Visualization is a component of many meditation practices, including loving-kindness meditation (or metta) and the other three Brahma Viharas of compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity (Fronsdal, n.d.), often collectively known as the Four Immeasurables.
Some types of meditation focus primarily on visualization and guided imagery to cultivate certain psychological states.
This article explains how visualization meditations can be used to help practitioners cultivate radical acceptance, practice gratitude, and achieve their goals. We offer three scripts based on videos of guided visualization meditations. These techniques may be especially useful for visual learners (Giokas, 2020) working on their personal development.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Mindfulness Exercises for free. These science-based, comprehensive exercises will help you cultivate a sense of inner peace throughout your daily life, and will also give you the tools to enhance the mindfulness of your clients, students, or employees.
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What Is Visualization Meditation?
Visualization meditation focuses on the use of guided imagery to cultivate certain psychological qualities. The foundations of meditation remain the same as for other non-visual forms, such as ensuring the posture supports a straight spine, whether sitting, standing, or lying down.
In visualization meditation, the primary focus is a positive image or guided imagery visualized in the mind’s eye. Other components of visualization meditation may include attending to the breath, mentally reciting mantras, and mindfulness.
5 Benefits According to Psychology
Research and psychology’s view on some of the benefits of meditation:
1. Helps to maintain alertness
This type of meditation practice may be especially beneficial for those who struggle to clear their mind to cultivate stillness or those who tend to become drowsy and doze off during other types of sitting meditation practices.
Having an image to focus on or being taken on a guided imaginary journey activates the mind and keeps us alert (Amihai & Kozhevnikov, 2015).
2. Cultivates psychological stability and wellbeing
Like other forms of meditation, visualization meditation helps combat stress and anxiety by supporting the cultivation of greater equanimity and emotional balance. Many visualization meditation techniques, including those listed below, contribute to reducing reactivity (Goyal et al., 2014).
3. Enhances creativity
Visualization meditation requires the investment of active imagination (Jung, 1997) and can help stimulate creativity. Some guided meditations like inner journeying actively encourage letting the imagination run amok and visualizing your wildest dreams. Creative types can really benefit from practicing this type of meditation (Vieten et al., 2018).
4. Strengthens focus and goal achievement
Visualization meditation often uses active imagination and guided imagery to cultivate focus, especially on specific goals. Sports psychologists and coaches often use visualization meditation to enhance athletes’ focus on their goals and fuel their determination to succeed (Blankert & Hamstra, 2017).
5. Improves self-image
Visualization meditation can be used to overcome self-image problems by supporting your vision of the person you want to be. For example, if a lack of self-confidence or procrastination prevents you from completing an important task, you can visualize yourself undertaking and completing the task with competence (Blankert & Hamstra, 2017).
3 Meditation Techniques to Try
The following meditation techniques use visualization as a tool for inner transformation.
1. Inner Light visualization
Visualizing an inner light at the heart is a component of loving-kindness meditation, and the other Brahma Vihara practices of compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity. Visualizing an inner light at the heart that carries positive intentions toward others helps to transform negative emotions and can energize (Hofmann et al., 2011).
When we feel bogged down, imagining light detoxifying us by descending from our crown into our body can be revitalizing. Try this 10-minute Inner Light Guided Visualization meditation by Reverend Michelle Scavetta for a quick recharge.
2. Chakra visualization
Chakra-based systems of meditation rely on visualizing colors and mantras at various points in the body.
According to ancient Indian philosophy, chakras are junctures between physiology and consciousness. The chakra system underpins the traditional Indian medical system of Ayurveda and Tibetan medicine. Western neuroscience has also found that chakras correspond to physiologically detectable neural networks in the human body (Loizzo, 2016).
Chakra-based meditations aim to detoxify, calm, and nourish us by visualizing colors moving through these centers of energy at various points along the spine, from the tailbone, or root chakra, to the crown of the head, or crown chakra (Lechner, 2020).
We recommend trying these chakra-balancing meditations by Dr. Deepak Chopra in the videos below. Each set of practices takes around 20 minutes.
This entire chakra-based meditation practice is broken down into two parts here, beginning with an introduction to the chakras and a meditation for unblocking chakras one to three (the root to the solar plexus), followed by a meditation on chakras four to seven (the heart to the crown).
3. Peaceful Place visualization
Another common visualization practice is imagining yourself in a peaceful place, perhaps a loved spot in nature, vacation destination, lush garden, beach, or awe-inspiring building like a cathedral, mosque, or temple.
Imagining yourself sitting in a peaceful place can be a useful addition to a short breathing exercise that enhances a sense of safety and belonging. It is a grounding practice commonly used by Somatic Experiencing therapists (Payne et al., 2015).
Try this short Peaceful Place visualization meditation by psychologist and therapist Natali Masson, PhD, in the video below.
