Visualization: what it is and how to do it. A guide for everyone — yes, even you.

Visualization has always been easy to me. I don’t say that to brag; it’s just a statement of fact. It’s so second-nature to me that sometimes I’ll be talking about the things I do as a Witch, and someone will ask me “Well, how do you do that?” and surprised, I’ll say “I just visualize it.”

Simple. Easy. Done.

But it’s not, for others. A lot of people I talk to say they have troubles visualizing.

Let me ask you a question: do you enjoy reading fiction? Of any kind?

If you enjoy reading (I include audiobooks here) fiction, then how do you experience what’s happening in the story? Do you see it clearly in your mind, or do you smell it, or do you hear it, or do you feel it?

That’s visualization. Period.

The word itself is problematic, I know, and is probably what gets most people hung up on the idea that they can’t do it. Visualization. It seems to focus on sight.

It’s really just shorthand for a collection of ways to imagine things. If you can imagine something in your own preferred way, that’s visualization.

Perhaps we should use imagination instead of visualization? Only problem being the connotations between imagination and fiction. And we want our magic to be real, don’t we?

Fiction is real. It appeals to our sense of wonder, to our Younger Selves/Sticky Ones. That’s where magic happens. You can change more minds with a heart-wrenching piece of fiction than you can with a years-old blog archive full of fact-ridden, hard-hitting posts. Truth.

So here’s an exercise for you. Next time you pick up a book of fiction, really notice how you experience what’s going on in the story. Chances are you’ll use a combination of several senses, but one will be stronger for you than others. Determine which sense is strongest for you. Then, practice visualizing things with that sense.

Start with a piece of food. Say, an orange (or an apple, if you’re allergic to citrus). Usually when people say “visualize an orange”, they instruct you to see it in your mind’s eye for as long as possible. That’s useful for some, but for people who are blind? Or colorblind? Or just can’t see things in their mind’s eye? The main distinction, visually, of an orange is that it’s orange and round. Telling people to imagine what that looks like when they may have no ability to do so is not helpful.

So. Instead. Imagine what it feels like with your skin. It helps to get hold of an actual orange for the first time you do this. This is not an exercise in frustration — it’s an exercise in imagining clearly something that exists. Run your hands over it. What does it feel like? Note the smooth, bumpiness of its flesh. Squeeze it. Feel how firm it is. Run your nails over the flesh. Feel the shape.

Smell it. Note the scents of the orange. What feelings do these scents conjure up for you? Do you enjoy the smell, or does it make you nauseated?

Taste it. Taste the rind, then peel it with your nails; rip it away from the flesh below. Smell the inner flesh. Break apart the sections. Put one on your tongue; feel it with your mouth’s flesh and taste it with your tastebuds. Bite into it. What does the juice taste like? How does it make you feel? Do you like it? Dislike it? What is your experience of the orange? How does it feel when you swallow?

Hear it. I know, some of you are laughing at me — oranges don’t make any sound! Well, how do you know? They might, for certain people. Hold it to your ear. Ask it to speak to you. Note what sounds come to you from the orange. Perhaps the sound of birds chirping, wind in the branches of an orange tree, children laughing. What sounds does an orange conjure up for you?

Everything you’ve done here can be done with an apple, or a melon, or a piece of bread. The point of visualization is to imagine the experience of something. This is not limited to sight. People tend to limit it to sight because we think of humans as being largely visual creatures — but we’re not all, and calling it visualization can be a huge stumbling block.

Don’t let it be. Remember: you’re imagining experience. That doesn’t require sight. Utilize your strengths — find the sense you connect with the easiest, and use that instead.

Voila. You’ve just learned how to “visualize” something. You’ve used one of your five senses to strengthen your sixth.

Lot less frustrating than most 101 magic books would have you believe, eh?

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