By Olaf Krop
With any guided visualization, it is important to create an environment where men can get out of their present state of being and allow themselves to move to the place that they are creating in their imagination. Do not attempt this while meeting in a public place or where there are a lot of distractions. Men need to be comfortable and in a safe space. An effective guided visualization has four phases:
- The departure, where the men move from their present space into a new space.
- The encounter or experience, where the men create an encounter or experience in their mind’s eye that they will wish to recall.
- The return, where they are gently returned to their present space and bodies.
- Debrief, where they reveal their experience to others and derive meaning from the experience. Be sure to include all four phases in your visualizations!
Departure: have the men relax and begin to focus inward. Focus on their breathing, calm breaths in and out (at least 3 times). Become aware of their bodies as they begin to transport themselves to another place, either by floating out of their bodies, getting on board a ship, etc.
Encounter: Build anticipation for their encounter with statements like “in the distance you see…” or “you begin to sense someone nearby in the shadows…” etc. Lead them through their experience without too much detail, instead asking the men to provide their own detail, such as “What do you see?”, or “Who is standing before you?” Then, the message, such as “What does he say to you?” Also very important: Remind them to REMEMBER the encounter! After the visualization, this is what they will be reflecting on. Remind them several times!
Return: Lead them gently back from the encounter into the present, often reversing the process of the Departure. When the return is complete, give the men several minutes to reflect on the experience, without discussing yet. Perhaps they will write down the encounter, the important message, etc.
Debrief: Discussing the experience with each other, lesson learned, important message, etc. Be prepared for emotion, if your visualization leads the men to a powerful experience! Often journaling is included, if time permits.
As you read or recite the visualization be very deliberate and slow to allow the men to create the place in their imagination. If you are thinking you are going too slowly, you aren’t going slowly enough!
“Your Perfect World”
This is a great exercise to reveal a man’s values and what he wants to see in the world. Knowing what you want the world to look like is an important predecessor to finding your purpose. This exercise should take approximately 30 minutes including the debrief.
- Do a departure ritual. (Relax, breathe deeply, feel yourself growing lighter etc.)
- “You have been selected for a very important mission. (Pause) You see in front of you a ship. (Pause) This ship will take you to a new world, which is perfect in every way, except that it’s uninhabited. Your mission is to create this place however you want it to be. (Pause) You leave on the ship, travelling a great distance to this new world. When you land, you step out of the ship, and this new world is yours to create in any way you see fit: (Pause at least 30 seconds between each question) What does it look like? What will you make happen? What will community look like? What are the most important values of this community? (This is the most important question! Remember to ask them to REMEMBER their answer.)
- Ask them to bless the community with a short imagined ceremony, and then get back on the ship and return. Close the visualization.
- Report to the team what their community was like. The question of the ‘values of their community’ should be recorded by the men, and you can ask the question: “What will you do to ensure these values are present in your life now?”