Visualization exercises work best when your brain waves are “in Alpha”… the waves that are created in the occipital lobe when you’re barely awake and fully relaxed.
The occipital lobe is the area of the brain where visual images are processed. It creates these Alpha waves, which are measured with electroencephalography (EEG), and oscillate in the 8-13 cycles per second range.
This Alpha state means your brain waves have actually slowed down. They oscillate, or vibrate more quickly, and at higher frequencies, during normal consciousness. These lower frequency waves mean the brain’s visual performance is actually stronger than when we’re fully awake and fully conscious.
Getting the brain to operate in Alpha is what happens during a visualization exercise. One of the best ways to shift out of normal consciousness and “into Alpha” is to relax, close your eyes, and breathe in a rhythmic pattern. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Try to keep the pattern of breathing consistent. Balance the size of the breath that comes in with the breath that goes out. To make sure you are breathing through your diaphragm, relax your stomach so it protrudes a bit, then, pull it back in, very slowly, to the point where it seems as if your stomach is touching your spine.
Repeat this. At first, it will feel awkward. This is normal. Keep at it, and the awkwardness will fade. The goal is to strip away all of the strain. Focus on your breathing. Ideally, you are thinking about nothing except your breathing.
With the natural intrusion of other thoughts, this level of focus is difficult. Practice, commitment, and concentration, are the keys to mastering this skill.
Spend longer and longer amounts of time “getting into Alpha.” At first, two or three minutes will be good. Keeping the mind still, and free from all your outside thoughts from swirling around, is hard work. But once you start to fall into a rhythm, and the concentration comes more naturally, start to add thirty seconds to your exercise.
When you have built up to five minutes, you are probably doing a very good job slowing your brain waves down to Alpha. Your mind is now drawing more energy from the brain’s occipital lobe. Whatever visualization technique you decide to use will ride along on the beneficial alpha waves, and will be effective and intense.
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