“It’s a safe bet that anyone who’s spent a prolonged amount of time looking at a painting—or failing that, can recall the Seurat scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off—can recognize the meditative power of art. But several artists have taken this idea further, building entire environments meant to help viewers experience deep serenity or contemplation. From giant saltwater tanks to secluded Appalachian outposts, these nine works provide space to guide in focused meditation.” Read full article at link below – (this article has been curated by the Armchair Dreamer)
Notes from the Armchair Dreamer:
Having a place to go in your imagination can greatly enhance your work.
The article shows beautiful and sometimes mysterious places for imagination work. We can develop our own artsy places by:
-Finding them in our community – What building fasciantes you? Is there a special place where you can go and be? Is there a nature area that strikes you as super cool?
-Use our imagination to remember (visualization) a cool place we have been or imagine (create something new in your mind’s eye) a special place well suited for imagination, contemplation, and meditation.
It only takes a few minutes to find more free guided imagery recordings than you can handle. Any search engine will get you audio and video recordings that are either professionally produced or at least very well done. Most run 5 to 8 minutes but plenty can be found that get into longer experiences (15 to 20 minutes).
Who’s producing the recordings? Universities have them for their students. Hospitals and insurance companies have them for their patients and customers, respectively. Guided imagery artists give out some free recordings in the hope of gaining customers for their paid products.
Where to start? I include a few links below to get you started but do take a few minutes and look for yourself. Use a search engine and search video sites like You Tube and music sites including SoundCloud. Plug in these search terms as: guided imagery recordings; free guided imagery recordings; guided journeys; free imagery recording.
Our brains, waking and sleeping, pump out an assortment of brainwaves: beta, theta, delta, gamma, alpha. Of this list, theta may be the most important for exploring and using the imagination. Research and experience since the 1960s shows theta enhances creativity; increases insight; discharges old and unresolved emotions; and opens us to changing and adding beliefs.
Theta was first explored in detail by Elmer Green. Green invited all sorts of meditators into his biofeedback lab to see what type of brainwave activity they could produce. Deeper meditation and experienced meditators produced more theta and less alpha and beta. Curious about his own practice of observing imagery, emotions, and insights as he coasted off to sleep (hypnagogia), he had someone monitor his brainwaves as he moved from regular awareness to deep inner observation. There, too, were higher levels of theta.
Peniston and Kulkosky came along later and tried theta biofeedback training on people who were suffering from major psychological issues such as trauma and addiction. Several times a day and for several days, patients would be coached on how to let go of tension in their bodies and in their minds. The deeper they were able to relax, the more theta was produced and the biofeedback machines provided tones to let the patients know they were on the right track. In recent years, the theta training protocol has been refined and streamlined from multiple sessions across multiple days to single sessions once or twice a week.
Anna Wise attached theta work to goals commonly sought by recent explorers of self-development. Answers from within could be evoked and brought up from the deep unconscious. In fact, theta work seems to work better if it is purpose-driven in the sense we set out and expect to do some inner work when we go to theta. Wise points to two types of content worthy of exploration: specific events of our past and current feelings; and general content such as what makes a good life; what is inner peace; image of god; wisdom, etc.
How Can Theta Waves Do What They Do?
Few have explained how theta waves can produce such results. However, some research (see references section) is connecting learning and memory to theta. This makes sense when we consider that it has been known that young children, roughly 4 to 7 years old, produce more theta than older children or adults. Assuming that the ages 4 to 7 (some say 2 to 5) is a crucial period for a child to learning the most important lessons of living (i.e. look both ways; how to recognize a friend from a foe; a happy person from an angry person), then theta could be facilitating rapid and deep learning.
If this is true, learning to produce theta at will, pushes are ability to learn to new levels and speed. We could learn new patterns such as habits and core beliefs. And we could replace old, unhelpful habits and beliefs with new ones that are healthy and helpful. Essentially, get into theta and slip back to when your mind was very young, very open, and very capable of learning at a tremendous pace and depth. We have a second chance to get things right.
Knocking on the Door With Your Theta Brain-waves – The options:
Option 1 – Find a biofeedback center and ask for Alpha-Theta protocol training. Don’t expect this to be short and cheap. It can take 20 to 30, half-hour sessions costing $150 or so per session.
Option 2 – Purchase and Experiment with Neurosky/Mind Reflector Mind Reflector is affordable and comes with a built-in alpha/theta protocol created by biofeedback/neurofeedback experts.
Option 3 – Work with the Anna Wise System of Imagery Anna Wise did a great deal of work charting brainwaves and their related mental and physical experiences. Wise wrote that we can learn to spot theta brainwaves at work by watching imagery. Not what is appearing in the imagery, but the qualities of the images. When alpha brainwaves are predominant, images will appear sharp and clear. In theta, imagery appears less defined. She doesn’t explain why that is, but in my experience, theta imagery is fuzzy because we are not simply observing the images as we do in alpha but becoming immersed within the images. We are getting lost in the dream-like experience and we lose touch with ourselves. Just like in our waking life, if we are immersed in getting through the day, most sensory details are fuzzy since we have little attention focused on them as they happen.
