A returning ability.

After getting major surgery in 2013, I felt this deep sense of loss. It wasn’t only that I had lost literal parts of my body – an ovary and my appendix – but it was as if something had left me in the midst of anesthesia, surgery, and the aftermath.

After several months, as I was trying to follow a guided meditation that required me to visualize, to imagine myself having roots growing deep into the earth, I realized I was struggling. It felt like I was grasping onto images and they were flitting away and leaving me with fragments of my own thoughts. During an exercise that was supposed to be grounding, I felt like I was floating.

The definition of visualize that I’m going by here is the ability to form – and hold onto – a mental image. There is a New Age concept of visualization – imagining a scenario, outcome, etc to hopefully bring it into fruition; or in personal/spiritual growth terms to explore one’s imagination and unconscious to gain more perspective. I personally believe putting intentions into action, but am skeptical about imagining something into existence. I have definitely used my ability to visualize as a way to explore my own personal process.

Back to my post-surgery experience: I could still imagine, I could still create. My ability to visualize wasn’t gone, exactly, but it felt like I had left a piece of it somewhere. Before my surgery, it was as if I could journey deep, and access pieces of my unconscious and beyond. It came easily to me, it helped me connect to my spiritual practice. Afterward, it felt as though I was swimming upstream.

In late 2014, I took a yoga class that included a Yoga Nidra exercise at the end. I’m sure that the yoga teacher intended the exercise to be calming, as it was a Yoga for Anxiety class. However, as she led us through connecting with our emotions and our bodies, I felt myself tense, and then a sense of panic began to grow. I couldn’t access the images she was suggesting. I wanted to disconnect, wanted to be anywhere but there. I was able to distract myself enough to get through the class, but it made me realize how things had changed.

In the past few months, as my sensory world integrates more and more, I’ve found myself experimenting with visualization, and notice that images are coming much more easily. My occupational therapist recently asked me to do an exercise where I imagined a flashlight and described it to her – and I was able to hold the image in my mind and describe it.

I’m a little cautious now – my increasing ability to visualize again feels precious, sacred. It’s kind of like recovering from having a sprained ankle or wrist – it’s such a relief to use it again, but I don’t want to overdo it. There’s part of me that wants to close my eyes, see what I can imagine and if I can hold the images and go farther, deeper. There’s another part of me that just wants to nurture this part of myself, hold onto it, explore it tenderly, continuing to allow it to return and grow.


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