Guided Imagery for Self-Healing
Learn to use guided imagery and the power of your mind to bring about a state of deep relaxation and healing.
Guided imagery works. Study after medical study over the past three decades has found that the power of the mind can influence almost every major system of the body—from breathing and heart rate to digestion and immune response.
What follows is an experiential session of guided imagery that will allow you to experience first-hand the many benefits of this powerful technique. You might want to read the session aloud and record it so that you can and then replay and listen to it.You will activate your body’s own innate healing response and access deep levels of peace and relaxation.
Before you get started, here are some suggestions for working with guided imagery:
- For your own safety and the safety of others, never listen to guided imagery exercises while you are driving or operating dangerous equipment.
- It may be easier to concentrate if you practice in a quiet, darkened place or use an eye pillow.
- Try headphones or speakers (if you have the choice) and see which one you prefer.
- Get comfortable and feel free to move any time to stay comfortable.
- Let your answering machine or voicemail take care of your calls; turn off the ringer or unplug the phone.
- Tell your housemates not to disturb you for about thirty minutes unless there’s a genuine emergency.
- Accept the way you imagine things. Images are rarely vivid or clear, and they may not even be in picture form.
- Be kind to yourself and give yourself time to experiment. If you’re a newcomer to guided imagery, go along with each experience in your own way and notice what you learn or what happens for you each time.
- To deepen your experience with guided imagery, take some time afterward to draw or write about it.
How to Prepare for Guided Imagery
Before beginning any imagery process, get comfortable in a place where you feel safe and where you won’t be disturbed for about thirty minutes. You may want to put a sign on your door or tell anyone who needs to know that you’d like some privacy for this time. Loosen any tight clothing or jewelry as you get comfortable. Know that you can shift or move at any time to be even more comfortable.
As you begin to relax, you’ll probably find it easier if you let yourself close your eyes. But you can open them anytime you like and then close them again whenever you want to return to your deep relaxation.
Learning to relax with imagery simply involves learning how to pay attention to different things and to shift your attention from the outer to the inner world. First, take some time to focus on your breath, letting it get a little easier and deeper. Then invite your body to relax part by part, and you’ll find that your body really likes to relax. All you need to do is to invite it and let it relax in its own way, then notice how each part of your body relaxes.
Guided Imagery Practice
When you’re ready to relax more deeply, begin noticing your breathing. Notice that on the in-breath you’re bringing in fresh energy, vitality, and oxygen, which flow to all parts of your body. Let every out-breath, every exhalation, be a real release of the breath. As you begin to head for a deeper level of relaxation, make a small movement to signal this shift toward deep relaxation.
You may want to briefly lift a finger and then let it come to rest again. Or you may want to gently roll your eyes up and take an especially deep breath; then let your eyes become comfortable again as you begin to relax.
As you begin to relax, let your attention shift from the outer world to your inner world. Invite your body, your mind, your feelings, even your spirit to release any tension that doesn’t need to be held right now. You don’t even have to know what you need to hold onto and what can be released.
Simply invite the body or parts of the body to release any tension that you don’t need to hold onto right now. Observe what happens.
You may notice that some parts of the body release quickly and easily while others take more time. That’s perfectly okay. Simply invite the parts of the body to relax. Notice how they respond. And let whatever they do be perfectly alright right now—without worrying about how quickly or deeply any part of you relaxes. Just invite this relaxation and unwinding to happen and notice how each part of the body responds.
As you focus on different parts of the body, you’ll notice that you may feel things in them that you didn’t notice before when your attention was elsewhere. That’s perfectly normal. Just notice that there’s feeling, awareness, responsiveness, in each part of your body. You might even experience it as a type of intelligence.
So notice this intelligence and awareness in one of your feet and ankles. Notice any tension or sensation and what happens when you invite that foot and ankle to release any tension it doesn’t need to hold right now. Simply invite the foot and ankle to begin to relax, more deeply and comfortably.
Then notice your other foot and ankle—how that part of your body feels right now. Invite that foot and ankle to also begin to relax, in its own way. And notice how it responds.
In the same way, notice the intelligence in your legs and invite your legs to release any tension or discomfort. Begin to relax more comfortably, and notice their response. Without having to make any effort at all, just allow the legs to soften and release, letting it be a comfortable and pleasant experience. Don’t worry about how any part of you relaxes, how deeply you relax, or how you relax more deeply.
To relax even more comfortably, continue to notice the intelligence in different parts of your body and invite them to join in this softening and relaxation.
As you relax, please know that no matter how deeply you relax, if you ever need to return your awareness to the outer world, you’ll be able to do that by simply opening your eyes and looking around, coming fully alert. If you’d like to try that now, please do.
Knowing that, you can let your eyes close again and return your attention to the inner world of your imagination.
Notice now the intelligence in your hips, in your pelvis, in your low back, and invite them to release and to relax. Soften and release without effort or struggle, letting it be a pleasant, comfortable experience.
Notice your abdomen, your waistline, and midsection and invite that part of your body to soften and relax more deeply.
Notice your chest and rib cage and invite them to soften and relax. Release any tension that doesn’t need to be held there. Especially pay attention to the muscles between and across the shoulder blades, inviting them to join in this deepening sense of relaxation.
Just let go, relax deeply and comfortably—but stay aware as you do.
