VisualizationJul 03, 2020
Visualization is a powerful meditation technique that many people give up on because they think it's too hard and that they can't do it. In fact, we're visualizing all the time. Dr. Miles Neale explains in this clip from Return with Elixir.
You'll get people who say 'I can't visualize' or 'visualization is so hard for me, I can't do it. It's much easier for me to just follow my breath.' The counter to that is that we are actually visualizing all the time. That sometimes catches people off guard because they take for granted the fact that what they're seeing and experiencing is the way reality is when in fact, from a from a brain based point of view, there is a very small window of data input that's happening.
Images, sights and sounds are coming in the doors of perception and actually being fused by the right brain, memory, association and emotion and creating a kind of storyline that we take for granted. That the things we're perceiving are actually out there, when mostly, not totally, mostly they are undergoing a very instantaneous filtering and construction. There's a passive construction happening on a microscopic level, moment to moment that we take for granted or that we're not aware of.
One way of proving that is that we have different subjective experiences of the same actual events which shows that the actual events themselves are only part of the truth. The way that they are filtered creates what our subjective experience of them is. Some people can have the very same experience. They can be impacted by the very same event and have a completely traumatic experience. That's because what they're experiencing is at a very subtle level being contrived or fabricated.
Put on for a moment, your analytic lens and you can begin to look at the world through the quantum vision and start to deconstruct everything that is hitting your sense doors as inherently or concretely real as material, static, permanent and fixed. The minute that you can start to use your analytic capability and your inference, you can see that actually the way it is and the way it appears are two different things.
This table, this thangka, this body appears, hits your brain and hits your mind as if it exists inherently. Yet, if you use inference, you can see that underneath that, there is the quality of the first mark, the first characteristic that the Buddha was talking about was impermanence. Things do not look impermanent to your immediate perception, but by way of inference you can see that it had an origin, it started as a seed, it eventually became a tree, the tree was harvested and cut down, it was then shaped by a craftsman, it was then delivered on an assembly line then it was painted and sold and then it arrives here. That's where your perception goes, 'fixed table' and stops there.
It doesn't see that at some point this will fall apart and at some point it will become firewood or garbage in a heap. Then you keep following it down and it's constituent parts will break down into elemental parts that then become in a way, recycled energy. You're not perceiving that. You're inferring that. Suddenly your inference has to press upon your conceptual or your habitual mode of perception which is actually from the point of view of Bob Thurman is an extremely important skill to develop which is called the the inference of emptiness.
You first start with a conceptual understanding of impermanence or emptiness or selflessness and you test it, exercising critically your faculty of inference against your habituated tendency, to presume that things exist the way that they appear. Slowly that clash begins to erode the habitual sense, the habitual tendency that it it exists the way that it appears. As that conceptual understanding then deepens, it becomes internalized and finally intuitive and this is what is considered the breakthrough or the insight level of emptiness. That never diminishes the actual appearance of things. One is just able to perceive directly its actual nature and yet still interact with objects, the discrete objects of reality.
All of that to say, in order to visualize you have to understand that you're consciously playing with perception with the foundational assumption that reality is like a creative art. It's a painting. It doesn't look that way and it doesn't certainly feel that way but its nature is that way. It's fluid and it's permeable and you can re-author it and you can transform it. If you don't have that as a rationale, if you don't have emptiness as the fundamental rationale for your reconstruction or your revisualization, it will all just be a child's game. It will all just be like a fantasy. It won't take ground. It won't take root. You'll be fooling yourself. It's not gonna be compelling.
You have to have this sense that reality is much more fluid and that you are actually involved in its creation. It's not just happening to you. You are a co creator. It's almost like taking responsibility for the fact that your life is co created by you. If you don't take that authorship then then you might as well read a fantasy book and see it as a pastime. The visualization won't be a crucible for you unless you understand from the outset that you are involved in the construction of your life, the construction of your subjective experience of reality. .
If you want to blend that principle with the last course on trauma, that same principle is there. Those of us that have unresolved issues in our history, when certain circumstances trigger unresolved shadow material, they can activate certain implicit emotions. Those implicit emotions then color our perception. Not only do they color the perception in abstraction, they color perception in a way that we then interact with the world based on reactive habitual patterns.
For example, if you had an overbearing parent that makes you feel suffocated and powerless, then at work if you have a deadline that's imposed on you by an authority figure, it may be possible that that's enough to trigger to your unconscious, some implicit memory release which will fuse your nervous system with reactive emotions, maybe shame and then rage and then you will be compelled to act out in that way. Then we would say that the same boss relating in the same way to somebody else, might have a completely different experience. Largely our mind is co creating for us that that toxic interaction and the more that we react that way, as a passive victim of our own unconscious replication, the more ingrained it becomes and the harder it is to overcome it.