An Ancient Practice
Visualization techniques are often used in meditation. An ancient practice, the first recorded use of visual meditation occurred in the 1600’s when Zen master, named Hakuin, became “overloaded” with the study of Zen. According to his story, Hakuin consulted many doctors, healers, and acupuncturists but no one could cure his sickness. Hakuin found his answer by approaching a hermit named Hakuyu. When Hakuin explained his sickness, Hakuyu advised that it was caused by his rigid Zen training and self-denial. He guided Hakuin with visualization techniques, which cultivated a more positive frame of mind. Hakuin continued practicing these techniques and began teaching them.
Visualization techniques are used during meditation to guide the mind for clarity and focus. Visualization can be alone or with a guide. One popular visualization technique is to imagine a loved one standing next to you. Hold the image of that person in your mind and and repeat the mantra, “I want you to be well. I want you to be happy. I want you to be safe.” Imagine them feeling warmed by your love and enjoy the moment together. After a few moments, you can choose another family member or friend and go through the same scenario. This technique is called a love and kindness or nurture positive meditation because you are cultivating a positive sense of wellbeing and love for others.
Another popular visualization technique is to imagine a pink bubble inside your mind. When a thought floats into your mind, imagine it entering the pink bubble. Once captured inside, imagine the thought floating away. This visualization technique can help you let go of your worries, as you remember that thoughts come and go, so it’s important not to obsess over them.
Master Calm, Creativity and Focus
- Meditation may be easier. Many find that visualization in meditation is easier to master. They can quickly help center the mind. Once the mind is a state of heightened focus, experienced meditators call this, ‘access concentration.’ Visualization techniques can help you quickly master this state of calm and focus.
- Visualization techniques may help boost creativity. Visualization techniques require the use of imagination and they can help a person become aware of excess mental clutter that holds the mind back or causing distraction. Once this clutter has been removed, you may find that your creativity increases.
- Visualization techniques may make healing faster. It is said that, “What the mind can perceive, the body will achieve.” With visualization, a person will be asked to visualize that the body is healing itself. Research on the healing power of meditation and prayer has almost doubled in the past ten years. There are many studies concerning how meditation, prayer or a spiritual outlet can have an overall benefit on health. Examples include a finding that heart patients are 14 times more likely to die following surgery if they did not participate in a religion, spiritual practice or meditation.
Conquer Stress, Insomnia and More
- Stress: Stress has always a primary motivation for meditation and visualization techniques. When you feel anxiety or stress, the body discharges hormones to cope. Adrenaline is released by the adrenal glands, which makes us more alert and focused. Cortisol converts protein to energy and releases our stored sugar, glycogen, so our bodies have the fuel needed to respond quickly. These hormones are designed to help the body during the “fight or flight response.” In the short term, these hormones help us deal with stress. But during stressful times, high levels of these hormones are released for extended period of time, exhausting the body and the immune system. Prolonged stress can cause pain, ulcers, headaches and increased blood pressure. Meditation and visualization techniques can help reduce blood pressure and lower heart rate while reducing the intensity of stress-producing hormones.
- Depression: Visualization techniques are an effective way to cultivate amore positive frame of mind. Just a few minutes a day can remind you to be grateful for the blessings you have in your life – even being alive is a blessing. These techniques may be used in combination with other therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or pharmacological solutions.
- Insomnia: Regardless of the reason for your sleeplessness, many studies support the use of visualization techniques as treatment for insomnia. Biofeedback, which monitors how relaxation causes physical changes in the body, may further with relaxation and sleep.
- Benefits for Asthmatic Patients– Asthma can be triggered by emotional and psychological factors, and well as other physical stimuli in the environment, such as pollutants. Stress and high levels of emotion can also trigger asthma. Visualization can help asthmatics manage their stress levels and emotional response, thereby managing symptoms.
- Pain Relief– Visualization is often used to treat pain, including chronic pain, back pain, migraines, headaches and fibromyalgia. Biofeedback monitors how relaxation causes physical changes in the body. Patients monitor their pulse, blood pressure and temperature as they practice deep breathing or another relaxation technique. Often the way that the body changes in response to visualization stimulates a positive feedback loop, encouraging further relaxation.
While there are very few negative side effects from visualization techniques, it can be difficult to sustain the focused concentration that they require. Without this focused meditative state, the benefits may be are negligible. For this reason, it is best for beginners to a guide or teacher assist with their visualization techniques. Without a guide, a person may wander away from the objective, as It can be easy to get lost when imagining and visualizing things. There is also a danger of releasing the stored tension, anxiety and repressed emotion through the mediation and visualization techniques. Beneficial in the long run, this may cause feelings of instability in the short run. For this reason, it helps to have a meditation community or guide in the beginning.
Visualization techniques help to focus meditation, making it easier and more effective by providing a positive goal for the brain. Visualization can have a number of psychological and physiological health benefits. However, it is best for beginners to start with a guide. As you go deeper, they can release stored emotion, which may cause periods of mood swings or emotional instability. Meditation and these techniques require practice.