You’ve been there countless times:
-felt a cooling breeze
-heard the sounds of a cafe
-saw your favorite vacation spot
-smelled a warm drink
We don’t need to know anymore. We don’t need to go anywhere or ask for help. We’ve got it in us. Evoking sensory memory, one-by-one is much easier and more pleasurable than you first think. It also can be done in found moments. We don’t need long imagination sessions because these experiences are not buried deep.
Reminder: This is a visualization exercise but you are not limited to the visual. This will become very apparent, and you will know it after you have worked with non-visual sense memories for awhile. Smells, tastes, sounds, and touch memories will really pop and be as powerful as visual memories.
- Decide on what sensory experience you want to call up. It doesn’t have to anything special, just something you like, are curious about or need to know better.
- Pick a sense you want to explore in memory. You will probably find you have a favored sense; I like sound memories first, followed by taste memories.
- Switch gears mentally and go into your memory. You know how to do this.
- Pull up a memory where the target sense is very active or can be very active. We may have a general memory where we know we had a sense at work so we may need to zoom in on that sense in that scene to get the vividness want.
Find a sensory experience and make it as vivid in your mind/heart/body as possible. Get it real.
To get good and to get it feeling like real, you will need to practice this a few times a day for a few weeks. Just a couple minutes per practice session. Enjoy.
I often get emails of the type of phone calls I made when I first started with imagery work. They all boil down to: “This imagery stuff is not working.”
Imagery does not work the first time we try it. Or the second time, etc. But I assure you that it does work. Maybe not to the exact results that you want, but the core of imagery works because it is running all the time whether we are aware of it or not. I will save my proof of that until a later time, right now I want to put the light on patience.
Patience defined (Oxford Dictionaries): the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset “you can find bargains if you have the patience to sift through the dross” synonyms: forbearance, tolerance, restraint.
The reason that imagery can be tough to get started is because other things have to be in place before it starts to show itself. We have to get good at those things and that takes time.
Relaxation – We can’t approach imagery with the same goal-oriented stance we might be using all day long. We need to switch to something that feels like we have plenty of time, that we aren’t in a rush to get something done or all figured out. Any number of methods can get us there but we need to use those that our favorites so the experience feels open, flexible, and inviting.
Getting Dreamy – Imagery is like dreaming with our eyes open. Dreamy is good. It blends a little bit of poetry with our thinking and our experience because soft with memories and symbols.
Letting Go and Following – Once we get even a bit dreamy we should follow its lead. That means letting go and relaxing even more. If a detail comes up, we follow it. It pulls us deeper and shows us even more dreamy content.
Most visualization involves the addition and morphing of imagery. Here we look at something different, when visualization is used to subtract imagery.
The Stoics, early Roman philosophers who focused closely on what causes suffering (like the Buddhists) used negative visualization to live more calm and simple lives. They would routinely visualize not having something they already possessed or had a relationship with (a friend or family member). This feels like a loss and it has a way of alerting the mind and heart to have renewed appreciation for whatever one owns. So this work taught how to appreciate what we have rather than producing restless that comes with searching for something next, new thing. More at Life Hacker article here.
Other subtractive visualizations can’t be specifically identified with groups or individuals because they are ancient and current notions.
Washing – Ritual bathing or imagining submersion in water conveys cleaning away from unwanted stains or dirt. Washed, we are free of this substance and renewed. Letting the dirt drain away we can see it leaving our sight/awareness.
Burying – Placing things in earth or at least covering over, subtracts something from our lives and puts it somewhere it where it will stay and stay away from us.
Burning – Fire transforms by heating away or turning something to raising fumes, again separating something from us or our lives and sending it away.
Letting something fly upward or sail away – A balloon is a good object to fill with some inner quality or experience and simply releasing to the sky. Likewise, putting something in a bottle and throwing it into the ocean promises that it will continue onward but it will separate from us in a vast, uncharted realm.
Open Focus is technique that has us switch our attention to undefined space that is around us and in us. Our minds are good at grabbing things but space? A new experience. It is something that is barely graspable and therefore switching to space we switch to having no or very simple thoughts and very limited associations to memories. We are much freer than usual. See more on Open Focus here.
– Give some of these visualizations a try.
– Notice which one works best for you in terms of releasing and refreshing.
Stop stalling about trying imagery or getting into imagination. Start simply but profoundly. Sometime when you are just hanging out and are relaxed with nothing too special on your mind other than hanging out:
1. Pick an image, any image. This can be from any source or form (I prefer to hold something rather than just have it on the computer screen). This can be a photo of something you know or something totally unknown to you. Don’t spend too much time picking “the right image” because the goal of this exercise is doing imagery work, not how to pick the right image.
2. Get comfortable, probably sitting rather than reclining.
3. Look at the image a bit until you have it rough out enough in your memory and then close your eyes.
4. Bring up the image but don’t worry too much about capturing all of the details. In fact, let your mind drift towards that seems the most interesting.
5. Let the image hang around and when it slips away, gently bring it back. This is not an exercise in concentration so let the image morph and float a bit in your head and heart.
6. Be aware that soon associations to the image will drift into your head. No problem, but be a bit curious as to why those associations came up with this image. Again, no hard thinking about this matter just appreciate it.
7. Explore for five, eight, or ten minutes.
8. Open your eyes.
9. Contemplate on what you discovered from this one image.
More await you.