I highly recommend her book, The Awakening Mind for its fantastically helpful insights and information alongside her imagery scripts. CD Baby sells recordings of the scripts narrated by Anna Wise herself.
In the 1970s and 80s there were alpha brainwave trainers at decent prices, but they were rough around the edges and only worked with one brain wave frequency. In more recent years, ADHD stimulated some development of hardware for concentration improvement and arousal control. With a prescription and about $1,500, Brainmaster made much more powerful and flexible devices available.
Now, for less than $200, broad-spectrum equipment is available that plugs into your PC (not available for Mac, yet).
To get there, you have to buy two things.
The Hardware: Neurosky
About two years ago Neurosky was introduced to the market. It was an attractive, light-weight, and practical headset that plugged into a PC. It provided some interesting feedback through showing a large spectrum of brainwaves on screen. Two protocols were built into the software: “attention” and “meditation.” Color bars and waving lines also appear on screen but, the fine print says, they are for illustrative purposes and have been altered a bit to show better on the monitor.
Developers have come forward and produced some interesting games and, at last, software that pulls useful brainwave info from the application. About a year ago, the Mind Reflector people came forward with what I had been waiting for. But, before I say more about that, here’s more on the Neurosky headset.
MindReflector Neurofeedback Training provides true low-cost EEG Biofeedback training with dry-sensor technology utilizing the NeuroSky MindWave headset.
These Mind Reflector guys are clearly serious. They took their software and protocols to their peers in the neurofeedback field. They put everything out to be poked at and examined. To handle some of the critics, they compared the results of their software tied to Neurosky to clinical-level equipment, the Brainmaster. They found that the two devices returned very much the same results even though there was a $1,100 price difference between the setups.
Why Use it for Imagination Work?
First, the Neurosky/Mind Reflector setup can be used to learn how to relax well to do deeply into imaginal work. That is always an important step.
Secondly, the Mind Reflector guys included an Alpha/Theta training protocol which is tremendously valuable. I will write more about alpha/theta work but let me say here that this brainwave combination has been shown to take people to a deep place where important work can be done. This can include: memory recall, working with beliefs, creative breakthroughs and more.
Most people have some sound, natural or man-made, that they know can grab their minds and en-trance it. Gentle rainfall, a fan, crickets chirping, a train passing, a rocking chair.
The common features of these en-trancing found sounds is a fairly steady rhythm that is seduces our mind and emotions into following it. Just following. No need to be critical of anything. How can you be critical of ocean waves, hmm of a hair dryer, or a car moving down the highway on a long trip? First we follow the sound and then we allow ourselves to let the sound lead us as we turn off our evaluative minds. Our larger world drops away as the sound covers over other competing sounds that might distract us or at least keep us vigilant, listening for trouble.
Making the transition between being very active and being very internalized and deep can be hard but here is a method to make that journey. Use a favorite found sound is an easy, direct, usually highly effective way to ease into deeper imaginal states and work.
Sounds to Try – Entrancing Found Sounds:
Water – rainfall (on many different types of surfaces) Water – waterfall Water – stream Water – waves Birds Night sounds Jungle sounds Swamp sounds Wind Frogs Crickets Owls Fire – bonfire, fireplace Heart beat
Electric fan Wooden sailboat Water sprinkler Typewriter Grandfather clock Car Train Hair dryer White noise Brown noise Pink noise Vacuum cleaner Jumbled human voices (i.e. cafe sounds) Metronome Ticking clock Bathroom shower Airplane Windchimes Motorboat on waves Clothes dryer Passing traffic on a city street
How to Find Them
Some of these are easy to find or setup such as floor fan, wind chimes, or ticking clock. If we can set them all we need to do then is position ourselves to hear them. Another way is use recordings via phone apps, desk computers, or mp3 files
See these sources for computer based found sounds:
Guided imagery is a great pleasure, especially when it is done right. But things can turn sour if we don’t pick the right recording for our needs and our tastes. A very tricky business unless we know how to decrease the misses and increase the odds of getting the right recording. Here is a list of things to look for you when you go shopping.
What Do You Want To Do? Every recording has an objective. It can be basic relaxation or something as complex as mind/body medicine, past life regression or other deeper challenges. The basic element across all recordings is verbal guidance used to get your unconscious and regular consciousness to follow instructions.
It is best to start off with a basic relaxation recording rather than jumping into deep waters first time out. You will need to know how to calm down and go inside before you can do the other more complex work. Starting off with a good relaxation recording will ease you into the whole guided imagery process.
