Some years ago I was a volunteer in the local school for my Stepdaughter Amber. The program we worked on was Odyssey of the Mind, a very interesting Group to say the least. We assembled “teams” which worked on various projects like building robots, word games and other projects. In the curriculum were various steps to be able to complete projects. One of them was learning the art of Visualization.
I live in Newport News, Virginia. As you may already know, school districts are run by a School board of local parents and other “interest groups”. In this area the Fundamentalist Christian community is very powerful and resists anything that even hints at something non-Christian (in their view). When I volunteered I thought there would be no real problem. Though I am of a rather small religious community (Pagan), my Ethic is strongly based in my background: raised by a Presbyterian Minister, I learned Christian values from my earliest years. To this day I still practice respect for other people’s views, ethics and choices.
Althea B. McLaren taught me what it is to be an Artist: from being able to perceive the world, to interpreting it through an “artist’s eye”. Again, I was taught this from my earliest years and it has become second nature.
When working with the kids in Amber’s school, one of the basic steps outlined in the Odyssey of the mind’s curriculum was to visualize various things: from beginning to end it was “required” to visualize the basic steps of a given project including the final result.
Imagine my shock as the Teacher involved told me:
- “You are not allowed to speak about Visualization to the children, it would lead to Satanism and the School board forbids it.”
Please remember this was in the 1990s, not the 1590s.
Saying such a thing to a Professional Artist is akin to Blasphemy. It was as if a solid wall was placed between our project’s concept and it’s conclusion. Hobbling the children in this way caused me to second guess what we could do vs what we should do. Needless to say our “team” did not come in first in the district.
This was a tipping point for me. I was able to understand the basic problem with local education. Compounded with restrictions such as cutting music and education down to it’s most basic forms, a severe dress code, -even a ban on “hopping” at dances,: all of these instances and more only provided ingredients of an educational system that was not to educate at all, but to hobble the minds of the students. When the results are obvious, the parents blamed the teachers, the teachers blamed the students when in fact the real problem is with the School board: the heinous crime of distorting people in childhood who later grow into malformed adults.
And so, for those of you who have suffered from similar abuse, allow me to encourage you to begin a daily practice of Visualization.
First start with the basics:
Spend a little time each day on a break, a quiet moment to yourself, Imagine sitting on a beach, in a meadow or another favorite place. Try to recall everything you like about the place: the movement of the air, the smell, the light, the sound. Relax into the process and enjoy (it should be a fun thing for you to do). If you have problems, go the the place and observe every detail, recall the place and surround yourself with it.
Once you practice a little bit, start adding things to the scene, things you enjoy. Try to avoid visualizing things which are harmful, for Thoughts are indeed Things, and you are hurting yourself. Should troubling images arise, banish them with a nix sign, say “NO” out loud, or leave the vicinity. Be gentle with yourself.
If you are an adult, this may become difficult for you because you are out of practice. By doing this each day, even if for only five minutes, you will begin to develop these “muscles” in your mind and it will become easier. Later when you are doing a task you will find it easier to visualize various problems and develop solutions. Give yourself time.
Visualization is one of our greatest Gifts, we should use it.