PART 1: (The Basics) Intro To Meditation And Visualization
As you begin working on a creative project, you need to focus on the task at hand so all the other things in your life don't disturb your work and so your mind can find the best way to convey the ideas you have. For some people this state of mind comes naturally but, for most of us, it must be learned. Almost everyone has the good fortune to fall into a calm focused state of mind, without consciously trying, on some occasions. If it comes naturally to you, it might surprise you to realize that reaching that calm, creative, focused mindset IS a form of meditation. If it doesn't happen automatically, then you might not realize that it's something that you can learn to do at will.
There's a common misconception that to be meditating you have to entirely clear your mind of conscious thoughts. In some types of meditation, like 'Transcendental Meditation' this is true, but there are other less 'etheric' and more mentally active types of meditation that are easier for most people to learn and to do well. I'll show you a type of meditation and visualization that has worked well for me. There are many ways to meditate, and many reasons to do so as well. It's useful to learn many so you can select the best one for whatever situation you're in. While it's possible to learn the fundamentals of meditation quickly, your skill and success will improve with practice.
Begin meditative work by making yourself physically
comfortable. Shrug your shoulders, wiggle your feet and work out any spots
of tension. Stretching helps release the tense spots in your muscles
that keep the blood (oxygen, essential nutrients etc.) from getting where
it needs to go, and carrying away the toxins that build up in muscle tissues
from either inactivity or over-exertion.
MEDITATION The first in meditation step is to calm your mind. That's not always easy to do on command. I start with some simple breathing exercises.
Be conscious of using all of your lungs, without
forcing. This complete breath stretches your lungs, lets dormant parts
become active. Most of us breathe shallowly to the upper part of
our lungs when we are tense. Tensions are often held in the abdominal
area, both upsetting your digestion and restricting the proper movement
of the diaphragm that makes your lungs work. Sufficient oxygen is
essential to optimum brain function. Deepened breathing helps your
mind and body work more efficiently. It serves as a signal to your
mind for a change in focus.
Exercise 1: Triple Breath Take one slow, deep breath. Release it slowly. Sigh it out through pursed lips if that makes it easier.
Begin to inhale the second deep breath, but don't stop breathing in. Take in more and more air. More. When you've 'maxed out,' relax your lungs, and the breath will flow out slowly and softly.
Take a third deep, deep breath. Hold it. Try not to clamp your breathing passages shut, just hold the breath in your lungs with immobility. (You'll get the hang of it after a few tries if it seems hard at first.) Hold it till it strains, but not till it hurts. Breathe out slowly.
Now your old, tense, shallow breathing pattern
is disrupted. Breathe deeply and slowly, but don't force it.
Let your breathing assume a natural pattern.
Exercise 2: Focus Stretch again, if you feel the need. You are calm.
Now begin to focus your mind. It WILL wander. That's OK, but don't pursue the side-tracks. Don't be disturbed by them enough to alter your focus.
Unrelated sounds from your environment can sometimes disrupt your focus. Although they are physically beyond your control, you can program your mind to ignore them. Try telling yourself, 'That sound is normal and fine. It deepens my relaxation and concentration.'
When distracting thoughts occur, say to yourself something like 'Yes, that's important too, but I'll think about that later,' or 'For now I'm concentrating on...'
Gently and repeatedly bring your mind back to your goal.
That's it, you're meditating!
TROUBLESHOOTING Those are the basics of calming and focusing. You might hear it called 'centering,' which is just redirecting your focus inward instead of outward. It's a good way to start anything, from simple household tasks to major mental or physical endeavors. In Wise Woman herbalist tradition they say, 'Step 1 is do nothing.' Pause and center yourself so you can approach a situation from a point of calm rather than jumping in all frazzled and in a rush.
If you're in a high spot in your energy or creativity,
this much may be enough to get you off to a proper start on your work.
If you're not, the next thing to do is evaluate your mental and physical
state to see where the blockage is. If you're experiencing pain,
tension, anger or problems elsewhere in your life, you might need to take
a break and deal with them first. In some situations, though, you've
done all you can for the moment and just need to let go and redirect your
mind away from the annoyances. That's when 'grounding' can help.
