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?

14 Comments


  1. I think a good amount of visualization ability comes from a subjective awareness of a moment. Littles who are not overstimulated but let to play with the rocks, mud and boxes etc. everything seem to have an easier time visualizing later on than kids who, from waking to sleep, are stimulated externally in some way continuously with little control over the stimulation by way of playing. That isn’t to say they cannot build an ability but it is harder to know that thick skinned oranges make a different sound than thin skinned ones if someone else is always peeling them for you. (If a family can afford them.)

    I worked with a Head Start home visit teacher for a couple of years way back and she would bring manipulatable things for kids to play with. Water and sand tables for example. She was adamant that the push to have littles read and write too early was cheating them out of other learning that would also be very beneficial. But with the push for standardized testing at the very young ages, it has become easier for society in general to push aside the very important play times where kids can be in a moment and acquire sensory input to use later in favor of drilling practice.

    I think the kids in their early 20s now have gone through their entire school careers (if public and not Montessori) being pushed in one direction and that direction has little or nothing to do with play or other authentic and subjective experience. In truth, the subjective experience has taken such a backseat that even the term “subjective” has come to be derogatory. Of course a balance of experience is necessary but by far society values the objective Q & A far more than the subjective expression of experience.

    In a world like that it is understandable why so many people do have a hard time with visualization. It’s become almost a luxury to allow for it. But I think you are right in suggesting that everyone does it naturally when they read. Using visualization might be the most significant applicable value of acquiring memories from the subjective experience. Finally, people are realizing that even the best left brainers use visualization in order to critically think. But since it cannot be objectively tested, there is still no official educational push for such things. There are suggestions, but no class time allotments away from standardized testing to allow for them to be put into practice.

    I think a good famous example of the power of subjective experience and visualization would be Carl Jung’s Red Book and the time he spent at a lake playing with rocks and water. It was from this time that some of his greatest ideas emerged. Contemplative unapologetic play in abundance. IMO it does a body good in terms of visualization.

    Reply

    1. I think the kids in their early 20s now have gone through their entire school careers (if public and not Montessori) being pushed in one direction and that direction has little or nothing to do with play or other authentic and subjective experience.

      *nods* There may be regional variations, but by and large I think you’re right. That push definitely started when I was a bit older and in school; I did spend some years in Montessori, but my years in public school were stultifying and dull, and actually — at first, at least — pushed my education backwards. I went from Montessori to public school, and I lost skills.

      In total agreement with your comment, really.

      Reply

  2. Wow you just made it make sense for me! I’m not good at visualising, I don’t see things properly in the first place. When I try to picture a tree I’m lucky if I get a green triangle. So using the other senses works a lot better, thank you.

    Reply






  3. THANK YOU.

    This is going to help me a lot! (You’re right, I kept getting hung up on the word “visualization” = eyes/sight.)

    Reply

  4. What do you do if you can’t visualize at all? I have repeatedly tried visualization exercises, but no images ever come into my mind. Even when I’m reading there’s no images, no smells, just words on paper. I think the words, but that is all. I am unable to even recall my memories. Again, I can think about what happened but there are no images, I cannot recall smells or sensations. There is a word for people who are completely unable to visualize at all, but I don’t remember what it is. This makes it extremely difficult to practice Witchcraft as all witches insist you must be able to visualize to practice magick. So what is a Witch who can’t visualize supposed to do?

    Reply

    1. You don’t need to be able to visualize to practice witchcraft. It’s just helpful in a lot of cases. But there are plenty of witchcraft things you can do without the ability to visualize. Witches who insist it’s absolutely, 100% required or you can’t be a witch are wrong. (I do say it’s important, but I don’t think it’s absolutely 100% required. There are many ways to be a witch.)

      Folk magic, for example, usually doesn’t require visualization. All it requires is you get the proper ingredients and follow the spell as written. Because folk magic’s power rests not only in the symbols and ingredients it uses, but also the repetition of its spells by many people over time who believe in its power, it works even if you absolutely can’t visualize.

      Sigil magic also doesn’t require visualization, just drawing (and not drawing that requires visualization). This image here shows how to make them: https://i.pinimg.com/564x/56/55/f2/5655f298f97793acce94cbe5d5bcf960.jpg

      You can also use the website SigilScribe to create sigils: http://sigilscribe.me/

      Alternately, you can write out what you want your sigil to do (usually in the form of a positive affirmation), and then let your attention drift and doodle until you have a shape or design that feels like it works for the purpose.

      You say you can think the words when you read even though you can’t visualize. That says to me that words could be a source of great power for you. If a spell calls for visualization, use words instead — if it says, for example, “Imagine money coming your way!” you can say out loud “Money comes my way; I am always drawing in money”. If a meditation technique asks you to visualize, state what you’re supposed to be doing in the meditation. Treat it like a table-top RPG campaign or a text-based online RPG where you need to write out what your character is doing. “I walk through the door in the tree, and head down the ramp inside. I end up in a cavern. The walls are glowing.” Etc.

      Make up words to do certain things, like throw up shields around you or bless a space, and use them as your own personal power words. Know that when you say the word, your power is doing what it needs to do. You don’t need to visualize. Just know the power of the words, and say them.

      Find mantras that speak to you and repeat them as needed, or make up your own. Mantras are very powerful and they don’t require any visualization whatsoever.

      Numbers also work well; if you look into numerology you can see what numbers mean what, and use them accordingly in your enchantments.

      Kitchen witchery doesn’t require visualization, just a knowledge of what foods and herbs do what magically. Again, you can add in the power of words by singing or chanting when you cook things up, and the power of numbers in your measurements or by stirring in a number into whatever you’re doing (carrots for hard work? Trace a 4 in the pot. Cake for family unity? Draw a 6 in it before you bake it).

      Also, if you’re comfortable working with deities or spirits, you can ask for them to help bless things or for their assistance in your magic. You don’t need to visualize them to ask them to lend their power to your work.

      You don’t have to be an image witch. You can be a word and number witch, or a folk magic witch, or a sigil witch, or a kitchen witch…there are many options. Visualization is just one tool. The fact that so many books on witchcraft harp on it being The Tool does a great disservice to all witches, I think.
      Morag recently posted…Supermarket Magic Review Part 3: Return of the Bitter, Angry MoragMy Profile

      Reply

      1. Thank you for your reply and all of the ideas. They are very helpful. It’s good to know that I don’t have to be able to visualize to practice magic effectively. Have a great day and Blessed Be!!

        Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.