Master Visualization With Sense Memory

smelling coffeeYou’ve been there countless times:

-enjoyed pizza
-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.

The Steps

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Switch gears mentally and go into your memory. You know how to do this.
  4. 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.

General goal

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.

 

Finding Free Imagery Recordings

hismastersvoice

It only takes a few minutes to find more free guided imagery recordings than you can handle.  Any search engine will get you audio and video recordings that are either professionally produced or at least very well done. Most run 5 to 8 minutes but plenty can be found that get into longer experiences (15 to 20 minutes).

Who’s producing the recordings?
Universities have them for their students. Hospitals and insurance companies have them for their patients and customers, respectively. Guided imagery artists give out some free recordings in the hope of gaining customers for their paid products.

Where to start?
I include a few links below to get you started but do take a few minutes and look for yourself. Use a search engine and search video sites like You Tube and music sites including SoundCloud. Plug in these search terms as:  guided imagery recordings; free guided imagery recordings; guided journeys; free imagery recording.

Universities & Colleges:

Hospitals:

Guided Imagery Artists:

Insurance Companies:

Guide to many:

This Will Require Patience, You Know

Kilimanjaro-Climbing-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.

Get This Book! Hypnagogia

hypnagogiaI could not believe my eyes when, the other day, I noticed that this long out-of-print and much sought-after book is back in print. The few copies that were around were selling for $100 plus. If you have any interest in knowing far more about the experience of inner imagery get this book before it disappears again.

In 1987, Andreas Mavromatis published Hypnagogia: The Unique States of Consciousness Between Wakefulness and Sleep. In 360 pages, he summarized major and minor writings and added his observations on this powerful experience and easiest path to high-quality inner imagery. Although we are a few decades out from that publishing date, the information is still highly relevant since so little discussion of hypnagogia has occurred in the intervening years. Dreams and dreaming have soaked up most of the research and creative studies around inner states.

He splits his research into three helpful categories:

  • the phenomenology of hypnagogia (sensory, cognitive, and emotional characteristics)
  • hypnagogia compared to other special inner states
  • brain function as related to hypnagogia

He spends a bit of time on methods but this is cast in a more general rather than specific way.  You will find the how-to-do-it steps here at Fireball Imagery rather than in Mavromatis’s book.

Bottom-Line: Get this book while you can.  A must read for those who want to know much more about this inner state.

Where to get it:  Note – The following link goes straight to the bookseller and I in no way receive any payment for recommending this book.
Amazon link

Experience Hypnagogia for Yourself

  • Tonight, linger with relaxed wakefulness rather than following straight asleep.
  • Bring up a memory or some idea you want to explore.
  • Relax more until you start to feeling additional ideas, feelings, and imagery is strongly present.
  • Hang out in that place and take in the experience.
  • Hold a few things you want to remember later by making a clear mental intention that you will remember such-and-such item.
  • Fall asleep anytime you want.
  • In the morning, recall that which you wanted to remember and contemplate that item.

 

Imagery Training – Where to Find It

4I wish I could say that there is imagery training everywhere at all sorts of levels, but that isn’t the case. There are only spotty opportunities to dig into imagery to any substantial degree and you may have to travel some distance to get it.  Here is a list to work from and some suggestions on how to search for more.


 

Psychotherapy and Health Care Related Emphasis

Academy for Guided Imagery – Santa Monica, CA and online
The Academy (AGI) was created by a physician and a psychologist a few decades ago, mainly to offer imagery training to health care and mental health care professionals. Their current trainings maintain much of that focus but the coursework is open to anyone.

Training centers around recordings of Drs. Marty Rossman and David Bresler in workshops, supplemented with readings.  To advance to each higher level of training, a test must be taken and submitted to AGI. After a certain level, participants needed to complete an on-site half week training in Santa Monica. After that work, students then could go on to the next level trainings with a similar half-week course-work in California. These days, these work can be conducted by Internet conferencing around a set schedule.

Thoughts:  I highly recommend this very comprehensive program.  Disclosure: I have a certificate of completion from this program.

