Everyone has the ability to mentally create and visualize any chosen object. However, most people lose this ability through lack of practice and a tendency to overload the mind with verbal concepts. The capacity to visualize internally remains, but it is dormant. It is only the artist or so-called primitive people who retain this ability to think in terms of pictures as opposed to words. Many anthropologists who have studied aboriginal and seemingly uncivilized people in different parts of the world, have noticed a fundamental difference in the way they relate to their surroundings and to life in general. They have noticed that these people tend to think or conceptualize in terms of mental pictures. They have much less tendency to think in terms of words, ideas and theories than does modern, scientific man. The whole mental process of perception appears to be different. But actually the only difference is that these primitive people function and perceive from a more fundamental level of the mind. That is, whereas modern man functions and lives on the surface of the mind, these other people function from deeper layers. They are more in contact with their own psychic levels.
There is nothing wrong with thinking and working in terms of ideas and concepts. This is an integral part of modern day life. Without this, science and the modern world could never have evolved and you would be unable to read these words. But at the same time, continuous functioning at this level tends to limit the awakening of the powers of the mind. The deeper levels of the mind do not function in terms of words. They function in terms of psychic pictures. Therefore, to expand one's awareness of the inner workings of the mind, to explore the deeper realms, it is necessary to open up this ability to perceive mental impressions in terms of psychic visions. It is necessary to develop receptivity to pictorial mental impressions. One must remain open to the possibility of inner mental experiences in terms of visions.
All yoga practices help to increase this receptivity to psychic manifestations of the mind. A particularly good method of unfolding this faculty is by consciously creating mental pictures. This is the purpose of the following practice - object visualization at will. It supplements a similar practice called recall by revisualization1.
At first you may find this practice difficult. Please do not worry. Most people will have this problem, especially those who are intellectually inclined. You have been habituated to thinking only in terms of words, but with practice and time you will find this technique easier and easier to perform. Furthermore, as you relax more and harmonize your life through yoga practice, you will also find that the practice becomes progressively easier.
We have already briefly discussed the purpose of the technique. It is a method of developing the faculty of visualization as a method of opening up the realms of the mind which are currently inaccessible to your awareness. Also many meditational techniques, including kriya yoga, require visualization of an inner object. This acts as a focal point for awareness and confines one's awareness to a limited field, removing it from the tangle of outer and inner turmoil. This one-pointedness, even for a short time, results in many benefits. It brings relaxation and acts as a focal point for looking into the mind. It is the prelude to the experience of meditation.
Many people are told that they must be aware of only one object during certain meditative techniques such as trataka2, but they do not know which object to choose. They change from one to another, but once you find the object that is ideally suited to your temperament there will be no doubt. You will cease to even consider other objects, but first of all you must find your symbol. This takes time, practice and aspiration. Visualization practices, such as the one we will shortly describe, help you to find the most suitable symbol. This can happen in two ways:
1. Either during the willed visualization of various objects, one object will suddenly and almost inexplicably manifest deep meaning to you. It will stimulate feelings that you did not before appreciate. This could be the most suitable object for meditational purposes.
2. Or during the practice or any other practice, you will suddenly be confronted with a symbol. It will spring up from the depths of the mind to conscious perception. Your sensitivity to inner perception has allowed it to surface. This too can be the object of awareness during meditative practices. So this practice is very useful for increasing your receptivity and perception of inner psychic symbols.
This visualization also has a more basic purpose: it calms the mind. If you have been buffeted by the storms of life, what better way is there of relaxing the mind and finding a little peace, than by creating beautiful inner objects or scenes? If you see an inner picture of a white swan, or a peacock, it is very difficult for the mind to remain angry or worried. So if you feel tense or emotionally upset, we suggest you try this practice. No special preparations are necessary. You can practise in almost any place and at any time.
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