I had been entangled in an elaborate and multifarious dance with depression for most of my life. Even as a child I could feel my soul relentlessly wrenched and spun in a sort of somber tango, upon a stage that felt like quicksand, with no music even to follow. But it wasn’t until I had been pulled so close to it, until I found myself so engulfed in the centrifugal force of its spiraling whirl, when I became it and it became me and I felt myself submerged in some murky shadow of my squandered future that I realized, beyond all the negative qualifiers that I had assigned and attached to myself, I no longer knew who I was.
But whoever I had become, whatever I had become — the sum of all my shortcomings, my disappointments, my failures and losses — I didn’t want to be that anymore.
Up until then, I had exhausted many a night trying to convince myself to just “get through it” — year after year after year — with vague, trite promises that everything would “turn out,” that everything would be “okay.” But yet there I was again, inconsolably hopeless, and all my pep talks had lost their credibility; I wanted to know what “okay” meant, what it looked like, what it felt like. I wanted to do more than just “get through it.” I wanted to dance a new dance entirely.
So I closed my eyes, and I tried to imagine my ideal self…
I saw myself in a new red car, on an empty, open road in the desert. When I looked up into my rear view mirror, I smiled in the reflection; I smiled at the feeling of my foot on the gas, the wind in my hair, the smell of the yucca plants swirling in the warm summer air under the universe of stars above me. I pulled over and twirled around until I lost my breath, collapsing in laughter. I felt alive. Free. That was the feeling that I wanted more of. That was the energy of my soul.
I breathed in deeply and filled my lungs with that feeling, absorbing it into my bones like an energetic blueprint of who I was going to become, into my blood like a magnetic field that would lead me to where I wanted to go.
Of course that would take time, and like the butterfly it would be a messy metamorphosis, but holding that vision in my mind, in my heart and in my bones, helped me keep it in clear focus. I could explore how it looked from different angles and what it meant practically, I could assess what obstacles lay in my path and determine what steps I would need to take to get around them and how best to take them.
I imagined that quicksand stage beneath me begin to harden, and then slowly and surely it did. “I am grounded,” I told myself. I imagined finding my footing and regaining my balance. “I am centered,” I told myself, and then slowly, surely, I was. I imagined some faint strum of a pretty chord in the distance. “There is beauty,” I told myself. I listened for it and slowly, surely, I could hear it. And, slowly, surely, I was able to start passing through the tempest and dancing my own dance like that ecstatic woman in the desert. “I am alive.”
This is the power of visualization.
You have probably heard the term visualization before, especially if you’ve read about the law of attraction or manifesting. To be clear, visualization is not magical thinking; It is a tool and a gauge for creation, and it requires work.
In other words, visualization is fantasy put into focus. It is dreaming with intent. The dream is the foundation, the first step, but without action it remains just that — a dream. To visualize is to engage with the dream. It is is the recognition of the spark in that dream, the fire in your heart, and the choice and commitment to live in alignment with it and keep it burning; To pluck your dream from the stars and build it here on earth.
Many successful speakers, actors, dancers and athletes alike use visualization to prepare themselves for presentations and performances. It is also an effective technique to utilize in quitting unhealthy habits like smoking or binge eating, or designing new healthy habits like exercising regularly or keeping your home environment clean and organized. Visualization is often incorporated in guided meditations for relaxation or generating positive energy, in manifesting new career opportunities, better relationships, and abundance, and for emotional healing. Whether the goal is to feel confident in giving a speech in front of a crowd, to run a marathon and feel that rush of adrenaline as you cross the finish line, to lose weight and feel your best, to be present in your body and feel calm, to feel recognized and respected in your workplace, valued and loved in your relationships, or finding fulfillment and purpose in your life, visualization works.
Studies have shown that our brains interpret the images we conjure in our minds as if they are true experiences, thus, on a neurological level, we are unable to distinguish imagined memories from real ones; If a dancer actively imagines herself performing her routine in front of her audience on opening night, her brain is creating new neural pathways and memories as if she were actually on stage. Not only does this prime her motor control, but by making the unfamiliar experience familiar and positive, she is able to build confidence within herself and alleviate performance anxiety.
