Subtractive Visualization

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.

Next Steps:

– Give some of these visualizations a try.
– Notice which one works best for you in terms of releasing and refreshing.