What do star soccer player Carli Lloyd, actor Jim Carey, Media Mogul Oprah Winfrey, gold medal skier Lindsey Vonn and award-winning TV and movie star Will Smith have in common?
Well, the commonality between these successful people has many names. Some people call it “the power of positive thinking.”
Other people like to say these people have an incredible sense of focus, or they pray to get the results they expect.
However you want to describe the abilities, these people are able to reach new heights, achieve incredible things, and bask in celebrity status.
But even though these and thousands of other people seem superhuman in their achievements, they are still like all of us in many ways.
What they regularly practice that other people neglect is something called inner visualization.
Inner visualization is not some selective gift that only a few people have in their DNA.
Visualizing how you will react to certain experiences or what outcome you want in any endeavor is something we all can do.
The power to clearly and mindfully envision what we want is a habit that we can and should practice every day.
We tend to focus on the physical parts of our abilities and neglect the power of mental imagery because we don’t believe it can impact the experiences in our lives. We don't understand how it can enhance our physical efforts.
As I explain in my book, 10-Minute Mindfulness (with co-author Steve Scott), visualization is an incredibly powerful tool with so many benefits.
It can be used in daily life to relieve stress and performance anxiety, enhance preparation, and add more power to your physical and mental efforts.
Visualization has been shown to impact motor control, attention, perception, planning, and memory, priming your brain for success in whatever you want to accomplish.
Simply the act of visualizing, which requires mindfulness, focus, and creativity, frees the mind from mental chatter and negativity.
By using visualization, you create strong neural pathways in your brain, just as if you had actually performed what you visualize. Because the brain tells the muscles how to move, these neural pathways result in more precise, stronger movements, enhancing your actual efforts.
What Is A Visualization Meditation?
We all visualize on a daily basis. We visualize what route we’ll take to go to work in the morning, and what meal we’ll eat that night.
Maybe we visualize what our kids are doing in school, and what we will look like when we hit retirement age.
But intentional visualization with a specific outcome in mind can be a meditative experience. You can use the framework of a basic meditation to create the proper state of mind for effective mental imagery.
How to Practice a Visualization Meditation
To begin, you want to engage in a basic meditation to relax, clear your mind, and become more receptive to the outcomes you are imagining.
Find a quiet space where you won't be interrupted. Sit on a meditation cushion or a chair with your hands resting loosely in your lap.
Close your eyes, and take a few deep, cleansing breaths. Then begin breathing normally, paying attention to each inhalation and exhalation.
Related: 101 Positive Affirmations To Practice Daily
Simply follow your breathing for a few minutes, redirecting back to your breathing every time your mind wanders.
Once you feel relaxed and less distracted by your thoughts, you can begin the visualization process. Here are the steps you can follow:
- Define your goal or outcome. Before you visualize what you want, define your goal or desired outcome. It needs to be specific, detailed, and achievable.
- Define the actions for achievement. Visualize all of the specific actions you'll take to achieve your goal. You may want to determine these steps before you begin your meditation so you know exactly what you want to visualize yourself doing.
- Prepare yourself. Mentally picture a blank slate. From that blank slate, begin your visualization. If other thoughts arise, gently turn your attention back to your visualization, just as you did with your breathing.
- Begin with the outcome. As you visualize, picture yourself reaching the goal first. Visualize it as if it were a movie, and you are the lead character. Picture exactly what you are doing, how you look, who is around you, where you are, and how you feel. Get as specific and detailed as possible.
- Visualize the actions. After you visualize reaching your goal, mentally rehearse the details of each action you need to take to make it happen. If your goal has many mental steps and actions involved in making it happen (like finding a new job), then visualize successfully completing the actions required for the day. Allow yourself to be immersed in these mental pictures, as though you are actually experiencing what you visualize.
- Go back to the outcome. To end the visualization meditation, see yourself reaching the desired goal once again. Notice how you feel having accomplished this goal in your mind’s eye. Take a few deep breaths and open your eyes to end your meditation.
What Are The Tangible Benefits Visualization Meditation?
The best way to describe the tangible benefits of visual meditation is to do it first and then allow yourself to feel the results.
As with any new habit, it will take practice before you become skilled at it. It can take several visualization sessions for your mind to accept the subconscious messages you are reinforcing.
When you set aside judgments and limiting beliefs while visually meditating, you go to a place within your mind that has no concept of time or physical restrictions.
Read Related: 10 Practical Steps To Inner Peace
This mental freedom and clarity empower your goals and intentions. It strengthens the neural pathways involved in actually achieving your goal, even when you aren't physically taking the actions involved.
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Visualization Is A Tool
It’s not easy to put your faith in something you don’t see, and don’t fully understand how it can help you achieve what you want. It’s not easy to rely on the mind alone when the mortgage is due, and your job is not going to be part of the new corporate merger.
Of course, visualization alone can't magically make things happen. Visualization is a tool to strengthen your resolve and motivation to succeed.
Related: 14 Of The Best Meditation Books For A Mindful Life
If you allow yourself the freedom to let your mind picture exactly what you want and how to get it, you can quickly enter the place where all things appear to you, before they physically appear.
You can find that place with patience, relaxation, positive thinking, and the belief that you are more than what you appear to be.
Here’s the good news. Once you tune into the non-physical channel that gives you a broad spectrum of peace and understanding, plus the energy to achieve what you want, you never lose it.
You find new ways to use your inner gift of visual meditation. You become the version of that confident self that lives a somewhat ordinary life in an extraordinary way.