Visualization, aka imaginative meditation, or positive thinking, was popularized by French pharmacist, Emil Coue, who believed it is difficult to “will” yourself to relax but easy to visualize yourself in a safe refuge. He believed your thoughts can change your reality.

You can get guided visualizations, but I think that images that you create yourself are more powerful. Visualization can be as simple as imagining a single image, or as complex as creating your own safe refuge, complete with sound, smell, color, taste, & feel. You can use the images to rest, answer questions, or imagine solutions.

1. Receptive Visualization is where you imagine yourself in a safe refuge and then ask a question and wait for a response, such as asking “Why can’t I relax?” then wait for a response to emerge. You're waiting for your own consciousness, intuition, or feelings to respond. This can also be done with an imaginary guide (a character from your mind that can help clarify your tension and help you find solutions). You can visualize this character interacting with you in your refuge.

• A quick note on guides: this guide is an imaginative character from your own mind. It's like talking to yourself from one part of your own consciousness to another. Objective and subjective. It is not an outside force or spirit.

• I highly advise against asking outside forces and spirits to act as your inner guide. This is extremely dangerous. Such spirits may appear comforting and helpful at first, but are almost always deceptive.

2. Programmed Visualization is where you imagine a positive outcome to a goal, healing, or solution you want to attain. Studies have shown that people who imagine themselves healthy are actually healthier than those who do not (probably because they have less tension, lower heart rates, etc).

A couple of simple visualizations exercises are written below. Once you have visualized your safe refuge and begun to relax, you can progress to the purposes listed above- ask questions, or visualize outcomes.

To begin, I recommend that you lie down or find a comfortable sitting position, and do a breathing preparation. See breathing exercises.


Using Metaphorical images may help you begin to relax. The best images are the ones you create yourself. Think of a metaphorical image of tension (e.g. siren, glaring light, jackhammer, a taut cable, high shoulders, large crowd, dark tunnel, etc).

Then replace that image with an image of relaxation. Image the tension image softening into something calm, (e.g. a siren softens into a whisper of wind, the glaring light softens into the warm glow of sun, the cable goes slack, shoulders descend, you pass through the crowd into an open meadow, the dark tunnel opens out to a quiet beach).

Creating a safe refuge

When structuring your refuge, follow these simple guidelines: allow a private entry, make it peaceful, comfortable, safe, fill it with sensuous details (the more details the better), visualize foreground, middle ground, & background, allow room for expansion and revision. It can be indoors or outdoors. It might be easily accessible, or require a short journey (nothing too complex or strenuous). Imagine all the details. Imagine yourself unloading your tensions there, and becoming at ease, healthy, & vibrant. Examples of safe refuges: a country kitchen with a view of waving wheat outside the window, a horse trail taking you to forest meadow with quiet stream, or a private sunny beach with warm white sand. Wherever you find peaceful.

Creating a place of healing

This is similar to a safe refuge but it doesn't necessarily have to be "safe"., it can be a place where you go to learn and face hard truths about yourself or your situation and can be sometimes uncomfortable or challenging.

For example, imagine yourself outside of a medicine wheel. There are four directions- north, east, south, west. There are four elements- fire, air, water, earth. There are four aspects to ourselves- spirit, mind, heart, body. Fill each quadrant with whatever is a useful representation. Now enter inside the medicine wheel. Where are you within it? Off to one side or other? In the center? What do you see in each direction? Walk around and explore each quadrant. Are there places you fear to go? Directions you fear to face? Can you feel the balance in the middle? Can you lean in to the hard places?

Stress Relieving Five Finger Exercise

1. Touch thumb and index finger- remember a time when you felt healthy fatigue. Let your mind dwell on all those sensations.

2. Touch thumb to middle finger- remember a time when you had a loving experience.

3. Touch thumb to ring finger- remember a nice compliment and accept it again.

4. Touch thumb to pinky- remember the most beautiful place you have ever been, imagine being there again.