Magic: Guided Visualizations and Meditations

If you search Google for either “Guided Visualization” or “Guided Meditation,” you’ll get a lot of hits. I first encountered these mental field trips in the 1970s when I was taking a relaxation/intuition seminar.

Briefly, a leader–in person or in a recording–leads individuals and groups through an imaginative (or recalled from memory) landscape, sets of affirmations, suggested visualizations, and other relaxing audio experiences that, faith-based or secular, are intended to help you experience deep relaxation and self-affirming statements/goals that are often accompanied by music.

In a group, people often lie on mats on the floor while the l leader reads from a prepared or spontaneous script; leaders also use pre-recorded visualizations or meditations. One beauty of the pre-recorded format is that it’s often available for purchase, so you can use it at home when it presents an experience that resonates with you.

Many visualizations begin with a relaxation method that’s akin to self-hypnosis. Some have you count down numbers, affirming that while you are doing this you are becoming more and more relaxed. Others ask you to pretend that you are doing down a stairway or an escalator or a trail to the valley floor.

While you are there, you might repeat scripted affirmations, imagine that you are meeting gurus or totem animals with messages for you, or simply listening to the music while pretending you are in a relaxing place. Leaders often give you a chance to say your own affirmations or think about your own psychological/spiritual journey.

(Note: Many experts say that affirmations–which often sound like New Year’s resolutions–are most effective when you do more than repeat them while relaxed or meditating. You need to do things in your waking world that support them. For example, if your affirmation is that you are getting more and more healthy every day, you need to tie this to doing healthy things–exercise, nutritious foods, etc.)

At the end of the visualization, the leader will usually end with a phrase such as, “Now I’m going to count from one to three. Then I say ‘three,’ you will be wide awake, feeling much better than before.”

If you use this process often, you will find that in time you can instantly “go” to your imagined relaxation status without having to count down. You know what it feels like to “be there,” so simply intend to feel that way as easily as you decide to raise your hand or sing a song.

The beauty of these visualizations/meditations is that you can listen to them often, learn how to replicate them, and–while you’re learning new skills–you’re having an enjoyable experience akin to listening to a favorite piece of music. If you listen to one at home, you’ll discover that you’ll often fall asleep. So, make sure you won’t be disturbed and that you really have time to fall asleep.

I haven’t listened to a guided meditation or visualization for a long time because I heard so many of them, that I can make up my own and/or reach the desired level of relaxation or active imagination without needing a series of steps. For most of us, this is the end result we want–a way to relax without medication, a way to handle stressful days, a way to discover the benefits of meditation, and a way of developing the so-called intuitive abilities that are latent in all of us.

–Malcolm

P.S. My thanks to Melinda for mentioning this subject in a comment in an earlier post. That reminded me it might be helpful to others.

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Magic: Your Favorite Place of Relaxation

Whether you’re meditating, using affirmations to improve your outlook on life, beginning a shamanic journey, visualizing a friend’s health needs, or listening to the promptings of your inner self (AKA conscience, subconscious mind), many “systems” will suggest that you begin by going to your favorite place of relaxation.

This place can be either real or imagined. Many people choose places associated with quiet and beauty–a mountain meadow, a shimmering pool,a moonlit lake, or even an easy chair in a room filled with books and perhaps a stone fireplace. The idea here, is that over time, you will be able to imagine/visualize this setting as a place of peace and serenity.

I use an imagined mountain cabin in a real place. Once I close my eyes and pretend to be there, my blood pressure goes down, my brainwaves slow, and I find myself in a state of mind where it’s easier to “do” magic.

At the beginning, you may need to monitor your breathing as you slow yourself down and think of this place. You may find that it takes you a while to fully believe you are “in” that visualized spot where you are at one with yourself. With practice, you’ll be able to simply think of it and find yourself in a state of relaxation that facilitates meditation.

