Relaxing to Visualize & Imagine

What is Your Calmer Self-Image? How to Build One – [Post: Visualize]

We can pretty easily describe a metaphorical image of what we look like when we are highly stressed. For instance, we may refer to ourselves as a “wild-eyed, wild hair, raging beast” or a “racing tornado just like my mother.” Or we may see ourselves as a “warrior, battling the world.”

It is worthwhile to watch ourselves carefully when we are stressed to spot additional details of this inner character we play when things are not going well. This is not a casual, unimportant imagining of our minds for our minds take this stuff very, very seriously, indeed. The mind, and more specifically, the unconscious, loves this stuff. It is a primary fuel for our inner world.

If we run inner dramas of with us being a wild, barely in control character, we will live that role out. If our go-to role is harried, I can’t believe nor accept us with every stressor there is no room and no experience playing a different role.

But there are many other roles we can, with lots of practice, learn to act out. We see them in literature and movies:

The Clever, Self-Possessed Hero – These characters range from Sherlock Holmes to James Bond, to Laura Croft.

The Wise Person – Usually associated with the wise, old male, this characterization of a calm person is not limited to men. Many wise women who can see the big picture, hold things in perspective, who are patient can also be found.

The Centered and Detached Sports Person – Think balance-beam gymnasts; professional poker players, golfers.

The Bounce Back Person – We find these not only in literature but in life; the person who goes through tremendous trials but comes right back and keeps on keeping on.

The Immersed Artist/Craftsman/Worker – These people immerse themselves into something finite but seem to get almost infinite vitality, enjoyment, and relaxation from what they are doing.

The Keep to the Simple Person – Look for literary characters who keep a simple life that stands in contrast to the people spinning, busily around them.

How to Build Your Inner Relaxation Self-Image

1. Find an image from the list above (and from your list) the clicks for you. Note, it doesn’t have to be a single inner character. Our stressed out inner image is usually made of a little this and a little that, so you can make your relaxation self-image a little this and a little that, too.

2. Imagine that self-image a little bit each day for a month. We are talking about a few minutes each day. Do this until you feel connected to your image and that it is very clearly in mind.

3. Bring your self-image up in stressful but lower stress situations and start to act as if you are that image. See what you discover.

4. Apply imagining that self-image to memories of stressful situations and see what you can imagine as how you would have responded as that sort of character.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice steps 1 through 5. It takes awhile to develop our stressed-out image, it will take time to develop an inner image we know can pop up on its own when we are facing stress.

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Relaxing to Visualize & Imagine

Know Your Relaxation History

Switching from concern about stress let’s look at the other side of the coin, at relaxation. What is your history of relaxation?  What I mean is what has relaxed you?  Do you remember? Do you remember several sources of relaxation for you?  I know, it is hard to remember, at least most of the time, what has worked for us over the years.  No time to look backward we automatically concluded, got to take care of today.

Seriously, what have been things, places, people, and events that have brought you peace and perhaps brought you very positive feeling?. Take your time, don’t rush.

What brought you peace, relaxation within the last six months?
The last year?
Over the last 5 years?
Ten years?
When you were quite younger?

Again, don’t rush it. You don’t have to come up with everything right now, think about adding to your list over the next few days but be comprehensive. Dig deep. Pull hard. Assemble your list of what has worked for you, whether it was large or small, still possible to repeat or impossible to have again, what did it for you?

Look at the list. What was it that gave you that relaxation? What were the qualities of the person, place, thing, event that had such an impact on you?

Which are your top three?

Can you find and experience them again?

Relaxing to Visualize & Imagine

Easing into Meditation

downward_facing_dog2I hear this all the time: “I’ve tried meditation but I just don’t get anywhere because I can’t slow my mind down. I can’t relax.”

Not unusual since most of us start this way.  I was never given much instruction, nor did I see others getting advice about how to ease into meditation.  The instruction  was all about meditating itself. As a beginner, I was expected to come into the hall, take my cushion and get down to hard work. Most people can’t go from the frazzle of everyday living to slowing down to zero miles per hour. We stretch and limber up for physical activities; how about a way to stretch and limber up for meditating?