For direct information, see: www.acadgi.com/

Imagery International – Northern California (annual conference)
Practitioners from a variety of backgrounds conduct workshops at this annual fall conference. Imagery International also provides a bound newsletter that is published several times per year and is available to its membership.

For direct information, see: imageryinternational.org/

Center for Healing and Imagery – Washington, D.C.
Dr. Mark Lawrence started this training program a few decades ago and ran and taught until his passing in 2011. The emphasis had been on ego states (parts of ourselves), trauma therapy, and mindfulness meditation in therapy.

Thoughts:  I recommend this program, especially for therapists in need of continuing education credits. Disclosure: I have a certificate of completion from this program.

For direct information, see: www.centerforhealingandimagery.com/


 

General Exploration and Self-Therapy Emphasis

Bellruth Naperstak
Naperstak comes from a career in psychotherapy so many of her recordings and books come from this emphasis.  With that said, her products are aimed not for the professional but for anyone who wants to explore imagery or work on themselves. Each recording is clear and follows a basis formula of starting off with relaxation and then a journey through archetypes appropriate for that recording.  Bellruth Naperstak does occasional workshops.

For direct information, see: http://www.healthjourneys.com/

Dr. Jerry Epstein – New York City
Dr. Epstein has provided insight and instruction for decades and he continues to hold court in New York City. In recent years he has expanded into phone groups which greatly expands opportunities to learn from him. His books are must haves and give the reader much to think about and to explore.

For direct information, see:  http://drjerryepstein.org/

Leslie Davenport
Davenport also comes from a psychotherapy background but provides a book and training for those who wish to use imagery personal issues and healing. She provides CE for those who work through her book and does occasional training. She was also on the founding faculty of the Deep Imagination course work (see below).

For direct information , see: http://www.lesliedavenport.com/

Deep Imagination Certificate Program – John F. Kennedy University – San Fransisco
This is the only imagery program associated with a teaching institution that I know of in the United States. JFK University has been providing specialized training for several decades for those lucky enough to attend. Here, they offer a certificate in guided imagery through on-campus courses.

For direct information, see: http://www.jfku.edu/Programs-and-Courses/Continuing-Extended-Education/Deep-Imagination.html


 

Shamanism-Related Emphasis

Foundation for Shamanic Studies
This is the oldest organization that I know of with a shamanism-bent. Michael Harner started this years ago after the success of his book, The Way of the Shaman.  Imagination training centers around levels of imaginative depth, sonic driving to get people into imaginative states, and use of symbolism from shamanic practice around the world. Harner provides training and training for those who will go on to train others. On his site he has materials including recordings of shaman drums and rattles, but also a directory of teachers by geographical area.

For direct information, see: https://www.shamanism.org/

Trance Postures – Cuyamungue Institute
The late anthropologist Felicitas Goodman noticed that certain postures represented in ancient carvings were associated with spiritual activities and mystical states. Curious about this association, she tried several of the postures and discovered they enhanced imagination work. Goodman then went on to capture these images and theories in a few books and in trainings.

Belinda Gore has continued Goodman’s work and expanded it in easy to adopt books and trainings.

For direct information, see: http://www.belindagore.com/CuyamungueInstitute/tabid/657/Default.aspx

Deep Imagery of E. S. Gallegos
A few decades ago Dr Gallegos introduced the theory and practice of imaging power animals at power locations within the body. This became the basis of his personal totem pole process. Dr. Gallegos books are still available and he does some teaching.

For direct information, see: http://www.esgallegos.com/

Recommended Search Terms for More Training:
sports imagery, shamanism, dreams, dreamwork, hypnosis and imagery, Jung Society, active imagination, imagery.

Also check major book seller for books on imagery. Some of those authors provide training.

Sleep Thinking – Eric Maisel

sleepthinkingI don’t recommend that many books and the one’s that I do must be either a comprehensive treatment of a subject or one that has specific techniques fully outlined.  Eric Maisel’s book is both.

Maisel turns his psychologist/writer skills to the study of our unconscious and when it is doing it’s freest work, while we are sleeping. Among its many duties and capabilities is to do what Maisel calls, sleep thinking.

