Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How Creative Visualization Works

You may have heard the saying, "If you can see it, you can be it," meaning that when you hold an image in your mind, it starts taking shape in your life. This is great news, except that a lot of what we hold in our minds is self-limiting, and that sometimes we don't know how to program in what we want to create. Maybe we think that desire alone will do the trick, or that intense effort will force the change.

It turns out that "just your imagination" is extremely powerful, and if you can create an image in your mind, and really see and feel yourself in that new situation, it starts to take form in the world. The caveat is that if you are conflicted in any way (by disbelief, feelings of unworthiness, competing desires, lack of clarity), you can end up blocking what it is you desire.

So, the real work of creative manifestation is twofold. First, we work on visualizing what we want as if it is already happening (as opposed to wishing for something in the future). The second step is to follow our internal guidance regarding what appropriate actions to take. (This is very important because being in the right place at the right time is no accident).

Let me give you an example from my past. During the 90's, I spent several years in graduate school and 3.000 internship hours preparing to become a marriage and family therapist. When it came time to start studying for my licensing exams, I became very nervous---and with good reason. At that time, there were two rigorous exams (written and oral), and only 30% of candidates passed the oral exam. Some of my intern friends had failed the oral exam repeatedly (and devastatingly).

I should mention that as a child, I could barely open my mouth in public. I was so painfully shy that speaking in front of others caused me to panic. I would break into a sweat, my heart would pound out of my chest, and sometimes I would dissolve into tears and run to the bathroom. Let's just say that verbal expression was not exactly my forte.

Even so, I wanted to pass this test, so I decided to apply what I had learned from Shakti Gawain's book, Creative Visualization. I began forming images in my mind of how my success on this exam might unfold. I quickly found that I needed more concrete information about what was involved in the process, so I talked to a couple people who had been through it, start to finish. Once I could visualize the steps, I spent a few minutes each day visualizing getting from where I was to where I wanted to be.

At first, it was excruciatingly difficult to conjure up the image of a successful experience. Frankly the whole thing wreaked of "I can't do this," and "this sucks." But I had already invested so many years and so many dollars to get to this point, that I had to work through it. So every night and every morning I worked on seeing a version of success and ease, from A to Z. This is the visualization that eventually evolved:

1.  I am in a peer study group with a mentor who is preparing us for the oral exam. At first, I'm nervous and intimidated, but over time I begin to gain confidence and competence. How I think, feel, and even look improves from week to week as I am transformed from nervous girl to powerful woman.

2.  I see calendar pages flipping forward to the week of the exam. I close my workbook, and state firmly to my group, "I'm ready!" They all clap and affirm that yes, I'm ready, and that I'm going to nail this.

3.  Because the exam is in another city, I pack my overnight bag and make the two-hour drive to a hotel near the conference center. I take myself out for a nice dinner, and go to bed early. The next morning I awaken refreshed and ready to shine.

4.  As I walk into the conference room and meet my two examiners, I am happy to sense that they already like me. It's a good match, and the vibe is very supportive. The "case" they present to me is one that I can easily and quickly understand, and my presentation goes off without a hitch. The examiners glance at each other as if to say, "Wow, impressive!" As I leave the room, I know for sure that I passed the exam.

5.  Fast forward to the day that I receive my test results in the mail. I open the big envelope, and the first words I see are, "Congratulations..."

The fascinating thing is that the real life process unfolded exactly that way. The right study group presented itself, with the perfect mentor for me. The actual exam weekend differed only in what the hotel looked like. Even the conference room and the examiners looked like what I had seen in my mind. Even today, it gives me goosebumps to recall the true magic of that experience.

Of course, it's neither necessary nor possible (sometimes) to know how our dream will manifest, so your visualization may not contain all the details that mine did. The how is oftentimes part of the mystery, so don't worry if you don't know how it's going to happen. The important thing is wholeheartedly holding an image that you believe, and setting the intention for "this or something better."

I'd love to hear how visualization has worked for you. Please leave a comment below, or email me at jvshinn@wakeupsweetheart.com