Visualization: A guide for beginning and enjoying image work
Visualization is perhaps the most important magical skill of all the basics. Without the ability to imagine a better world, a new goal, or a dream that you wish to attain, one cannot effectively begin to take steps in achieving their desire. When performed correctly, it becomes more than a relaxing or motivational meditation. It becomes an exercise of discipline and creation. It is an initiation into awareness, and your direct passage to being a participant of the occult world. Visualization is also the tool we use to connect with and control our energy. To do this, an interface is required to get our vibes flowing in the right direction. Using visual images, we can effectively concentrate, focus, and then direct our magical energy toward our purpose. As children we learn to speak so that we can communicate and interact with the world around us. As occultists we learn the language of images so that we can interact with the subtle nonphysical worlds. It can also be a fantastic form of entertainment and relaxation. With a little practice it will become a sweet wine that will inspire your mind, delight your heart, and satisfy your soul.
Preparing for Visualization
Selecting a place
Visualization is an important base skill to any magical system. Whether you prefer a system that is ritual based or psychically driven, you need a healthy amount of practice creating with your mind. When you visualize during magic, you are uniting the logical portion of your mind with the task of creating realistic images, and maintaining those images as if they were a realistic physical object. You are also entertaining the creative portion of your brain by including bright colors, original concepts, and on a whim conjurations.
Visualization can be done in many places and conditions. Just as we successfully daydream while walking, shopping, and eating, you can find many opportunities throughout your day to experiment with this technique. Day dreaming is in fact the most common form of visualization we all practice. It's much more passive though, in that usually the day dreams are triggered by a single idea and then played out passively while we watch. Our desires and fears give direction to what takes place our idle day time fantasies. The plots are usually quite short, and the images minimal. We may think about a loved one getting into a car wreck, and then briefly see an image of that occurring, and how we would react. At work a little scene will often play showing us what we rather be doing.
Taking control of these images by adding depth and detail to them and consciously steering them in a new way of our choosing is when it becomes something more than a daydream. In fact, doing exactly that can result in fantastic practice. For instance if you were having the very common daydream of winning the lottery and telling your boss off, take it bit further and create a ninja battle between your boss and you, or live through the heart wrenching experience of finding that your lottery winnings were paid to you in chocolate coins. These are ridiculous ideas, but the more fun you make it, the more engaging the mind will find it and the more motivated you will be to practice.
When first learning detailed visualization, it is of course preferable to select a place and time with minimal distraction and interruptions. Instinctively many people choose to lie down in their bed with the door closed. This is certainly okay, but if you find yourself falling asleep before long, then something a little less cozy is in order. Some people suggest the lotus position for any sort of mediation or mind work simply because of the minimal comfort. What ever you find most suiting and effective is of course the best choice. I myself have always been fond of a being stretched out in a neatly made bed, or sitting in a comfortable chair with my feet propped up.
Finding a place in the modern world where you aren't subjected to frequent outside noise is pretty difficult. Instead of trying to find a place of silence, instead select somewhere that you are very familiar with. Your sense of hearing naturally tunes out the most frequent and reoccurring ambient noises in the background, so that unusual noises stand out more. People who move next to a busy street or highway usually toss and turn for a few nights because of the noise of cars whipping past. Soon enough this gets tuned out people forget about these sounds until someone else mentions them, or ironically when they try to sleep somewhere quiet and can't because a certain familiar sound is now missing. So places you frequently spend time at are ideal. In most cases this will be somewhere in the home.
Getting the Mind to Shut Up
Once you have selected a place you prefer, your next goal is to quite the mind. We all have an inner voice that is a back seat driver to our entire lives. This little voice has an important purpose when it reminds us of dinner cooking unattended in the other room, or that info your boss asked you to bring him two hours ago. However, sometimes the inner voice doesn't know when to quit. As soon as you settle down for some quiet, a barrage of ideas or worries is likely to hit you. "Shouldn't I get something to drink before I start this? Did I close the window in the other room? Maybe something good is on TV?"
In the morning hours you may worry about all the things you need to get done that day or you may have trouble staying awake in such a relaxed state. If you are dong this at the end of the day you will most likely start thinking through all of the days events. When frustrations, worries, idle thoughts, and ideas surge to the front of your mind, don't immediately try to block them out. Give at least each thought a moments consideration before gently setting it aside. Acknowledge that you will deal with the urge or stress later, but not now. You don't need to clear your mind of all thoughts, just get the loudest and most belligerent of them out of the way.
If you are still plagued with unwanted thoughts, you can try this exercise which is a visualization in itself.
Black Box Technique
Imagine a black box surrounding your brain. This box is a very solid material, so thick and impenetrable that not even the tiniest particle can penetrate it from the outside. This is a special box since thoughts can leave it, but not reenter. The box is so black that it would be impossible to see if not for a small amount of outside light reflecting off the edges. All your mind and its thoughts are now safe inside this box. Nothing can get inside this box, only out. Take those thoughts that are worrying you and place them outside the box. They won't be able to pass through the impenetrable black walls that are protecting your mind. Be persistent with this technique. If you start to visualize it and become distracted, simply pick up where you left off. Place any thought that you can't dismiss outside the box until your mind inside is calm and ready to focus on something more important.
Be sure to dismiss the image of the black box once you are finished with your work. You can dismantle it slowly by removing one wall at a time, or simply imagine it dissolving under your will until it is nothing.
