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Author Topic: Visualization: what it is and how to do it. A guide for everyone — yes, even you.  (Read 10400 times)

Morag

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This was originally posted at The Mundane Mystic in November, 2012.

Visualization has always been easy to me. I don't say that to brag; it's just a statement of fact. It's so second-nature to me that sometimes I'll be talking about the things I do as a Witch, and someone will ask me "Well, how do you do that?" and surprised, I'll say "I just visualize it."

Simple. Easy. Done.

But it's not, for others. A lot of people I talk to say they have troubles visualizing.

Let me ask you a question: do you enjoy reading fiction? Of any kind?

If you enjoy reading (I include audiobooks here) fiction, then how do you experience what's happening in the story? Do you see it clearly in your mind, or do you smell it, or do you hear it, or do you feel it?

That's visualization. Period.

The word itself is problematic, I know, and is probably what gets most people hung up on the idea that they can't do it. Visualization. It seems to focus on sight.

It's really just shorthand for a collection of ways to imagine things. If you can imagine something in your own preferred way, that's visualization.

Perhaps we should use imagination instead of visualization? Only problem being the connotations between imagination and fiction. And we want our magic to be real, don't we?

Fiction is real. It appeals to our sense of wonder, to our Younger Selves/Sticky Ones. That's where magic happens. You can change more minds with a heart-wrenching piece of fiction than you can with a years-old blog archive full of fact-ridden, hard-hitting posts. Truth.

So here's an exercise for you. Next time you pick up a book of fiction, really notice how you experience what's going on in the story. Chances are you'll use a combination of several senses, but one will be stronger for you than others. Determine which sense is strongest for you. Then, practice visualizing things with that sense.

Start with a piece of food. Say, an orange (or an apple, if you're allergic to citrus). Usually when people say "visualize an orange", they instruct you to see it in your mind's eye for as long as possible. That's useful for some, but for people who are blind? Or colorblind? Or just can't see things in their mind's eye? The main distinction, visually, of an orange is that it's orange and round. Telling people to imagine what that looks like when they may have no ability to do so is not helpful.

So. Instead. Imagine what it feels like with your skin. It helps to get hold of an actual orange for the first time you do this. This is not an exercise in frustration -- it's an exercise in imagining clearly something that exists. Run your hands over it. What does it feel like? Note the smooth, bumpiness of its flesh. Squeeze it. Feel how firm it is. Run your nails over the flesh. Feel the shape.

Smell it. Note the scents of the orange. What feelings do these scents conjure up for you? Do you enjoy the smell, or does it make you nauseated?

Taste it. Taste the rind, then peel it with your nails; rip it away from the flesh below. Smell the inner flesh. Break apart the sections. Put one on your tongue; feel it with your mouth's flesh and taste it with your tastebuds. Bite into it. What does the juice taste like? How does it make you feel? Do you like it? Dislike it? What is your experience of the orange? How does it feel when you swallow?

Hear it. I know, some of you are laughing at me -- oranges don't make any sound! Well, how do you know? They might, for certain people. Hold it to your ear. Ask it to speak to you. Note what sounds come to you from the orange. Perhaps the sound of birds chirping, wind in the branches of an orange tree, children laughing. What sounds does an orange conjure up for you?

Everything you've done here can be done with an apple, or a melon, or a piece of bread. The point of visualization is to imagine the experience of something. This is not limited to sight. People tend to limit it to sight because we think of humans as being largely visual creatures -- but we're not all, and calling it visualization can be a huge stumbling block.

Don't let it be. Remember: you're imagining experience. That doesn't require sight. Utilize your strengths -- find the sense you connect with the easiest, and use that instead.

Voila. You've just learned how to "visualize" something. You've used one of your five senses to strengthen your sixth.

Lot less frustrating than most 101 magic books would have you believe, eh?
My pronouns are zie/zir/zirs but they pronouns are easier to remember for most folks.
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savvy

Quote from: Morag;155487


Lot less frustrating than most 101 magic books would have you believe, eh?

 
I just want to say, this article is just fantastic. I would say a must read for people new to visualising.
"I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it."
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Morag

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Quote from: savvy;155558
I just want to say, this article is just fantastic. I would say a must read for people new to visualising.

