Visualisation for non-visual people

Visualisation takes a number of forms in Pagan practice – it comes up in certain forms of magic, it can be key to developing the tools for shamanic journeying, and the more creative forms of meditation depend on it. Visualising a sacred inner grove is a key piece of Druidic meditation. What happens if that isn’t available to you? Not everyone is born sighted, and sight impairments can’t always be an easy match with instructions to visualise the beautiful, intricate details. I have no firsthand experience of this and cannot therefore comment with any great confidence, although I think there’s a good chance what I’m poised to suggest could be helpful.

I have a very poor visual memory and a weak visual imagination. I cannot hold the shape, and look of a clearing surrounded by trees, in my head coherently for more than a few seconds at a time. I can’t see it. I’ve been trying on and off for over a decade on this particular exercise, and I still can’t see it. My visual thinking skills have improved very slightly over that time frame, but it’s taken a lot of effort and I still can’t do what many seem to do easily.

I have a good memory for words and sounds. I can remember smells, and I really remember touch. I have a recall capacity for physical sensation which I didn’t really explore for years, while I was struggling away with what I could not see inside my own head. I also have good emotional recall, which works well alongside the touch memories. I can recall cats I knew thirty years ago, and remember the shape of their bodies and the texture of their fur. I can do the same with people I have touched.  I can remember a number of actual clearings in the woods as bodily experiences of being in a space.

I think the only reason we have ‘visualisation’ and not some wider ‘sensing’ is because most people are primarily visual. Some of us aren’t, especially not when it comes to memory and the mind. What happens if we take the idea of visualisation, and stop being so visual about it? In my case the short answer is, success!

If visualising doesn’t work for you, let it go, in whole or in part, to explore other forms of sensing. Work with the senses that most involve you in the world and that your mind can most readily conjure up. I work increasingly with my felt responses. I don’t know what a grove of trees looks like beyond a most general sense. If I imagine what it’s like to sit with my eyes closed, in a place surrounded by trees, then the smells, sounds and bodily feelings of that are quite available to me, and I can blend memory and imagination to productive effect.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

7 responses to “Visualisation for non-visual people

  • john9newton

    “I have a very poor visual memory and a weak visual imagination.”
    Me too.
    One trick that I’ve found can sometimes help is (with eyelids closed) to ‘look’ up rather than down, and allow the eyeballs to move from side to side. This eyeball movement is somehow linked to the brain bits that handle visual memory and imagination. I don’t get great visuals using this technique, just fragmentary glimpses, but this is more than I get without it.

    “If visualising doesn’t work for you, let it go, in whole or in part, to explore other forms of sensing.”
    Absolutely.

  • alainafae

    I’ve also heard people share experiences where they usually are fine with visualization work yet when trying a different method only get audio. At first they were freaked out by the experience, but they felt a lot more at ease after watching a video of Sandra Ingerman describing how her shamanic work is pretty much exclusively non-visual.

  • landisvance

    Oh Nimue! Thank you so much for this. I can visualize but my primary way of being in the world is through hearing and sound and I have not been using this at all. In my visualizations in the grove I hear nothing and when creatures come and visit they say nothing and it has been such a frustration for me. Even in shamanic journeys I hear nothing and have to intuit any potential for meaning.. I have tried in those cases to fall back to my second way which is ¨reading¨ energy fields but it is very frustrating nonetheless. I will experiment with other ways of approaching this and see what awaits. Blessings!

  • Genealogy Jen

    I think this concept has great potential to help me with my writing. Thank You!

  • karenenneagram

    Oh, the tyranny of the ‘normal’! Actually, I don’t think most people can visualise with ease. Maybe 50% at most? Felt sense, sound, are so helpful. Another way many people disparage is words. This was my first way in, and how I taught myself to visualise – which is still patchy, so I talk it. As in ‘There’s a spring over there. What sort of a spring? Ah… it’s a basin.’ Or ”What’s that dark barrier to the south? Just dark…. oh, a stand of conifers.’ And like vision, though it takes longer, I can still tell the difference between telling myself a story and using words to describe something I neither expected or made up. And that’s the key thing in ‘visualisations’ – did it come to you before you made it up? However you get it, that’s the touchstone.

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