3 Guided Meditation Visualization Scripts
Guided scripts are great tools to assist with visualization meditation. Try out the following:
1. Radical acceptance meditation
Radical acceptance is a liberating practice used in Dialectical Behavior Therapy that helps a client face a reality that may be very painful.
The goal of this visualization meditation is to see a situation for what it is, more objectively than emotionally (Linehan, 2014). While doing so, this meditation can help create a sense of peace and calm around this new clarity. Let’s get started:
“Let’s begin by sitting in a comfortable private space. Make sure you are sitting or lying in a position that makes you feel relaxed and prepared for what is to come.
Take a deep breath in, then slowly release it until your lungs are completely empty and again, take a deep breath in, and slowly exhale, in and out.
On this next breath in, I want you to imagine a bright light in front of you. It is full of peace and love. Breathe that light deep into your lungs and then release it and breathe out all of the darkness, pain, frustration, all that has been living inside of you.
Take another deep breath in of that beautiful light of peace and love, now breathe out the dark smoky emotions that you’ve been holding on to. It’s okay to let them go one last time.
Now begin to breathe normally. Follow this visualization in the first person in your mind as if I am speaking for you.
‘There is a situation that is really bothering me. I may have ignored it, or I may have actively denied it, but I’m ready to begin to accept it as the way things are.
This is my first step. I accept what is.
I acknowledge what is real.
I am aware of what has happened.
Sometimes I feel sad, scared, angry, and even helpless when I think of it, but I’m okay with those feelings. I know they will pass.
I accept this is where I am right now.
This doesn’t mean I’m happy with it or that I approve of it.
Things are simply the way they are.
I’m going to allow myself to just be with it for now. I don’t have to change anything right now.
I don’t have to do anything.
I’m just going to breathe.
I’m going to take a journey. I’m going to imagine I’m a bird.
I can see myself fully. I can see the color of my feathers. I can feel my beak and my feet.
I’m happy and safe as a bird, but I can still see and understand everything.
I’m going to slowly lift off the ground and fly above my problem so I can see it clearly.
I’m just an observer. I’m just a bird looking at this situation, and I’m going to fly freely and see all parts of this situation and all the people involved.
A challenge may have multiple causes. Often, things aren’t simple. So as this bird, I’m going to just stay above the situation and look at it in detail.
There is no judgment. I am just an observer. I don’t have to fix anything today.
I just need to see all of the pieces that played a part in making this situation happen. I can see the things others have done and the things I’ve done that helped this situation arise.
I’m making peace with it.
I can also see how the environment and other social factors made this happen.
I’m making peace with that. I can see it all clearly.
I can see the part that others played. I can also see the part that I played in making this happen. I can see what was in my control. I can also see what was not in my control. I can see it so clearly.
Now I can come back and put both feet on the ground. I can be myself again.
I know what is true and I stand in this truth.’
You are returning from this journey now. Begin to move your fingers and toes, and take your time to come back to your body.
Slowly open your eyes.”
2. Gratitude meditation
Gratitude is rooted in appreciation and thankfulness and has many health benefits (Cunha et al., 2019). Practicing gratitude meditation helps shift attention away from negative emotions and rumination on disappointing events, and toward positive experiences.
It encourages prosocial emotions and behavior. The following short gratitude visualization script has been adapted from a video by Carin Winter of Mission Be Mindful Education. It invites you to experience gratitude for the gift of life.
“Softly and gently close your eyes. Begin to settle in and find your seat.
Invite your body to relax and let go of the outside world. Start to observe your breath, your inhales and exhales. Notice how your body feels and how your mind feels with each inhalation, bringing breath into the body and with each exhalation inviting your body to relax.
Just notice your effortless action of breathing. Remember that breathing gives you life as you inhale and exhale.
Feel gratitude for your breath and let this feeling of gratitude grow with every breath that you take.
Now bring your attention to your heartbeat. Place one hand over your heart and feel gratitude for your heart that beats all on its own, giving you life.
Inhale and exhale, noticing and appreciating your life-giving breath and your heartbeat in this beautiful moment called the present.
Now call to mind that part of nature that you feel most grateful for. See yourself in nature, with nature all around you, and choose your favorite part. It could be in a flower, or a tree, or a river, or the beach, or the ocean.
So, breathing in and breathing out, visualize your favorite thing in nature that you’re grateful for.
If it’s a tree, imagine you’re sitting under this beautiful tree; if it’s the ocean, imagine you’re dipping your feet in the soft rolling waves and just visualize all the aspects of nature from the bottom of the sea to the top of the mountain.
As you breathe in and breathe out, invite your heart to overflow with gratitude for the beauty of nature and for the gift of life.
Breathing in and breathing out, being grateful for all you are and for your life, a wonderful gift, a great adventure.