Now invite the intelligence in your back and spine to soften and release. Relax your low back, up through the mid-back, between and across your shoulder blades, then across your neck and shoulders, and all the way up into your neck.
Then invite that sense of relaxation to flow through your arms, over your shoulders, down through your arms, through your elbows, forearms, wrists and hands, and all the way down into the palms of the hands, the fingers, and the thumbs.
Notice the intelligence in your face, inviting the muscles of the face and jaw to become soft and at ease. All the scalp and forehead to become soft and at ease. Invite the little muscles around the eyes to take a well-deserved rest. Even your tongue can relax and become soft in your mouth.
Now when you’re ready to relax even more deeply and go to a place where your body’s natural healing abilities can operate at top efficiency, imagine yourself going some place especially beautiful that you love to be in. It may be a place you’ve actually been or a place you’ve imagined—just wherever comes to mind right now. It doesn’t matter as long as it’s a place that’s beautiful safe, secure, private, and powerful.
This is a special place for you—a place where you feel safe and at ease.
If more than one place comes to mind, pick whichever one attracts you most right now. Imagine yourself there and take some time to look around in your inner world and notice what you see. You may not see in exactly the same way as you do in the outer world, but you can tell what you’re imagining.
Just notice the objects and colors you imagine seeing here.
In the same way listen carefully and notice what sounds you imagine hearing in this beautiful, healing place.
Perhaps the place is just very quiet.
Let it be what it is for now—as long as you feel comfortable and safe. It’s a place you love to be, and you can let yourself be there now, simply because you choose to. And you can enjoy it as much as you like because you choose to.
Know that while you’re enjoying this special place, your muscles are relaxing, your blood is flowing easily and bountifully to every part of your body. Your breathing is easy and fresh oxygen and energy is being delivered to every cell of your body. Your body is repairing and renewing itself on every level. And there’s nothing else you have to do while your body is doing that.
If you like, you can grant yourself the luxurious permission not to do anything else right now or to go anywhere else. Let yourself feel what it’s like to do absolutely nothing. And have it be good for you so you’re actually doing something by doing nothing. In this case, let your body relax and know that while it relaxes it can repair, restore, and renew.
Notice what the air is like in this special healing place, what the temperature is like. I wonder if you can tell what time of day or night it is? What the light is like? What time of year it seems to be?
Now find a spot where you feel most centered, relaxed, and most deeply connected with this place and the healing qualities and energies you feel here. Let this be a special place of healing, of deep restfulness, of renewal, and restoration for you. And as you deeply relax in this place, you may want to notice what it feels like to be surrounded by and supported by the energies that you find healing in this place. If it feels comfortable, just let yourself soak up whatever feels good, whatever feels nourishing and vitalizing, energizing, and healing.
As you allow this to be a comfortable and enjoyable sense of deep relaxation, you can know that as you relax this way, your body can direct its energy to whatever healing and repair is needed, wherever its needed. Your body knows how to heal, and this time allows it to concentrate its healing abilities wherever that attention is needed. The blood flows easy and naturally to whatever area needs nourishment and renewal; the blood washes away tension, soreness, inflammation, or anything that doesn’t belong there—leaving behind in its place a sense of refreshment, renewal, and vitality.
In this relaxed and comfortable state, your body’s healing abilities and wisdom can operate at peak efficiency, without distraction from the challenges of daily life and without having to attend to anything else right now. Your muscles relax, your blood flows easily and naturally, your immune system works efficiently. Your tissues repair and renew. Your brain and mind are refreshed. Your mind can rest and become quiet and clear.
Take a minute to enjoy this sense of deep relaxation, comfort, and healing.
Stay relaxed and know that anytime you want to experience this deep state of relaxation, inner focus, and healing, you can return by simply getting comfortable and letting your breathing deepen. Making the relaxation signal you’ve chosen, invite the different parts of your body to relax and go to this inner place of relaxation and healing. You can stay there as long as you like. And when you come back to the other world, you can do so feeling more relaxed and refreshed than before. You’ll be clearer in mind and more comfortable in your body.
To return to the outer world, look around your healing place once more and let yourself notice your appreciation for having such a place inside and for being able to use your mind in this way to help your body relax, repair, and heal.
Knowing that you can return to this place at any time of your own choosing, prepare to leave and come back to the outer world. But first, take a moment to review what’s happened in this brief experience and if there’s anything you especially want to bring back with you when you return to the outer world.
It may be something you realized or learned about relaxation or healing. It may be a feeling of deep relaxation, refreshment, comfort, or healing.
When you know what you want to bring back, let the images fade and begin to pay attention to the space and sounds around you, and to the room you’re in. Begin to feel your body coming alive and awake. Gently stretch or wiggle your fingers and toes. Let your body return to the outer world feeling more relaxed and more refreshed than before—more comfortable yet more alive. Your mind will be clearer and refreshed, your senses sharper.
And as you return your attention to the outer world, you may feel you’re awakening from a deeply refreshing rest. Let your eyes open and look around, coming all the way awake and alert, all the way back into the outer world, bringing back with you whatever you’ve chosen to bring back.
As your attention returns to the other world, you may want to take some time to make some notes or sketch something about this experience. Let yourself feel good about learning to relax and enhancing your body’s ability to heal in this way. Prepare to make the very best of the rest of your day or evening.
Source: Self-Healing with Guided Imagery
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