If you're mentally or physically tired, or feeling drained, you can do
a quick 'cleansing' or 'recharge.' I'll give you a quick rundown of each,
since they're useful alone and are skills you'll need to understand for
some of the deeper meditative work to come.
Exercise 3: Grounding Grounding, in its simplest form, is visualizing yourself connected to the ground, bringing yourself into a state of balance. It's a good tool for releasing the minor mental and physical annoyances and distractions. Many visualizations work for grounding. One of the most popular is to imagine that your body is the trunk of a tree.
Visualize yourself as a large strong tree.
Picture how the tree's roots reach deep into the earth. In your mental
image, reach out tendrils of your self (your spirit, energy, whatever you
want to imagine it as) down into the ground. It doesn't matter what's
beneath your feet in the material world; in your visualization, you stand
right on the soil. Like roots of a tree, your energy-roots can grow
and wind their way deep, deep into the earth. Above, you feel the
warmth of the sun or see the distant stars of the night sky. Visualize
again, reaching up with your mental branches and leaves to feel the power
above you. You can think of it as deity, light, solar energy, the
calming void of space, Olympus, whatever feels right to you. You
are held in perfect balance between earth and sky. Relax and experience
Exercise 4: Cleansing If there are still things bothering you, progress to a cleansing visualization. You might do the following visualization quickly some days, and other times want to take time creating every image in your mind and experiencing the feeling with all your senses.
Take a slow deep breath, and as you exhale, imagine
that your breath pushes all the pain and tension down your legs, and out
through your roots into the ground. Keep breathing slowly and deeply,
sweeping all worry, illness, and negativity down into the earth.
Sometimes I like to imagine combing my non-material hands right through
my non-material body, raking out all the bad stuff and shaking it out into
Exercise 5: Charging 'Charging' is a continuation of your grounding visualization. We'll recharge ourselves through the same channels we used to drain off tensions.
Continue visualizing yourself as the tree. Remember your connections to the earth and to the sky. See them. Feel them. Think about the way a tree draws water and nutrients up from the ground through its roots, and absorbs air and the energy of the sun through its leaves. Then in the same way you breathed your tensions down into the ground, breathe up instead.
Feel yourself drawing up calmness, energy, healing, strength or whatever you need from the earth and pulling down the same things from the sky above you. All the problems you pushed down into the ground have been filtered, cleansed of all negativity, and the raw, clean, pure energy returns to you.
A lot of people are better at this than they think
they're going to be, and suck up a bit too much energy. If you feel
giddy or dizzy, like you've had too much caffeine, or start to develop
a mild headache, that's probably what happened. Or else you've been
hyperventilating. The solution to both is to slow your breathing
a bit, and ground again. Visualize letting any excess 'charge' flow
away into the earth or sky, until you feel calm but energized.
KEEPING THE FOCUS Since we've seen that connecting with your subconscious mind through visualization can be useful in calming and focusing your thoughts, you can leave a reminder at the end of your meditation to keep you in tune with your goal. That's a familiar concept in many approaches to self help, called a 'hypnotic suggestion,' affirmation, programming, key phrase or goal statement, depending on the approach being used.
Creating and using an affirmation is a simple activity, but there are a few important guidelines. Foremost, we need to understand that the subconscious mind doesn't deal well with a concept as complicated as negatives. For example, if you repeat to yourself "I'm not getting sick," the focal word or words will be most real to your subconscious when it listens. In this case the word 'sick' will be prominent, where 'not' and 'getting' are just confusing. In the worst case, our subconscious will focus on sick and believe it. In the best case, the qualifying negative will occasionally be understood, but the conflict between sick and not-sick leave you with little or no result.
So, a goal statement should be simple, it should be clear, and it should be phrased positively. In the example above, you might try "I am well," or "I stay healthy." Avoid the temptation to imply future benefits like 'I will get well." That also is too complicated for your subconscious. It knows you will get well, but tomorrow or in a month or in a year?
