Much of my personal worldview hinges on embodiment – I understand the divine as present in the cosmos, my history and feelings as present in my body, and my joy as expressing through my senses. And yet, many times I come to know these things – the divine, my feelings, my joy – not as direct, bodily experiences, but in the form of images, archetypes, and metaphors.
In The Spiral Dance, Starhawk writes of three selves – the higher self (or “God self”), talking self (or rational self), and younger self (the unconscious mind). Younger self, she notes, engages with our rational and higher selves through play, through magic and whimsy and make believe. Younger self’s truths can be teased to the surface through playing with imagery, subtly exploring the many layers of truth that comprise reality.
Ultimately, this is what ritual is for. Ritual is direct action – it engages the ancestors, offers prayers and celebrations of gratitude, and puts us into communication with the divine. Beyond that, though, it allows us to explore our deeper selves – our truths, our fears, our desires, and our inner wisdom – through the use of metaphors that feel simultaneously less personal and thus less threatening and deeply personal, carrying meaning specific for each of us. Rituals connect us to our humanity and to the cosmos even as they bring us into sharper awareness of our deeper selves.
For many people, guided imagery has come to be associated explicitly with the positive thinking movement, with envisioning the life you want to live, and “seeing” your way to success. For me, guided imagery is a ritual – blending relaxation, altered consciousness, story, archetype, metaphor, and play to tap into our innermost wisdom and bring it forth into conscious awareness.
My approach to guided imagery is less about envisioning a belief into reality, and more about placing yourself into a story, a setting, a sacred space, and allowing your subconscious knowing to unfold into the story in a creative, exploratory way. Sometimes, when I’m engaged in my own freeform creative imagery, I experience it more as journeying than visualizing, as ecstatic ritual more than a controlled pattern.
I try to bring this approach into the imagery I offer to others – enough structure to facilitate and guide your experience, with enough open space and open-ended prompts for it to be uniquely your own.
I’ve been writing guided visualizations, sharing them in public, and teaching them as a method, since 1998, and have designed and taught curriculum to teach imagery to both children and adults. By mid-2018, I hope to have the first of my recorded visualizations available online, and by the end of the year, I hope to have released my forthcoming book teaching visualization techniques for children. For more information or to book me for a class or presentation, please reach out through the contact form on this site!