Okay, so you know the basics of creative visualization are getting into a relaxed state and then visualizing what you would like to happen. But once you get started, a whole bunch of other questions come up.
Like these that a reader recently asked me:
How long or how often should you practice creative visualization for it to work?
Is spending more time on creative visualization better or is there an amount of time that’s “good enough”?
What exactly should you visualize?
(By the way, if you’d like more information about the basic steps of using creative visualization, I share more in a four part series I wrote about detailed creative visualization here or you can sign up for my newsletter to get my free ebook Manifest Your Best Life: 5 Powerful Tools where I explain more.)
So let’s break down these questions and my responses:
How much time should you spend in visualization?
Great yogis repeatedly visualized desired creations, and monks of some sects such as the Kargyupa spent up to seven years in complete solitude in a cave or sealed room perfecting visualization abilities. My interpretation is that they were practicing their skills during this time and not necessarily working on a specific goal. I believe the key here is repetition and not length of time.
Some of the most interesting research I’ve found on this topic has been the work of Dr. O Carl Simonton, radiation oncologist and medical director of Cancer Counseling and Research Center in Dallas, TX. He taught cancer patients how to use creative visualization to heal themselves of cancer.
He advised using relaxation and mental imagery three times per day. While reviewing information about his research and practice, I was not able to find that a specific amount of time was recommended. Most of my research into the works of various practitioners recommended visualizing for five to 15 minutes, or not specifying a limit at all.
Five to 15 minutes of creative visualization is a standard minimum. Or at least until the visualization you’ve planned is completed. On one end of the spectrum, short visualizations done off and on throughout the day can also be effective. This would be a more passive, informal practice of daydreaming your visualization while moving about your day, linking real world physical sensations to the experience you are visualizing. The other end of the spectrum would be to spend a significant amount of time in visualization (more than 15 minutes and possibly several hours).
I can see why someone might want to spend a large amount time in meditation or practicing the skills of creative visualization, but focusing on a particular outcome for a long period of time could be counterproductive. There is a danger in becoming too attached and obsessive about an outcome, creating a forcing energy. The recommendations usually given to visualize for five to 15 minutes are already effective and involve less effort. I’m not aware of any danger in visualizing for longer periods of time, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Do what feels comfortable to you and pay attention to your reactions.
How do you know what to visualize?
Have you ever had a specific desire in mind (say healing), but when you sat down to visualize it, you weren’t sure what “healing” should look like?
Should you visualize the next small step of improvement or the end result?
I found Dr. Simonton’s 3 detailed steps given to cancer patients to help them visualize healing very helpful. I distilled the main idea behind each of the three steps and visual images, so they can be applied to anything.
Here are the 3 steps with examples of how you could visualize each step depending on what your goal is. The examples provided are images for healing cancer, reducing swelling and inflammation, increasing muscle growth and losing weight, finding your soul mate or future partner, and overcoming shyness by introducing yourself to someone at a party. The first example provided in each step was taken from Dr. Simonton’s recommendations for cancer partients.
3 Step Visualization
1) Visualize the action that initiates and causes the desired outcome
- Tiny bullets of energy from radiation treatment bombarding cancer cells
- A soothing white light enveloping an area of swelling and inflammation
- Working out at the gym to increase muscle strength and to lose weight
- The moment you meet your soul mate/future partner
- You decide to introduce yourself to someone new at a party and overcome shyness
2) Visualize whatever is blocking or standing in your way to become weaker
- Cancer cells become weaker and more confused than normal cells and are unable to repair the damage
- Swelling goes down and inflammation heals
- Fat is burned off and replaced by muscle
- Release fear and doubt as you spend time with your soul mate/future partner
- Breathe deeply and feel your fear and nervousness melt away as you talk to someone new
3) Visualize your resolution and end goal
- Visualize white blood cells (soldiers of the immune system) swarming over dead and dying cancer cells, carrying them to the liver and kidneys to be flushed out
- Where there was once swelling and inflammation, there are now new, healthy cells growing
- See yourself in the mirror with your desired physique
- Imagine your soul mate/future partner saying, “I love you,” and being with this person after many years
- See the person you met responding positively to you and exchanging phone numbers with you
So basically, you want to visualize the key action that sets the plan into motion, negative forces weakening and positive ones gaining, and the end result and resolution. You want to visualize the details of the whole story. Visual descriptions should be very granular and detailed, tailored to your unique desire.
Has visualization worked for you? Leave a comment below if you have any additional visualization tips to share or a success story!
For more information about how detailed visualizations should be, check out my 4 Part Series starting with: How Detailed Does Your Visualization Need to Be? Part I
Do you have any questions you would like me to answer in my weekly blog post? Send your questions to Christina@CoachingWithChristina.com.
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