We are already familiar with sleep thinking.  “Give me some time to sleep on it,” is a common approach to decision making.  We know that some how, during our sleeping, a part of our brain will work away and make our options clearer by morning.

This behind the scenes work is different than studying our dreams. Sleep thinking is more to the point and sticks with what we are most concerned about. It isn’t overly poetic in what it shows us and sleep thinking results are more practical.

Eric Maisel is a precise man. His book is not filled fluff. He jumps in provides the step-by-step approach to sleep thinking and then offers specific directions for common areas of interest such as building creativity, removing inner obstacles, and finding solutions to large challenges.

The only special note I have about this book is this suggestion: start off easy and simple. Read the first chapters and then get down to work. Ask for insight or answers to something important to you and work that for a few days/a week. Repeat for another week or so.  Don’t get bogged down when starting a sleep thinking practice by taking on too much.  Get the principal down and do some preliminary work.  Then, if called, jump back into Maisel’s detailed work program.

This book is out-of-print but is still available ($1.00 to $4.00) so get it while you can. Here is the Amazon link.

The Kindle edition of this book is: The Power of Sleep Thinking – Link

Rembrandt’s Image of the Place of Imagination

Rembrandt_-_The_Philosopher_in_Meditation

The Place of Imagination is where the imagination is quickly stirred and released. It is domain and center of power of a worker of the imagination. The alchemists had their labs; the ancient philosophers had their caves; Europeans, the forests; lamas, mountainside retreats; and genius makers (i.e. Edison and Tesla), their workshops.

Rembrandt really captured the essence of a Place of Imagination in his painting called The Philosopher in Meditation (shown above). We see a combination of sunlight and fireplace light, perhaps representing the analytical or conscious mind, and darkness that intensifies up the spiral staircase, a swirling force that pulls us into the unknown and unseen unconscious. The imagination awaits the philosopher who sits looking downward, turned away from his book.

Here is a video of the painting with zooming, turning, and varied contrasting:

A clearer wood carving shows some of the hidden detail submerged in Rembrandt’s original:
597px-Filhol_1814

Finding Your Place of Imagination

You probably already have one but the work-a-day world keeps you from remembering the location. Slow down and spend some time and think if you have been in a place of magic (for you). This place can be in the real world or a place of your imagination.

When you find it, and sometimes it has to be constructed from two or more locations combined imaginatively into one place, explore it. Find its qualities. If need be, furnish that place with special objects that fascinate you.

Lock it in by making this the place where you start your imagination work. In time, this will be your Place of Imagination.


Tesla followed by Edison

tesla2


inventors_thomas-edison_in-west-orange-chemistry-lab-edit2


The Alchemist in Search of the Philosopher’s Stone, by Joseph Wright, 1771
JosephWright-Alchemist

Subtractive Visualization

subtraction-symbol_318-9746Most 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.

Visualize, Imagine, and Dream – The Important Differences

dictionary-pageThese terms are used interchangeably but they are very different in one very important way: the amount of conscious control we have over the experience

Visualization – is the ability to bring a specific image or goal to our “mind’s eye” for exploration and creativity. An example would be: I need to develop a video script and need to visualize the camera shots including which angles I will use, the anticipated lighting found on location, and other factors important to producing a good video. A second example: I’m having trouble following through on projects. I know the story of the tortoise and the hare is an important allegory for me about persistence. I will visualize the story each day before getting down to work.

Imagination – is broader than visualization because it allows more unguided elements from our unconscious to mingle with what we bring into a imagination session.  For instance: Turning to the videomaking project, I know a lot of what I want to film but there are some aspects that I don’t know how to convey. In an imagination session, I visualize what I know but then I let things “go” and watch what my mind brings up. I let my imagine run free and I observe and learn.

Dreaming – is that state where we are very far from our usual way of being in the world. This is rapid-eye-movement dreaming as we sleep. Dreams can be recalled with practice and dream symbols and stories and can be explored for deeper understanding of what is happening in our unconscious.