It’s difficult to focus on magic, psychic visualizations, and healing yourself and others if you are in a logical frame of mind, worse yet, worried or uptight or feeling driven. Being able to silence our mind’s constant chattering and “go” (mentally) to a real of imagined relaxing place is a signal–almost like a post-hypnotic suggestion–that you are operating at a deeper level of mind than the one you use most of the time in your waking moments.

With practice, many people can slow down their brainwaves and breathing without having to (or visualizing) a relaxing scene. For others, the relaxing scene helps. For those it helps, the place becomes something of a place of power. That is to say, while one is imagining s/he is in this place, s/he can “see” the world in a different way than we do when we’re commuting to work or sitting at a computer. At first, what we “see” may appear to be imaginary, but in time, we discover that it is a mystical connection with “the big picture” and/or psychic impressions about the problem or issue on our minds.

When I began doing magic, I found it easier to start in my imagined favorite place of relaxation. I would spend time there in idleness before doing anything else. Later, I found that I no longer needed that place, that I could feel my relaxation and attunement with my intended plans without stopping by that place.

The place we select, though, is always available to us, as a retreat from the world, as a sanctuary, and as a place of mental power. It’s a powerful spot.

Malcolm

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Taking time out for breakfast at Wimbledon

“Deprived of a record-tying 22nd grand slam title in the Australian Open and French Open finals this year, Williams got to No. 22 Saturday by defeating Angelique Kerber 7-5 6-3 in a high-quality Wimbledon final.” – CNN in Serena Williams wins Wimbledon for historic 22nd grand slam title

Yes, I watch FSU football and. depending on the teams, selected games from the World Series. Otherwise, I’m more interested in tennis. Not because I’m any good at it. It’s fun to watch. Recently, I wrote a post about aging authors who are still writing, saying that that gave the rest of us hope. Watching Serena and Venus Williams, at 34 and 36 years of age, playing in a game that requires a lot of stamina and athleticism and favors youth, makes me feel amazed at what people can do who keep in shape and spend many hours a day practicing.

Wikipedia photo
Wikipedia photo

I’ve watched three of Serena William’s Wimbledon matches this week and, while balls hit into the net or just outside the line tempt me to yell at the television set, taking time out for breakfast at Wimbledon serves as a good antidote to my driven approach to my writing. I felt driven earlier this week to work through a hard-to-write section of my work in progress and also to post a blog here about 85-year-old author Edna O’Brien’s stunning new novel The Little Red Chairs (which I’m currently reading).

Time off for tennis has been a better use of my time because–had I asked one–it’s probably just what a psychologist would recommend. Both players in today’s Wimbledon final showed moments of frustration; Kerber rushed her game (and displayed brief moments of panic) on some points and that might have been one reason she didn’t beat Williams this time out. Frustration and panic are bad for a writer, for all of us. Goodness knows, the news this week hasn’t helped.

Time off might look like goofing off, but it’s controlled goofing off that takes one away from a constant focus on work and/or the news rather than turning into a 24/7 habit. Now I can look toward the afternoon feeling like I drank some magic tonic.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Emily’s Stories,” “Sarabande,” “At Sea,” and “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” all of which you can learn more about on his website here.

Day of Rest

“Every person needs to take one day away.  A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future.  Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.  Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” –  Maya Angelou  (Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now)

relaxationWhen I saw this quotation on Terri Windling’s Myth and Moor blog, I started thinking that while a writer’s life must appear serene to those who work in more active jobs, it’s very hard to allow oneself to get that day of rest.

If one is actively writing a story, the characters seldom take a day off. They’re always jabbering away inside the writer’s head. Or, s/he is thinking of facts to check or scenes that require another look. If one is not actively writing a story, then it’s easy to feel the need to be posting something on a blog like this one or on a Facebook page.

Case in point: before I saw that quote about taking a day off, I was thinking of writing a post in response to a writer/reviewer who doesn’t think Rowling’s adult books are all that good. I don’t agree and was going to say why–not that it matters one way or another in the scheme of things what I think about Rowling’s books.

