The Visualization Meditation That'll Focus Your Thoughts

Use this trick to unlock a tool for taking control of the process of the immune system itself.

January 6, 2017
meditating by lake

Adapted from What Doesn't Kill Us

Even the blackest blackness behind your eyelids hides an array of colors and shapes. While there are centuries of explanations of what the shapes mean—or, indeed, if they mean anything at all—one thing we can be sure of is that when you close your eyes you still process information. This meditation aims to focus your thoughts so that your mind does not wander. Your mind will use less energy if it can focus on only one thing, and will allow you to go deeper into the physical experience of meditation.


More: Beginner's Guide to Meditation Made Easy

Start by closing your eyes. Clear away any thoughts or mental clutter from your day. Don't muse over the bills you have to pay, the conversation at the office water cooler, or what a friend said the other day. Just sit in one place and try to be in the moment. Notice that you might be able to make out shapes in the blackness. Perhaps you see small flecks of reds, blues, and greens, or maybe there is a blotch of color floating out in space. If you don't see anything, don't worry about it, just look at the blackness itself. But, maybe it looks as if there are electric currents in the play of lights.

Notice the outlines of the shapes and try to sense how deep the space in front of you really is. Is it a shallow blackness that stops at your eyelids, or is it a deep and spacious void? Simply observe the character of what you see. If you start to think about other things, let them go and gently guide your focus back to just looking at the shapes you see. Imagine that some of those shapes are actually light and try to feel that light entering your body. Let the light come in through your eyes or through your forehead and let it flow down your spine and out to your fingers and your toes. Keep focusing on the movement of the colors and start the power breathing.


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Take 30 breaths while focusing on the light and as you begin to hold your breath. Notice how your body feels. Are you dizzy? Do your fingers or toes itch? Are you cold? Or hot? Feel your body and imagine that the light you can see stretches all the way to your toes and is actually air. Imagine that you're filling your body with light and with air as you hold your breath. Then, as holding back from breathing gets difficult, start to clench your muscles from your toes on upward and think that you are pushing air up to your head. Notice how it feels, and when you have to breathe, do it. Repeat this cycle of visualization until you can hold your breath for at least 3 minutes.

There are many explanations of what happens during meditation visualizations. Monks, yogis, and Chinese meditation practitioners say that the colors correspond to a system of spinning chakras (wheel-like torrents of energy) that make up a human's spiritual anatomy. Others argue that the colors indicate the metabolic functions of specific organs. Most scientists say there is no proof that the shapes a person sees are anything more than just the meaningless static of the brain. Whatever the truth of the matter, the visualizations are real experiences. When you give yourself a way to connect the visual information behind your eyes to the sensations in your extremities you have unlocked a tool for taking control of the process of the immune system itself. The combination of breathing exercises, muscle flexing, and visualization are the basic core exercises of Wim Hof's training.


More: 5 Guided Imagery Scenarios to Help Reduce Stress

But meditation and breathing practice alone only comprise half the equation. While these activities can prime the nervous system for ceding some control to the conscious mind, in order to make real progress you need to use the environment to trigger an autonomic response that you usually have no ability to access on your own.