Taking a deep breath in and exhaling completely, prepare to come back into the room, refreshed, awake, and relaxed.
Gently open your eyes.”
3. Goal achievement meditation
Life is all about setting goals, but achieving them can be elusive. The following visualization meditation script has been adapted from the video by Alina Alive and uses active imagination (Jung, 1997) to support the manifestation of intentions and the achievement of goals.
“Let’s first start by getting into a comfortable seated position.
We can have our palms faced up and open, to feel lifted toward an open mind, or face down to feel grounded.
You can gently close your eyes or keep them gently fixed on a point in front of you.
Let’s begin by taking a deep inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth, releasing all tension.
Let’s take another intentional inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
I invite you to continue with these deep intentional breaths.
Knowing that now, at this moment, in this meditation, you can unwind and relax, knowing that everything that is meant for you is well on its way to you.
Now is your time to come home to the present moment and anchor your awareness through the breath.
Continuing with these deep breaths, I invite you to release the air in relief.
Release the pressure. Allow yourself to decompress.
Allowing your shoulders to surrender to gravity, breathing normally now, there is no effort at this moment.
If you find that your mind wanders, that is perfectly okay. Simply choose each time to come home to this moment by anchoring yourself in the breath.
Now, shifting your awareness inward, gently tune into your imagination. Visualize yourself, at the moment when you have achieved the goal that you’ve set.
At this moment, you are in your body experiencing exactly what your goal is.
How do you feel at this moment?
Are you indoors or outdoors?
What’s the temperature like on your skin?
I invite you to explore this visualization.
What do you see?
What are your emotions?
What about your facial expression?
I invite you to sit with the feeling of this moment, when you have achieved your goal.
You have realized your intentions.
And finally, as we get back into our bodies before we leave this visualization, I invite you to visualize your future self pick up a notebook and a pen and when you have achieved your goal, writing down a few things that you are grateful for that have helped you get there.
These are things that worked for you to get to this point.
What are some of the things you’ve written down?
When you’re ready, I invite you to visualize yourself closing the notebook and slowly shifting your awareness back to the room.
I invite you to continue sitting in this space and hold those emotions, hold that vibration of those moments, and sit with them.
When you’re ready, I invite you to gently bring your awareness back to the room and gently open your eyes.”
Helpful Resources From PositivePsychology.com
At PositivePsychology.com, we have several free visualization exercises.
This Visualization for Kids worksheet introduces children to the calming practice of visualization and guides them in applying practical coping skills.
A very useful way to manage anxiety is to visualize an event in advance, and this Event Visualization worksheet slowly takes you through the visualization practice.
Visualizing to Improve Unconditional Positive Regard is a worksheet guiding practitioners in developing empathy and gaining better insight into a client’s experiences.
If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others enjoy the benefits of mindfulness, check out this collection of 17 validated mindfulness tools for practitioners. Use them to help others reduce stress and create positive shifts in their mental, physical, and emotional health.
A Take-Home Message
Visualization is an important component of many meditation techniques, including mindfulness and loving-kindness meditations.
It is especially useful for those new to meditation who may struggle to observe their inner world or empty their mind.
Visualization relies on the use of active imagination to cultivate positive psychological states. The use of guided imagery and inner journeying common to visualization meditation can help awaken and sharpen our creativity.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Mindfulness Exercises for free.
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- Blankert, T., & Hamstra, M. R. W. (2017). Imagining success: Multiple achievement goals and the effectiveness of imagery. Basic and Applied Social Psychology. 39(1), 60-67.
- Cunha, L. F., Pellanda, L. C., & Reppold, C. T. (2019). Positive psychology and gratitude interventions: A randomized clinical trial. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 584.
- Fronsdal, G. (n.d.). The four faces of love: The Brahma Viharas. Insight Meditation Center. Retrieved January 3, 2022, from https://www.insightmeditationcenter.org/books-articles/the-four-faces-of-love-the-brahma-viharas/
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- Lechner, T. (2020). Learn about your seven chakras and how to keep them in balance. Chopra.com. Retrieved January 28, 2022, from https://chopra.com/articles/learn-about-your-seven-chakras-and-how-to-keep-them-in-balance
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- Payne, P., Levine, P. A., & Crane-Godreau, M. A. (2015). Somatic experiencing: Using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 93.
- Vieten, C., Wahbeh, H., Cahn, B. R., MacLean, K., Estrada, M., Mills, P., Murphy, M., Shapiro, S., Radin, D., Josipovic, Z., Presti, D. E., Sapiro, M., Bays, J. C., Russell, P., Vago, D., Travis, F., Walsh, R., & Delorme, A. (2018). Future directions in meditation research: Recommendations for expanding the field of contemplative science. PLoS One, 13(11), e0205740.
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