Exercise 6: Affirmations Take some time and think about your goal or the difficulty you are trying to overcome. Next, make up a short sentence that sums up how you'll feel or behave when you've achieved that goal. The affirmation should feel comfortable to you, be in your own style and be phrased without using negatives. Most importantly, you need to allow yourself to believe it. Some concrete examples might make that clearer.
If you need to feel less stressed, a good affirmation might be "I am calm," "I stay calm," or "I am calm and relaxed." For creative projects you could say "I express my ideas easily and clearly," or something simpler like "writing is easy, I write well."
Now repeat the phrase to yourself, several times,
either silently or aloud at the close of your meditation. Repeating
your affirmation a few times before you sleep each night can help solidify
the thought in your mind, even without more structured meditation.
With the 'grade school' part of meditation and visualization in your grasp, we can go on to deal with more stubborn problems like creative block, lack of self confidence, or with the right guide and approach, pretty much any emotionally-linked problem that's bothering you.
PART 2: (The Fun Part) Visualization To Awaken Or Re-Connect With Your Creativity
Creative visualization, to put it most simply, is just telling yourself a story. You get to be the star of the story, but since this is the Ksmithares list, we can put Ares in our story too. In fact, self improvement and Ares in one package, what could be better? If our gorgeous God of War doesn't suit your mood, imagine that the guides are your favorite characters speaking on behalf of the universe.
Visualizations of this sort are usually narrated in present tense, so you can feel you're experiencing everything as it happens. I'll present a scenario in interactive meditation. As you follow along, remember that nothing I say here is an absolute. Change the imagery, as it's happening, into whatever feels right for you. Think of these as plot bunnies rather than finished fic.
This visualization can be read quickly, but to
benefit from the imagery, you should allow yourself enough time to contemplate
and evaluate where the cues are presented. If it's more introspection
than you want to do at one time, you can go on this trip several times,
dealing with just a few issues each time.
Visualization: A Gift From Ares Start by relaxing your body and calming your mind. Now, let the images form in your mind's eye...
You sit, relaxed, at your computer or wherever you usually read, write or do your creative work. It's familiar and comfortable. Your eyes drift shut, and you take a slow deep breath. You're feeling very relaxed, very calm.
Form an image in your mind of the way you'd like to express yourself creatively. How does it feel to choose your subject matter and approach? What is it like when the ideas flow perfectly and everything falls into place just the way you want? How will it feel when you get positive feedback for your project? Build each sight, sound and feeling in your mind.
Relax and enjoy this vision of creative success. Imagine the kind of project you'd like to be working on.
"Mmm, I like it," you hear Ares' voice purr in your mind, soft, sultry. "Do it now. For me."
"I can't," you say, because you can still feel all your doubts and the frustrations that have been dragging at you, holding you back from success.
A large strong hand rests lightly on your shoulder. You feel his breath on your cheek as he speaks softly in your ear.
"You can and will! Come with me, I'll show you."
You feel calm, yet unusually light, as if you are drifting comfortably and safely away from your space in the material world, and from all your worries. The strong presence of Ares with you pulls you back and away from your fears, and into his world.
"Leave that all behind," he says. You can feel his arms around your shoulders, holding you securely as your familiar surroundings begin to fade around you. You rest against his chest and let him take you where he will.
When you stop, you stand before Ares in his Olympian temple.
He smiles, "Welcome." He sits and gestures for you to join him. "Now tell me, what's wrong?"
With his gentle coaxing and reassurances, you tell him about your fears and doubts, your insecurities and frustrations.
"My brave warrior," he says, leaning forward to look in your eyes, "you've fought well against those foes."
Your thoughts touch on the times you still have trouble with the flow of creativity.
He flashes that familiar haughty grin. "Not all wars are between armies, you know. Not all battles are against enemies outside yourself. Now, it's time to defeat them and win this war."
