Mental imagery, creative visualization, meditation, journeying– there are many names and varying techniques for this powerful tool that can relax, empower, build confidence, heal and create changes that would have once been considered impossible.

In sport, elite athletes have used visualization techniques for decades. Science has shown that an athlete who knows his sport meticulously well, can visualize being engaged in the sport and will have the same results physically as if he’d been physically active. Not only will he develop confidence in his ability and visualize his success, but he will also build measurable muscle strength and blood oxygen levels. An experienced musician who visualizes being engaged in his music will show the same brain wave patterns as when he is actually engaged in the music… thus making practise possible even when there’s no instrument nearby.

Years ago, I decided to practise this technique. On my last waterski runs of the season, I paid close attention to every detail, action, feeling, smell and sound. During the winter, I regularly visualized skiing. The following Spring, I skied better on my first day out than I had ever skied in my life. What surprised me even more was that I didn’t have sore muscles the next day. Already a proponent for the power of imagination, that experience helped me understand the limitless possibilities of our mind.

The possibilities go far beyond success in sport or visualizing a new car. Visualization can reduce stress, break through barriers, provide inspiration, and clarify an individual’s truths, passions and answers. Visualizations have been used since ancient times by healers, shamans, and Buddhists as a method of healing and of connecting to spirit. This ability is available to everyone.

So, why aren’t we all practising the art of visualization? I have come to understand it’s not as simple as the movie ‘The Secret’ would have one think. It can be hard for an individual to stay focussed and we all have unconscious limiting beliefs and barriers that can prevent us from fully experiencing the power of visualization.

One of those limiting beliefs has been taught to us since our childhood. You’ve all heard this and have likely said it yourself: “It’s only your imagination.” We have a history in our culture of discrediting the power of imagination and sadly, in that process, we have disempowered what could well be the most powerful tool we have.

And that is where guided imageries - visualization led by a ‘guide’- come in. The guide is there to:
• lead the person to a relaxed and open minded state,
• ease them into a journey of their imagination, encouraging lightness and fun,
• gently keep the person focussed, and
• provide direction towards a discovery.

The person being guided is the one who will create the experience and make the discoveries. In essence, the guide provides the pallet and brushes and helps them stay seated at the easel, while the person being guided is the one who will create the painting and reveal their unique brilliance and discoveries.

As a child’s trusted parent or caregiver, you have an extraordinary opportunity to encourage and support what children innately already know; before the world confuses and disempowers their ability to imagine and to believe in extraordinary possibilities, and before the responsibility of daily tasks keeps them from giving any time to that powerful tool. Imagine the possibilities if your child never doubts their ability to visualize their strengths and successes– physical, emotional, mental and spiritual; if they never doubt their ability to find their own answers within; and if they have the tools for inspiration, connection to the soul, and healing.

Makes it worth giving it a shot, doesn’t it?

Beginner’s guided imagery for children:

Begin the activity during a quiet time with a playful introduction like “would you like to go on an imagination journey?”

Start with a short journey to simply introduce the concept.

Use a storytelling voice with scenarios that your child would like, but allow yourself to become quieter as they get further into the journey.

Give lots of pauses for the child to experience what they are imagining. You can imagine yourself in a lovely place at the same time and you’ll get a better feel of how long it takes to imagine all that is around you.

Enjoy the process. For once, you are not there to fix, teach, or redirect behaviour. You will be delighted at what you discover about your child if you are the one providing “the paintbrush and canvas” and they are the “painters.”

If the child encounters something ‘scary,’ help them by saying ‘we can go on this other path that is much brighter and more fun.” You may need to add the details to help them see the new path and learn they have the power to change what they see and feel.

The conversation can go like this:
1. Notice your breathing for moment. (Pause) Imagine your body is like a crayon on a warm sidewalk on a warm day (or a melty candle)… all melty and relaxed. The chair/bed/ground feels like it’s softer and cozier like a cloud. You can feel your legs/ butt/ tummy/ face muscles soften. (Keep this short.. if you run through all parts of the body, they will lose interest. Leave the ‘butt’ in, it makes kids laugh.)

2. Imagine a door.. a very cool, very special door (or gate/ opening in the trees). If you don’t see it, just make it up. Notice the colour, imagine touching it.. is it rough or smooth? Notice if it’s warm or cool.

3. Listen to the sound as your door opens and then step into your special imagination journey.

4. Look at your feet. Notice what you’re wearing.. are you barefoot or in shoes?

5. There’s a path. It might be sand or sidewalk or grass. If you don’t see it make up what you want it to be.

6. Imagine walking the path… imagine that you can really feel and hear your feet touch the path as you walk.

7. Look around… you are in such a nice place and you feel really good here. Imagine what it looks like. (at this point you can ask your child “where are you?” and continue with their vision, or if they aren’t sure, help to create a space in nature.)

8. Encourage noticing the details, smells, sounds, colours. Ie: Can you hear birds? Can you feel a breeze on your face? Are there trees? homes? water? The child may or may not answer your questions out loud.. either way works.
9. You notice up ahead the most amazing chair meant just for you! You feel like smiling or even laughing. Imagine this most amazing chair.

10. Imagine running up to your chair and sitting in it.

11. You’ll notice off to one side someone or something. It might be a person or an animal or even a faerie or magical being. Somehow you know that they care about you and know you are very special.

12. You ask “do you have something you’d like to tell me?” See if you can hear a message and if not, that’s okay. (Remember allow lots of pauses for their discovery.)

13. They set a gift in your lap. Inside is something meant to remind you of how special you are. Imagine opening the gift. Listen to the sounds as you unwrap it. Notice the feeling. And then notice what’s inside. It’s okay if you’re not sure…the gift will reveal itself some other time. (long pause)

14. If you want to chat or do anything more in your special place, go ahead.

15. Imagine keeping the ‘feel good’ feeling with you. When you are ready to come back to our room, wiggle your toes and fingers. (Pause) Open your eyes when you want and if you feel like it, you can tell me about your imagination journey. (if they didn’t already give you a running scenario throughout)

16. Ask questions to help your child share their experience. Be careful not to judge, analyze or advise. Acknowledge their discoveries enthusiastically. Finally you can ask, “What would be a fun journey next time?”

As simple and playful as this sounds, and it is, you will be validating one of your child’s most powerful tools and their potential to use the power of their mind and soul will blossom.

Janet L. Whitehead
Personal Life Coach and Creativity Coach/Trainer.

Author's Bio: 

Janet L. Whitehead is a certified professional life coach (ICA), certified creativity coach (Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching), author and artist. She offers certified creative group facilitator training in collaboration with Jill Badonsky. Written works include self-coaching workbooks that provide unique and creative tools to access empowered thinking, quickly revealing what stops them, and what needs to happen to move forward. Janet is a regular contributor for Kamloops Momma Magazine.