To gage where your visualization abilities currently stand, you should take a photograph or any other detailed image and stare at it for a few minutes. Try to memorize every detail in the photo from top to bottom. Look at where people are standing, what they are wearing, where the shadows fall on their clothes, and even the blurry colors or small details in the background. Give yourself about 2 to 3 minutes to study the picture, and then close your eyes and clear your mind. Recreate the photo in your mind as vividly as possible. You can take time building the image up piece by piece if need be, or try to see it all in one shot. Hold the image in your mind and look for pieces that are missing or that you are unsure of. Be honest with yourself, and allow yourself to consider with curiosity what may have been overlooked. Once you feel you have a good feel for what your imagined picture looked like, open your eyes and look at the original photo. Be honest with yourself and take notes of the things you forgot or that you recreated incorrectly. There maybe be some significance to the things you have more trouble memorizing. If it's shading, colors, or any other general area you are having trouble with, just double your efforts in those areas and you'll soon have them mastered.
Some people will have be naturally skillful in this, while others will need to practice more. Don't let yourself get too discouraged if it proves too difficult. This is only for you to get a feel of what you are capable of.
After playing with this initial experiment you can start from a good basis by working with an individual item instead. Start by visualizing a single object in your mind, an apple for instance. Build up details of the apple by asking yourself questions. "What color is it? Does it still have it's stem? Oh god, is that a worm?" Answer each question with a change or addition to the image.
Turn the apple in your minds eye and be sure to include such details as how light shines off of it's polished skin. Turn it upside down and over again, including as much realism as possible. Not only should you animate the object but try changing it. Make the apple's red color fade to a light green, or an exotic blue. Add stripes or spots, or even cartoonish eyes that blink.
Stretch the apple into a cylindrical shape so it is the shape of a candle, and make the fruit's stem become the wick. Now light the wick, and make the flame dance high. Make the flame dance to the beat of your favorite song. That's right, sound is a part of mental visualization too! The same as how you can recall the sound of someone's voice who you miss, or like when a catchy commercial jingle gets stuck in your head. Conjure up a simple drum beat to start with, or listen to a song a few times right before you begin to visualize. This should help tremendously.
Visualizing in 3D
It's very beneficial to master visualization to such a degree that you conjure up complete places that you have visited before. Choose a room that you spend a good deal of your time in, perhaps your office or bedroom. Close the door to this room if possible to help establish the area's boundaries. Look around the room and memorize as many details as possible. Look carefully at the floor. Is there lint in the carpet, or does it have patterns created by a vacuum or indents of foot prints? Observe all the different things you have on the shelves and their exact placement. Take time to look at the ceiling and any light fixture that may be up there. Walk around the room to see how things look from different angles.
When you feel you are ready, get comfortable and recreate everything in your mind. Move around the image of the your room just as you would have physically, or let your movement around the room be as steady as a movie camera swooping over a dramatic scene. Just as you did in the physical, be sure to rotate your point of view around the objects of the room and explore new perspectives. If you find a blank spot as you do this or you become uncertain as to where something was, open your eyes and take another look at that area. It may take a lot of concentration to do this but it is worth the effort. You can make things more challenging by having a friend quiz you about details while you are recreating the room. Changing your perspective so you are looking through the eyes of a pet walking through the room or someone walking on the ceiling can add further challenges. If you enjoy this sort of exercise, extend your image to hallways, other rooms of the house, and even the yard.
Free Association with Music
The more you paint with your mind's eye, the easier it will become to imagine anything. Relaxing in a chair or bed with a pair of headphones and your favorite music can create a wild adventure or existential bliss. Establish the frame of mind you usually visualize in, and then let go of rational control over what you are seeing. Tune into the music and your subconscious should take over with little prompting and away you go. It may just be lights designs and colors that your mind conjures up, or it may be much more.
Experimentation with different types of music should produce variations in results. For a more engaging version of this experience, do not release all control over logical thinking. Create on the fly and let the music be the inspiration. If the music is fast with a good drum beat let yourself quickly travel over different landscapes or soar through the sky. Creating a world around you while travelling at a fast pace is a fantastic and exciting challenge. If the music's rhythm changes mid-song or from track to track, then even better! Adjust what you are doing to suit the song. For example you may be a lion galloping across the African Tundra to a fast paced beat, and as the cd moves to a ballad you jump into a lake and placidly float on your back as the slow song takes over.
Creating Your Own Place
Visualizations greatest joy is that it is in no way limited by reality. You can create you own little worlds to explore and relax in. People are often taught to imagine themselves in a tropical paradise as a coping mechanism to deal with stress. I recommend you take this a step further and create an ideal environment for yourself. Perhaps you've always wanting to live in a small cottage in the country that was on the top of a very high hill. You could start by creating the outside of the cottage and what its yard looks like. Once you feel you have the detail worked out enough, open the door to the cottage and create the first room as you walk into. Create step by step over many sessions if you need to, but don't limit yourself to reality as you know it. If you want the tiny cottage to have 100 marble floored rooms inside, so be it! Perhaps the hill the cottage rests on is completely surrounded by waterfalls, or maybe the hill floats around in the clouds. You could sit on the edge of the hill and watch all sorts of cities and lands pass by far beneath you.
The benefit of having a regular place you create and visit is that the detail will become more and more outstanding the more you visit, and it will be easier for you to bring yourself there despite outside conditions. You'll find your place is a wonderful escape when your are sitting in the dentist chair, getting shots at the doctor's office, or getting away from stress in your day to day life. It can also be something you do just for the fun of it.
Frequency of Visualization
Try to set some time aside everyday just for creating and exploring images, or for visiting your place. With regular practice you will be strengthening your magical abilities and naturally awakening other of your mind's abilities. Visualization is most often the first step in teaching astral projection and remote viewing, and for some people these abilities may begin to occur naturally after frequent use and practice of the above techniques.