I have read a lot of things of late that bemoan the tendency for pagan writings to be more in the vein of "Paganism 101". There appears to be a hunger out there for something beyond the basics. Something that expresses what happens after a person is familiar with their chosen tradition. This is a difficult thing to write about since Paganism is such a diverse path -- my 'next steps' may not work for you at all. I have gotten guidance from many people during my journey, many of them suggesting things that simply do not work for me -- but they have almost always provided me with the seed of an idea that I later developed into a process or practice that did work for me.
So, since it seems that I am currently on a bit of a role with the whole "Doing things differently than the books say" motif, here is yet another one! May it provide you with a seed that you can nourish on your own path . . .
How many of you truly visualize? Do you really see those technicolor pictures complete with detail when you meditate, journey, or take those few quiet moments in an otherwise busy day?
Well, I don't . . . and I never have, even during the period of my life that I exerted a lot of energy toward attempting to develop this skill. I am talking YEARS, not days, weeks, or even months. Nothing! Pretty much the most I got was an echo of a candle flame just after closing my eyes or those squiggles of white and colored light that flash around on your closed eyelids. There were points in time during that period where, for a short time, I threw up my hands in frustration, vowing to stop trying completely. Only to return to it again after a brief break.
And why did I keep at it, you may be asking . . . because when I meditated or went on a spiritual journey I did experience all those things that one sees when they visualize, but not in pictures. I could 'feel' everything usually associated with seeing. I knew that something was white because I felt the color -- but I never saw it. I could describe what a being I encountered looked like and what they did, but not because I saw them (like a little movie picture) but because I felt and sensed what they looked like and the actions they took. I just didn't really see it so, I kept trying. Then, one day, the light bulb flashed on and I came to a very important realization . . .
I realized that what all the books describe in sight sense language, I was receiving through other senses. As soon as I realized this, I stopped trying to see pictures. Oh sure, when I describe my experiences from meditation or journeying, I chose to use sight language. Many people seem to feel more comfortable with that approach and it saves me from trying to explain how I can possibly translate what I sense into things like color, happiness, or any of the other things that are usually known because we see them. I have found that when I try to explain that something felt or tasted like purple all I get is puzzled looks. Now I just say something like "it was purple" and let people assume. Of course, they assume that I have visualized -- but in reality I have not.
Sometimes the impossible challenge of explaining my method of 'seeing' these experiences is frustrating. Our language is simply not up to the task. This is something that comes up in Pagan practice frequently (how many times have you been told to 'visualize' your intentions for a ritual?) Every once in a while, I pick up a book that has a section on visualization and try to translate what they are saying into what actually happens for me. Sometimes there are connections, but often there are not. It makes me wonder if there are others out there that have struggled to develop the ability to visualize. If you are out there . . . what did you do? Are you still trying . . . did you give up completely . . . did you come up with your own methods . . . ?