In these logic and language oriented times we often leave behind the benefits and powers that our ‘right-brain’ and its ability to imagine can bring us. In recent times sports coaches have been using the power of imagination to increase the skills and abilities of athletes. These same techniques can benefit us in many ways in our lives.
The brain doesn’t know the difference between an event that is real and one that is vividly imagined. This can be used to train the brain and affect the body. In fact it is happening all the time without us really being aware of it. Let’s start to use this feature of our brain/body connection for our own good.
The brain likes full featured ‘inner movies’. Bring all your senses into your imaginings to increase their effectiveness. This includes your physical senses, imagining the smells, sounds, textures and even tastes of your visualization. But also it includes the sensory features of our inner world, our feelings. Ensure that you imagine the good feelings that you want to go along with the skill or event you are creating in your mind’s eye.
Brain events follow pathways. The more you think or feel about something, the more ingrained that particular pathway in the brain becomes. Get skilled at new habits and new ways of thinking by moving out of old ‘thought pathways’ and creating new ones that fit the life and feelings you want to have. Deliberately wear a groove in your new desirable pathways with regular visits.
1) Vision games – tell the eyes and brain what you want
Most vision improvement activities include a portion where the eyes are closed and we ask the vision student to vividly imagine the object of their attention. This gives the cells of the retina a chance to clear and refresh themselves. Most importantly, imagining the object with clarity, bright colour and detail tells the brain where we want it to go in its function.
It’s after the eyes closed part of vision activities that students notice the most difference in their acuity and/or get ‘clear flashes’! Make sure you are giving full time and attention to the eyes closed and visualizing parts of your eyesight activities.
2) Decreasing the stress of events – use the brain to train the body
We often allow ourselves to imagine the things that can go wrong, with the subsequent physical stress reactions this brings. Our hearts start to pound, our stomach to hurt, muscles tense up. And it’s not surprising that in this state things can easily go wrong or overwhelm us with stress. Let’s reverse this process by intentionally imaging things going well.
When doing martial arts drills or kicks I now take a few seconds to clearly imagine what my body is going to do. If I don’t do this I have often made mistakes. Every time I vividly imagine what I am going to do, it happens easily and I don’t get caught by ‘thinking too much’ while my body is moving.
Thinking about an upcoming plane trip has had me tensing up all over! After sitting myself down and clearly imagining the whole trip in detail, with everything going smoothly, I can now think ahead to my travel without feeling my mind and body going into stress overload. I know that when the time comes to get on the plane my body and brain will remember the feeling that ‘it’s all ok and going smoothly’ and I will stay reasonably relaxed as the events happen.
3) All senses are go! – use the powers that you have
When we create an image in our mind, the more complete it is the more effective it will be. Our inner world is comprised of the information we receive and how we respond to that. Even though the vast majority of sensory input in humans comes in through the eyes, our other senses still have a dramatic effect on our subconscious.
Use this to fully inform your visualizations and make them as powerful as they can be. You can use real objects to inform your senses then take this information with you. When you want to improve your reading ability, you imagine white to increase the contrast with black print. Find pictures of white objects and landscapes to inform your conscious mind, then bring those images back in your visualizations.
Bring in the smell of snow, the warmth of a white rabbit’s fur, the softness of cotton balls, the taste of vanilla ice-cream.
4) Train the brain
We often think that we are helpless in the face of our brain function. But the brain is an amazingly changeable and flexible device that will receive training gladly. While there are commonalities in what the brain does in different parts of its anatomy, modern medicine has begun to realize that brain function is not fixed and can be changed. This is illustrated by specific functions being learned in wholly different areas of the brain after the original area of that function is damaged.
The really astonishing thing is that we can have input into what our brain does. One of the inherent tools we have for this is deliberate visualization, and deliberate thinking and feeling. If you feel sad much of the time, this means there are sad pathways grooved into your brain function. Electrical signals are sucked into those pathways and flow along them to their predetermined end, and the process starts all over again.
Try this experiment; whenever you have a recurring feeling you don’t enjoy, such as fear, immediately stop and notice the feeling of being in a rut (give attention to this only the first few times). Then imagine a new pathway and vividly visualize a feeling of happiness and lightness, with images and full sensory input. It might be sitting on the grass with the warm sun and a feeling of being loved and safe. Imagine it fully for 30 seconds.
Do this every time the feeling of fear comes up, whether as tension in your tummy or anxiety about an event or person. Notice that as you do this over and over again, it becomes easier. Notice how it starts to become automatic and you are no longer trapped in the old fear pathway, but instead easily flow along the pathway of support and reassurance!