What is Visualisation Meditation?

During our mindfulness meditation retreats here at Les Sources Sacrées, our retreat centre in the south of France, we introduce our guests to a variety of meditation methods in an attempt to help them deal with stress and find the meditation method that each guest can seamlessly incorporate into their everyday lives. One of these methods is Visualisation Meditation.

I have long been a visualisation convert. Visualisation during meditation can be used to help you handle stress, cope with pain , lose weight and speed up healing; it can also help you improve your self-image or to mentally rehearse a desired outcome.

I often use visualisation when faced with a challenging situation, to rehearse the outcome in my mind before I start the task and more often than not, this has a positive influence on the outcome.

It is useful to distinguish between Simple Visualisation and Creative Visualisation during meditation. Simple visualisation involves seeing an image in your mind’s eye, for example, a horse grazing peacefully, when you want to relax. Creative visualisation has more to do with creating something new, for example, if you want to lose weight, you visualise a happy, fit and healthy you at your desired weight.

Simple Visualisation

One of the most popular applications of simple visualisation during meditation is relaxation. It is the process by which you start by focusing on your breathing, to still your mind and then picture a peaceful scene, place, colour or image. For example, you can imagine a glorious sunset of a deserted beach, or that you are walking through a quiet forest with bluebells lining the path, you can focus on a calming colour or imagine that you are floating on a cloud over a peaceful meadow, if you love books and reading, you may imagine that you are alone in an enormous library or if you love horses like we do, you can imagine being in their presence– whatever appeals to you and makes you feel relaxed. It works best if you choose your scene, place, colour or picture before you start meditating. 

Creative visualization

Creative visualisation is a powerful tool for personal development – it can improve your self-image, increase your self-confidence and help you handle difficult and challenging situations. It’s a technique used by athletes, writers, psychologists, entrepreneurs and successful people from all walks of life. It has been the subject of self-help books that have sold millions of copies, of which Napoleon Hill’s book, Think and Grow Rich was probably one of the first. W. Clement Stone said, “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve…with a positive mental attitude”. I agree with this – basically but only up to a certain point – the process is somewhat more complicated than just that.

It is true that every day, through the language you use and images you create of yourself in your mind’s eye, you develop and adjust your self-image. This influences your interaction with the world around you and the current situation you find yourself in. You can change your current situation and the way that you interpret and interact with the world around you by changing the way you think about yourself, about your strengths, your weaknesses, your opportunities and your limitations.

And you can do it during meditation.

Visualisation and Meditation

Visualisation or meditation is not the same thing, but visualisation can be incorporated into meditation. Meditation is a state of intense concentration. It focuses the mind to a focus by quieting the endless stream of mental chatter that constantly flows through most people’s minds. That focus can be on one’s breath, the sensations of your body, a mantra or a sound/music. Mantra meditation involves focusing the mind on a certain word or phrase, which you repeat over and over again. Breathing meditation involves keeping the mind focused on the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the body.

Or the focus can be a static image or a moving one.

When the focus of a meditation is an image, the meditation becomes visualisation. Visualisation is a specific kind of meditation. It is sometimes called mental imagery or mental rehearsal. A moving image can be a mental rehearsal, you imagine yourself doing something. You might experience the action, internal and external sensations and the consequences of the action in great detail in your mind. When it is a negative experience, we often call it worry. A positive experience can have a positive influence on events and a positive outcome.

Visualisation for relaxation might include a mental image of a relaxing place–a natural landscape or a place that feels safe and secure. Visualisation for healing might include mental pictures of the body attacking a disease or of a healing light bathing the body. Religious visualisation might include mental images of important religious figures. Visualisation for athletic peak performance is typically involves seeing and feeling the body perform a sport-specific movement as perfectly as possible.

Formulate and stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself as succeeding.  Hold this picture tenaciously and never permit it to fade.  Your mind will seek to develop this picture!” – Dr. Norman Vincent Peale

To incorporate visualisation into meditation you need to do a bit of preparation beforehand. We will assume that you want to improve your image of yourself. So start by thinking about how you see yourself now. Are you convinced that you are a good-for-nothing underachiever that will never amount to anything ? Or have you been told so many time that you are incompetent that you now believe that you are ? Or maybe in the past you have failed at certain challenges that you have set yourself and are now convinced that you will NEVER succeed in that field ? Do you have beliefs that may have served some purpose in the past but that are no longer useful but are keeping you stuck in a rut? Or have you set yourself certain limitations to protect yourself in the past that are no longer realistic ? We all do this, all the time.

Your self-image is directly responsible for your current situation.

If you want to improve your current situation, you need to change the way you think about yourself. You need to identify unhelpful beliefs and unrealistic expectations. You need to change the way you talk to yourself from criticising regardlessly to a more realistic approach.

Is there something that you desire to accomplish with all your heart that remains just beyond your grasp? How do you expect to do it if you keep telling yourself that you are too old, too slow, too fat or too stupid to do it?

During meditation, you can change the way you view yourself. When you meditate mindfully, you will notice yourself suddenly starting to think about something. The idea is to notice this tendency but not to react to any of these thoughts. You may notice that some of these thoughts involve thinking negatively about yourself. You can use visualisation during meditation to change the way you look at yourself and so build your self-esteem.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create. Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions. ” – Albert Einstein

It is important to take on board that visualisation, even during meditation, is not always enough to create change. Concrete steps also sometimes need to be taken to realise a desired outcome. If you want to lose weight, as well as visualisation, you will also need to watch you diet and maybe get more exercise. Once again, you can use visualisation to help : visualise yourself exercising safely and eating healthily.

In addition, I think visualisation works more effectively if our expectations are realistic – if we actually believe that we can realise what we are visualising. Sometimes it is better to visualise small achievements step-by-step, on the way to the desired outcome, rather than the end-result, a huge change that we doubt if we will ever be able to turn into reality.

Visualisation during meditation can function as a way to introduce us to the power of our own minds. Knowing how powerful an organ your brain is, can help you use it to its full capacity. Visualising during meditation can show you some of the power you have to wield and so increase your self-confidence dramatically. Our right brain can process 1 billion units of information per second, much more than our left brain hemisphere (16 units of information per second). Our right brain is the creative part of our brain and visualisation is a creative activity. Our subconscious mind mainly communicates with us through our right brain, and that is why visualisation is an effective way of communicating with our subconscious mind while our logical left brain works as a filter that enables our conscious mind to absorb everything that is going on around us while avoiding an informational overload.

Visualisation is not for everybody, and certainly some people, especially visual interpreters and learners, seem to benefit from it more than other learners – unless the other modalities are consciously worked in. (see Fleming’s Learning Styles – and if you want to determine your own learning style, you can do so by completing this questionnaire : The-VARK-Questionnaire ) We encourage the participants of our Mindfulness Meditation workshops to give it a try, to see it it works for them and we have been surprised at how successful this meditation technique can be.

If you would like to find out more about our mindfulness meditation retreats and workshops, please contact us on welcome2gascony{at]gmail.com or fill in the form below:

visualisation meditation


A Reformed MD, assisted by six talented Horses, hosts Workshops and writes Books in the south of France

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