Once you have relaxation within your grasp, track down specialized recordings if you have a special goal in mind. Look at the big bookstore and music websites but also cast your net wider by plugging your wants into a search engine. There are many great recordings out there that don’t appear at the major sites because some guided imagery artists only sell from their own websites.
Script Style – Highly Guided or Open-Ended Each guided imagery artist has many choices to make in terms of scripting a recording. Some scripts focus on providing very precise suggestions as to what images the artist wants you to bring to mind and carefully lays out what you are to do with them once they appear. Other scripting will be more loose, such as: “See yourself in a meadow. Look around and note what you see.” This is very open-ended. Open-ended scripting assumes that the listener has had some experience with guided imagery and holds a skill/comfort level that lets them fill in the details of the inner work as they wish. Newcomers, on the other hand, are generally more comfortable with detailed imagery targets and suggestions. Determine which type of script is best for you and your goals and try your best to find a match out there in the CD and mp3 world by sampling recordings where you can (i.e. iTunes or Amazon).
Script Symbols Scripting can differ in terms of what images a guided imagery artist uses. Some recordings keep things simple, such as “relax near a stream” or “open your heart and let go.” Other scripts will adopt imagery and terminology from some tradition such as the Tarot, yoga, Buddhism, or Kabbalah. This can be a very powerful experience if you are well versed in what each symbol means and have personally connected with the tradition from which it is taken. But if you don’t know what the artist is talking about or is trying to get to, you probably will have a frustrating experience. For instance, if you don’t know what chakras of yoga are or have never picked up the Tarot, scripting using these symbols will be lost on you. Read each recording description well to determine what symbolic language the artist might be working with. Consider if their symbols will work with your interests and goals.
Voice, Use of Voice, and Music The wrong voice is a killer. Everything else can be just right but without the proper guiding vocals the recording is junk. The only way to avoid making a bad purchase is work hard to find samples of the recording by taping into the samples at iTunes, Amazon, and CDBaby. How does the voice sound? Is it such that you can let go and ignore it? Trust it? Prefer a man’s voice? A woman’s voice?
How the speaker uses their voice is also important. Some artists speak almost in a plain, simple, conversational way. Others use their voice almost like a musical instrument, adapting their voice to convey the sort of actions they want you to do. Examples: pitching their voice up when they want you to ascend a staircase or dropping the volume of their voice when they want your body to feel heavy. What do you prefer, plain and simple or with a little or lot of drama?
Lastly, consider a recording’s background music. Most recordings come with some sort of musical background (some also use sound effects) so listen to see if the music choice works for you by finding and listening to samples.
Too Fast or Just Right? Closely related to voice, is timing. An extremely common mistake made by new guided imagery artists is moving too darn fast. Instructions come flying at the listener one after another with no time to get what the artist is asking or time to settle into an experience. Guided imagery takes time. The best guided imagery artists are those who have been led by many other artists and have developed a real feel of “inner world speed” versus our day-to-day outer world speed. The two speeds are very different. Again, track down some samples and get a sense if the imagery artist takes time to let you, the listener, work with what comes up.
Length You may prefer a compilation of short experiences or a longer break. Consider how you want to use the recording: quick 10 minute dips into imagination or do you really want to unplug and go for a guided journey? Consider getting both types, one for quick but regular imagination work and one for when you have plenty of time to go in deep. Read recording descriptions for this information on length.
Evidence-Based or Adopted by Institutions Unfortunately no one has put guided imagery recordings side-by-side and tested their effectiveness. Studies have been done over the years to see if guided imagery works in medicine and if guided imagery is superior to listening to music alone or with just resting. Yes, guided imagery has performed well in the studies and there are many indications that guided imagery works better than resting or music without guidance.
A handful of recordings have been used at least once or maybe a few times in multiple medical research studies. In a later post, I will offer a listing of where to find these particular recordings and reference the studies in which they were used with the findings noted.
Some institutions such as major hospitals and clinics have produced audio and video recordings that they pass onto their patients. The Mayo Clinic produced two CDs a few years back that were excellent but they are out-of-print now. Several universities have recordings available online covering a wide range of relaxation and imagery topics for students, staff, and patients. Those recordings are waiting online for anyone to download free. If you prefer to pick recordings based upon this criteria, use a search engine. Include the search terms: hospital, clinic, and university along with terms that describe the sort of recording you are hunting for. In a later post, I will provide a list of recordings available from the hospitals/clinics and educational institutions with links on how to obtain them.
Special Background Beats, Whisperings, and Subliminal Suggestions In addition to the spoken word and music, some recordings include special background beats, whispers, or subliminal suggestions. The thinking is that these methods will take a person deeper, faster, and more productively than a recording without these enhancements. There is some evidence that enhanced backgrounds can be helpful but further research is required to determine if they are always helpful and by how much. It doesn’t hurt to try these sort of recordings but plain recordings with the right words, right music, and right goals will do just fine. Again, I promise to write a post later on these sorts of recordings.