Here is what I suggest to make the transition from rushing to the meditation hall to getting well underway with meditation:

1. Once seated, take a few deep breaths, to an in-count of 4 or 5 and an out-count of 4 or 5.

2. Mentally tell the muscles of your forehead to “let go and relax.” Keep repeating these words and the command to your muscles to make your forehead (from temple to temple) as calm as possible. Give attention also, to the muscles over the eyebrows and at the bridge of the nose. Surprise yourself and see how relax you can get those muscles.

3. Extend the relaxing of muscles to around your eyes. Again, take the time to relax those muscles as completely as possible.

4. Relax your jaw muscles in the same way.

5. Relax the front of your neck, from under the chin to your chest.

6. Lastly, relax your tongue.

Now….begin your meditation practice.

Relaxing to Visualize & Imagine

Our Eyes Lead the Brain

gazing-downThe body has great power to lead the mind. In Richard Wiseman’s interesting book, As If Principle, he lines up a large quantity of recent studies showing how a change of muscle tone, posture, and other seemingly small adjustments to the body produce large changes in mental status. Changing eye positions can also yield large changes in our states of mind.

Eye Position 1: Gazing Off Into Space – We don’t often admit it but we all stare off into space (or television, or computer screen) from time-to-time. Our conscious minds flip off and our self identity is gone for at least those staring moments.

The next time you snap out of staring, stop and notice where you have been staring.  Was it downward?  To the left, right, straight on?  Later, when you have some downtime, let your gaze return to this spot and see if you find yourself drifting quickly inward or if at least, see if your mental chatter falls off.

Eye Position 2: Story Telling Gaze Spot – When we get going, recounting some event or story to a friend, we switch our gazing around.  Sometimes it is to the eyes of the listener but frequently we start gazing downward at the floor or a point some distance away.  This is especially true if we have to switch inward and recover memories and memories of our feelings or deeper thinking about what we are talking about.  It is as though we have to shut down the stimuli coming into our minds by staring off at some unremarkable point and this allows us to drop into our memory and thinking processes. The next time you are telling such a story, notice where you eyes fix. Bring that observation up when you wish to do some solitary deep thinking and fix your eyes in the same position and see if this pulls you more deeply within.

Eye Position 3: Eyes-Closed, Looking Straight Ahead Sharper Mind Gaze – When we close our eyes to go inward, we let our eyes drift to the same location they follow when we are falling asleep. In stage 1 of sleep our eyes are dropped and almost “crossed”. As we go deeper into this stage our eyes move in an asychronous manner. When doing imagination work, try breaking out of this position by keeping your eyes closed but bring your eyes up to the central position you would use if you were looking at someone straight on when your eyes are open. Notice any change in mental clarity. Usually this position has a waking effect that might be useful to bring greater clarity to your visualizations and related work.

Eye Positions 4 to 9: Eyes-Closed, NLP Gazes – After highly detailed study of the work of innovative hypnotist Milton Erickson, researchers discovered that people assume a variety of eye positions as they turn inward. When trying to remember a visual, auditory, or body memory people will look to the left. When trying construct a visual, auditory, or body imaginative experience, people look to the right. The chart below show the NLP gazes in greater detail.

nlpeye positions

Experiment: Now for putting those gazes to work. With eyes closed and in a good state of relaxation, move your eyes into one of the positions and let them rest there. Note if images or other sensory impressions come up or not. Move slowly from each position to position, explore as you go.

Experiment: Some find that mind chatter falls away by moving the eyes into the looking right positions. Going right means we are trying to construct images which may be a powerful counter to mind chatter focused on the past such as guilt, shame, or faulting for taking action or lack of action in the past.  If we are troubled by future concerns such as worry, perhaps looking left, towards memory might silent the construction-ability that is part of worry (worry is a constructed view of the future). This is especially helpful during those times when troubling images or inner talk is pressing down on us.
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