But in thinking about a day of rest–after I’ve already gone to the store and cleaned out the gutters over the front door—going through that reviewer’s negative Rowling points one by one, seemed very in-restful. So, I’m letting that go in favor of reading more of her latest “Robert Galbraith” detective story The Silkworm.

Growing up, I never looked forward to Sunday because–in that era and in that town–Sunday afternoons were reserved for calling on other people. My two brothers and I were ordered to stay in our Sunday clothes, keep our rooms clean, and not to get involved in any games that messed up the house. It was not a day of rest.

Traditionally, I think of Sunday as a day of rest even though a fair number of people are working at the restaurants, movie theaters, malls and other places where many people go to rest. Folks are still working their yards, though possibly not starting up their lawn mowers quite as early as they do on Saturday.

There’s always football and beer, and whether one slumps on the couch with a six pack or has friends over for grilling, that’s probably better than heading off to the office to catch up on paperwork or clearing the thicket of privet out of the backyard. There’s always taking a nap. For some, there are hobbies that provide some of the best relaxation on the planet. Perhaps one can also call it rest.

We need more than we’re getting even if we have to trick ourselves into resting rather than thinking of all the stuff we ought to be doing. Thank goodness, the era of people dropping by to call on Sunday afternoons is long gone. For a kid or a writer, boring conversation is hell rather than rest.

Now, time to pick up my copy of The Silkworm in spite of what that reviewer said about it, and get some well-deserved rest after yesterday afternoon’s yard work. Later this afternoon, there’s a U. S. Open Tennis game I want to watch, er, with a glass of wine rather than a six pack of anything

–Malcolm

P.S. Thank you, Mel Mathews for your kind words about The Sun Singer in ‘The Sun Singer’ – The Hero’s Journey par Excellence

 

 

 

Allowing a story to happen

Some writers begin with an outline while others just start writing. Either way, the story is likely to have a mind of its own. Characters will do and say unexpected things. Research will turn up new ideas that alter the original ideas for a scene. Regardless of the overall plan, or lack of a plan, the story will need a bit of space in which to grow.

You’ll know when it’s better to wait patiently than to press on with your typing. This often happens at the end of a scene. Now it’s time for the characters to do something else. But what? Or, it may be time for for the writer to check in on another character. But who? Or, perhaps you’ve written up to the edge of A BIG SCENE and you’re not exactly sure how that big scene ought to get underway.

At times like this, I find it better to stop writing for 15 minutes, an hour, or perhaps for the rest of the afternoon and do something unrelated to the novel or short story I’m working on. If the next scene of the story seems close, but isn’t quite resolving into my thoughts, I’ll do something relatively mindless like playing a game of Freecell, hearts or Angry Birds. If I think the scene needs more time to come to mind, I’ll go do errands or mow the lawn.

When I distract myself, the next scene in the story always occurs to me out of nowhere.

I suppose there are many theories about this. I really don’t want to know them. If I did know them, the whole process might simply stop working. Anyhow, I have my own theory about it.

If you think about some of the methods people use to relax, especially those who do psychic readings or are using biofeedback to get rid of a headache or a sore back, the process begins with visualizing a relaxing place, slowing the breath, and then follows through various self-hypnotic methods that will slow one’s brainwaves and heart beat.

Now, I’m not suggesting Tarot card readers ought to begin with a game of hearts on their computers before spreading out the cards or that Freecell will send energy up and down your chakra system to improve your well being. Perhaps. At any rate, my mindless activities tend to produce the same results as structured or unstructured meditation. The result? I’ve stepped away from the story, relaxed, and allowed it to happen.

My won/lost percentage for Freecell, hearts, chess and other games on my computer isn’t good because once I begin playing them, the next scene of my story is likely to occur at any moment and to be so compelling that I can’t wait to get back to my Word file and start typing again. At that point, I’m ready to quit the game in a second and get back to the larger-order of fun: writing.

I suppose we all have our little tricks and superstitions. One way or another, they seem to be in our writer’s tool kits as the magic behind the curtain that allows our stories to happen.

Malcolm

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