He points behind you, and you turn to see a gray cloud. You can feel that it is a manifestation of your insecurities here in the non-material world. There are tendrils or cords of gray between you and this symbol of your self-doubt.
"Tell me, then," he touches your face, forces your eyes to meet his. "What's more important to you: those things that are holding you back, or me?"
Is there any doubt? "You are," you tell him.
"Then let them go, and be what you want to be. Be what I need you to be."
You stand to study the gray cloud and the connections you have to it.
"Take all the time you need. Trace the connections inside yourself to see what each cord represents. Each one is a reason you've been holding back from expressing yourself creatively. To win, you have to take responsibility for your own failings."
"Now, since they're yours, they are yours to change! Are you ready?"
You can feel him standing close behind you, his strength lends you strength. You see a flash of light out of the corner of your eye, and as you follow it, it forms into a glowing sword in the hand of the War God.
Ares points to a thick gray cord. "This one is the fear that you'll feel small and alone if you step aside from the responsibilities and social situations that define your life to pay more attention to your creative work. You are not alone. I'll be right here with you... if you want me to be."
He swings the sword and slices through the cord. You feel lighter and more free as it falls away.
If you feel ready, break the negative bindings and let them dissolve. If you find any that you still need or want, you may leave them intact. Ares is there beside you, to lend you his sword or his strength, if you wish it, to complete your work.
"Better," he observes. "You've cut away the emotional dependencies that blocked your creativity and your confidence. You feel better, don't you? Now it's time to take the power that's rightfully yours!"
With a gesture, there is a large mirror standing nearby. He reaches out a hand to you, and takes you to stand in front of the mirror. You look at your own reflection, with him standing behind you. The smile of reassurance on the face of a war god should seem out of place, but it's sincere and very right.
"Every being has the ability to be a person of power," he tells you. "In this, mankind and the gods are alike. The power of creation is yours!"
"So... here," he directs your attention to the mirror. "This is how the world sees you, how you see yourself."
You study your reflection but are distracted by a low growl.
"You're not focusing on your imperfections, are you? That's not allowed in MY temple! You DO know that not even the gods are granted perfection. Why cause yourself anguish over it? Would you like to see how I see you?"
You look up at his reflection in acknowledgement, and the image shimmers and fades. Instead of the reflection of your physical body, the mirror shows you a bright glowing form vaguely shaped like you.
"See those sparkles of color? Each one is one of your strengths, your talents, your abilities. More than you thought there could be, aren't there?" There's a hint of laughter and pride in his voice.
At the center of the shape is a strong, bright, pulsing light.
"That's your creativity," Ares supplies, as your eyes try to focus on it. "THIS is you, this is a being of power. Pretty impressive huh?"
As you agree and accept, a light but strong touch at your back encourages you to step forward, and you do. Walk into the glowing reflection in the mirror. Feel it as a wave of warmth around you. The light passes through you as you pass through the mirror. When you are on the other side, you turn and see that it's gone. Now, you can feel all the lights you saw, burning inside you.
"Feel it? The bright light of your creativity filling you? Feel the power flowing through you," Ares directs you. The passion you see in his face and hear in his voice tells you he's reveling in it. "Power! It's yours."
It feels right. It feels good.
You thank the unexpectedly benevolent War God for helping you rediscover this power within yourself.
"You can repay me," he says with a seductive grin. "Create special something for me."
You smile back with newfound confidence, and promise that you will. He leans down to kiss you.
No sooner than you choose, yet all too soon, the otherworldly surroundings begin to fade and your familiar world --room... chair... desk -- take their place. You return to your starting point, feeling alert, refreshed and well rested. Everything around you looks just the way you left it, but it is you who have changed. Now whenever you choose to look inside yourself, you can feel the strength and power of your creativity. You can remember how strong and bright the light of your creative energy was when you saw it in Ares' mirror. You can feel it in you now. It answers your will, because it is yours and yours alone. It flows where you will it, so you can share the expressions of your creative power how and where and when you chose.
Somewhere beyond that light within you, you can feel Ares smiling in both satisfaction and anticipation.
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