Visual-eyes…

Visualization…  This is another one of those “Power of Positive Thinking” kinds of techniques I’ll be prone to reference in this blog on a fairly regular basis.  I do tend to think that such techniques have a lot of value, and that they really can influence reality around us, both indirectly — by inspiring us to finer performance in whatever area it is that we’re performing — and directly, even…because I’m convinced we can sometimes literally edit the world, just through sheer force of will and conviction.

Yes, you can actually take your quill pen to the world and edit it to better suit yourself...
Yes, you can actually take your quill pen to the world and edit it to better suit yourself…

I first heard about this principle of positive visualization as a youngster, and it was in the context of competitive sports: I was playing basketball back then, and I went away to actual basketball camp a few times, and it was at one such roundball retreat that one of the coaches got into this topic.  He referenced the principles laid down in a classic 1960 self-help book called Psycho-Cybernetics, by an author named Maxwell Maltz, and boiling down the gist of it into very simple terms, we were taught that visualizing successful performance in the mind’s eye can lead to actual success on the basketball court (and this then also applies to whatever other arenas in life you want to apply it to, as well).

So as an example, a critical part of any basketball player’s arsenal is the ability to sink foul shots (also called free throws).  Briefly, if a player is touched in some illegal way by an opponent, the wronged player is then allowed a “foul shot” or two (further details on the scoring of foul shots aren’t especially important to this discussion, so I’m dispensing with them…).  As you may have witnessed, the foul shot takes place in a sort of bubble of enforced static suspension: instead of all the players on the court running around in full kinetic motion like they usually seem to do, the player shooting the foul shot stands at a line 15 feet from the basket and takes a shot at sinking the ball into the hoop, while the rest of the players are obliged to stand still in place and watch, until the ball hits the rim of the basket, at which point play can resume.  Strategically, foul shots are opportunities for players to score points while enjoying the least amount of active contention from opponents that they’ll ever face during regulation play.  Teams that excel at foul shooting render it a grave error to commit fouls against them, while teams weak in this area are in a way almost encouraging opponents to rough them up!

Allen Iverson shows us how it's done from the line, as he makes the Lakers regret fouling him...
Allen Iverson shows us how it’s done from the line, as he makes the Lakers regret fouling him…

So the lesson that my long-ago coach was trying to impart was that in addition to simply practicing the skill in question by shooting a million foul shots, we young players could also step up our game in that area by visualizing ourselves becoming fierce and unerring free throw shooters.  The idea is that such visualization then prepares our bodies, our muscles, to perform the necessary motions properly, without our conscious selves mucking things up with such unhelpful quantities as fear and doubt…and in some even less tangible but still undeniably possible way, our visualization is also alerting the Universe as to our intent, so that it becomes ready to flex its “muscles” toward actualizing our envisioned result, and making our desired reality — the successful sinking of the foul shot, in this case — actually come to pass.

And that’s about as sports-intensive as I ever aim to get in this space…but the lessons can then be extended into the realms of the occult and the metaphysical…

Visualize...and then project that image outward onto the screen of the world...
Visualize…and then project that image outward onto the screen of the world…

The concept can become more than transforming a visualization into one specific physical act (like sinking a foul shot) — you can work on visualizing entire events, complex performances, or even states of being for yourself.  The notorious occultist Aleister Crowley once offered the famous definition of magic: “the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.”  In other words, you can alter reality by willing the alteration.

Here’s an example that’s more complicated than just landing a free throw: say you’re set to give a big speech.  You’re nervous about the event.  Understandable, as many people rank their fear of public speaking as being even greater than their fear of death itself!  But visualization can not only help with this — it can, in theory, even bring about a successful performance.  This would involve you practicing positive visualization in the time leading up to the scheduled date of the speech.  Ideally, you’d spend some portion of each day dedicated to isolating yourself in a conducive atmosphere (think: quiet, relaxing, a decided lack of distractions), and then visualizing yourself delivering that speech as if it’s what you were put here on Earth to do: no nerves, no flop-sweat, no panic-induced fainting or vomiting…just a calm, cool, collected you, well-groomed, smartly dressed, looking sharp, and playing the audience like a virtuoso plays an instrument.  You never falter in your speech, your inflections and posture are perfect…you get laughs when you want them, and you bring listeners to tears at critical junctures…you change the courses of lives right there in that room, and when you finish, the applause is thunderous.  You take a humble and well-deserved bow…

The podium: something to fear more than death itself, or something you can visualize into being the gateway to your next great triumph...?
The podium: something to fear more than death itself, or something you can visualize into being the gateway to your next great triumph…?

And the more you’re able to reinforce this image of success as the event draws near, the more likely you’ll be to bring that vision into reality.  It can become sort of like a situation in which you “live” the desired version of things so often and so well in your mind’s eye that it becomes as familiar as a memory…and it can then seem just as etched in stone as a memory — the only difference is that a memory represents something that’s already happened, whereas you can regard the visualized event as something that’s also already happened, only it’s still in the future at the moment, not in the past, so you still have to live through it.  Think of it as being almost predestined, though, and you may be astounded at what you can then will into being.

And like I said, this can also work for entire states of being.  Do you want to be a doctor, but you fear it’s not in you, or you’re not worthy?  Start visualizing yourself as a doctor: you’re in scrubs…you’re consulting in your office beneath your diplomas…you’re working away in the operating theater, a devoted assistant mopping sweat from your brow as you save lives…you’re coming home from a long day’s healing, dropping some medical journals on your ornate living room table as you sink into your plush sofa…you’re checking in on a grateful patient who will enjoy many more years in this world that she or he might have missed out on completely if not for your timely and skillful intervention…  Visualize yourself as the doctor you can be, and leave no room for “I can’t” and “I might not” and “I don’t deserve” — because you can, and you might, and you do (deserve)…

And don’t worry if at first you can’t visualize things with crisp and vivid pseudo-reality of a CGI movie scene.  Visualization is a skill, and like any other skill, you may not start out at genius levels with it right out of the gate, and you also may be able to exponentially increase your results through simple practice and a positive outlook.  Try it a few times before chucking the idea, and if you feel overwhelmed, you can also start really small.  I saw the great advice recently to try something as simple as closing your eyes and imagining that you’re holding an apple — feel it in your palm, the smooth waxy weight of it, and see it, all red and almost-round…raise it to your lips, noticing that faint, smooth apple-scent…and then take a nice, big bite of it, feeling it’s firm surface yielding to your teeth with that familiar crunch, offering up its beloved fruit…

A is for Apple...and then move on from there...
A is for Apple…and then move on from there…

And once you can do that with some solid success — once you can see and feel and smell and taste the apple — try bigger scenarios.  You can even attempt to visualize you, engaged in visualizing!  Once you get some grounding in this skill, the applications are endless, and the results can be amazing.  Suggestion for the weekend: visualize…visual-eyes…

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