Visualization can also help us bring our desires into focus, to define them, clarify them, and refine them. When our desires are no longer ambiguous clusters of mirages in the distance — when they have form, definition, and direction — we feel more energized and motivated to reach them because we can see a path begin to reveal itself to them. As we become more aware of the steps we need to take, we become more attuned to resources that are available to support and assist us in getting there, and likewise what around us is a distraction or dead weight. Each step we take, we are finding solutions and building confidence, and we begin to feel less intimidated and overwhelmed by the obstacles ahead because we can feel ourselves moving forward, getting closer, there is tangible evidence, and that feels good. We begin to enjoy the challenge.
On an energetic level, we and everything around us — even our thoughts and feelings — are vibrations of energy. According to the Law of Attraction, we are all connected to each other within the Universe, and we attract energy that vibrates at the same rate and frequencies of our own. In a sense, the Universe is a mirror of our spiritual environment; When we focus on our anxieties and lacks, and operate in a state of fear and negativity, we draw people and situations to us that will support that reality. On the other hand, when we begin to focus on positives, what we are grateful for, and operate from a state of joy and love, we radiate a frequency that reflects that state and we align with people and situations that support that reality instead. So, when we visualize the things that we desire — money, travel — we are giving those things our attention and energy, thereby drawing in matching frequencies in the form of opportunities and open doors.
Here are some tips and techniques that I have compiled to help you harness the power of visualization for your own dreams and desires:
- First and foremost, you must give yourself permission to fantasize and know your “why.” So many of us throw the canvas away before we even dip a paintbrush to the paint. We’re afraid that we’ll never be able to finish it, that it won’t be good enough, etc, so why bother? This is why your “why” is so imperative; What about this goal is important to you? What’s at stake? What will happen if you don’t try? How will you feel if you don’t give yourself a chance? Know well what your reasons are so that you are prepared when you start to hear the negative self talk.
- Whether your goal is large or small, be specific about what you want. If you are trying to lose weight, don’t just say “I want to lose weight.” Say instead, “I want to lose ten pounds.” Don’t just say, “I want a better job,” Say instead, “I want a job that allows me to be creative, in a supportive workplace that encourages growth.” Be as detailed as you can.
- Use positive language. If you want to generate abundance in your life, don’t say “I want more money.” Say instead, “Money flows to me,” or, “I have the money that I desire.” If you are seeking a new relationship, don’t say “I want a partner who won’t cheat on me.” Say instead, “I want a parter who is honest and faithful.” The difference here is, when you quantify your intentions with words like “more,” or qualify them with what you don’t want, you are actually coming from those states of lack or hurt. Lack and hurt, then, are the vibrations that you are sending out and more lack and hurt is what you will receive.
- Feel what you want in your body and in your heart just as much as you think it in your head. Feel what it feels like to lose ten pounds. To be in a better working environment. A more harmonious relationship. We are motivated by our emotions more than anything else, so creating strong, positive emotions around our desires is key.
- Visualize both the process and the end goal. Imagine yourself taking the steps necessary to achieve your goal and imagine yourself reaching the goal.
- Visualize both as an observer and as a participant. Imagine that you are in a movie theater and watching the process and the achievement unfold on screen. Look at what is around you, who is around you, how you are carrying yourself, the expressions on your face. Then imagine the whole thing again, but through your own eyes and in your own body.
- Be consistent. Practice this daily or at night before you go to bed. Better yet, both if you are able. You are trying to create a new energetic momentum so it isn’t enough to just say I want x, and expect it to happen immediately. You have to keep generating that new energy in order to create the shifts necessary for change.
- Be open. Send your energy into the Universe and trust that it will be go where it needs to go. You are the creator and commander of your Universe, so there is no need to beg or plead once you step into that power.
Has visualization worked for you before? How have you used it? What happened? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear your stories!