The classic image of a modern-day meditator looks something like the calming figure of the Buddha–a man or woman sits with their legs crossed in the traditional lotus position, palms facing up on their knees, a perfectly erect posture, and a facial expression of sweet placidity. To some, it looks like an enviable state of serenity, but for those afflicted with a monkey mind and a spazzy bodily tempo, it looks like a triple root canal at a sadistic dentist’s office. Clear my mind of thoughts?! Stop moving?! It can send a cortisol surge of panic through every corner of one’s body.
Well, my fellow frenetics, fear not–visualization meditation is your route to nirvana: You can do it on the go, and it relies on an active mind. “It’s counterintuitive because in meditation we’re taught to let thoughts enter our brains and not get attached to them,” says Shelly Tygielski, meditation guru and author of Sit Down to Rise Up: How Radical Self-Care Can Change the World. “But in visualization meditation, you’re latching onto a thought or concept or goal for an outcome you want to achieve.”
Kessonga, a meditation and mindfulness teacher at Headspace, adds: “It’s a technique where a person uses their imagination or their mind’s eye to conjure up specific images—a person, a situation or scenario.” In doing so, Kessonga and Tygielski promise, practitioners can find relief from stress, anxiety, and depression and realize their highest hopes and dreams. Read on to find an expert-approved meditation practice that fits your needs.
Meditate to relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety.
To help clients alleviate anxiety, for example, Tygielski first asks them to identify what they are feeling–“Name it to tame it,” she says, citing psychologist Dan Siegel–and where it resides in their bodies. Then she guides them through a calming bodily reset using a technique pioneered by Andrew Weil, MD, decades ago: a three-part rationed breath, where you inhale-hold-exhale in a ratio of any kind (such as 4-7-8, or 6-1-8, if you can’t hold your breath for long), as long as you breathe out for a longer duration than you breathe in, which generates a soothing and sedating effect.
After two or three cycles, she says, “you’ll start to calm yourself down physiologically, and then the mind-body connection starts to work” and you can enter your “happy place.” It could be fantasy-based (a sweet sojourn on a beautiful beach in the Bahamas) or fact-based (your beloved grandmother’s kitchen table), but bringing it to life in rich detail with all your five senses is …….