This is the last part of my 3-part series I am writing for Ashley's Rewiring Your Wellness page. I am honored to be part of an amazing community who values brain health. So for my last article, I will talk a bit about visualizations and how they impacted my recovery and also to help those who do not do any brain rewiring practice to adopt one....there are many ways to accomplish this...and really all it takes is 5 minutes at at time. I believe everyone can take 5 minutes out of their day to help their brain take a mini-vacation...right?
As a comment to my last post, my brother in law asked if I could break down the brain rewiring into basic steps to see how we brain retrainer's approach our rewiring vs mental rehearsal that is done by athletes and anyone else wanting to expand their capability.
Although I learned visualizations during an executive training program to help with easing into certain actions and decisions, I really never put it into practice. Why? I made excuses that I didn't have time, or I couldn't relax or I wasn't able to plain do it. Boy, you figure out how to do it right quick when the 4 walls start to close in on your declining health. If you ask me, a mental practice should be something every human should do everyday to help maintain some balance in the brain and body. I know I will do some brain practice now for the rest of my time here on earth. Wow, this was a really rough way to learn that mindfulness is supportive in so many ways in our life, especially now, with all the stuff going on in the world...it certainly doesn't hurt and it definitely helps.
To me, doing visualizations were the highlight of my day for several reasons:
For 15-20 minutes a day, I am in a place of pure joy taking myself on journeys to my places of refuge (Rick Hanson reference) and teaching my body how to produce the positive neurochemistry so that I can switch out of adrenaline and into calm.
I could choose to do this practice with a buddy or on my own. In the beginning I did lots of this work on my own, and then eventually through my friend Brigid, I adopted buddies. I did mystical visualizations with my friend Brittany and many other destination visualizations with other buddies alike. Needless to say, I had quite a few buddies who got to listen to my places of refuge and revel in them.
I knew that I was teaching my body to produce the positive neurochemistry I needed to help my body and brain get out of the chronic fight/flight maladapted stress response I was stuck in. When you are in a maladapted stress response, you tend to feed off of adrenaline, you crave it...it's like this is what you need to get through a day. When you are not in that state, your executive brain functions are on line and things like decision making, thinking, and moving through life without any fog or challenge is easy. I call it clarity...when you have clarity in all parts of your life and can see clearly...you are in balance.
I realized that I am good at it after a few months of practice. Yes, I am good at visualizing what I want and how I want to get there. I can revel in those actions and tasks without any challenge and allow myself to explore things that I didn't think were possible.
Now, are you asking yourself if you can devote the time and energy to this work, to the work to mind yourself...to build mindfulness into your daily routine. I hope you are saying yes, because I will take you through how I did my visualizations.
First, I would start off with some affirmations that I built my practice into. Now, the program I used gives you the lead in steps...so I will not use them here....because I am breaking this down for those who don't practice or do practice and can incorporate some tips into their practice. I connect very deeply to the chakra energy system in the body...so I used chakra mantra's to lead myself into my visualization. I would say things like...
Root Chakra: I am strong, abundant, and supported
Sacral Chakra: I am the creator of my entire reality
Solar Plexus Chakra: I am worthy in pursuing my passion and my purpose
Heart Chakra: I am love, I give love, I am open to love.
Throat Chakra: I am in alignment with my truth, I speak with clarity and intention (there is that word again -- clarity, Lol)
Third Eye Chakra: I am connected to my spirit and I trust my intuition
Crown Chakra: I am connected to the divine, I honor the divine within me and around me.
Then the fun started....I would visualize a moment from my past that brought me sheer utter joy. My favorite one is when I was 14 and was performing a dance with my friend, Viloki. Why does this memory give me this feeling of safety and elevation....because it is me doing what I love to do...dance and dance with people who love it as much as I do. I would describe the outfits we wore, from the color to the bling jewelry to the hairstyle we had, the expression on my face when doing the dance, how we looked at each other in the dance, and ultimately how it made be feel. I felt alive and clear. I felt SAFE. Wow, that is an amazing memory to relive over and over again. I have included a copy of this visualization at the end of the blog for those interested in listening.
After the past memory, I would then use a bridge, as my friend Shoshana calls it. The bridge would build myself up again with "I am" or "I love" statements and how I want to be. Some examples are as follows:
I am strong, powerful and independent. I can handle anything that comes my way.
I show up to my life like a determined athlete, a champion of my life.
My life is boundless, I am open and I am free.
I love myself, I love myself, I love my life.
Slowly easing into a future moment. I used many places to help me to visualize the future. The visualization I used to go into the future often with was one of me and my husband in Bali, on the beach. I would visualize the tranquility of the water and the sand as it hit my feet as I walked on the beach holding my husband's hand and letting the warm water hit our feet. I would imagine that place for 5 minutes describing every detail I could to lift my spirit and livelihood. I would feel the togetherness, the sun, the clouds, the wildlife, the water, the colors, you name it, I felt it for 5 minutes straight.
This would take me about 15 minutes minimum. Then I realized something (my A-ha)....I could do these visualizations in small spurts throughout the day in 5 minute chunks. I would do these in the shower, in the car, lol...whatever works. I called it visual daydreaming.
So here is a quick, easy way to incorporate a visualization practice into your life:
Find a comfortable spot, you can either lay or sit. Start with a few cleansing breaths. Let anything you are holding on to OR is holding on to you go. Let it all go.
State some "I am" affirming statements that describe you. Make this joyful and playful and true to you. You can use the chakra statements above to help you until you find the statements that suit you.
Take yourself on a visual journey of a place you love, a positive uplifting experience, anything that will bring positive neurochemistry, speaking out loud and describing what you want to visualize...notice every detail from the colors, to the textures, sounds, smells, any sense that will bring in the joy in reveling in this moment. (Once I spent 5 mins describing a palm tree...that was really interesting)
End by thanking yourself for doing this practice and celebrating the accomplishment.
Something anyone can do to help build the positive neuroplasticity.
So there it is bro-in-law....the quick, down and dirty breakdown of a visualization practice. Thank you, Samir, for the inspiration for my last blog on this platform. I hope this is helpful to anyone starting out in a practice or anyone who is doing a formal program.
I want to thank Ashley Dawson for creating this amazing space for those who look for community, connection and tools...or just plain inspiration. I also want to thank my fellow blogger for their unwavering support as we learned this writing platform as well. I am grateful to have contributed to this in my own way. Ciao.
Here is a copy of the visualization I described above.