As a teenager, I attended a swim clinic at an indoor pool. Listening to instructions on the deck in the warm humidity as voices echoed around the large space made it hard to focus, but at least I wasn’t cold. The coach set up a video camera at the side of the pool and then recorded each of us doing a start.
We watched the tape. He made suggestions before we recorded another round. “I want you to visualize gripping your hands, placing your feet, relaxing your shoulders. Imagine taking a deep breath and listening for the official’s beep.”
I ran through the steps in my head and my second start was better. I carried this with me. Subsequently when I waited in chairs and on benches in staging areas, I visualized my start, strokes, and turns. I joined the cross country team. In study hall dressed in my warm-ups on race days, I found myself mentally completing the course. The habit of visualizing a good competition calmed and focused me.
In college my retinas acted out repeatedly. I wanted to heal them. During one of the many hours spent in facedown recovery after surgeries, visualization returned. I created a little daily routine as if I could clean and repair and strengthen my retinas with only my brain. Whether it did anything or not, it made me feel better.
Another experience with visualization happened earlier than any of those episodes. As a child watching Saturday morning cartoons, I saw a kids news clip about pain. They said to imagine a TV that’s on but has poor reception. It broadcasts zigzags of black and white fuzz and loud sounds. This is your pain. Walk over to it and turn down the knob to reduce the irritating sound. Twist the knob the whole way to turn the television off. Imagine your pain going away…
Now as I deal with tension headaches and eye fatigue, visualization is here, too. I devised a new mental routine. This time I imagine a darkened space like a sauna filled with steamy eucalyptus vapors. I take deep cleansing breaths. Then I imagine a place like a tropical rainforest where my eyes are comfortable and I pick out the wildlife sounds around me. Then I’m walking next to a rocky creek in the moonlight, listening to the cascading water. I’m trying to interrupt the pain cycle. The only problem is this meditative visualization usually puts me to sleep, so I only do it in places where I can nod off.
Visualization was a great tool in competitive sports. I’m learning it benefits my personal health too. With it I find a bit of renewal before I dive back into reality.
What have you visualized? Do you like to use your imagination? Do you find traditional meditation difficult like I do? Tell me about it.