October 9, 2009

Your Temple of the Imagination

Concentration is a fine antidote to anxiety. — Jack Nicklaus

Meditation is not the absence of thinking. It is the cessation of struggle, the letting go of thought. It is your personal solitude.

One of the most powerful meditation techniques is the use of visualization to reach deep states of awareness. Now more than ever, we need deep awareness and personal solitude to renew and grow. One such technique is what I call Temple of the Imagination. By using it, you will construct your own sanctuary.

Constructing Your Inner Temple

To build an inner temple, imagine a place of great safety. The more clearly you imagine it, the easier for you to find solace there. Don’t try too hard. Practicing visualization is like grabbing a wet bar of soap: grasp too tightly and it will slip through your fingers.

  • Pick three key features for your temple. See them clearly. I use these: slate steps leading up to an oak door; an antechamber filled with candles; and a platform that has a bamboo mat and a brazier of coals.

Use your senses: What does it smell like in your temple? Is incense burning? Are there fragrant flowers or herbs like sage and rosemary?

What does the air feel like on your skin? Cool? Warm?

What is the lighting like? Subdued? Sunny? Lit by candles?

What sounds do you hear? Echoes? Birds? Pure silence? I hear the metal brazier in my temple expand and contract from the heat of the coals.

  • Once you’ve laid out your temple, enter it the same way each time. Sit quietly, eyes closed, and allow your breathing to come easy. Then, taking a slightly deeper inhalation and another slightly deeper exhalation, imagine yourself walking to your temple. This is your ritual, and it’s an important part of putting your mind into the temple state.
  • The first time you enter your temple, light the candles if you use them. Thereafter, they’ll be lit each time.
  • Don’t fret about other thoughts – you are in your temple, and can easily bring your attention back by focusing on your key features.
  • Be gentle with yourself, and do not take it amiss if unusual things happen. Sit for at least five minutes at first, and build up toward sessions of 15 to 30 minutes.

What To Expect

As with any meditation technique, over time you’ll gain improved concentration, more energy, enhanced awareness of Self and the world around you, and decreased stress. But you may be surprised to find other things happening that you did not anticipate.

You may have visitors.

These will be aspects of your Self, returning to encourage you to complete some unfinished business or reclaim something that was taken from you. Often these visitors are images from the past. Allow them to visit. If you feel nervous or fearful, remember: The temple of your imagination is a haven in which you can safely observe these visitors from the nooks and crannies of your consciousness.

These visitors appear only when you have, in some way, neglected them. Listen to them, and then let them go. If a particular visitor becomes insistent, talk about it with someone “safe” – a close friend, therapist, coach, priest, minister, or rabbi.

Your visitors want to be acknowledged and heard without your analysis or judgment. Never chase them away, as they will only return later, often in more insistent or, perhaps, frightening forms. Give them your attention when they first appear, and they’ll soon enough be gone – leaving you with insight, plus the energy and conviction you will need to act.

Use your personal solitude, visit it often, and you’ll discover a sanctuary for renewal and peace within yourself.

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