Apr 3, 2022 | One Minute Dharma

A Few Words About Visualization

Some people visualize quite naturally, and others do not. When I first started meditating more than 40 years ago, I could not visualize at all. My teacher would say, “Visualize this, or visualize that…” and I would see nothing at all. If I was having a good day, I would see black with some flecks of light. Otherwise, nothing. If I would become frustrated or complain, my teacher would simply laugh and say, “Continue.”

Since he gave me no other instructions, that is simply what I did. I meditated every day and tried to visualize. Nothing much ever happened, but I continued. Every day. For sixteen years. Then one day, like magic, I could visualize. Suddenly (after 16 years!) I was an overnight success. Now I can visualize when I meditate. He was right, I just needed to continue. Now I am very happy about it. Do you think I think about the 16 years when I didn’t see anything, or about the fact that I can now visualize? My advice to you if you try to do these meditations and find you can’t visualize? You guessed it: Continue.

In order to understand how visualization works it is important to understand how the mind works. When we talk about consciousness for our purposes, we can talk about the six consciousnesses. We have the five sense consciousnesses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. Then we have what is called the mental consciousness. The first five consciousness are based on their respective physical organs: tongue, ears and so on. The mental consciousness is not based on a physical organ. It is this consciousness that actually meditates.

Now when we speak about visualization meditation, we are usually speaking about the mental consciousness meditating on an image that was perceived previously by the eye consciousness. When we see something with the eye consciousness the image is usually very clear. When we use the mental consciousness to do a visualization meditation, we are not using the eye consciousness, so the image won’t be as clear, at least in the beginning. So, it is important to relax and not have an unrealistic expectation that the mental visualization will be as clear as something we see directly with our eye consciousness.

Often when I teach meditation to people they have this unrealistic expectation about visualizing clearly and are then disappointed with their visualization when they don’t.  You know the old saying, “Fake it until you make it.” Just keep going. Keep doing your practice and eventually your visualization will become clear. After all, it only took me 16 years!”