( A licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Laurie Hope uses psychology, comparative religion, Buddhist meditation, and qigong to to help people with chronic illnesses harness their inner resources to improve their physical, emotional and mental well-being. She is also the author of a book, ‘The Unchosen Path: Reflections From the Inner Journey with Chronic Illness‘ where people with chronic illnesses describe what brings them healing. Find out more about Laurie here and visit her website here. )
This is the first blog I have written in my 30-year history of having CFS/FMS. My intention is to share some practices which have been my personal lifesavers that I use time and time again.
Even though I’m fortunate to have a terrific support system of understanding friends, family and ‘healers’, feeling unwell every day means that there are still many moments when I’m not getting the support I would like.
So, I’m going to risk sharing my wildest fantasies with you. It’s nothing lurid, just a visualization practice I created that really works for me, especially on days when I feel physically or emotionally challenged and wish I had pure and abundant sources of support.
Visualization is practiced in many religions, human potential movements, psychotherapy, and even sports and business practices to introduce new possibilities of being in the midst of stress.
In this practice (described below) we imagine receiving Strength, Safety, Love, and Radiance from whoever might be best capable of providing it. These particular qualities cover most of our physical, emotional and spiritual needs. They are particularly effective at neutralizing the detrimental effects of hopelessness, fear, despair, anger, etc.
Of course, if there’s a different quality that works better for you, you can substitute it instead, but for the first time around, try to stick with these.
Finding Your Helper
In our minds we can have equal access to anyone we have ever known – from those who are no longer alive, to those in animal form, to deities and spiritual figures. There are infinite possibilities.
Don’t worry about getting the ‘right’ helper. There are no rules on who/what can be one of your helpers – if whoever you choose doesn’t quite feel right, you can change the image, use the same one more than once, or even have more than one helper at a time. I like to just relax and see who spontaneously appears when I think of the particular quality I’m invoking. Once one of my helpers was John Lennon! This is your game so play it however you like.
Make Your Visualization Really Real
The more you embellish your visualization in a fully sensory way, (including sight, touch, sound, speech, vibration), the more powerful its effect will be. If you’re following along with the audio (link below) you can hit the pause button if you want to give yourself more time to experience any part of it. Don’t worry if you don’t see anything clearly at first – it’s more important to just imagine what it would feel like if you were able to receive each quality.
If you find it hard to receive, it may be because you’ve been trained to be self-sufficient and have not yet developed the capacity to deeply receive. This can change with practice. For some people, feelings of unworthiness block their ability to receive. This practice can also gradually and gently melt away the old conditioning that says we’re not worthy.
It also may be difficult to be receptive if we are unwilling to experience vulnerability. Receptivity and vulnerability are closely related. Since illness is usually attended by vulnerability, we can use it as an invitation to become receptive to what can be nourishing, strengthening and healing.
There is no right or wrong way to do this practice. What’s most important is to remember that you get to create whatever imagery works best for you and it may take a bit of experimentation.
You can listen to the audio at http://www.laurie-hope.com/works/healing-audio and scroll to this practice. It may take a few minutes to download. If you can’t access the audio, here’s the basic practice:
The Strong, Safe, Loved, and Radiant Practice
Settle into a comfortable position and take three slow, deep breaths, exhaling fully and completely. Let your eyes gently close as you turn your attention inward. All the muscles of your body can begin to relax and let go, becoming softer and softer with each breath. As your breathing slows down, your thoughts also slow down. Take whatever time you need to relax as deeply as you can.
When you’re ready to begin the visualization, let yourself imagine that standing behind you is someone who represents great strength and courage. Take a moment to see who appears to you. Imagine that this being is totally present with you and know that they are here just for you — absolutely committed to your well-being.
If you’d like, you can imagine their hands resting on your shoulders or on the top of your head or on your upper back behind your heart. You can feel their strength being transmitted to you as it penetrates inside your body into all your cells, circulating through your system with your breath. If there’s any way in which you don’t feel strong right now, whether it’s physical or emotional, mental or spiritual, let the strength of this helper pour into you. If there’s anything you wish to say to them or hear from them, let your imagination allow that to happen. Take as much time as you need to feel yourself receiving this sense of strength.
Next, imagine that standing to your left is someone who represents the embodiment of safety and security. Take a moment to see who appears and know that they too are wholeheartedly committed to assisting you. In their presence you feel a wonderful sense of relief. Any part of you that has ever felt frightened, scared, or even terrified, now feels comforted in their presence. Let this feeling of security penetrate into the deepest parts of your being, knowing that it’s safe to let go and deeply relax into this sense of safety. Feel your whole nervous system calming and quieting as it receives the message that you are safe. Enjoy this feeling for as long as you’d like.
Now, imagine that standing in front of you is the embodiment of pure compassion and unconditional, eternal love. As you receive the highest quality of love and caring they are sending, your heart relaxes and opens. You let this love flow into all the ways in which you have not loved yourself. You can feel the tenderness and compassion of your helper filling every part of you, reaching back into the past, healing any old hurts in the deepest ways possible, which brings you a nice, new sense of ease and peace. Take as much time as you need to feel yourself receiving this love.
Now we invite in the fourth helper. Imagine that standing to your right is someone who represents the embodiment of radiance. See them as completely luminous, radiating pure light in all directions. Feel yourself absorbing this powerful, radiant light and as it fills your entire being you are reminded that this radiance is who you really are. Again, take the time to fully experience this.
Because you’ve just embodied these qualities, you can gradually dissolve the images of your four helpers, knowing that you will continue to retain these qualities as your own.
Notice what it feels like to be strong, safe, loved, and radiant. How do your muscles feel? What is your breathing like? How large does your energetic field feel? What is your mind-state like now? Does your heart feel full?
Finally, if there’s anyone you want to send these same qualities to, you can do that now. Take the time to see them receiving the healing from knowing that they are strong, safe, loved and radiant.
After you complete the practice you are free to drift off, into a place of deep peace, knowing that all will be well.
When you are ready to get up, you can keep the feelings going by occasionally saying to yourself:
I am strong.
I am safe.
I am loved.
I am radiant.
You can also coordinate these sentences to alternate with your in breath and out breath.