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I’m struggling with the visualization technique

by Andy Puddicombe

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Question:

I believe I am struggling to actually visualize things – even the bright light expanding from my chest. Is there a difference between telling myself about an image (ie. internally narrating a description) and actually “seeing” it in my mind?

Andy’s answer:

Yeah, visualization is difficult at first for many people, but the good news is that with a bit of practice it will begin to feel much easier and very natural.

As you say, there is a difference between simply seeing and feeling the visualization as opposed to narrating it. It’s worth comparing it to how we remember a particular event. Think back to a happy memory from the past. Let’s say, for example, that it is with some friends in a restaurant last week.

Now, when you bring that image to mind and remember the scene, I suspect you will not be thinking “ok, so there was Paul who sat to the left of me and there was Jane across the table and there was some ketchup in the middle of the table.” (Classy restaurant, I know!) Instead, the image will probably arise quite naturally and instead the commentary might be around how much fun it was and when you might be seeing them again.

It is the same level of effort required to visualize something. Even though we may not have witnessed the image before, the process is very similar, it is a very light touch. The best way around this is to focus more on the physical sensation as we bring the image to mind. After all, we cannot truly be with the image and the sensation while also providing a running commentary around it. So imagining that the body is experiencing what is happening in the mind and actually focusing on the sensation in that area can really help to cut through a lot of unnecessary thinking.

The one exception to this is when you are learning a new technique. It’s a bit like learning to drive a car. At first, there is a very useful commentary which goes something like “ignition, mirrors, handbrake, clutch,” and so on, but then, after some time, we know it so well we no longer need to think it through. In just the same way, to begin with it can be very helpful to talk it through, almost as though we are teaching ourselves. But then, in time, we drop the commentary and instead focus on the experience itself. Hope that’s helpful.

Warm wishes,

Andy

Andy Puddicombe

Andy Puddicombe is a meditation and mindfulness expert. An accomplished presenter and writer, Andy is the voice of all things Headspace. In his early twenties, midway through a university degree in Sports Science, Andy made the unexpected decision to travel to the Himalayas to study meditation instead. It was the beginning of a ten-year journey which took him around the world, culminating with ordination as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Northern India. His transition back to lay life in 2004 was no less extraordinary. Training briefly at Moscow State Circus, he returned to London where he completed a degree in Circus Arts with the Conservatoire of Dance and Drama, whilst drawing up the early plans for what was later to become Headspace.