with creative projects—but can also be a source of information and power. In particular it can be used in visualisation to guide us on an inner journey to our true self.
Visualisation also links together intention and manifestation. When we visualise our intention manifesting by imagining a clear image of it happening, and experiencing the feeling of it happening, it will be more likely to be realised. This is why visualisation is often used in self-development to manifest goals. It is also used in healing, when we visualise ourselves returning to health—and was famously popularised to this end by Dr Simonton, the radiation oncologist who treated cancer by encouraging his patients to use the power of positive imagery.
The Skill of Visualisation
Visualisation is a skill that improves with practice, and works well with the practices of mindfulness and meditation. We can, for instance, be mindful of the messages that our imagination is conveying to us, and we can practise visualisation mindfully. We can also begin visualisation from the inner space of being that we have created in meditation, increasing the power of the visualisation.
When used as a technique to find our true self, it is important that visualisation maintains the appropriate balance between conscious intention and free-form activity—the active and receptive modes of visualisation. Mindfulness can help us to do this, so that we do not end up dissociating into daydreams and lose our ability to guide our journey through our imagination.
In the visualisations that I teach, I begin by setting a conscious intention for the visualisation, and then begin a conscious inner journey related to that intention, usually with specific milestones and features. During that journey I allow for imagery, impressions, and symbols to spontaneously arise to reveal information. At this stage, it is important to not allow the rational mind to interject to try and analyse the meaning of the imagery, impressions, and symbols, for this will break the free flow of the visualisation and shift the brain into a less-conducive state for visualisation. Simply go with the visualisation and interact with it in your imagination.
For example, if you see a treasure chest, you can choose to open it and see what is inside it; if you see a door you can choose to open it and see what is beyond it; and if you meet a being you can choose to communicate with it. Of course, even though it is primarily a visualisation that you are experiencing, you can use all of your senses, and this is encouraged. You may also find that you are using a sixth sense and that you communicate telepathically with any characters in your visualisation.
Visualisation is a great gift. To make the most of it, it is best to practise it regularly and to treat it with equal importance as the other daily things that we do by habit.
Some Universal Symbols
As a guide, I have included below a small selection of common universal symbols relating to self-realisation and their usual meaning to assist you in your visualisations. There is never only one interpretation of a symbol, as it will depend on the message of your unconscious mind that is unique to you, and any associations you have already made with it. This means that your skill as an interpreter will need to be developed, which will increase as you develop a good connection between your conscious and unconscious mind. However, this being said, the interpretations of universal symbols given below will often apply.
- a wise teacher or sage: the true self
- a sun, star, candle, or light: enlightenment
- a flower: the blossoming of potential
- a butterfly: transformation
- a circle: unity
- a path or stairway: a journey of self-development or awareness
- a door: an opening to a revelation or to greater freedom
- wild animals: passions and desires
- an obstacle: an inner resistance or blockage
Preparing for Visualisation
- Set aside some quiet time for your visualisation in a place that is free from distractions and interruption. This is time for you, and for being you. This is the greatest gift you can give yourself and others: your authenticity.
- Adjust the temperature and lighting for your comfort if you are indoors; if you are outside in nature then find the most comfortable spot.
- Sit or lie down, whichever is the most comfortable. You do not have to maintain any special posture, and if you choose to sit you can use a chair if you prefer. If you choose to lie down there may be a greater chance of falling asleep. If so, sitting comfortably is preferable.
- Now set your intention for your visualisation. For example: I intend to discover more of my true self through the power of visualisation.
A Guided Visualisation
To give you an example of how visualisation can be used to find your true self, I have created a guided visualisation for you to follow below (for the recorded audio on YouTube, click here). Notice any images, impressions, or symbols that emerge during the visualisation, and make a record of them and your experience of the visualisation after you have finished.
Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
Allow any thoughts and tensions of the day to fall away.
Feel the muscles of your body relax as you let go of any physical tension.
Especially the muscles of the jaw and the eyes,
And any areas you notice that are more tense than others.
Feel each muscle relaxing as you let go of tension there.
Now focus on your breath as you breathe in and out,
Allowing it to flow smoothly,
Breathing in from infinity
And out to infinity.
Now recall your intention for the visualisation.
Allow it to carry you in your imagination to a safe and relaxing place in nature.
Take a moment to experience the beauty and power of this natural space with all your senses.
Breathe in the fresh air and smell the fragrances of nature.
Take in the sounds and hear the music of nature.
Use your skin to feel the textures of nature.
Look around and see the colours and shapes of nature.
Open your mouth and taste nature.
Move around your safe space and allow your energy to rejuvenate,
For you are realigning to your natural being.
Now, as you look around, you see a path stretching ahead of you,
Leading off into the distance.
This is a reassuring and strangely familiar path.
You recognise it as the path you must walk to find your true self.
In your own time, start to walk up the path, and notice your surroundings,
And anything that may appear to you.
You are gradually ascending as you walk along this path.
Very soon you will find yourself at the bottom of a big hill.
Waiting for you there is a friendly guide who seems to know you and greets you.
The guide explains that you must climb the hill to complete your journey,
And hands you everything you need to do this.
The guide takes you to a nearby well, where you drink of the purifying waters.
You bathe your face, forgetting all your worries and preoccupations.
Now you feel more clear and alive and ready to climb the hill.
You thank the guide, who embraces you and reminds you to believe in yourself.
As you climb upwards, become aware of the things on your path,
And any hurdles you need to overcome. Take a rest if you need to.
You remember the advice to believe in yourself, and this carries you upwards.
The sun is at its strongest overhead, and the higher you climb, the brighter it gets.
After a period of time, you near the summit, with anticipation,
And as you reach it, you find yourself in a beautiful, magical place.
Experience this beauty and magic, and absorb it into you.
This beauty and magic speaks of who you truly are.
Notice what is around you,
And how distant everything looks below you.
You wait in expectation, and after a while, a figure appears and approaches you.
You notice that the figure is a wise teacher or sage, and radiates peaceful light.
You recognise each other, for this is your true self.
In a timeless moment, you greet this being,
And are reminded of all that you truly are.
Take this moment to ask your true self what you most need to know
In order for you to be more yourself.
Your true self may respond with words or by giving you a symbolic gift,
Or you may suddenly realise the answer.
If you do not get an immediate answer, know that it will come to you later,
Either internally or through the development of circumstances,
And simply absorb the presence of your true self,
Which alone is enough to begin your transformation.
When the experience feels complete, express your gratitude to your true self.
You both embrace as one, and then you make your way back down the hill,
Knowing that your true self is always there when you intend it so.
Notice how you feel, and anything you encounter on your journey back.
As you reach the bottom you find your way back along the path,
To your safe space in nature.
Now set your intention to return back to your physical body,
And as you do so, feel yourself back in your body,
In the present moment,
And slowly open your eyes,
Feeling fully grounded and centred
And ready to greet the rest of the day
With greater presence,
And greater gratitude for life.
Listen to the guided visualisation on YouTube.
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