 
Aww, thank you! I'm so happy people find it useful. :)
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Raine

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Quote from: Morag;155567
Aww, thank you! I'm so happy people find it useful. :)

 
Immensely useful. Reading through this, I had the most intense visualization of an orange. XD I'll be linking back to this, a lot!
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Quote from: Morag;155567
Aww, thank you! I'm so happy people find it useful. :)

 
Not as much 'just' useful as completely changed how I look at visualization. I've failed horribly at the visualization lessons I was doing and kept wondering if I was doomed.

But books? Oh hells yeah I can imagine shit. And when I can't, I make word paintings in my head.

It's pretty sweet to go from I Suck Forever at Visualization to Holy Shit Look How Amazing I Am at Visualization over the course of one article.
Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.  — Shirley Chisholm
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Quote from: Allaya;155744
Not as much 'just' useful as completely changed how I look at visualization. I've failed horribly at the visualization lessons I was doing and kept wondering if I was doomed.

But books? Oh hells yeah I can imagine shit. And when I can't, I make word paintings in my head.

It's pretty sweet to go from I Suck Forever at Visualization to Holy Shit Look How Amazing I Am at Visualization over the course of one article.

Seconded. I'd been beating myself up for years about not being able to visualize, in large part because I'd internalized the word as 'painting a picture in your mind' and I...my visual imaginator doesn't work that way. Fragments, little animated .gifs maybe. A general sense of shape and space. But photographic-perfect scene paintings? Not a chance.

So yes. Thank you for the redefinition. So many things are making appreciably more sense.

Morag

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Quote from: Raine;155582
Immensely useful. Reading through this, I had the most intense visualization of an orange. XD I'll be linking back to this, a lot!

 
Quote from: Allaya;155744
Not as much 'just' useful as completely changed how I look at visualization. I've failed horribly at the visualization lessons I was doing and kept wondering if I was doomed.

But books? Oh hells yeah I can imagine shit. And when I can't, I make word paintings in my head.

It's pretty sweet to go from I Suck Forever at Visualization to Holy Shit Look How Amazing I Am at Visualization over the course of one article.

 
Quote from: Amphibian;155825
Seconded. I'd been beating myself up for years about not being able to visualize, in large part because I'd internalized the word as 'painting a picture in your mind' and I...my visual imaginator doesn't work that way. Fragments, little animated .gifs maybe. A general sense of shape and space. But photographic-perfect scene paintings? Not a chance.

So yes. Thank you for the redefinition. So many things are making appreciably more sense.

 
I am really happy that this made such a big change for y'all. The writing of the article came about because I was having so many conversations with people who said they couldn't visualize, and it suddenly clicked for me that it wasn't being taught correctly in most 101 books.

Which hadn't really clicked for me before, because when I read 101 books and they said "visualize" I went "ok" and just did what I always did when reading/fantasizing/daydreaming/etc and ignored their instructions almost completely.

So I'm really happy that I've been able to make it suddenly make sense for so many people who struggled with it before. :)
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Tom

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Quote from: Morag;155487
This was originally posted at The Mundane Mystic in November, 2012.

Visualization has always been easy to me. I don't say that to brag; it's just a statement of fact. It's so second-nature to me that sometimes I'll be talking about the things I do as a Witch, and someone will ask me "Well, how do you do that?" and surprised, I'll say "I just visualize it."

Simple. Easy. Done.

But it's not, for others. A lot of people I talk to say they have troubles visualizing.

Let me ask you a question: do you enjoy reading fiction? Of any kind?


This was really great. I've been realizing recently myself that I do actually visualize a lot and that it's a lot like my day dreaming and what I 'see' when I read fiction. It really helps if you read fantasy fiction for magic visualization too.

You wrote this really well and I'm glad other people who can better put it into words are saying this.

MadZealot

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Quote from: Morag;155835
... it suddenly clicked for me that it wasn't being taught correctly in most 101 books.

 
Nailed it.  :D:
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missgraceless

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Quote from: MadZealot;156032
Nailed it.  :D:

One thing I just realized is that while I dedicate/offer my daily morning coffee to Quan Yin, I close my eyes and feel the ridges and textures and heat of my mug. Doing it just a few minutes ago made me think of this article.

I noticed it helps to visualize something that you interact with every day. Imagining an orange is all fine and dandy, but I'm not too fond of oranges, so I don't have as clear an idea as others. But even as I type this I can easily conjure up the memory of my coffee, whether I finished it 10 minutes ago (which I did, yum!), or I haven't had any in weeks.
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